Category Archive 'Taliban'
31 Dec 2009

8 CIA Officers Killed By Taliban Suicide Bomber

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8 more stars will be needed for the Agency’s memorial wall

LA Times:

A bomber slipped into a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday and detonated a suicide vest, killing eight CIA officers in one of the deadliest days in the agency’s history, current and former U.S. officials said.

The attack took place at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khowst province, an area near the border with Pakistan that is a hotbed of insurgent activity. An undisclosed number of civilians were wounded, the officials said. No military personnel with the U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces were killed or injured, they said.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the CIA had a major presence at the base, in part because of its strategic location.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a message posted early today on its Pashto-language website. The statement, attributed to spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, said the attacker was a member of the Afghan army who entered the base clad in his military uniform. It identified him only as Samiullah. …

A former U.S. intelligence official knowledgeable about the bombing said it killed more CIA personnel than any attack since the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983. Before Wednesday’s attack, four CIA operatives had been killed in Afghanistan, the former official said.

The eight dead were CIA officers, the former official said. “They were all career CIA officials.”

The U.S. official said the bomber detonated his explosives vest in an area that was used as a fitness center.

17 Dec 2009

Insurgents Have $26 Advantage

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The Wall Street Journal reports on an interesting feat of technical ingenuity by the enemy.

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

02 Dec 2009

Needed Immediately: 18 Month Vacation Rental

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Barack Obama, West Point speech, December 1, 2009:

“Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.”

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Mullah Omar, Craigslist Real Estate Wanted Ad, December 2, 2009:

Islamic scholar and Commander of the Faithful taking 18 month sabbatical starting January 1st needs vacation rental running up to August 1, 2011. Pleasant climate and complete privacy essential. Housing for large security staff, athletic and recreation facilities required (shooting range preferred). Contact: AmiralMuminin@alqaeda.org

22 Oct 2009

Disturbing Irony

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Bill O’Reilly actually made an eloquent statement with some intelligent points this time.

“Something very disturbing about the Obama Administration fighting harder against Fox News than the Taliban.”

2:45 video

Hat tip to Jim Hoft via the News Junkie.

20 Oct 2009

America’s Pashtun Predicament

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19th century Pathans

The Pathans (as they used to call them in English), or Pashtuns (as is preferred currently), the largest ethnic group (c. 42,000,000 people) without a state, are the hosts of al Qaeda and Taliban’s prime recruiting base. Their inhospitable mountainous tribal homelands are the base of the insurgency in Afghanistan and the safe refuge of Islamic terrorism.

In their very significant paper No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier, Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason address the issue at length, providing a quick background in history and ethnology, and explaining how Pakistan and the United States created the problem in the first place by facilitating the preaching of jihad to oppose the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan. The authors contend that efforts to impose external authority on the Pashtuns only provoke greater fanaticism and more enthusiastic resistance, and argue that the key to defeating Islamic extremism among the Pashtun tribes consists of strengthening indigenous self-rule and conducting diplomatic relations with the tribes in a fashion consistent with a Pashtun perspective and sense of honor very different from our own.

According to tradition, members of the Pashtun Hill Tribes who inhabit the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) are descendents of Karlan, a foundling adopted as the fourth son of Qais Abdur Rashid, a contemporary of the Prophet Mohammed and the ur-ancestor of the Pashtun ethnic group. The Hill Tribes, or Karlanri, include many of the most warlike tribes, such as the Afridis, Daurs, Jadrans, Ketrans, Mahsuds, Mohmands, and Waziris. Of all the Pashtun tribes, the Waziris of greater Waziristan (a region that includes North Waziristan Agency, South Waziristan Agency, and the Bermol District of Afghanistan’s Paktika Province) are reputed to be the most conservative and irascible. The Waziris pride themselves on never having paid taxes to any sovereign and never having their lands, which they consider veiled, or in purdah, conquered. (Considered good but unreliable fighters by the British during the colonial era, the Waziris and several other tribes were prohibited de facto from enlisting in native regiments of the Indian Army.)

Historically, the rural Pashtuns have dominated their neighbors and have avoided subjugation or integration by a larger nation. As one elderly Pashtuntribesman told Mountstuart Elphinstone, a British official visiting Afghanistan in 1809, “We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood . . . we will never be content with a master.” This characteristic makes Pashtuns the perfect insurgents.

With more than 25 million members, the Pashtun represent one of the largest tribal groups in the world. …

Pashtuns identify themselves in terms of their familial ties and commitments, and have a fundamentally different way of looking at the world. As the preeminent Afghan scholar M. Jamil Hanifi wrote in 1978: “The Afghan individual is surrounded . . . by concentric rings consisting of family, extended family, clan, tribe, confederacy, and major cultural-linguistic group. The hierarchy of loyalties corresponds to these circles and becomes more intense as the circle gets smaller . . . seldom does an Afghan, regardless of cultural background, need the services and/or the facilities of the national government. Thus, in case of crisis, his recourse is to the kinship and, if necessary, the larger cultural group. National feelings and loyalties are filtered through the successive layers.”

Pashtuns engage in social, political, and economic activities within these concentric rings; this engagement prevents government-oriented institutions from gaining a foothold in tribal areas.24 This segmentation is one reason why, historically, no foreign entity—whether Alexander, the British, the Soviets, the Afghans, or the Pakistanis—has been able to reconcile the Pashtun to external rule. During the nineteenth century, at the height of its imperial power, Great Britain struggled and failed to subject the Pashtuns to state authority. Even the most brutal of these foreign incursions, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, failed to subjugate the Pashtuns—despite genocidal military tactics and a massive commitment of military personnel and firepower that killed more than a million Pashtuns and drove at least 3 million more into exile in Pakistan and Iran. …

The obstinacy of the Pashtun tribes and the inability of the British Empire to control them led to a border policy of “masterly inactivity” that essentially used the tribesmen as a buffer between India’s northern frontier and the approaching Russian Empire in Central Asia. Successive Pakistani and Afghan governments were no more successful than the British or the Russians, and the designation of this region as a kind of tribal no man’s land over generations created the loose political system of tribal autonomy in the FATA seen today. Indeed the name for this area is actually a misnomer. It is not federally administered in any sense of the word. Constitutionally, Islamabad has never maintained legal jurisdiction over more than 100 meters to the left and right of the few paved roads in the tribal areas. …

Why have the Pashtuns provided a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaida, while their neighbors along the same border have proven so resistant to such religious radicalization?…

The explanation for the Pashtuns’ provision of safe haven to the Taliban and al-Qaida lies in their unique social code, known as Pashtunwali: a set of values and unwritten, but universally understood, precepts that define Pashtun culture. Pashtunwali, literally translated, means “the way of the Pashtun.” For U.S. policymakers seeking to address the challenges of the Pashtun tribal areas, an understanding of the core principles of this cultural value system is crucial. Pashtunwali is the keystone of the Pashtuns’ identity and social structure, and it shapes all forms of behavior from the cradle to the grave. Its rules are largely responsible for the survival of the Pashtun tribes for more than 1,000 years, but they remain little understood in the West. As Charles Allen writes, “[Pashtunwali is] an uncompromising social code so profoundly at odds with Western mores that its application constantly brings one up with a jolt.” A Pashtun must adhere to this code to maintain his honor and retain his identity. The worst obscenity one Pashtun can call another is dauz, or “person with no honor.” In a closed, interdependent rural society, a Pashtun family without honor becomes a pariah, unable to compete for advantageous marriages or economic opportunities, and shunned by the other families as a disgrace to the clan. …

Intrinsically flexible and dynamic, Pashtunwali has core tenets that include self-respect, independence, justice, hospitality, forgiveness, and tolerance. Not all Pashtuns embody the ideal type defined by Pashtunwali, but all respect its core values and admire—if sometimes grudgingly—those who do. When hillmen come down out of the mountains to buy staples in the bazaar of a valley town, with their long fighting knives visible in their waistbands, the towns-people are likely to sneak admiring glances and mutter something to their friends about “real Pashtuns.” …

For centuries, these interlocking elements of the unwritten code of the Pashtun—freedom, honor, revenge, and chivalry—have defeated every effort to subdue the Pashtuns and supersede Pashtunwali with a more codified and centralized rule of law. Nevertheless,Western policymakers continue to ignore or to downplay the primacy of these fundamental cultural values in their efforts to shape strategies for southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, while the Taliban and al-Qaida use them for recruitment, shelter, and social mobilization.

19 Oct 2009

Afghanistan is “The Base”

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Peter Bergin, in the New Republic, explains the centrality of Afghanistan to the US effort defeat Islamic terrorism.

(Najibullah) Zazi, a onetime coffee-cart operator on Wall Street and shuttle-van driver at the Denver airport, was planning what could have been the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since September 11. Prior to his arrest last month, the FBI discovered pages of handwritten notes on his laptop detailing how to turn common, store-bought chemicals into bombs. If proven guilty, Zazi would be the first genuine Al Qaeda recruit discovered in the United States in the past few years.

The novel details of the case were sobering. Few Americans, after all, were expecting to be terrorized by an Al Qaeda agent wielding hair dye. But it was perhaps the least surprising fact about Zazi that was arguably the most consequential: where he is said to have trained.

In August 2008, prosecutors allege, Zazi traveled to Pakistan’s tribal regions and studied explosives with Al Qaeda members. If that story sounds familiar, it should: Nearly every major jihadist plot against Western targets in the last two decades somehow leads back to Afghanistan or Pakistan. The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was masterminded by Ramzi Yousef, who had trained in an Al Qaeda camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Ahmed Ressam, who plotted to blow up LAX airport in 1999, was trained in Al Qaeda’s Khaldan camp in Afghanistan. Key operatives in the suicide attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000 trained in Afghanistan; so did all 19 September 11 hijackers. The leader of the 2002 Bali attack that killed more than 200 people, mostly Western tourists, was a veteran of the Afghan camps. The ringleader of the 2005 London subway bombing was trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. The British plotters who planned to blow up passenger planes leaving Heathrow in the summer of 2006 were taking direction from Pakistan; a July 25, 2006, e-mail from their Al Qaeda handler in that country, Rashid Rauf, urged them to “get a move on.” If that attack had succeeded, as many as 1,500 would have died. The three men who, in 2007, were planning to attack Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. facility in Germany, had trained in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

And yet, as President Obama weighs whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, the connection between the region and Al Qaeda has suddenly become a matter of hot dispute in Washington. We are told that September 11 was as much a product of plotting in Hamburg as in Afghanistan; that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are quite distinct groups, and that we can therefore defeat the former while tolerating the latter; that flushing jihadists out of one failing state will merely cause them to pop up in another anarchic corner of the globe; that, in the age of the Internet, denying terrorists a physical safe haven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

These arguments point toward one conclusion: The effort to secure Afghanistan is not a matter of vital U.S. interest. But those who make this case could not be more mistaken. Afghanistan and the areas of Pakistan that border it have always been the epicenter of the war on jihadist terrorism-and, at least for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be. Though it may be tempting to think otherwise, we cannot defeat Al Qaeda without securing Afghanistan.

A young Osama Bin Laden first arrived in the region around 1980 to wage jihad against the Soviets; he would spend most of his adult life in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda leaders have, since the ’80s, developed deep relationships with key Taliban commanders based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and members of the Haqqani family. Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, has even married into a local tribe. …

Al Qaeda’s leaders are themselves keenly aware of the importance of maintaining a safe haven. The very words Al Qaeda mean “the base” in Arabic; and, as bin Laden explained in an interview with Al Jazeera in 2001, the name is not a reference to some kind of abstract foundation but, rather, to a physical spot for training: “Abu Ubaidah Al Banjshiri [an early military commander of Al Qaeda] created a military base to train the young men to fight. … So this place was called ‘The Base,’ as in a training base, and the name grew from this.”

But it isn’t just a safe haven that Al Qaeda wants; it is a state. As Zawahiri explained shortly after September 11 in his autobiographical Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, “Confronting the enemies of Islam, and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land that raises the banner of jihad and rallies the Muslims around it. Without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.” No wonder Al Qaeda remains so committed to Afghanistan-and so deeply invested in helping the Taliban succeed.

15 Oct 2009

Taliban Attacks Targeting Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Bases

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Pakistani Air Force bases. Note nuclear weapons sites Sarghoda and Kamra.

DEBKAfile has rumors of the Taliban targeting the bases containing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report: Five days Taliban gunmen and bombers hit Pakistan’s army headquarters in Islamabad and at the same time advanced on the northwestern Kohat road to Peshawar and a cluster of air bases holding its nuclear arsenal around Kamra in the North West Frontier Province.

Thursday, Taliban struck further northeast toward the Kamra nuclear center, aiming to cut it off from Islamabad, 150 kilometers east of Kohat. They have begun encircling the Sargodha air base, the location of nuclear warheads stores. En route, suicide attackers flattened a police station in the Saddar suburb of Kohat town, killing 10 people and wounding 20.

Taliban has stepped up the tempo of its large-scale assaults in an effort to unbalance central government and the military command as they prepare a major offensive against terrorist bastions in South Waziristan.

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This news agency story discusses varying opinions of the security of Pakistan’s estimated 70 to 90 nuclear warheads.

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Bill Roggio has analysis of what is going on.

The spate of attacks at military bases has largely targeted officers, new recruits, and the families of those serving. The Taliban and al Qaeda’s objective may be two-fold: intimidate officers either on the fence or who do not support the Islamists, and erode the military’s capacity to defend nuclear installations if the Taliban and al Qaeda can mount a raid to seize nuclear weapons. While the Pakistani nuclear weapons are under tight security according to the government, US intelligence officials have repeatedly expressed concerned over the safety of Pakistan’s arsenal.

The Taliban’s campaign to take control of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and its strong presence in Quetta and wider Baluchistan Province also plays into the West’s fears over Pakistan’s nuclear program. The Northwest Frontier Province not only serves as a base for the Taliban and al Qaeda Central Command, the territory directly abuts sensitive nuclear sites in the province of Punjab.

10 Oct 2009

Taliban Attack Pakistani Army Headquarters

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Reuters photo


LA Times
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In a brazen attack on Pakistan’s military nerve center, gunmen disguised in army uniforms broke into the grounds of the country’s army headquarters today, sparking a furious firefight that left four attackers and six military personnel dead.

By late Saturday, the tense scene at the compound had evolved into a hostage crisis. As many as five gunmen remained holed up in a security building and were holding 10 to 15 security officers and civilian workers as hostages, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.

The initial attack, which lasted about 90 minutes, illustrated the breadth of the militants’ ability to launch attacks virtually anywhere in the violence-wracked Muslim nation — even the epicenter of its vaunted security establishment.

At about 11:30 a.m., Abbas said, the gunmen drove up in a white Suzuki van to a perimeter checkpoint outside the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjacent to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Armed with automatic rifles, the gunmen opened fire at guards at the checkpoint, jumped out of the van and then took positions outside a second checkpoint about 330 yards down the road. Four of the military personnel killed in the siege died in that initial exchange of gunfire, Abbas said.

Officials said they believed the use of camouflage military uniforms, along with military plates on the van, probably helped the gunmen approach the first checkpoint without an initial reaction from guards. The strategy mirrored the tactics used in a suicide bomb blast at the U.N.’s World Food Program office Monday. In that attack, in which five World Food Program employees were slain, the suicide bomber wore a Pakistani paramilitary police uniform and got by the heavily guarded main entrance by asking for permission to use the restroom.

Once at the second checkpoint Saturday, the militants opened fire again and lobbed grenades at guards. Witnesses said bursts of gunfire continued to ring out for several minutes, punctuated by the sound of grenade blasts. Overhead, Pakistani military helicopters and Cobra gunships hovered.

While the gun battle raged on, some of the Army’s top generals and commanders were trapped inside the compound’s buildings. There were unconfirmed reports that explosives were found in the attackers’ van.

Police and soldiers established a cordon around the gunmen to keep them from fleeing. By early afternoon, security officials reported that four gunmen had been killed. Among the military personnel killed were a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel responsible for security at the compound, Abbas said.

Early Saturday evening, military officials said they had traced the location of the gunmen at large to a security building within the compound, where they were holding hostage several security officers and civilian employees assigned to the army headquarters. Pakistani commandos surrounded the building, military officials said.

1:16 ITN News video

These kind of contemptible suicide attacks are really the tactic of an impotent and irrational enemy lashing out in a useless and unproductive manner. Except that in the contemporary era, the dominant voice is that of the militarily unsophisticated Western public, in whose eyes a news headline is equivalent to winning a major battle.

Terrorism’s real battlefield is in the reports of the media.

09 Sep 2009

New Rules of Engagement Costing Marines’ Lives

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The media is headlining collateral damage to Afghan civilians from coalition air strikes and US political leaders are covering themselves from criticism by reducing air strikes and implementing far stricter rules of engagement.

AFP:

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged in an interview with Al Jazeera that civilian casualties have become “a real problem” for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Gates’ remarks, in an interview to be aired Monday by the Qatar-based Arabic satellite news channel, came amid a raging controversy over an air strike that killed scores of people Friday in northern Afghanistan.

“I think it’s a real problem, and General McChrystal thinks it’s a real problem, too,” Gates said, referring to Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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New rules of engagement have had a real impact. Airstrikes on Afghan insurgents have been cut in half over the last few months.

Airstrikes by coalition forces in Afghanistan have dropped dramatically in the three months Gen. Stanley McChrystal has led the war effort there, reflecting his new emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties and protecting the population.

NATO fixed-wing aircraft dropped 1,211 bombs and other munitions during the past three months — the peak of the fighting season — compared with 2,366 during the same period last year, according to military statistics. The nearly 50% decline in airstrikes comes with an influx of more than 20,000 U.S. troops this year and an increase in insurgent attacks.

The shift is the result of McChrystal’s new directives, said Air Force Col. Mark Waite, an official at the air operations center in southwest Asia. Ground troops are less inclined to call for bombing or strafing runs, though they often have an aircraft conduct a “show of force,” a flyby to scare off insurgents, or use planes for surveillance, Waite said.

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There is a price for those opportunistic media headlines, and for the cowardice of our leaders. It is paid by our troops, as Herschel Smith angrily explains.

(Quoted news account from McClatchey:)

    GANJGAL, Afghanistan — We walked into a trap, a killing zone of relentless gunfire and rocket barrages from Afghan insurgents hidden in the mountainsides and in a fortress-like village where women and children were replenishing their ammunition.

    “We will do to you what we did to the Russians,” the insurgent’s leader boasted over the radio, referring to the failure of Soviet troops to capture Ganjgal during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation.

    Dashing from boulder to boulder, diving into trenches and ducking behind stone walls as the insurgents maneuvered to outflank us, we waited more than an hour for U.S. helicopters to arrive, despite earlier assurances that air cover would be five minutes away.

    U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.

    “We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today,” Marine Maj. Kevin Williams, 37, said through his translator to his Afghan counterpart, responding to the latter’s repeated demands for helicopters.

    Four U.S. Marines were killed Tuesday, the most U.S. service members assigned as trainers to the Afghan National Army to be lost in a single incident since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Eight Afghan troops and police and the Marine commander’s Afghan interpreter also died in the ambush and the subsequent battle that raged from dawn until 2 p.m. around this remote hamlet in eastern Kunar province, close to the Pakistan border. …

    The Marines were cut down as they sought cover in a trench at the base of the village’s first layer cake-style stone house. Much of their ammunition was gone. One Marine was bending over a second, tending his wounds, when both were killed, said Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, 21, of Greensburg, Ky., who retrieved their bodies.

I said it would happen, and only recently “officials” have admitted that the new Afghanistan ROE have opened up new space for the insurgents. Now it has cost the lives of four more U.S. Marines. How many more Marines will have to die before this issue is addressed? The new ROE should have been dealt with as a classified memorandum of encouragement and understanding to consider holistic consequences of actions rather than a change to formal rules by which our Marines and Soldiers are prosecuted by courts. Yet the damage has been and continues to be done by poor decisions at the highest levels of leadership.

Damn the ROE.

19 Aug 2009

Greater Attrition Needed

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Francis J. “Bing” West, former Marine captain and assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan Administration, writing in Small Wars Journal, criticizes the current strategic emphasis on non-combat “nation-building” activities in Afghanistan, arguing that unless the Taliban’s leadership, supply, and manpower are physically reduced by combat, the insurgency is not simply going to go away.

I came back from my latest month in the field in Afghanistan disquieted about our basic military mission. Is the military mission to engage, push back and dismantle the Talbian networks, with population protection being a tactic to gain tips and local militia, or is the military mission to build a nation by US soldiers protecting the widespread population, with engagements against the Taliban as a byproduct?

It appears our strategy is nation-building, with fighting and dismantling of the Taliban a secondary consideration. Thus, the number of enemy killed will not be counted, let alone used as a metric. This non-kinetic theory of counterinsurgency has persuaded the liberal community in America to support or at least not to vociferously oppose the war. But we have to maintain a balance between messages that gain domestic support and messages that direct battlefield operations.

We must understand what our riflemen do in Afghanistan every day. The answer is they conduct combat patrols. That underlies all their other activities. They go out with rifles to engage and kill the enemy. That is how they protect the population. For our generals to stress that the war is 80% non-kinetic discounts the basic activity of our soldiers. Although crime isn’t eradicated by locking up criminals, we expect our police to make arrests to keep the streets safe. Similarly, our riflemen are trained to engage the enemy. That’s how they protect the population. If we’re not out in the countryside night and day – and we’re not – then the Taliban can move around as they please and intimidate or persuade the population.

I’m not arguing that we Americans can ever dominate the Taliban gangs. There’s a level of understanding and accommodation among Afghans in the countryside that culturally surpasses our understanding. During the May poppy harvest, the shooting stops on both sides and men from far and wide head to the fields to participate in the harvest. That’s an Afghan thing. Only the Afghans can figure out what sort of society and leaders they want.

That said, we should strive to do a better job of what we are doing for as long as we are there. I condensed several hours of firefights I filmed during various patrols into the 30-second clip… (Not a Tactical Hurdle). The purpose is to illustrate a tactical problem that is strategic in its dimensions. Simply put, our ground forces are not inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. However, the annual bill for the US military in Afghanistan exceeds $70 billion, with another four to six billion for development. We’ve already spent $38 billion on Afghan reconstruction. Congress may eventually balk at spending such sums year after year. The problem is we’re liable to be gradually pulled out while the Taliban is intact. Nation-building alone is not sufficient; the Taliban must be disrupted.

09 Aug 2009

How to Save PFC Bergdahl

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PFC Bowe R. Bergdahl

Breitbart quotes some news agency’s report indicating that a Taliban commander claims to be holding captured American PFC Bowe Bergdahl and is threatening the American prisoner and using him to make demands.

A militant commander who is holding a U.S. soldier abducted in Afghanistan said Sunday that Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s council is waiting for a response to its demands before deciding the American’s fate.

It was the first news of Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, made public since a Taliban video was released July 18.

Maulvi Sangin, an insurgent commander for eastern Afghanistan, said the Taliban’s governing body was awaiting a response to demands it made to the U.S. for his return.

“The American’s fate is in the hand of (leadership), which is waiting until a response from the Americans to its demands,” Sangin told The Associated Press.

The correct answer to murder or abuse by the enemy of soldiers who fall into their hands is as old as warfare itself. You simply have to do as Colonel John Singleton Mosby did during the American Civil War when George Armstrong Custer proceeded to hang seven of Mosby’s rangers.

A ragged line of Union soldiers stood in a field along Goose Creek in Rectortown, Virginia, on November 6, 1864. They jostled, chatted and joked with each other, pleased to be outdoors on a brisk autumn day. As prisoners of war these 27 Yankees had been confined to a brick store building in the village, waiting to be taken south to a Confederate prison camp. Little did they know that nearly a fourth of them were marked to settle a blood debt — minor characters in a major drama of reckoning between Lieutenant Colonel John Singleton Mosby and Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer.

A few minutes before noon their captors — members of the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, better known to history as Mosby’s Rangers — led the Federals from the store to a gentle slope above the creek. It was likely Ranger Sgt. Maj. Guy Broadwater who addressed the prisoners. Seven Rangers had been executed by the prisoners’ Union comrades, Broadwater informed the group, and an equal number of them would share a similar fate. The words stunned and silenced the Northerners. A hat with 27 slips of paper, he explained, would be passed along the line, and each man must draw one slip. Seven of the pieces had been marked, and if a Yankee drew one of them, he was to be executed. A Ranger handed the hat to the first soldier.

If this country’s leadership lacks the common sense and the intestinal fortitude to take the well-known, amply precedented steps, firmly established in the customs of war necessary to protect US military personnel unlucky enough to fall into the hands of the enemy, then, the pacifistic left is right, and we ought to try to make war no more.

It is simply wrong to ask American soldiers to expose themselves to capture, and then feel too bound by priggish postures of moral superiority to do what is necessary to protect them.

08 Jul 2009

Blame Afghanistan!

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Typical ordinary Afghans commonly frivolously detained by the United States

Another of the innocent inhabitants of the Middle East, erroneously and unjustly detained by the Bush Administration at Guantanamo Bay then freed in 2007, has resumed his former life and become a prominent and effective leader in his home community.

Fox News.

A former Guantanamo Bay inmate is leading the fight against U.S. Marines in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, a senior U.S. defense official confirmed to FOX News on Tuesday.

Mullah Zakir, also known as Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, surrendered in Mazar-e-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan in 2001, and was transferred to Gitmo in 2006. He was released in late 2007 to Afghan custody.

Now as the United States is pushing ahead with the massive Operation Khanjar in the southern province of Afghanistan, Zakir is coordinating the Taliban fighters. Some 4,000 U.S. Marines and hundreds of Afghan forces have faced some resistance as they sweep across the province, reclaiming control of districts where Zakir and his comrades were running a shadow government.

Zakir was released from Afghan custody around 2008, according to the New York Post. He re-established connections with high-level Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan after his second release.

Taliban chief Mullah Omar appointed Zakir in mid-2008 as senior military commander, according to the newspaper.

Zakir quickly became a charismatic leader, helping establish an “accountability commission” to track spending and monitor activities of Taliban leaders in the districts where they held power and were running a shadow government, according to the Post.

Explaining why Zakir was released from Gitmo, the defense official said, “We were under incredible pressure from the world to release detainees at Gitmo. You just don’t know what people are going to do.

“He was no worse than anyone else being held at Gunatanamo Bay,” the official added. “He was not going to be tried for war crimes so we decided to release him. Either he was not thought to have committed a crime or we didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute him.”

The defense official shifted some blame for Zakir’s activities to Afghanistan. “The country which agreed to take him promised to take steps to mitigate the threat he posed.

02 Jun 2009

CIA Using Targeting Chip Against Taliban

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The Guardian is repeating whispers heard around nomadic campfires near the Khyber Pass.

The CIA is equipping Pakistani tribesmen with secret electronic transmitters to help target and kill al-Qaida leaders in the north-western tribal belt, in a tactic that could aid Pakistan’s army as it takes the battle against extremism to the Taliban heartland.

As the army mops up Taliban resistance in the Swat valley, where a defence official predicted fighting would be over within days, the focus is shifting to Waziristan and the Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

But a deadly war of wits is already under way in the region, where tribesmen say the US is using advanced technology and old-fashioned cash to target the enemy.

Over the last 18 months the US has launched more than 50 drone attacks, mostly in south and north Waziristan. US officials claim nine of the top 20 al-Qaida figures have been killed.

That success is reportedly in part thanks to the mysterious electronic devices, dubbed “chips” or “pathrai” (the Pashto word for a metal device), which have become a source of fear, intrigue and fascination.

“Everyone is talking about it,” said Taj Muhammad Wazir, a student from south Waziristan. “People are scared that if a pathrai comes into your house, a drone will attack it.”

According to residents and Taliban propaganda, the CIA pays tribesmen to plant the electronic devices near farmhouses sheltering al-Qaida and Taliban commanders.

Hours or days later, a drone, guided by the signal from the chip, destroys the building with a salvo of missiles. “There are body parts everywhere,” said Wazir, who witnessed the aftermath of a strike.

Declan Walsh reports on 5:27 audio

12 May 2009

Taliban Using White Phosphorus Made in Britain

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The London Times reports on a dangerous new weapon currently in the hands of the Taliban.

Taleban fighters have been using deadly white phosphorus munitions, some of them manufactured in Britain, to attack Western forces in Afghanistan, according to previously classified United States documents released yesterday.

White phosphorus, which can burn its victims down to the bone, has been found in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in regions across Afghanistan including in the south, where British troops are based. It has also been used in mortar and rocket attacks on American forces. …

Major Jennifer Willis, a spokeswoman for the US Army at Bagram, near Kabul, said that markings on some of the white phosphorus munitions that had been recovered showed that they had been manufactured in a number of different countries, including Britain, China, Russia and Iran.

Although a full investigation is under way, it is not yet clear how the Taleban and other insurgent forces using them had acquired the white phosphorus munitions from Britain. However, Major Willis said that Afghanistan was littered with ordnance of every kind and it was not a surprise that the insurgents had got their hands on white phosphorus.

The US military said that the Taleban had found white phosphorus rounds left over from the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. But there were newer models which, it is suspected, had been smuggled across the border from Pakistan.

Major Willis said that the use of white phosphorus in IEDs was a relatively new development. The earliest report of the insurgents using white phosphorus was in February 2003, but the eight known IED cases, including one in the south, have all occurred since March 2007.

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