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Friday, 22 September 2006
Sucker!

You know, it was shocking enough when I read yesterday that Pervez Musharraf said that Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan into the stone age if they didn't thelp us out with the Taliban. [AFP] But Musharrif tells W. today that his recent deal with the talibs and al-Qaeda is "intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there wont be al-Aqaida (in Pakistan)."  W. standing right next to him then says: "I believe him."

Boy, I've got some land in Florida I'd like to sell you W.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:35 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006 1:25 PM EDT
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On civil war and Alberto Gonzales' green light for torture.
Topic: Iraq

AP reports today: "The Iraqi conflict is changing from a fight against U.S.-led coalition forces to an internal power struggle, the top U.S. general in Iraq said yesterday." General George Casey says, "We’re starting to see this conflict here transition from an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the very definition of a civil war?

Meanwhile, the building of the 60-mile trench around Baghdad continues apace, the AP story reporting that, "Viewed from the air, the network of irrigation canals and ditches almost completely ringing the capital is clear." Casey says, "The notion is push the bad guys out, and then gradually go back and reclear areas so that people feel safe in their own neighborhoods."  But, aren't the bad guys already in the city? I mean, they're not coming in from outside.  The main culprits in all the killing going on are the Shiites, specifically the Mahdi army, which controls most of the east of the city. It is all well and fine to chase the Sunni insurgents from one Sunni neighborhood to the other and block infiltration from Anbar, but the biggest concern is still the Shiites.  

The UN reported this week that 5,106 Iraqis were killed in July and August. And that was only in Baghdad! [AP] Killing is up in other regions of the country as well. The UN report says, though, it's difficult know exactly what's going on in some parts because the security situation is so bad. For example, Anbar province reports 0 deaths during July. Now, you know the Marines may be doing a great job at holding their own against al-Qaeda and the insurgents in Anbar, but no enough to keep the body count to zero!  

What is most shocking about how many these people are dying at the hands of Shiite death squads in Baghdad is the pure viciousness of the tactics they're using. The NYT reported this week that it's not only the death squads and criminal gangs that are responsible for the killing and torture but the security forces are also involved. (Well duh'!)

"Torture remains widespread, not only by death squads but also in official detention centers, according to UN officials. The report said some detainees showed signs of beating 'using electrical cables, wounds in different part of their bodies, including in the head and genitals, broken bones of the legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns. Bodies found in Baghdad, the report added, often show signs of torture that include 'acid-induced burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs) missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails."  

A UN official, in fact said yesterday that the torture going on now is worse than during Saddam's regime. By the way, wasn't US AG Albero Gonzales just in Baghdad to help the government figure out what are and aren't permissible techniques for torture? We already know that back here in the US the White House can't figure out what all those vague prohibitions in Common Articel 3 of the Geneva Conventions really mean. Gonzales says in Iraq it's "difficult to decide what is appropriate," and it's equally "a difficult decision as to where to draw the line." But rest assured, he says, this "government has not engaged in torture," despite all the evidence to the contrary. [BBC]

You don't think Gonzales was there to give the Iraqi government the green light to torture, do you? Who, after all, would know better about what torture is? The torture memo Gonzales signed off on in 2003 outlined that waterboarding and live burials were A-OK with the then White House Counsel. It sure reads  like a how-to manuel for the Iraqi security forces. I don't know. . . 


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:18 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006 12:20 PM EDT
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Thursday, 21 September 2006
We've got no problems in Afghanistan, seriously!
Topic: War on Terror

Now, I've heard that ISAF along with their Afghan partners in the Afghan National Army were able to completely rout the Taliban in Kandahar province and kill 500 of them, while at the same time only killing 17 civilians, but there's an article in the Inquirer today that makes me somewhat skeptical about all this happy news.

The Inquirer quotes Army Capt. Robert Stanton, who works with ANA units who says of them, "The ANA has no concept that it's their country and their job to defend it. Some units are good. But most are crap."

"There's not a whole lot we can do about it," says Sgt. Clay Groves, after finding out that Aghan troops were caught by his men smoking hashish at an observation post. "Just stand behind them when they shoot. Or stand where they're aiming - it's probably the safest spot," he said. At least they weren't shooting heroin. (They only grow it and sell it, they don't use it.)

So, this is the great force we're training in Afghanistan to stand up so we can stand down? These guys took a break from selling all thier equipment and gasoline to somehow kill 500 Taliban? Yeah, right.  

Meanwhile, Hamid Karzai is blaming Pakistan for all his troubles again. At the UN yessterday he said, "terrorism does not emanate from within Afghanistan," but it's Aghanistan's "worst enemy." "We must destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region. We must ensure that political currents and entities in the region are not allowed to use extremism as an instrument of policy."

Hmmm... I wonder who he could be talking about? I wonder too if this has anything to do with Musharraf making a deal with al-Qaeda in North Waziristan? 

In an interview in the NYT yesterday, John Abizaid said he didn't view the Taliban as a threat to Karzai's government, but he said he'd hoped at this point we'd be doing more building and less fighting. They're always very hopeful at the Pentagon.

On the subject of Musharraf's deal he said: "I’m very, very skeptical about this notion that people who have been harbored in the tribal areas are no longer going to be harbored. I’ll believe that when I see it." On the other hand, though, Gen. James L. Jones Jr., testified in Congress today "that the border with Pakistan ''should be a lot quieter'' if Taliban-linked militants observe a truce with Pakistan in which they agreed to stop crossing into Afghanistan to launch ambushes.'" [AP] Sucker!

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that -- even though there is no serious problem in the south -- US troop levels would remain the same until at least February. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry told reporters today that "Our expectation is that our troop levels in Afghanistan will remain about steady through the point." The numbers they're talking about are 20,000, but the AP reported back in May that levels went from 20,000 to 23,000. 

But, what's a few thousand troops here or there between friends. We sure could use them in Baghdad, though. AP reports:

"Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East, told reporters Tuesday that the military probably would maintain - and possibly even increase - force levels of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring. The current total is 145,000, up about 20,000 since June."

Sound familiar? He'd better hope they can draw troops out of Baghdad by then, because the Taliban will be coming out of their mountain hideouts for another go at ISAF about then.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:26 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006 1:25 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 20 September 2006
Afghanistan update: Operation Deconstruction
Topic: War on Terror

AFP reports: Operation Medusa is wrapping up.

"The two-week military offensive in southern Afghanistan has been successful in driving the Taliban from the region and sending the message that NATO and Afghan forces are prepared to wipe out the hardline movement's fighters, officials said yesterday. . ."

Canadian Brigadier-General David Fraser, commander of NATO forces in the southern region, says, "What we saw here was a success against the Taliban. But that's only one area in a very, very large battle space."

Lt. General David Richards was less circumspect about the victory in Kandahar. "This has been a significant success and clearly shows the capability that Afghan, NATO and coalition forces have when they operate together.

Despite this "significant success," though, a suicide bomber on a bike managed to kill himself, four Canadian troops and a group of children just outside of Kandahar. [AFP] Remember, this is the region Gen. Fraser just said was free of Taliban fighters.

Meanwhile, Mulla Dadullah Akhund, the crazy Taliban general, told ABC News in a rare interview that, the ISAF figure of 500 dead Taliban in Operation Medusa is bogus. He claims he lost 14 fighters and he's got "no shortage of fighters. In fact, we have so many of them that it is difficult to accommodate and arm and equip them. Some of them have been waiting for a year or more for their turn to be sent to the battlefield,o shortage of men ready to go, he says.  [For more on Akhund see this blog July 10]

And it might be good to keep in mind that in order to kill all these Taliban ISAF had to destroy an estimated 18,000 homes. Christina Lamb of the Times Online quotes a British soldier who jokes that "we call it deconstruction not reconstruction." In addition, AFP reports that "fields and homes are littered with shrapnel. Buildings and wells have been destroyed. Roads have been ploughed through grape fields."

Assadullah Khalid, the Governor of Kandahar province says, "we are working in clearing the area of bombs and land mines in order to facilitate the complete and safe return of the displaced families. This, we hope, will be achieved before the holy month of Ramadan sets in."

Yeah, good luck with that. Way to encourage Aghans not to go over to the Talibs side.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:18 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006 3:19 PM EDT
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Saturday, 16 September 2006
Speaking of NATO:
Topic: War on Terror

Speaking of NATO.  It looks like after a long week of begging in Belgium, NATO General James L. Jones hasn't had any success in getting the 2,500 reinforcements for Afghanistan he wanted. [AP] Condi Rice even tried to help him out, warning darkly that Afghanistan could become a "failed state" if NATO countries don't pony up the troops. She said during a visit to Canada that Afghanistan "could come back to haunt us," if something isn't done. [As if it hasn't already, thanks to Rummy]  

Things in Afghanistan are not going according to plan and the Taliban are giving the newly arrived NATO forces a run for their money in the south. It's not that the wheels are coming off or anything --perish the thought -- but General Jones needs just a few more troops to really send the Talibs on their way. What he's particularly concerned about is allowing them to sneak back into their winter camps, in a few months, without having completely wiped them out. Unfortunately, the 800 troops Poland has offered won't arrive until February, so he's pretty much screwed on that score. Right now, though, if I were him I'd be more worried about not losing Kandahar, never mind crushing the insurgents. First things first. 

Where are all these Taliban coming from anyway? I see reports in the media about almost 2000 Taliban killed in the past year, but they keep coming back. That's kind of amazing, if you think about it, because the US says there are only about 6000 Taliban fighters. If they've just lost almost a third of their forces so far this year, you'd think they'd be getting weaker not stronger. Of course, there's really no way to tell how many have been killed and something tells me a lot of that number might be civilians.  

When you see every day NATO spokesmen claiming that 50 or 60 Taliban were killed in a single engagement, you've got to take that with a grain of salt. Are they sure they were all Taliban? There are already several Afghan government investigations into the US killing of civilians in air strikes in the past few months, including 10 Afghan police last month. In fact, not only civilians and Talibs are being killed by US air strikes, but also coalition troops. Last month 1 Canadian soldier  was killed by an A-10 Warthog. And that's not the first time a "freal accident" like that has happened.  

What makes me especially skeptical about what I read in the newspapers about thousands of Taliban killed is that these reports are coming for the military, with no independent verification. There are no reporters in these areas where the fighting is taking place. Again and again, I read that casualty reports are based on observations of troops on the scene through "weapons sites and other observation devices."  

That sounds pretty sketchy to me, because if you've just wiped out 50 or 60 or 500 Taliban in one engagement, why aren't you able to go down and count exactly how many you killed? Wouldn't SOP be to go investigate the battlefield for Intel: like getting IDs, weapons, radios, etc.? If all these reports are based on observations through weapons sites at a distance, how can they be sure all those killed were insurgents?  What's complicating the entire body count thing is that the Talibs wear the same clothes as the civilians do and this time around they're not staying clear of civilian areas. In the past they were careful not to fight amongst the civilian population, but ever since they started comparing notes with the insurgents in Iraq, they've got a brand new bag.

Up until this year, suicide bombings had been unheard of in Afghanistan, not to mention IEDs, now they're happening almost everyday.  It is entirely possible that Afghanistan is already lost. After almost four years of neglect by Rummy & Co. in their rush to bomb the crap out of Iraq, everything has fallen apart. Opium is the number one source of money in the country, schools are being torn down as fast as we can put them up, the warlords are back, Afghan soldiers and police are busting into people's houses and robbing them, corruption is at all time highs and Hamid Karzai is wildly unpopular.  

I don't see how 2,500 more NATO troops are going to deal with any of these issues. And until something is done about the Pakistani ISI giving aid and comfort to the Talibs in Quetta, they're just going to run back across the border every time things get hot. Maybe, if W. & Co. weren't so transfixed on Iran and Iraq, they'd gave some thought to how they're going to get Musharrif to stop supporting the Taliban while at the same time keeping the Pakistani bomb out of the hands of al-Qaeda. . . Just a thought.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:41 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006 3:42 PM EDT
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The Battle of Baghdad: a slight reprise:
Topic: Iraq

Not to say that things in Iraq are going from bad to horrible or anything but: the AP reports today that the Iraqi Interior Ministry is going to start building trenches around Baghdad -- Yes, trenches, you read it right. Apparently, this is the third part of "Operation Together Forward," a security crackdown that began June 15 and which was been widely successful (unless you take into account the 1,800 or so people being killed every month since it began).  

Part one apparently involved setting up check points, part 2 was the sealing off of mainly Sunni neighborhoods and going house to house, and part three is to cordon off Baghdad from the rest of the country and begin going into Shiite districts. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, there will be "28 inlets into Baghdad while all other inlets will be blocked. Supports will be added to the trenches to hinder movements of people and vehicles. The trenches will be under our watch."  

Boy I don't know about you, but I feel better already. This sort of thing has worked out so well in Ramadi, Fallujah and Tal Afar, why not just dig 60 miles of trenches around the capital city to show everyone how confident you are about your ability to get the country under control. And while they're at it, why not make everyone carry biometric identity cards, like the citizens of Fallujah have to? There are only about 6 million people in Baghdad, that shouldn't cause much trouble.  

This whole thing has got to be a joke, right? What are the chances that building trenches around the entire city of Baghdad is going to have any effect on the violence going on there? I would say about the same as setting up road blocks and going house to house. Zilch! So this is the "defining moment, the defining battle of the war," according to General George Casey? (I thought that was Fallujah in November of 2004). The plan is to hide behind trenches?  

'whack-a-mole' is not working: 

Not that the military is over stretched or anything, but the US military is pulling troops from other parts of the country and rushing them into the "Battle of Baghdad." (Didn't we already win that thing back in April of 2003?) Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli says stopping the sectarian violence is a higher priority then going after the insurgents. He said, "the main effort is in Baghdad, and we must ensure that we weight the main effort." That's fine, but al-Anbar is in pretty piss-poor shape right now, too. In fact, it's so out of control that a Marine intelligence officer has said in a secret report that although we haven't been beaten militarily, "we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost." [WaPo]  So I guess pulling troops out won't make a difference anyway, right?  

Yanking troops out of Anbar to keep Baghdad from imploding would appear to me to be a pretty desperate gambit. Just how bad are things in Iraq? According to a NEWSWEEK article, "privately, senior U.S. officials say the Iraqi government has only a few months to stop the killing or collapse." Now, I can see why instead of the promised troop reductions that were being talked about in the summer, units scheduled to go home are being held up and sent to Baghdad.   

The sad tale of the 172nd Stryker Brigade: 

Like, for instance, the 172nd Stryker Brigade from Fairbanks, Alaska. The 172nd has been in Iraq for over a year and they were scheduled to go home last month. Instead, they were told to pack up and move to Baghdad. Apparently, they've been the victims of their own success; a NEWSWEEK article about Blackhawk Company 4-23 infantry battalion, says that after a year in Iraq, they've lost only 20 injured of their 4000 troops and no one has been killed in action. Their Stryker armored vehicles are "almost indestructible" which has made them an ideal item to have in Baghdad's mean streets.  

Unfortunately, although their vehicles might be indestructible, the people inside them are not; particularly when they're not in them, a concern being expressed by families of the 4-23. The soldiers say they're spending most of their time outside their Strykers, doing what the Iraqi security forces should be doing. In a meeting with family members back in August, Rummy got an earful about this. One woman complained to Rummy that, "My husband hasn’t set foot in a Stryker since he arrived in Baghdad." Rummy answered that "Over 90 percent of the house clearings are being handled by the Iraqis."

At this point, according to the NEWSWEEK article, women in the audience started shouting "no!" and "that's not true." Rummy shot back, "Don't say 'No,' that's what I've been told. It's the task of the Iraqis to go through the buildings." [This is also the same guy who said he knew exactly where the WMD were.]  Members of the 4-23 say they, not the Iraqis, do 95 percent of the house clearing. "'I'd like to punch [Rummy] in the gut, says one seasoned NCO on his second Iraq tour. He treats us like we're not human. He acts like he's not destroying families.'"  

Where do I sign up?   

Looks like that guy needs a few more deployments to Iraq to straighten out that attitude; but morale is high, just look at all the National Guard soldiers falling all over each other to go back. The Philly Inquirer reported this week that "in Pennsylvania, 500 of the 15,000 members of Army National Guard and 10 of the 4000 Air National Guard have chosen to go back. In New Jersey, 2 to 5 percent of the Army National Guard and about 20 percent of the Air National Guard's 2,300 have volunteered to return."  

That's alright, there's always Stop Loss, the Individual Ready Reserve, and sleazy recruiters ready to threaten potential recruits with jail if they don't sign on the dotted line. Rummy once said "you go to war with the Army you have, not the one you would like," but right now he's lucky to have the remnants of what he originally went in with. Maybe, we can ask NATO for some troops?  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:25 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006 3:27 PM EDT
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Saturday, 9 September 2006
Musharrif's dangerous gambit and W.'s mess.
Topic: War on Terror

 

As we all sit down to watch "the Path to 9/11" on ABC this Sunday and ruminate about the last five years of W.'s misrule, we might want to think about how things are going today in the first war that W. started. If we'll harken back to those dark days, we'll remember that Afghanistan was the country that gave OBL and al-Qaeda a free pass to train and plan the 9/11 attacks. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was the place where we had the best chance of really rolling up al-Qaeda and getting after OBL. If the administration had actually put any real effort into finishing off the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan, perhaps we wouldn't be in the situation we find ourselves in today.   Back in 2001, the US still had enormous international support and sympathy for our invasion of Afghanistan because we had been attacked and we were defending ourselves. If we had left a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and rid the world of a then not so popular al-Qaeda, we'd still be in the position of being the leading light of freedom and stability throughout the world. And, perhaps more crucially, our military would still command the fear and respect of our enemies.

Thanks to Rummy's bungling in the initial phases of the Iraq war, the Sunnis there and now the Taliban in Afghanistan have been given time and space to figure out how to counter our tactics and prove to the world that we're vulnerable.   The Taliban have compared notes with the insurgents in Iraq and now IEDs and suicide bombings are commonplace events, where they were unheard of before this year. In Kabul yesterday a suicide bomber crashed his Toyota into a US Army humvee, 50-yards from the US embassy building, killing 14 civilians and 2 US soldiers. [AP] This was the first major attack of its kind in relatively stable Kabul since the war began five years ago. It probably isn't the last.  

At the same time this news was hitting the wires, NATO member countries were meeting in Brussels to decide on how many reinforcements to send to the south of the country, where the Taliban is running rampant. Since W. & Co. made the decisions to find more suitable targets to bomb in Iraq, a few months after invading Afghanistan, and allowed the Taliban to escape over the border into Pakistan they've regrouped and are now back, stronger than ever. This apparently is news to NATO officials who say they have been surprised by the level of combat they've faced in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.  In the past 38 days they've lost 35 troops. Brig. Ed Butler, the commander of British forces in the south says, "The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis." As for our troops fighting in the east of the country, the NYT reported on Tuesday that, "statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq."   

If NATO's original the plan was to go into these provinces in the south and finally get around to expanding the writ of Hamid Karzai's government outside the city limits of Kabul and gets reconstruction going again, I would say they've got a long way to go. Former NPR correspondent Sarah Chays, who now lives in Kandahar, was on the NEWSHOUR last night and she said the people in the area don't exactly have a great love for the Taliban, but there is a certain nostalgia for the law and order they brought to the country, which is now in total chaos. She says the insecurity in the south has finally caused most Afghanis, who were unusually patient in giving Karai's government a chance to provide security and stability, to turn toward the Taliban again out of utter desperation.  

No matter how many troops NATO or we send in there, it is becoming very clear that the insurgency isn't going to end any time soon unless the problem of Pakistan and its support for the Taliban is addressed. Perves Musharrif was in Kabul this week to reassure Karzai that he's doing all he can to go after the Taliban in his country, but I doubt anyone believes him. Just before he landed in Kabul he made a deal with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in North Waziristan that he'd leave them alone if they didn't attack his military forces. In the agreement also was included a stipulation that Musharrif wouldn't go after OBL or any number of other wanted terrorists.  

How the administration is going to reconcile Musharrif's peace deal with our sworn enemies while at the same time acting like he's our good buddy in South Asia is the real question. Musharrif and Karzai are going to be W.'s guests in Washington very soon, so it'll be interesting to see how W. & Co. spin this one. Musharrif will doubtless claim, as he did in Kabul this week, that neither he nor the ISI is "behind anything that is happening in Afghanistan," because "the coalition would become an enemy of Pakistan and start attacking Pakistan," but I think he's making the calculation that the US doesn't have the resources to go after him now.  He's probably right about that because, besides Iraq, we've now got Iran on our plate. Hell, we can't even really cut off his government financially because if his regime were to be destabilized, we'd be looking at a potential take over by some very nasty people who wouldn't hesitate to nuke India with Pakistan's arsenal of "Islamic bombs."  

Musharrif is in a tough position, between the rock of the US and the hard place of his radical Islamic domestic enemies. He's probably thinking he'd rather risk the wrath of the US than tangle with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially in light of these supposed democratic election he's going to be holding next year. He'll need the support of the only moderately radical elements of the electorate to get re-elected. Since he's done away with the likes of Narwaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and their moderate democratic parties, all he's got left is the whacko parties.  Yes, this is quite a mess W. has gotten us into. In another five years we could have the Taliban in full control of their own statelet in the south of Afghanistan; a radical Islamic government in Pakistan with their hands on a bunch of nukes -- which they would give to al-Qaeda to bomb us; a full scale regional war in the Middle East pitting Turkey against the Kurds in the north of Iraq, the Iranians and the Syrians against us and Israel in Iraq and Lebanon; and just for good measure, the Russians and the Chinese swooping in to get their hands on all the oil when there's no one left standing.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:42 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006 7:29 PM EDT
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Thursday, 7 September 2006
Pakistan makes deal to not go after OBL, among other things...
Topic: War on Terror

 The NYT reports that the government of Pakistan has signed a peace deal with tribal leaders of North Waziristan. Apparently, representatives of the local Taliban council agreed to "halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan," according to the Times story. (Yeah right, as if anyone is buying that.)  

The Times reports: 

"The deal is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. But the government may have in effect ceded the militants a sanctuary in the area..."  An AP story says: "The agreement which one official said offers 'implicit amnesty' to foreign and local militants highlights the Pakistani military's inability to crush a violent pro-Taliban insurgency on its own soil."    

As if they'd really want to anyway: ever since 9/11 -- when Pervez Musharrif became our good buddy instead of the international pariah he had been-- the central government of Pakistan has made a good show of trying to do something about the massive problem they have in the Warziristans. Unfortunately, there are elements within the military and the secret ISI that have been doing business with the Taliban and al-Qaeda for decades. They can't really go after them at this point; they're joined at the hip. It's just a practical matter; they have to keep their home-grown fanatics focused on Kashmir and Afghanistan. Otherwise these lunatics might turn on them. (I'm assuming, of course, that the lunatics within the Pakistani military haven't got the upper hand yet.)

 

Maybe they have. Asia Times  Online reports that beyond the shock of the truce, "a more significant development is an underhand deal between pro-al-Qaeda elements and Pakistan in which key al-Qaeda figures will either not be arrested or those already in custody will be set free. This has the potential to sour Islamabad's relations with Washington beyond the point of no return...it has now been agreed between militants and Islamabad that Pakistan will not arrest two high-profile men on the "most wanted" list that includes Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar." 

Well, isn't that special?  You could perhaps understand why Mussharrif wants to get al-Qaeda off his back, when you consider the problems he's having in Baluchitan and with the Baluchistan Liberation Army  (Which Pakistan claims is supported by, you quessed it: India) . All Waziristan offers is lots of rocks and headaches, Baluchistan on the other hand provides  lots of oikl and gas.   There has been a nascent insurgency going on there for quite a while and it's really coming to a head right now. The killing by Pakistani forces of the revered leader Nawab Akbar Bugti two weeks ago has really roiled the whole already bad situation in Baluchistan and there have been violent protests in the capital city Quetta, which also happens to be the main staging area for the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan. The government claims it's got everything under control, but when you're claiming that you've made 600 arrests in what is supposedly a civil disturbance; inquiring minds start to wonder what's really going on. Police actions don't usually require the use of Apache helicopters.  

W. is making a lot of noise about his successes against al-Qaeda this week and saying things like we're fighting Hitler and Stalin all over again (although 'Uncle Joe" was our best friend for about 3 years during WWII) but he's not saying anything about Musharrif making peace deals with the "Islamo-fascists" who have killed 106 US troops so far this year. Very odd.  

On the heels of this back-down to his domestic terrorists, Musharrif has again pulled another one of his patented showy attempts to placate his US backers. A few months ago Musharrif staged an attack on a terrorist base at Danda Saidgai, which wound up blowing up in his face just as W. arrived.  This time around he's really upping the ante by making his way to Kabul to make nice with the beleaguered Afghan president Hamid Karzai -- who he hates. The two of them are declaring a common front against the terrorists, the same terrorists Musharrif just made a deal with.  

The cynicism of the Pakistanis is truly astounding. Surely, the Bush administration isn't falling for this crap, right? Oh, you betcha'. This administration is so over their heads in South Asia, it's scary. Far be it for me to try and figure out the Byzantine intricacies of the Pakistan/India dispute, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out a nuclear Pakistan under a very shaky military dictatorship is probably a bigger problem at the moment than a loud mouth Iranian president with no nukes.   


Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:33 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006 1:35 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 6 September 2006
W.'s not talking about this war anymore.
Topic: Iraq

In his big speech at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City on Thursday, W. said those who say Iraq is headed toward civil war are just dead wrong. "Our commanders and diplomats on the ground in Iraq believe that it's not the case. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority wants peace and a normal life."  

I wonder which commanders and diplomats he's talking to, because his own Ambassador in Baghdad sent a secret memo back to Washington last month outlining the dire situation his embassy staff are facing simply trying to get to work everyday and the pentagon just yesterday gave a pretty bleak assessment of the situation to Congress reporting that: "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife...Conditions that could lead to a civil war exist in Iraq." The report also says that militias are more entrenched then ever in Baghdad neighborhoods and are seen by most Iraqis as the only providers of security and protection they have.

It is amazing that W. and Co. have launched this new "say the course" PR campaign in the midst of some of the worse violence Iraq has ever seen (and that's saying something). If Karl Rove thinks highlighting the "successes" of the new security crackdown in Baghdad is going to win votes in November, he'd better go back to the drawing board. In the past week, over 400 Iraqis have died along with 15 US troops. After five weeks of “Operation Together Forward" things have gone from very bad to horrifically awful.

The deployment of some 12,000 US and Iraqi security forces to Baghdad has apparently only exacerbated the violence inside the city.  As we've seen in other crackdowns, notably in Fallujah II, the insurgents have simply redeployed to other neighborhoods in Baghdad and cities around Iraq while the US forces go from house to house in areas devoid of insurgents. Fighting in the south and in the north, especially in Kirkuk, has rammed up. On Wednesday, an all out 12-hour battle between Shiite militias and Iraqi Army units in Diwaniya, 80-miles south of Baghdad, led to the deaths of  80 militia fighters and 20 Iraqi soldiers. During the battle about a dozen Iraqi soldiers were taken into the town square and executed by their militia captors when they ran out of ammunition. [Looks like the idea of us just sitting back and providing logistical support needs to be tweaked a bit] [AP]

In some whacko corners of the punditry the fact that Iraqi forces were able to hang with the militias for so long was seen a promising sign. To most sane people watching this catastrophe unfold it should have been seen as a sign that the old paradigm of the war in Iraq, the typical hit and run small insurgent unit engagements, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. We're now seeing supposedly rag-tag groups of militia gunmen engaging division sized Iraqi army units in set piece battles. For their part, the Sunni insurgents are also showing the ability to fight in large organized formations against US Marines in Ramadi.  Even the run-of-the-mill insurgent car bombings and mortar attacks are becoming even more spectacular.

On Thursday, Sunni insurgents set off bombs they'd planted in apartments; they had previously rented, and leveled an entire block in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. Edward Wong reported in the NYT that "the attack appeared to be a well-organized strike on areas controlled by the Mahdi Army. . .Police officials counted seven explosions from a combination of car bombs and rocket or mortar fire." The attacks killed 43 and wounded over 200.   

Starting a war within the war: 

Naturally, these attacks will only inspire more Shiite revenge attacks on Sunni neighborhoods in the south and west and no matter how many troops we pump into the fight we're not going to be able to stop it. But don't tell that to the brains trusters in the Iraqi Defense Ministry. As if things weren't bad enough already, they're preparing to go after the Mahdi Army on its own turf. The AP reported today that Defense Ministry spokesman, Muhammad al-Askari, says "no neighborhood is off-limits. There's not a single neighborhood that's a red line for us. Any area that has terrorist activity, we will enter -- there will be no stop sign."

The American commander of the 101st Airborne says the only thing these militias understand is "a big stick," so that's what they're going to get. I'd say if we're going to go after Muqtada al-Sadr again we'd better bring a stick the size of a California Redwood, because we're talking about starting another war within the war. It's been recognized for quite a while now that the Mahdi Army is an even bigger danger to Iraq than the insurgency is. The question is what to do about it. Al-Sadr himself has supposedly been leaning toward "moderation" because his political Party, the Sadr Trend, has 30 seats in the parliament. He has a lot of political clout within the Iraqi government, because he was instrumental in getting Nouri al-Maliki into the PM job. But is al-Sadr in any position to deal? Newsweek reported last month that there's a new wrinkle to the Sadr story: 

"The Mahdi Army's leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, seems to be losing his grip on the thousands of armed men who once followed his every word. 'There are forces that are controlled by Moqtada, but there are commanders that are not controlled by him.; there are death squads that are not controlled by him,' U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilizad told NEWSWEEK. The situation is so volatile that, according to the U.S. officials, Sadr now fears for his own safety and position." 

In fact, many of these disparate factions of the Mahdi Army are getting their marching orders from Iran. So whereas it might have been possible to come to some sort of accommodation with al-Sadr after the elections in January, it now appear as if even he's no longer a viable player. It seems in this situation, as well, that Iran is holding all the cards. If the US and Iraqi forces really go after the Mahdi Army, they'll have to not only fight them in Baghdad but also in Najaf and in Basra, where Sadr is vying for control with the Badr Organization (also controlled by Iran). In this new scenario, our troops will be fighting the Sunnis in Anbar and western Baghdad at the same time they're re-fighting the Mahdi Army, a force that now numbers about 140,000; about three times the number when we fought them to a draw back in 2004.  

I don't know, call me crazy, but something tells me our 140,000 troops fighting along side 200,000 very shaky Iraqi units that are prone to desert at the drop of a hat if they don't like their deployment orders, or just unexpectedly decide to run away, doesn't look like a very promising strategy for victory. If we're about to get involved in taking on both sides in this civil war, we should seriously consider reinstituting the draft. Calling up 26,000 Marine reservists isn't going to do the trick.  

The "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century?"  

 W. says pulling our troops out of  Iraq now would be "absolutely disastrous. . .We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies -- Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and al-Qaeda terrorists from all over the world, who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban."  It looks like al-Qaeda already has a perfectly fine base of operations in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas --but regardless, if he really thinks this war in Iraq is "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,"  then he'd better get serious about waging it.

If we're going to take on all comers in Iraq; launch preemptive strikes on Iran's nuclear infrastructure; successfully defeat the resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan; help Israel deal with their Hezbollah and Hamas problems; and have enough assets left over to deal with the ever present possibility of a North Korean freak-out or a Chinese attack on Taiwan, we're going to need a much bigger military. If the war in Lebanon showed us nothing else (as if Vietnam wasn't enough of a lesson), it showed us that strategic air strikes are useless when waging asymmetrical warfare.   

In the summer of 1940 FDR was able to squeak through Congress the Selective Service Act while we were still at peace because he could see what was coming with the German take over of Europe. He very responsibly analyzed the coming threat and rushed to prepare this nation for a major conflict. In 2003, this administration launched an invasion of a country that was absolutely no threat to this country and neglected to adequately prepare for any contingencies contrary to the rosy predictions of deluded chicken hawks. The consequences of these actions have placed our military in an untenable position. Our national security hangs in the balance and this administration continues to dither.  

PR campaigns aren't going to provide the tens of thousands of more troops we need to conduct the war in Iraq. It is beyond irresponsible to keep sending the same units to Iraq again and again; for two, three or  four tours and still expect to have any kind of viable fighting force left in the end.

 

But never mind about all that; they found another al-Qaeda number two man. You know what happened when they killed #1 guy, so prepare for much worse to come.

 Better change the subject. Talk about all the successes of the war on terror . . .

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:31 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006 7:34 PM EDT
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Monday, 28 August 2006
Pakistan in big trouble:

Pakistan Link reported on Sunday that: 

"Nawab Akbar Bugti, leader of the Bugti tribe, president of the Jamhoori Watan Party and the driving force behind the anti-government rebellion in Balochistan, was killed in a massive military operation in the Bhambore Hills, an area between the cities of Kohlu and Dera Bugti."

AP reports today: 

"Mobs burned shops, banks and buses yesterday in a second day of rioting over the killing of a top tribal chief by Pakistani troops, raising fears that a decades-old conflict in the country's volatile southwest could widen. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Pakistani television that Nawab Akbar Bugti's death Saturday was 'the darkest chapter in Pakistan's history.'" ( You remember Narwas Sharif right? He's the one Clinton let Pervy ouverthrow.) Police arrested 450 people for rioting, but the violence spread from Baluchistan province into neighboring Sindh province. Political analysts feared the killing of Bugti, 79, a champion of greater rights for ethnic Baluch tribespeople, could influence more young Pakistanis to take up extremism."

I will have more to say about this very big development either tomorrow or Wedenesday. Read what I wrote about Boluchistan back in Feb:

 feb 9

index.blog?from=20060209

 feb 17

index.blog?from=20060217


Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:59 PM EDT
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