Topic: War on Terror
In his annual review of global threats, John "I want another job" Negroponte, the outgoing National Intelligence Director, told the Senate intelligence committee in written testimony that al-Qaeda is still a grave threat to the U.S. [AP] Imagine that! Five years into the Global War on Terror, al-Qaeda is going like gang busters. Negroponte says that al-Qaeda maintains the ability to act through connections that "radiate outward from their leaders' secure hideout in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and Europe."
Pakistan, eh? Looks like we might be barking up the wrong tree by sending 21,000 more troops to Iraq. Could this "secure hideout" Pakistan is providing to al-Qaeda have anything to do with Pervez Musharrif's deal last year with the Taliban and al-Qaeda not to interfere with their affairs in the tribal areas running along the Afghan border? Shortly after entering into that infamous agreement U.S. military commanders noted a threefold increase in attacks coming from the Pakistan side of the border. [Guardian] But that was just before the winter set in, when the Afghans traditionally take a few months off to retool while the mountain passes are blocked by snow. The true effects of Musharrif's deal with the devil should become apparent this spring.
And spring is coming soon enough. This year it might be even coming a little early. (Global warming, perhaps?) AP reports that on Wednesday Afghan and NATO forces battled Taliban insurgents for 9-hours in Patika province. According to NATO and Afghan officials, Taliban fighters in several trucks full of ammunition were tracked coming from Pakistan. When they crossed the Afghan frontier they were engaged by ground fire and air strikes. Supposedly Pakistani forces shelled Taliban forces on their side of the border while this was going on. If this is true this would be the first time they've operated in that area in months.
Typically, the death toll in this fighting was inflated by NATO and the Afghan military. Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a U.S. military spokesman, said initially that 150 Talibs had been killed. Then later he said the real number was 130. The Afghan Defense Ministry said the number was 80. There was no explanation for the wildly different estimates. One explanation could be that it's all propaganda. Last year during fighting in Pawji province, south of Kandahar, the British claimed they had killed 500 Talibs and rid the entire area of them. A few days later, though, they were back with a suicide bombing in Kandahar.
If you're going to make up phony body counts, at least, attempt to make them sound plausible. If there were 500 Talibs really killed in just a few days last September, you'd think there would have been some evidence of it; like mounds of bodies all over the place and mass funerals etc. But luckily for NATO, they're doing such a piss poor job of dealing with the Talibs that whole swaths of the country are too dangerous for the press to go out and confirm these outrageous claims.
Do I doubt that Talib generals send waves of fighters to their deaths without any conscience? No. Many of these Talib commanders are psychotic murderers. But if they were suffering the kinds of loses NATO is claiming they are, they wouldn't have succeeded in taking over most of southern Afghanistan, which they clearly have. This is another little problem for W. & Co. to mull after they complete their task of mopping up Baghdad.
Anyone who thinks we've got the luxury to waste our time and resources propping up the weak and incompetent government in Iraq is dangerously deluded. We really need to come up with a New Way Forward in Afghanistan, right now. The fighting season is almost upon us and we’re about to send what few troops we've got left into Baghdad's meat grinder. The Talibs and al-Qaeda are about to catch us with our pants down and there's nothing we're going to be able do about it. Let's hope the Brits, the Canadians and the Dutch can hack it, because we've got nothing more to send.