Topic: War on Terror
So things are going swimmingly in Afghanistan, in case no one has been paying attention lately. With all the slaughtering going on in Iraq, Afghanistan seems peaceful by comparison, but very quietly the war there is ramping up to full blown disaster status. Yes, the Taliban are back with a vengeance and now they have their own Zarqawi, who might actually be more of a homicidal maniac. Newsweek reports his name is Mullah Dadullah Akhund, and to show you just how out of control this guy is, even Mullah Omar once relieved him of his command for the brutal tactics he employed against Shiite Hazaras in 1998. [Or Jalaluddin Haqqani could be the new boss, who knows?]
Akhund is back now and he's leading the forces fighting Nato in the south of the country. Apparently, Aklund had such a fearsome reputation that the Taliban sometimes announces that he's leading battles he's not involved in to scare the other side into retreating. His third in command, Mullah Ghul Agha, is terrified of him, too, and his wild mood swings: "For two hours he can be in good humor, then suddenly he changes into a dark mood that can last for hours," Agha says, "He will kill anyone for not following orders. I certainly would not want to face Dadullah on the battlefield."
Unfortunately, that's just what the British, Canadians and Dutch are doing in Helmand province: which, by the way, is a bumper crop of poppishaving. As far as I can gather, there are some 8,000 Nato troops moving into the south, replacing US troops, to take on what they estimate are 6000 Taliban fighters (Dadullah says its really 12,000). It would appear, even with air superiority, a 2000 troop advantage might not be enough to be able to bring stability back to that part of the country.
The Brits are reeling from the 6 troops they've lost this past month. Just a few months ago former UK defense secretary, John Reid, was boasting that British troops would get through their deployment without firing a shot. It turns out that perhaps the patented British soft-hat patrolling technique that they're so proud of might not be working so well.
Christina Lamb of the Sunday Times interviewed on the world last week described an ambush she was involved in where after meeting with local elders she and the British troops she acompanied were very nearly killed. She writes in the Times that, "The ambush of our lightly armed patrol not only was unexpected but also brought into question the entire strategy being pursued by the British in Helmand, the huge province they have taken on." Lamb is still taken aback by the fact that the British had gone to this village to provide assistance and they were guided into the ambush by the very same people they were trying to help.
If the thinking at the MOD doesn't change quickly, there are sure to be many more such surprises. An article in the NYT last month reports that:
"One international security official in Kandahar, who has several years of experience in Afghanistan, said members of the U.S. and Canadian Special Forces units had told him they 'were not winning against the Taliban. If the central government does not act and coalition forces do not increase, I think it will be impossible to say what will happen.'"
As Nato forces have been moving into the south over the past few months US air power has been taking a toll on the hearts and minds of Afghan villagers unfortunate enough to be in the crossfire. Hundreds of Afghans have been killed in US air raids during this ongoing assault on the Taliban over the spring and early summer. Hamid Karzai is sounding more and more like Nuri al-Maliki (or is it the other way around?) demanding that the coalition forces change their tactics.
"It is not acceptable for us that in all of this fighting, so many Afgans are dying," Karzai said on June 22. "In the last three weeks, 500 to 600 Afgans were killed. [Even] if they are Taliban, they are sons of this land." You'll remember that in January Karzai urged his American allies to adjust their anti-terrorism tactics; "We do not want bombing of our villages. We do not want searches of our homes. We don't want our civilians harassed anymore."
He doesn't appear to be getting his message across, although, Condi did pop in very briefly for a visit to tell him she feels his pain...and then she was gone, zooming straight up to avoid AAA. Of course, Karzai's constant refrain is the threat coming from outside Afghanistan (from you know where). Four days ago in Tokyo he said the international community's strategy in Afghanistan was "going in circles," and he made sure to highlight what he sees as the man cause of the terrorism in Afghanistan: "The sources of terrorism are where they are trained, where they are financed, where they are equipped, where they are mobilized and where they are motivated." [FT]I wonder what he could be talking about; Pakistan perhaps?
Pervez Musharrif assures his American masters he's doing everything he can along the border, but his efforts seem oddly to ebb and flow depending on the arrivals and departures of US officials. Not that Pakistan's ISS is helping the Taliban and al-Qaeda or anything, but just incidentally, back in 2001 when the Americans tossed out the Taliban, Mullah Dadullah abandoned his troops, packed his bags, paid off a Northern Alliance commander for safe passage and escaped to Pakistan, where he regrouped his forces, according to Newsweek. In fact, his two wives and three children live in Quetta, Pakistan, where apparently the Pakistani forces haven't gotten around to retaking from the Taliban.
It’s very difficult to figure out whether Afghanistan or Iraq is more out of control nowadays, but judging by the five bombs that went off in Kabul this past week, the poppy crop and the specter of Mullah Dadullah versus Nato, I'd say Afghanistan might soon knock North Korean off the front pages.