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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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