Our Afghan "Victory" Still Racking Up Casualties

Saturday, March 04, 2006 at 09:31 AM

On June 15, 2004, CNN bannered a headline saying "Bush: Afghanistan is a victory over terrorism," with a subhead "Hamid Karzai thanks U.S. for aiding his country."

Not the first time he's declared victory at the earliest possible opportunity, and not the first time he's been dead wrong in a deadly way.

Just in case he doesn't bother to follow an event after he declares it over, please, Mr. President, "read on, McShmuck."

1. From today's Newsday:

Militants have stepped up attacks across southern and eastern Afghanistan in the past year, raising fears for this country's future four years after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban for hosting Osama bin Laden.

This comes in a story about four Afghan Intelligence agents being blown up when a roadside bomb was detonated under their vehicle south of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province.

The Saturday attack followed Friday's events including police killing eight militants and arresting 10 in the province, while gunmen on a motorcycle killed a Helmand district chief.

Britain is deploying some 3,000 troops this year to Helmand to tackle the burgeoning insurgency and drug trade.

2. From today's UPI:

Further south [than the Intelligence agent incident], the French Ministry of Defense said a French special forces officer was killed in a clash with Taliban militants.

Canadian military officials also reported insurgents attacked a NATO patrol in Gumbad, about 50 miles north of Kandahar. One Canadian soldier was shot in the head and was evacuated to a military hospital in Kandahar by a U.S. helicopter.

The attacker was killed in the gun fight, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., said.

More than 1,400 people have been killed by insurgent-related violence in 2005, the country's bloodiest year since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001.

3. From The Houston Chronicle, March 3, 2006:

Spike in attacks impedes NATO task in Afghanistan
Threat looms as troops from Britain prepare for a project in lawless area

Al-Qaida fighters and remnants of the ousted Taliban regime have developed havens inside lawless parts of Afghanistan and the tribal regions in Pakistan, launching increased attacks against coalition soldiers, NATO officials and independent analysts said Friday.
The rising threat to Western troops comes as Britain is preparing to send an estimated 4,000 soldiers into one of the most lawless regions of Afghanistan, and Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing opposition in Parliament from legislators who argue that Britain cannot sustain forces to fight a "two-front" war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The security situation has changed in the last few months," said Lt. Col. Riccardo Cristoni, spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan. "There are more attacks and more suicide attacks."

Suicide attacks' impact
The insurgents, he said, "are not able to conduct face-to-face attacks, or organized attacks, but these suicide attacks are very cost-effective, because one man doing it can have more impact than a conventional attack."

The NATO force -- separate from Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led effort to track down and apprehend al-Qaida and Taliban fighters hiding in Afghanistan -- is to concentrate on extending the central government's reach into the countryside and help rebuild the society. But the steady increase in attacks by Taliban and al-Qaida fighters has complicated the mission.

The Pakistani government has little authority in its tribal areas and the border region with Afghanistan. Small, well-armed groups are able to launch hit-and-run attacks almost at will.

"They have a sanctuary, they have a logistical framework, and they have a recruiting base in Pakistan, and that is essential for a successful guerrilla struggle," said Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani author of Jihad and other books about the Taliban.

....Taliban militants are aided by friendly state authorities in Pakistan who embrace the Taliban's fundamentalist views.

British troops are preparing to step into Helmand province, but some experts warn that the deployment overextends the British army because of London's troop commitment in Iraq.

"It's a vicious circle," said analyst Charles Heyman, editor of the periodical The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom. "It's quite obvious that the forces are stretched too thin, with 40 percent of the army deployed on active operations. That is far too much."
Lacks history of success
...the British army does not have a history of success in Afghanistan. "The terrain in Afghanistan is against us," he said. "It's easy to ambush people on the roads, and the Taliban and al-Qaida are using more and more roadside bombs."
Some in Parliament have complained that Britain's ability to respond to any new crisis has been compromised by the decision to fight the "two-front" war. Opposition leaders warn that the Afghan mission will turn into a fiasco unless the task force is beefed up with more troops and firepower.

4. From Voice of America, March 2, 2006:

....some analysts argue, the potential for political disorder is as severe as it was a decade ago. They point to al-Qaida and Taliban violence, a reminder the insurgency is far from defeated.  According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, a Washington-based research organization, attacks in Afghanistan have increased by 20 percent during the last year and suicide bombings have increased nearly fourfold.

Seth Jones, a RAND specialist for Afghanistan, says there is a low level insurgency that has increasingly destabilized several Afghan provinces.

According to Seth Jones, "The security sector is one area, especially in the south and east of the country, that has gotten worse.  The number of attacks, the sophistication of the insurgents and their ability to conduct attacks with improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks has improved.  And their ability to sow discord in those areas has also increased.  So if their ability to sow discord increases further and they are able to do this in larger parts of the country, I think that would be a really negative development."

Afghan fighters are mostly under control of local warlords

Analyst Seth Jones adds that Afghan warlords and regional commanders, not the 83,000-strong government military and security forces, still control most of the country.

5. From the Toronto Star:

Withdraw soldiers from Afghanistan
Mar. 4, 2006. 01:00 AM
Shielding Canada in dusty Kandahar

Editorial, March 3.

Without any formal parliamentary debate, Canadian peacekeeping soldiers have had their role changed to an occupying force attempting to impose a political system upon a country. Our forces in Afghanistan have taken over the Kandahar region from the Americans with the same objective of confronting the Taliban and supporting a corrupt, disorganized, undemocratic government made up of a group of "elected" warlords. A majority of Canadians have stated that this is not the role we want for our soldiers.

It's time for Canadian troops to be withdrawn. Sending in soldiers to support one side against the other is not what we should be there for.

Bob Abrahams, Utopia, Ont.

We probably can't take much more of this victory without beefing up troops there, too.

But then, that would require going to congress for money.  Which would require an admission that McBush once again declared victory in the midst of a temporary lull, and that our illustrious president really does not have a clue about military matters (although he plays someone who does on t.v.), and refuses to listen to anyone who does.