Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


Speaking Of Afghanistan


WaPo reports:

A bomb ripped through a small bus Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, killing 15 people, a regional administrator said.

The explosion occurred in Nadh Ali district, about 20 miles southeast of Lashkargah, the capital of southern Helmand province.
...
Helmand's Deputy Governor Haji Pir Mohammed blamed al-Qaida insurgents and remnants of the Taliban militia, ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001.
...
Sporadic bombings in Kabul in the past have been blamed on a mix of Taliban rebels, al-Qaida fighters and supporters of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A suicide bombing in eastern Kabul in June killed four German peacekeepers and wounded 29 others.

Anti-government insurgents have been stepping up attacks in recent months, particularly in the south and east of the country. Authorities say insurgents have also infiltrated the capital to carry out terrorist attacks.

Iraq and Afghanistan are, of course, different in many respects. However, if we plan to bring democracy and stability to these countries, the security situation needs to improve dramatically. I don't see that happening in Afghanistan, despite NATO's recent involvement. We're still providing a pittance of aid to the country, and our security responsibilities don't go beyond Kabul. Not a formula for success.

It does appear that the Taliban/AQ are on the rise again, Asia Times agrees:

The resurgence of the Taliban in recent months has been confirmed by none less than the acting commander of the US-led coalition force in Afghanistan, General F L "Buster" Hagenback. Hagenback admitted last month that there has been an increase in Taliban activity, especially in southern and eastern Afghanistan, along the country's long border with Pakistan.
...
The resurgence of the Taliban is evident not only from the sharp rise in the number of attacks they have carried out in recent months, but also from the increase in the size of the groups that stage the attack. More than 200 Taliban fighters are said to have participated in a major attack on a government checkpoint near the border town of Spin Boldak in mid-July. While there are conflicting claims regarding the number of casualties on both sides, what is significant is the number of Taliban fighters that were involved in the attack. Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Afghanistan, observes that until a few months ago, attacks by the Taliban never involved more than a dozen or so fighters. "The increase in their numbers reflects the impunity with which they believe they can now operate," Rashid said.

I thought we defeated the Taliban? They apparently didn't get the memo. I see some eerie similarities between their collapse and Saddam's. I think it was pretty clear to all parties that there was no way either regime could stand against our military superiority in a conventional conflict. They did put up spirited fights, but in the end they just sort of melted away. Seems they did so to fight another day and engage in asymmetrical warfare, which makes me wonder if we played right into their hands. It's amazing that we've seen these lessons repeatedly ignored by the British (Afghanistan and Iraq), the Russians (Afghanistan and Chechnya), and now us (Afghanistan and Iraq).

The Army's Strategic Studies Institute published a paper in February about the Soviet/Russian experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya. It observes:

[B]ig powers do not necessarily lose small wars, they simply fail to win them. In fact, they often win many tactical victories on the battlefield. However, in the absence of a threat to survival, the big power's failure to quickly and decisively attain its strategic aim leads to an erosion of domestic cohesion.

Sounds just like our two small wars. I'm afraid we're "failing to win" in both conflicts.

ntodd

[Update, 10:48PM: I just saw the Toles cartoon from a few days ago. On target. Go see it.] 
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