It appears that the Pentagon’s Long-War advocates may have been challenged on two fronts during this past week.
First, according to the AFP, “the Taliban called upon the U.S. Congress today to send a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan to investigate the lies and propaganda spread by the military chiefs to prolong the war.” The Taliban claims that the military has exaggerated battlefield successes and played down the extent to which the resistance is a home-grown, country-wide movement. The militancy was further quoted as stating: “The team should have freedom of movement and should be allowed to remain far from the clutches of your intelligence agencies."
Earlier last week, the Taliban easily took over Khogyani, a key district in eastern Afghanistan. After setting government buildings and vehicles ablaze the insurgents abducted at least 16 police officers and then melted away as quickly as they had appeared. The bodies of five of the hostages were discovered today. Officials in the area said the situation underscored the vulnerability of the rural districts where the Taliban has been growing stronger.
As for the Taliban’s challenge, one doesn’t have to go to Afghanistan to realize that the insurgency has been growing steadily stronger. A number of studies over time, including those performed by the Pentagon itself, have confirmed that fact.
A 110-page report, three years ago, by the Senlis Council, a Brussels-based think tank, reported that the Taliban’s resurgence had reclaimed 54% of Afghanistan. At that time, there was a NATO force of approximately 60,000 deployed there, of which about 30,000 were U.S. troops.
Two years ago, the International Council on Security and Development completed a study that concluded “the Taliban has rooted itself across increasing swathes of Afghan territory,” and that it then had a “permanent presence in 72% of the country.”
One year ago, Katie Couric reported that the Taliban controlled 80% of the country, at a time when the NATO force was rising to 100,000 including 68,000 Americans. At the same time, the International Council on Security and Development described the situation as a deepening crisis with “substantial Taliban activity in at least 97% of the country.”
And six months ago, five months after the Obama administration’s announcement of a second surge, which raised the NATO force to over 130,000 and the U.S. troop strength to 102,000, a Pentagon report required by Congress revealed further bad news. Under the 4/29/10 headline “AFGHAN TALIBAN GETTING STRONGER, PENTAGON SAYS,” the L.A. Times described the report as portraying “an insurgency with deep roots and broad reach, able to withstand repeated U.S. onslaughts and to reestablish its influence, while discrediting and undermining the country's Western-backed government.”
The one campaign that was originally heralded as a success this year was the one in Marja. However, that situation subsequently turned sour and was eventually described by ex-General Stanley A. McChrystal as a “bleeding ulcer.”
The successes of the Taliban are in no way a reflection on the effort being put forth by the NATO troops. On the contrary, the responsibility reaches to the highest levels of the Pentagon where there have been consistent and serious misjudgments over the conduct of a war of this type against a guerilla insurgency.
In the second apparent challenge to the long-war advocates, a Los Angeles Times article today said it found little evidence of an Al Qaeda movement in Yemen. This appears to fly in the face of the plethora of announcements emanating out of Washington recently which seemed to be setting up that nation as a future site for further military involvement. In a Times survey of people living in the Yemeni capital, the general consensus was that the so-called group, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” was a “political invention.”
In fact, there has been little hard news to support the contention that Yemen is a base for an organized Al Qaeda operation of any significant size. It is, however, the present location of Anwar Awlaki, a terrorist who has reportedly abetted or dispatched attacks on U.S. soil, including the Fort Hood shootings. Awlaki is an American citizen, born in New Mexico, who is now alleged to be on the CIA hit list. This fact has apparently served to elevate the newsworthiness of the situation beyond what would otherwise be the case, and it is possible that the spin doctors in the Pentagon, who describe him as the new Bin Laden, have been quick to take advantage of it.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan continues on, claiming more American lives and costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $75 billion in fiscal 2010 and possibly more than $100 billion in fiscal 2011.
Last week, the Department of Defense released the obituaries of 11 military personnel killed in Afghanistan, ranging in age from 21 to 37. Eight of the fallen heroes were killed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.
According to the website icasualties.org, total U.S. deaths now amount to 1,370 in Afghanistan and 4,427 in Iraq, for a total of 5,797.