Wednesday, May 25
Counting on his fingers and toes Bill Roggio figures there are more al Qaeda in Afghanistan than ISAF's official total; Batchelor drops verbal JDAM
ISAF strategy for integrating 'good' Taliban into Afghan government
Over the years Long War Journal's Bill Roggio has tracked the numbers of al Qaeda that ISAF reports killed or captured and compared the numbers with the official NATO count of all al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan then noted that for some strange reason the official total is always the same, year in and year out.
On John Batchelor's May 20 show Roggio again reported on the anomaly and made this observation:
... our top military leaders won't explain how they come up with their estimate of al Qaeda in Afghanistan -- 35 al Qaeda killed last month but the official number hasn't changed ... Al Qaeda has a far wider reach inside Afghanistan than what the US military is saying ...The dog ate the rest of my notes and I can't remember offhand the exact number ISAF keeps putting out for the grand total but rather than listen to the podcast for the show segment (between 9 and 10 PM) I vaguely recall that the official count is a range, with 50 at the highest end of the range although don't quote me on that.
Meanwhile, over in Nuristan:
Taliban seize district in eastern Afghan province blares a BBC headline today. (H/T John Batchelor Show blog); Batchelor added the snarky comment: "Clearly ready to negotiate?")
I have no idea why the Beeb editor labeled what is clearly Al Qaeda, Inc. as "Taliban" but the reporter, Jill McGivering, manages to convey that the Governor of Nuristan and Afghan security officials are hopping mad at NATO about the situation over there:
Local officials say they are trying to re-take the western district of Doab which Nato denies is in Taliban hands.I will pass lightly over why the Beeb (and the rest of the Western press not to mention ISAF and just about everyone else) continues to insist against all evidence that what is going on in Afghanistan is an "insurgency" IT'S A PROXY WAR MEMO TO WASHINGTON PRESS CORPS HAVE YOU NOTICED THE WAR HAS HEATED UP SINCE PAKISTAN'S MILITARY LEARNED THAT KARZAI WAS GOING AGAINST THEIR 'ADVICE' AND PREPARING TO SIGN A STRATEGIC AGREEMENT WITH THE USA YOU TOADYING WHERE ARE MY SHOES oh that's right I've already thrown every pair at the Washington press corps and must now suffer the indignity of picketing Washington think tanks while shod in bunny slippers where was I?
At least three districts in Nuristan are now under Taliban control. In others, the government presence is either weak or limited.
"We had intelligence reports that close to 500 Arabs, Chechen, Pakistani and Afghan fighters wanted to attack and take the districts," [Nuristan Governor Jamaludin Badar] told the BBC.
Afghan intelligence officials in Nuristan say that they have repeatedly warned the government and Nato about the worsening security situation.
"If you don't come and deal with this mess. You will be dealing with another Waziristan and al-Qaeda's next home inside Afghanistan," one official told the BBC.
Returning to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Long War Journal reported yesterday:
A Moroccan al Qaeda operative who was based in Germany and helped "foreign fighters" enter Afghanistan was captured during a raid in the southeastern Afghan province of Zabul earlier this month. The operative is now providing intelligence on al Qaeda's movements into Afghanistan.Ah yes, the Taliban insurgent strongholds in France and Saudi Arabia; silly Pundita not to have noticed how far the borders of Afghanistan stretch.
Several foreign fighters were among those killed during the raid. Security forces "found passports and identification cards from France, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia amongst ten insurgents killed during the operation," ISAF said.
Here is another LWJ report that should but won't be noted by members of Thinktanistan: ISAF spokesman bungles Haqqani Network's relationship with the Taliban although I think Bill is being charitable or at least circumspect when he calls it a bungle. It's open knowledge that ISAF is desperate to downplay the size of the conglomerate that terms itself "Taliban." Now why is that? Here I pass along some remarks about how the ISAF strategies for dealing with Pakistan and the Taliban are bubbling along:
May 19: Over at Chicago Boyz, the ladylike On Park Street blogger, Doctor Madhu, finally blew a gasket about Washington's deadly policies on Pakistan and Afghanistan and fired off this salvo:
According to Col. Patrick Lang’s site ... Pakistan now has missiles whose range includes Israel. Any of the “checkmating Iran and Russia” geniuses [in Washington] who want to keep Pakistan in the fold thought that through?She was just getting warmed up.
May 20: Over at the John Batchelor Show blog, Batchelor nonchalantly dropped this verbal JDAM:
USAID is forbidden to build lodgings or in any way assist [Afghans] who want to abandon Taliban and work with the US and international forces. Nonetheless, a 're-integration program' is working excellently in Colombia right now. What are USAID and State doing?All this is by way of saying that the rumbling you've been feeling under your feet since the raid on Abbottabad is coming from Washington, as thousands of defense lobbyists, opinion experts, policy advisors, congressionals, Pentagon brass and State Department officials scramble to get on the winning side of what Reuters analyst Missy Ryan terms the "Hit Them" vs "Hug Them" debate in Washington about how the U.S. should proceed on Pakistan.
Missy Ryan does not miss much. She does an superb job of summarizing the debate and the "Counterterrorism" vs "Counterinsurgency" sides in the Coalition debate on what to do next in the Afghan War, which flows into the Pakistan debate. However, it would be forlorn hope to look for clarity about how to proceed on Afghanistan or Pakistan among the viewpoints she describes. Ryan is simply chronicling thought processes of people who're trying to save their jobs, political skin or ranking in Washington's policy-establishment pecking order, not any serious considerations about waging the war and dealing with Pakistan.
That's part of the reason ISAF is desperate to downplay the size and makeup of the 'Afghan Taliban.'
To return to Nuristan, a Beeb correspondent stationed in Kabul, Bilal Sawary, added this cheery analysis to accompany McGivering's report:
The fear of Afghan intelligence is that the loss of territory in Nuristan will enable militant groups including the Taliban and al-Qaeda to turn parts of the north-east of Afghanistan in a lawless area similar to North Waziristan in Pakistan.Have a nice night or day, as the case may be. I'm now headed to Payless to stock up on more shoes to hurl at toads in suits.
This will be a huge blow both to the Afghan government and to the US - which has spent millions of dollars on security improvements in the area.
The terrain of the province - mountainous with thick forests - is perfectly suited for insurgent groups who will now be looking to expand their area of operations into neighbouring Laghman province - one hour from Kabul - and the strategically important provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar.