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Friday, August 3

“The number three in al Qaeda has been killed at least five times"

NATO in Afghanistan
“With its most skilled and experienced commanders being lost so quickly, al Qaeda has had trouble replacing them. In short, al Qaeda is losing badly. And bin Laden knew it.  Today, it is increasingly clear that — compared to 9/11 — the core al Qaeda leadership is a shadow of its former self. For the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al Qaeda core is simply no longer relevant.”
-- John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President, April 30, 2012

June 5, 2012 - Transcript, CNN:

Happening now, the United States kills Al Qaeda's number two leader in one of the biggest strikes against the terror network since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Plus, is this attack the latest symbol of the so-called Obama Doctrine? I'll ask New York Times reporter, David Sanger. He's the author of a brand-new book on the President's secret wars against America's enemies around the world.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

It's potentially the biggest blow to Al Qaeda since the death of Osama bin Laden. In London, our own national security analyst, Peter Bergen, now says -- puts it, quote, [al Qaeda] "more or less out of business," a direct quote from Peter Bergen.

August 2, 2012, The Long War Journal:

"The Egyptian government has requested the release of a top al Qaeda explosives expert from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility."

August 2, 2012, The Long War Journal:

"CNN interviewed the brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri. Mohamed al Zawahiri is just one of many known and suspected terrorists to be freed from Egyptian prisons since the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime."

July 28, 2012, The Long War Journal:

'Numerous' insurgents detained during latest raid against IMU in Kunduz [Afghanistan]
[...] The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and supports operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as plots attacks in Europe.

March 26, 2012, from Gideon Rachman's column for The Financial Times, The West has lost in Afghanistan:
As a top Pakistani official puts it: “The number three in al-Qaeda has been killed at least five times. But there is always a new number three. It is the mentality that gives rise to al-Qaeda that you need to defeat.”
If it's the mentality that needs to be defeated, it seems to me that al Qaeda does a good job of defeating itself. Everywhere the outfit goes, it not only wears out its welcome it also creates implacable enemies. Remember Sudan? Remember Anbar Province? To name but two.

In May, PBS aired a Frontline documentary about an Arab journalist who managed to infiltrate al Qaeda. He got a firsthand look at a hardscrabble town in Yemen that al Qaeda had taken over and proceeded to govern. The footage the journalist got of the town would be funny if the situation it depicted wasn't so pathetic.

The people in the town had initially welcomed AQ and assumed that by 'governing' this would mean helping them improve their living conditions. But it was clear that the townspeople had learned they were living under a dictatorship that enforced its rule through brutality, and which otherwise couldn't govern worth squat.

But if it isn't really the al Qaeda mentality that needs to be defeated, then what? I think a clue can be found in a fact that emerged over a period of years from thousands of news reports, think-tank studies and official documents. The fact is that the West didn't lose Afghanistan. It gave it away.

The fact is by now so well established that it hardly needs illustrating but to pick at random from two of the thousands of reports:

September 3, 2009, CBS Evening News:
It is taxpayer money meant to fund aid and development projects in Afghanistan: roads, bridges and schools.

But there are new claims that U.S.-funded contractors have been spending a hefty chunk of that funding on protection payments to the Taliban - for years, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

"That translates into money that the Taliban are using to attack and kill American military personnel, and that's just simply outrageous," said Rep. Bill Delahunt.

The international news organization GlobalPost quoted several unnamed contractors who said 20 percent of their budgets - or more - go to pay off the Taliban so it won't bomb their projects, or their people. It's a protection racket far more sophisticated than the typical mob-style shakedown.

"The Taliban literally has an office in Kabul where it works out what percentage will be charged on these contracts," said Charles Sennott, the executive editor of the GlobalPost. "This is so open."

The State Department has spent more than $4 billion on development contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. Experts say the kickbacks could have netted the Taliban tens of millions of dollars and are such an open secret on the streets that the U.S. government had to know.

"You cannot do anything about it," said CBS News consultant Jere Van Dyke. "This is how it operated, this is how it was in the 1980s, this is how it is today."
Really? Absolutely nothing can be done, eh? For the answer, I'll turn to a report about another protection racket; this one about NATO contractors paying Taliban not to attack NATO supply convoys:
How the US Funds the Taliban
By Aram Roston
The Nation
November 30, 2009

Two years ago a top Afghan security official told me, Afghanistan's intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security [at that time under the leadership of Amrullah Saleh], had alerted the American military to the problem. The NDS delivered what I'm told are "very detailed" reports to the Americans explaining how the Taliban are profiting from protecting convoys of US supplies.

The Afghan intelligence service even offered a solution: what if the United States were to take the tens of millions paid to security contractors and instead set up a dedicated and professional convoy support unit to guard its logistics lines? The suggestion went nowhere.

The bizarre fact is that the practice of buying the Taliban's protection is not a secret. I asked Col. David Haight, who commands the Third Brigade of the Tenth Mountain Division, about it. After all, part of Highway 1 runs through his area of operations. What did he think about security companies paying off insurgents?

"The American soldier in me is repulsed by it," he said in an interview in his office at FOB Shank in Logar Province. "But I know that it is what it is: essentially paying the enemy, saying, 'Hey, don't hassle me.' I don't like it, but it is what it is."
It is what it is. Check. And when Hamid Karzai's clan does it, it's called corruption. When NATO does it, it's called necessity. That's the mentality that allowed NATO to give away Afghanistan. That's the mentality that needs to be defeated before al Qaeda, and the 'Afghan' Taliban, can be defeated militarily, which is the only kind of defeat they need. Instead of confronting this, NATO and the American command have said that the Taliban can't be defeated in Afghanistan. And they're preparing for a generation-long struggle against al Qaeda and its many shadows of its former self.

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