Friday, November 6, 2009

Can We Depend on Afghan Forces to Resist the Taliban and al Qaeda and Keep Them Out of Afghanistan?

The manhunt for the Afghan policeman who killed five British soldiers in Helmand earlier this week shows just how easy it is for the Taliban to infiltrate the country’s security forces. Even the most rigorous scanning procedures cannot prevent insurgents signing up and using their privilieged positions to attack Nato forces.

We have been here before, of course, in Iraq, where various insurgent groups found their way into the armed forces and the police. In the end it was the Iraqis themselves, not the coalition, that were able to distinguish between those who were loyal to the government, and those were not.

The obvious solution to rooting out the terrorists in Afghanistan would be to follow a similar path. The only problem is that there is no Afghan government to talk of, so the task of undertaking a proper screening process is left to foreign soldiers, who do not have the same grasp of the intricate web of tribal loyalties quite so well as the indigenous Afghans do.

[NOTE: the loyalty of the Afghan is not to the Karzai government but to his tribe. lw]

from Con Coughlin,, executive foreign editor's
The Afghan police are an easy target for the Taliban

More . . .

ONE COMMENT (from a whole slew. Read them at the end of Mr. Coughlin's article)


Even the forceful Taliban could not impose government on the Afghans – check out this article by Michael Rubin (impeccable neocon credentials), based on a visit to the country in 2000:

The Afghan government takes about 1-2% of its tax revenue from direct personal taxation. On that basis I am saying that the average Afghan citizen is quite likely to think that a national government is not something that he has a democratic stake in. Similarly the government and its forces may feel that they owe little to the citizenry.

Kipling said that the writ of government in Afghanistan stretched as far from the capital city as a bullet might travel, or something like that. Always a good read, Kipling. I think it was in the ‘Amir’s Homily’.


From Afghanistan: As Bad as Its Reputation? by Michael Rubin (published in September 2000):


In particular, Arab mercenaries are important to the war effort. I did not go to the front line, but I was on the lookout for non-Afghan mercenaries and foreign soldiers among the Taliban. Guarding the foreign ministry, I found, were Taliban soldiers who were clearly foreign. They did not speak Dari nor, according to Afghan friends, Pashto, but rather Urdu, the language of Pakistan. Unlike Afghan Taliban who were perfectly polite and hospitable, these were condescending and rude, spat out orders at passers-by while making a point of waiving their weapons around. (Afghan frustration with foreign mercenaries resident in the country was clear.) I also made a point of talking to money-changers. In Jalalabad especially, they dealt in Arab currency, and Arabs in kafiya were wandering around the Jalalabad market, many more than could possibly be employed by a nongovernmental organization.

Clearly, the Taliban not only receive funds from Islamic radicals overseas but also use foreign volunteers to press their cause. When a friend sought a visa in Pakistan a week before I did, he met five Sudanese heading into the country; they did not appear to be educated enough to be working for the U.N. or any of the other NGOs. Storekeepers in Kabul told me about the foreigners—mostly Punjabi Pakistanis—coming to fill out Taliban ranks. Julie Sirrs, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, visited Mas‘ud's territory in March and interviewed foreign prisoners-of-war (POWs) held by the north, mostly Pakistanis, but also some Yemenis and Chinese Uighurs. Afghans would point out Pakistani Talibs along the road. Most said there were fewer around than during the previous year, although they added that their numbers were on the increase again. Rumors circulated in March that 5,000 Pakistani religious students and volunteers had just crossed the border to supplement Taliban ranks along the front line. Most likely, the rumors were exaggerated but had a basis in reality. These mercenaries may not be an effective fighting force compared with Western troops, but they are gaining practical experience and skills that they can perhaps sell after their time on the Afghan front is over. As Lebanon found with Palestinian fighters in the 1970s and 1980s, flirting with foreigners for short-term military gains can haunt domestic stability and international relations for years afterward.

Terrorist training camps are a more serious issue than mercenaries. It is difficult for the Western media to address this issue since journalists by law are not free to travel unescorted and few Afghans willingly answer questions honestly within earshot of a government translator. However, my unescorted snapshot of the country convinced me the issue is real. In Kabul, I asked shopkeepers about foreigners they encountered. One bookseller said he regularly saw French, Swedes, Arabs, Pakistanis, and Filipinos. When I asked him what the French were doing in Afghanistan, he said they were doctors. When I asked him what the Filipinos were doing, he said they were in the country for a jihad.

A few kilometers outside Kabul is Rish Khor, reportedly a base for the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), a militant Pakistani group dedicated to wresting Kashmir away from Indian control. In December, members of the group allegedly hijacked an Indian airways flight to Kandahar, killing a hostage, winning the release of their leader from an Indian jail, and escaping.4 Kabul residents in the neighborhood of the camp could attest to strict checkpoints and continued activity at the camp, in sharp contrast to Taliban denials. The camp reportedly shut its doors in June, but it is anyone's guess for how long; or the Taliban may simply have moved its occupants to locations where they will draw less attention.

Many Afghans also talked about Usama Bin Ladin's homes in Jalalabad, though on my last day in Kabul, one friend insisted his father had just returned from Kandahar and was "100 percent sure" that Bin Ladin had been there the previous week. In reality, Bin Ladin probably does not stay in the same house twice, but the fact that so many Afghans believed they knew where he was and always placed him near the populous eastern cities indicates that Bin Ladin is not nearly so isolated as the Taliban claim. Ironically, while the Taliban regime refuses to extradite him to face charges in the West, Taliban Information Minister Mawlawi Qudratullah Jamal declared, when demanding Iran return escaped anti-Taliban figure Isma`il Khan, "When somebody commits a crime and escapes to somewhere else, he should not be given shelter."

Afghanistan: As Bad as Its Reputation?
by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
September 2000

Middle East Quarterly

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