The Taliban not only has the “momentum” after the most successful year in its campaign against the United States and the Kabul government. “The Afghan insurgency can sustain itself indefinitely,” according to a briefing from Major General Michael Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in the country. “The Taliban retains [the] required partnerships to sustain support, fuel legitimacy and bolster capacity.”
And if that isn’t enough, Flynn also warns that “time is running out” for the American-led International Security Assistance Force. “Regional instability is rapidly increasing and getting worse,” the report says.
Since General Stanley McChrystal took over as top commander in Afghanistan, there have been a series of dark appraisals about the state of the war. In August, McChrystal warned of an “urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.” A report recently obtained by NBC News said Afghanistan’s security forces won’t be ready to fight the Taliban for years – if ever. Earlier this week, Flynn issued a white paper complaining that “eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy.”
But Flynn’s December 23rd presentation on the “State of the Insurgency: Trends, Intentions and Objectives” may be the gloomiest public assessment of the war yet. The “loosely organized” Taliban is “growing more cohesive” and “increasingly effective.” The insurgents now have their own “governors” installed in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. And the “strength and ability of [that] shadow governance increasing,” according to the presentation. The Taliban’s “organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding.”
Improvised bomb “events” have nearly tripled since 2007 – 7228 this year, compared to 2718 two years ago. The bombs have grown bigger – the majority are now 25 pounds or more. “80 to 90 percent” of them are made with homemade fertilizer, rather than military ordnance. That makes it much harder to track and block the distribution of the bomb-making material. Add to that steady supply of cash, thanks to the drug trade and the corrupt Kabul government, and a glut of weapons and ammunition,” and it becomes clear why, in Flynn’s words, “the insurgency is confident… looking toward post-ISAF Afghanistan.” The presentation also cast doubt on some of the war’s stated central aims. The Obama administration has repeatedly said that additional troops are necessary to prevent a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan – which would then allow Al Qaeda the re-establigh its safe haven there. According to interviews with detainees, however, the insurgents “view Al Qaeda as a handicap – a view that is increasingly prevalent.” The Taliban feel they have to “manage [the] relationship with AQ to avoid alienating Afghan population, but encourage support from [the] global jihad network.”
Flynn’s presentation also, indirectly, warns that one of the central U.S. tactics in Pakistan – drone strikes against suspected militants – could backfire. “violations of Pakistan sovereignty may contribute to radicalizing the population and diminishes credibility of the GoP [Government of Pakistan].” Such violations “demonstrat[e] an inability of the government; perception they cannot protect their own; exacerbates anti-western sentiment.”
Within military circles, there’s a sense that Flynn may be underplaying recent American successes in Helmand province and elsewhere. And Flynn does note that there’s still hope for the American effort in the region. “We have a key advantage – [the] Taliban is not a popular movement (yet),” the report says. What’s more, there are “persistent fissures among insurgent leadership at local levels” and an “over-reliance on external support.”
Exploiting those fissures – and beating the Taliban – will “requir[e] operating / thinking in a fundamentally new way.”
By Noah Shachtman
January 8, 2010
– Obama: ‘I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.’ (!)
Murray asserts that the primary motivation for US and British military involvement in central Asia has to do with large natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As evidence, he points to the plans to build a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan that would allow Western oil companies to avoid Russia and Iran when transporting natural gas out of the region.
Murray alleged that in the late 1990s the Uzbek ambassador to the US met with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to discuss a pipeline for the region, and out of that meeting came agreements that would see Texas-based Enron gain the rights to Uzbekistan’s natural gas deposits, while oil company Unocal worked on developing the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline.
“The consultant who was organizing this for Unocal was a certain Mr. Karzai, who is now president of Afghanistan,” Murray noted.
“There are designs of this pipeline, and if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, it’s about oil, it’s not about democracy.”
“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”
“I’m not much for this war. I’m not sure it’s worth all those lives lost,” said Sergeant Christian Richardson as we walked across corn fields that will soon be ploughed up to plant a spring crop of opium poppy.
Opium production rate has soared to 6,900 tons in Afghanistan in the past 10 years ‘despite‘ the presence of 100,000 foreign troops in the country for nearly eight years.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said on Wednesday that Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world’s opium that has devastating global consequences.
The UN report also noted that Afghanistan’s illegal opium production is worth 65 billion dollars.
The heroin and opium market feeds 15 million addicts, with Europe, Russia and Iran consuming half the supply, UNODC reported.
– Top US commander in Afghanistan: The Taliban have gained the upper hand:
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)