Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Policemen in Afghanistan; American UN Official Kidnapped in Quetta; Pakistani Taliban take over Swat

In Afghanistan on Monday, a suicide bomber dressed as a policeman infiltrated a police compound and detonated his payload, killing at least 25 officers of the law (according to late wire service reports). The bomber attacked in Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province, from which Taliban leader Mulla Muhammad Omar hails.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned Monday against comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam. He said that the US and NATO are not occupying Afghanistan. What puzzles me is that surely US officers would have denied that they were occupying South Vietnam, as opposed to helping a friendly government fight off a Communist take-over. Mullen seems to be admitting that the New Left narrative about Vietnam as an American occupation was correct, but denying that that is what is going on in Afghanistan. (Or saying he won’t allow the US presence there to degenerate into an occupation).

I fear that along with Norman Solomon, I may be a culprit in raising alarms about Afghanistan as Obama’s Vietnam, in my recent Salon article.

And, I guess this is Chalmers Johnson’s implicit reply to Adm. Mullen, at Tomdispatch.com.
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On Saturday, a Canadian soldier was killed by a roadside bomb just west of Qandahar in Afghanistan’s southwest. He is the 11th Canadian to have been killed by such bombs since the beginning of December, and the 108th Canadian death in Afghanistan since 2002.

These casualty figures are the reason for which Obama will probably not get that much support from Canada and Europe in his quest to raise the ante in Afghanistan.

[PDF] The Pentagon presented a new report on Afghanistan on Monday that admits that guerrilla attacks were up 37 percent in 2008 over the previous year, and that, as AFP puts it, “Insurgent surface-to-air fire rose 67 percent.”

Aljazeera English follows up on what happened to Azizabad village in Herat province of Afghanistan where a US air strike killed dozens of civilians last August. The report finds that people are still mourning their lost loved ones, and are resentful that their homes have not been rebuilt. Those men who once cooperated with the Americans and NATO have ceased doing so.

The head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan,, US national John Solecki, was kidnapped Monday in Quetta; his driver was killed. Since UNHCR has for decades helped Afghanistan refugees in Pakistan, it is unusual for it to be attacked, even by Taliban types. But as Pakistan’s northwestern areas descend into violence, apparently no one is safe. Quetta is said to be the base of the “old Taliban” led by Mulla Muhammad Omar, a resident of the city. These are the Afghan young men expelled by the Soviets and educated at fundamentalist seminaries or madrasahs.

Pakistani President Asaf Ali Zardari called Monday during a meeting with a US congressional delegation for an end to US drone attacks on Pakistani soil. He said Pakistan could win the struggle against extremists by avoiding civilian casualties or “collateral damage” but would need more aid from the US. He warned that the Pakistani Taliban were on the cusp of taking over Swat, one of the tribal agencies in the northwest.

Aljazeera English reports on the advances of the Pakistani Taliban Movement in the Swat Valley in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It concurs that the Taliban have essentially taken over Swat.