8 US troops Killed in Nuristan; UN Official Says He was Pressured to Wink at Karzai Ballot Fraud; Abdullah Defiant

On Saturday morning, a force of some 300 guerrillas attacked a US outpost and an Afghan police outpost in Nuristan. They killed 8 US troops and two Afghan police, but failed to overwhelm the bastions, and had to withdraw in the face of withering US air power once it arrived. Some of the fighters are reported by Dawn to have been driven from the Swat Valley this summer by the Pakistani army. It is a worry that as the Pakistani military prepares for a major campaign in South Waziristan, it may inadvertently increase violence in Afghanistan, as the fighters move up to Helmand and Uruzgan.

On Monday morning, Taliban blew up a bomb in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad near the World Food Program offices. Early reports said at least three people were killed. The Taliban have suffered many reversals in Pakistan in the past few months, and this bombing seems likely an expression of frustration and revenge.

AP has video on Saturday’s battle in Afghanistan:

The LAT suggests that the attack may have been planned by the Hizb-i Islami or ‘Islamic Party’ of Gulbadin Hikmatyar (an old-time 1980s anti-Soviet ‘freedom fighter’ once backed to the hilt by the US and Pakistan), who now considers US and NATO troops foreign occupiers every bit as objectionable as the Soviet Red Army had been. But if Dawn is right that many of these fighters were from Swat, it could have just been a tribal attack.

Just to say that it worries me that the guerrillas were able to fight in a unit as large as 300. I don’t think the Iraqi Sunni radical guerrillas ever assembled a force greater than 30 or so except maybe at Fallujah. I suppose in Iraq the US air force would have destroyed such a large troop contingent in the desert, whereas Afghanistan’s craggy geography makes that a more difficult proposition.

National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones told CNN on Sunday that Afghanistan is not on the verge of falling to the Taliban, that the Taliban are not “coming back,” and that there are less than 100 al-Qaeda personnel in the whole country. Well, I guess we aren’t spending billions and tying down our army to fight al-Qaeda, then.

CBS reports on a US military effort against the Haqqani Network in Eastern Afghanistan.

I was struck by the confidence of the US military personnel that they could attract the loyalty of the pro-Haqqani tribes this winter when the guerrillas withdraw during the bad weather to Pakistan for more training. I’d want to know how alienated locals were by the searches conducted by the US troops through their villages; and how many of the villagers are cousins to the more committed guerrillas, who might have rather minded the helicopter gunship attack on 14 of the latter from the air, which the video shows. And, if it were possible to attract the loyalty of locals, why hadn’t it been done before now and why are so many more Pashtuns gradually going over to the anti-government fundamentalists? And, wouldn’t the Kabul government be the one that had the most chance of attracting the loyalty of Afghans? I have a dark suspicion that the US commanders think the locals are only supporting the guerrillas because they are coerced into it (as, to be fair, was often the case in Iraq). In Afghanistan, I don’t think there is the same disjuncture between Pashtun tribes and militant guerrillas as there was in Sunni Iraq. Someone like Jalaluddin Haqqani has been fighting as a guerrilla in those areas, first against the Soviets and now against the Americans, for nearly 30 years. Surely he has constituencies that won’t just abandon him. Ironically, some of those constituencies were built up back in the day with Reagan’s money.

This report in Dari Persian about hundreds of demonstrators in the western city of Herat who came out Sunday to chant “Death to America” is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. The protest was also a funeral procession, for a 20-year-old Afghan man, who had been traveling on a road outside the city when he was kidnapped. The thugs demanded a $100,000 ransom, which his family did not have. The demonstrators, however, blamed the United States and the Karzai government for the lack of security. That is, as security deteriorates, there is a danger of a snowball effect, whereby the US loses any legitimacy even in the eyes of Persian-speaking Tajiks precisely because it is unable to provide basic needs like security. If the foreigners aren’t even useful foreigners, the Afghans are unlikely to want them occupying the country.

CBS also reviews the course of the war in Afghanistan and explores Gen. McChrystal’s proposed counter-insurgency strategy, which he contrasts with a smaller, targeted counter-terrorism strategy:

One of the keys to successful counter-insurgency is the establishment of government legitimacy and efficiency. In Afghanistan, things are going in the opposite direction. Peter Galbraith, who formerly served in the UN in Afghanistan, says that the UN collected evidence that one third of the ballots for incumbent Hamid Karzai cast last August 20 in the presidential election were fraudulent. If this is true, it would drop him from the current 54% of the vote he is said to have received to less than 50%, triggering a run-off. Galbraith charges that he was pressured to cover up the fraud in the interests of national peace. He was fired from his post and made to leave the country because of differences with his boss, Kai Eide of Norway. Some UN and US officials worried that a runoff election between Karzai, who is backed by Pashtuns, and his chief rival Abdullah Abdullah, who is backed by Tajiks, could throw the country into ethnic turmoil just as the US military was implementing a policy to pacify the Pashtun provinces.

But Galbraith’s charges have stiffened Abdullah Abdullah’s resolve to contest the results to the end, making him the Mir Hosain Mousavi of Afghanistan. In a news conference on Saturday, Abdullah pointed to Peter Galbraith’s letter as proof that the UN is not an impartial watchdog of the elections. Besides, a conviction that Karzai was fraudulently elected would be far more damaging to Tajik-Pashtun relations than would a free and fair runoff.

In a Persian interview, Abdullah pledged to use all legal means to protest the unjust character of the declared election outcome. That sounds like instability to me.

Meanwhile, Aljazeera English says that Pakistan is pushing back against American demands that Washington be allowed to hit Taliban targets in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, via drones firing rockets. The current drone strikes most target the no-man’s land of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which are vaguely akin to US Indian reservations. But to allow a Western, Christian power to bomb a major Pakistani city and provincial capital is a different matter altogether.

As it is, Pakistani public opinion is vehemently against US drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

End/ (Not Continued)

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12 Responses

  1. Yeah, sure, USA and NATO are all for free elections (when it suited its aims). Just look how they manage this one, and you cannot but be sure that they were crying faul about Iranian one ONLY because they are such lovers of democracy, not because they simply want regime change in Iran, never!

    By the way, there is STILL NO any real evidence of fraud in Iran, UNLIKE in Afghanistan.

    Really, imperialism and its lackeys have no shame!

  2. I have no idea why the right does not love Obama=Bush. His policies are so similar to the previous president's.

  3. Well, I guess we aren't spending billions and tying down our army to fight al-Qaeda, then.

    Just to say that it worries me that the guerrillas were able to fight in a unit as large as 300.

    Given your obvious skepticism of the ethics of the "AfPak" wars, why do you implicitly take sides in favor of the occupation and against guerillas (who you yourself say might simply be angry locals)?

  4. Professor:

    When you say: "As it is, Pakistani public opinion is vehemently against US drone strikes on Pakistani soil."

    I can only think that American public opinion is against the TWO attacks on the WTC by Usama bin Ladin's Baluchi Khaled Shaykh Muhammed. Baluchistan is UBL territory – fair game in this war.

  5. General McChrystal et al are making repeated, rhetorical references to The new Mission being or becoming something akin to "protecting the population" of Afghanistan. To do this, the military officer corps and political leaders seem to be advocating withdrawing from various Forward Operating Bases, thinly spread out geographically (and almost entirely dependent upon Air Power for supply and fire support, thus because the road network is neither "road-worthy" for heavy armor and transport convoys, nor is it controlled by NATO-American forces: it is a literal gauntlet of IED traps, snipers and pirates). But imho, concentrating NATO-American ground troops in Kabul and the handful of other "population centers" = existing BigBases would only aggravate civilian jeopardy, because any Counter-Insurgency operations or Counter-Occupation attacks would only cause more 'collateral damage' suffering of the much more dense urban populations. So, I don't get it, Juan: putting large numbers of NATO-American forces (with targets painted on each and every uniform and vehicle) smack in the middle of high-density residential housing …how does this new strategy accomplish, then, the General's stated objective of "protecting the population" from either counter-occupation guerrilla warfare OR opportunistic criminal terrorism?

    The enemies of ‘the people’, fwiw are warfare, itself; systemic, crony capitalism and poverty-driven corruption; and the cultural dystopia of Theocratic Fundamentalism.

  6. link to nytimes.com

    October 2, 2009

    Netanyahu Warns Against Advancing U.N.’s Gaza Report
    By ISABEL KERSHNER

    JERUSALEM — The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned the Palestinians and international powers on Thursday that any action taken to advance a recent United Nations report on the Gaza conflict early this year would be a denial of Israel’s “right to self-defense” and would kill any chance of a peace process.

    Mr. Netanyahu’s comments come as the United Nations Human Rights Council meets in Geneva, with part of its agenda focused on whether to forward the report to the United Nations Security Council and the secretary general….

    link to nytimes.com

    October 2, 2009

    Palestinians Halt Push on War Report
    By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

    UNITED NATIONS — In a startling shift, the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council dropped its efforts to forward a report accusing Israel of possible war crimes to the Security Council, under pressure from the United States, diplomats said Thursday.

    The Americans argued that pushing the report now would derail the Middle East peace process that they are trying to revive, diplomats said.

    “We don’t want to create an obstacle for them,” Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said by telephone from Geneva, where the Human Rights Council is based. “We want to get a strong resolution to deal with the report in a good manner to get a benefit from it.” …

  7. Watching about the attack in Nuristan on the evening news just now, it reminded me strongly of the Dienbienphu disaster. Sitting ducks, overwhelming force from the outside, and about the only thing that prevented the fortress being overrun (as in Indochina) was helicopters.

  8. Prof Cole says he is "worried' by strength of various anti-American factions in Afghanistan but avoids using the worry as a segue to advocate, as George Will and Ron Paul, and by implication Pat Buchanan's latest column, simply getting out. Have I missed a previous entreaty to this effect?

  9. .
    if nothing else is said about it, is the reader to think that Mr. Galbraith acted on his own ?

    He wasn't just an impartial UN official, he was the top American in the UN organization in Afghanistan.
    He got that job because of his ties to Ambassador Holbrooke and, less directly, Secretary Clinton. He still reported to both of them, even while he was an international civil servant.

    His career has not been characterized by impartiality. His writings and actions often align with the positions of identifiable interest groups with an interest in shaping US foreign policy.

    This is not written to voice opposition to Mr. Galbraith's conclusions or actions regarding the Afghan election, but to suggest there might be hidden layers of planning, coordination, intent below the surface.

    a student of conflicting motives
    .

  10. .
    I have not heard of General James Jones being referred to as "Gene" before. Perhaps that's a typo ?

    And I would like to add, whenever I read about "McChrystal's Assessment," that he had a lot of help putting that together. He didn't even necessarily ask for that help. It was furnished at the direction of his boss, Dave Petraeus. There was a team of a dozen Petraeus sycophants who did most of the research and writing of that assessment, and presented it to Stan fait accompli.
    He had to negotiate changes in that text with the fella up his chain of command, and the Team prevailed, for the most part. It would be more accurate to call it the "Petraeus Assessment."

    a student of politics within the military high command
    .

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