Operation Enduring Freedom is now responsible for the deaths of 1,000 US troops, the bulk of them in Afghanistan. It has now also gone on longer than the Revolutionary War.
You have to wonder how many of those troops would be alive if the Bush-Cheney administration had not taken its eye off the ball and deprived them of resources, sending the resources instead to Iraq. Efforts to develop and build governmental capacity in 2002 and 2003 might have averted the rise of a neo-Taliban insurgency. Once an insurgency gets going, it is almost impossible to stop it militarily (only 20 percent of insurgencies are defeated on the battleground).
A bicycle bomb detonated remotely killed 7 persons and wounded 14 on Tuesday morning in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. The bombing is a bad sign, since Lashkar Gah was supposedly the secure base for the US/ Afghan National Army attack on Marjah to the West, but even the capital is not stable.
In Zabul– another southern, Pashtun province– a roadside bomb wounded 5 Romanian troops.
The Afghanistan cabinet issued a strong condemnation of NATO for an airstrike in the province of Dai Kundi, which is alleged to have killed 21 civilians and wounded 14 in 3 vehicles. Aljazeera Arabic noted that the US and its allies have repeatedly mistakenly fired rockets at civilians and repeatedly apologized, and that Afghans are getting tired of it.
Pakistani Cmdr. Khalid Iqbal (ret.) critiques Operation Mushtarik (together) from a military point of view. It is a fine piece of analysis, though he is wrong that the Taliban ‘call the shots’ in most Afghan provinces. They only control 10-15% of the country, though they have “a presence” in some other parts of it; but the presence exactly overlaps with areas of Pashtun settlement (e.g. 1/3 of the northern province of Qunduz is Pashtun, and there are some Taliban among them; but most of the north has few Pashtuns and only tiny numbers of Taliban). He says:
1. American commanders ignored the lessons learned in Swat Valley by the Pakistani military, particularly the need to set up checkpoints to prevent the escape of large numbers of militants.
2. Instead, the US actually closed down some checkpoints along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, virtually guaranteeing that large numbers of insurgents would flee Marjah for safe haven in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
3. This influx of militants into Pakistan could well reinvigorate the militant movement in the northwest, which has been devastated by Pakistani military and intelligence moves, by arrests or killings of leaders, and by US drone strikes. Calming down Marjah while stirring up FATA is not a particular advance.
4. The Americans are not taking account of the possibility of a popular Pashtun backlash inside Afghanistan against their ‘surge.’
5. President Hamid Karzai lacks the political standing inside the country to be an effective partner in working for a political settlement. Not all of his foes are necessarily ‘Taliban.’
6. The Afghanistan National Army is not actually ready to provide security in Marjah after the Taliban are quelled. Therefore, either the US troops will get bogged down there trying to keep the Taliban from taking back over, or they will leave affairs in the hands of the ANA, which may well open the door to a Taliban return, given the Afghan Army’s unpreparedness. Either way, the Marjah campaign is either a trap or a Sisyphean task.
In contrast, the Russians are very pleased by the destruction of the heroin labs in Marjah by the US Marines. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy Radio on Monday, February 22, 2010, Dimitri Rogozin– the Russian Federation’s permanent representative to NATO– explained that Russia’s main interest in AFghanistan is not fear of the spread of Muslim extremism into southern Russia but rather the spread of heroin, which has already produced 2.5 million addicts and 30,000 deaths a year. Russian leaders see drug and alcohol use as among the prime reasons for the country’s catastrophic loss of population since the fall of the Soviet Union (the population fell by approximately 10 million, a virtually unheard-of decline given the absence of famine or plague as causes. And they see demographic decline as a security problem).
The USG Open Source Center paraphrases or translates the Rogozin interview, and here is the Afghanistan bit:
‘ Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Dmitriy Rogozin, has said that Russia will not send its troops to Afghanistan “under any circumstances”. Rogozin was the studio guest of the “Dnevnoy Razvorot” (“U-Turn”) programme on Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy on 22 February. Rogozin also said that Russia would only provide support for NATO operations in Afghanistan on the condition that the alliance became engaged in “destroying drugs laboratories and drugs mafia” in that country. In the wide-ranging interview, Rogozin also talked about Georgia, the current state of relations with NATO, US missile defence plans in Europe and Ukraine.
At the start of the interview, Rogozin was asked to comment on NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s recent statement on the possibility of Russia becoming engaged in NATO’s operation in Afghanistan. To a question whether this is possible, Rogozin said: “No”. He explained: “Because our position of principle is that we are not taking part in the military phase of the operation in Afghanistan. We shall not send our soldiers or officers there under any circumstances.” Rogozin then added that Russia was ready to provide “any other assistance” to NATO in Afghanistan.
Speaking of Russia’s interests in Afghanistan he said that “they are specific. For example, we are not afraid of Taleban, right? They are not threatening us as some kind of a force that will attack Russia. I don’t believe this.” He went on: “But we are afraid of drugs. That is, the heroin aggression is real. It is on such a scale, it has increased approximately 40 times, well, the volumes of production of opiates on Afghan territory have increased 40 times since 2002, that is – you can practically count from the moment of foreign armies, foreign troops appearing there.
And therefore we believe that because our borders are practically porous in the southern direction, deliveries of hard drugs – and heroin is a hard drug, much harder than cocaine, than synthetic substances, than all sorts of grasses – this heroin is killing us. According to our estimates, approximately 30,000 people annually.” Rogozin added that there were at least 2.5 million heroin addicts in Russia.
He also said that the scale of drug trafficking did not depend on whether Taleban would strengthen its position in Afghanistan or not, as Taleban’s attitude to drugs was “cynical”.
Rogozin then mentioned “dogs of war” as a second threat to Russia. “That is not Taleban, but fighters drawn in by war from other countries, who are now bogged down in the war with the Americans and their allies, but if the war ends, they will look for a use for themselves. There are about three to four thousand well-trained militants who are such crazy citizens. Naturally, if the war ends, they will most probably go to somewhere in Central Asia.”
Asked to clarify what Russia’s main interests were, Rogozin said: “Our first interest consists of the Americans – by waging war and resolving their own interests in Afghanistan, which do not contradict our interests – destroying that extremist element which in any other s
ituation will fight against us or our allies in Central Asia. And our second interest consists of the Americans and their allies – having a large grouping in Afghanistan, they are interested in transit and many other things, in logistical, rear support of their grouping, but we are making this support conditional on them having to fight against heroin. That is we are putting in front of them the enemy which we consider as being the main enemy, not a virtual one, such as Taliban, which will not attack Russia – we understand that this is a purely internal Afghan phenomenon – but, let’s say, heroin is already attacking our country.”
Rogozin was then asked about talks that are currently being held with NATO. He said that such talks “are being held constantly. We are saying that we shall not do anything for our NATO colleagues unless they deal with the problem, tackle the problem of destroying heroin supplies. They have now reported to us that last year, the amount of heroin coming from Afghanistan decreased, including the amount of crops which decreased. But we consider this to be useless scrap of paper, I’m sorry to say, because the amount of heroin mainly decreased precisely because it had been overproduced, that is there is such an amount of processed heroin in warehouses, there is such an amount of precursors in warehouses, which had already been brought into Afghanistan, that demand has simply decreased. Therefore our future support for NATO actions in Afghanistan will now be made conditional to the absolute degree upon their intentions and their real actions aimed at destroying drugs laboratories, destroying drugs mafia, cooperating with our structures, including the CSTO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which also conducts specialized operations aimed at intercepting drug supplies.”
Rogozin also said that he receives information about NATO’s specific operations in Afghanistan. He added that approximately 30 per cent of his working time in NATO is spent on discussing Afghanistan. ‘
End/ (Not Continued)