Taliban Attack Qandahar Airfield; Parliament goes on Strike

Guerrillas fired mortar shells and used small arms to attack the major US military base in south Afghanistan, Qandahar Airfield, on Saturday. The operation was the third major attack by insurgents during the past week. They had also attacked a NATO convoy in the capital, Kabul, and had attacked Bagram Base north of Kabul. The seven hours long assault on Bagram was a by a platoon-sized unit of some 30 armed men, who managed to kill a contractor and wound 9 US or NATO troops, while 16 of them were killed in heavy fighting. The attacks have pushed the death toll for US troops in Afghanistan past the 1000 mark.

The bold attacks come as President Barack Obama addressed West Point cadets, declaring victory in Iraq and predicting a similar positive outcome in Afghanistan. Obama alleged that the US was withdrawing from a now-democratic Iraq that would not be a platform for attacking the US, implying that Afghanistan would be brought to a similar end-state. But Iraq is highly unstable, has not formed a new government more than two months after the March 7 elections, and cannot exactly be called either democratic or secure and stable. If Iraq is Obama’s measure of success in Afghanistan, he has very low expectations.

At the same time, US and NATO troops began a sweep of a Qandahar neighborhood. The 200 US troops and about 200 – 250 Afghanistan National Army troops conducted door to door searches. The operation is seen as a dry run for a huge push on Qandahar by NATO this summer. This province is, along with Helmand, a major center of poppies-grown for opium and ideologically tends to support or at least think well of the old Taliban of Mulla Omar. Karen DeYoung of WaPo reports on the doubts even in the Pentagon that a ‘clearing campaign’ targeting Taliban in Qandahar can succeed.

Meanwhile, a long-running feud between the lower house of parliament and the Karzai government came to a boil on Saturday as the MPs went on strike, according to Pajhwok News Agency. President Karzai had missed the deadline for presenting to parliament his nominations for the 11 remaining cabinet posts in his government. In reaction, the lower house went on strike.

Pajhwok writes, “Chairman Muhammad Younus Qanuni said no session of any commission would be held until the ministers were introduced. An MP from the western Badghis province, Azita Rafat, said the delay in introducing the remaining cabinet members had worsened relations between parliament and the government. “The government neither respects the votes of the nation nor us,” she said.”

Speaker Yunus Qanuni is a Tajik former member of the Northern Alliance and is close to Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s main rival in last summer’s presidential election. Since Abdullah’s supporters generally believe that Karzai stole the election, it is now difficult for him to achieve better relations with parliament. That any resolution of the crisis in Afghanistan will ultimately have to be political in character is widely recognized. But how to get a political settlement when the executive and the legislature are themselves at daggers drawn is not clear.

Aljazeera English reports on the Taliban and US/NATO campaigns this week in Afghanistan:

Posted in Afghanistan | 14 Responses | Print |

14 Responses

  1. “sovereign” Iraq that is “no haven” for the kind of violent extremists that attacked the US on Sept. 11, 2001

    But, it was sovereign until the US invaded it! And with 50,000 troops and that embassy left behind it won’t be sovereign

    But it was never a “haven”. Saddam Hussein made sure of that!

    At least with Bush you knew he was an idiot!

    • If Bush is an idiot and Obama is smart, then I wonder what difference does it make if the outcome is the same? (And just to correct our smart President Obama, not only was Iraq a sovereign country before we invaded Iraq, but Iraq also had nothing to do with 9/11).

      And what difference does it make to an Afghan civilian when his family is killed by (idiot) Bush’s policy or (smart, and a Nobel peace prize winner to boot) Obama’s drones?

      • citizen, Iraq was a sovereign country that wasn’t ruled by a legitimate legal sovereign government 1968-2003. Saddam was one of the most evil homo sapiens ever born in the history of our species. Saddam didn’t have the right to mass murder a bunch of Iraqis to declare himself and his uncle the Iraqi Government in 1968. Nor was he a real Iraqi. To be an Iraqi you need to be human being first.

        With respect to drones, I believe you were talking about Pakistan. Drones aren’t used that much for air strikes inside Afghanistan. You are aware, of course, that the Pakistani Government has co-sovereignty on all drone strikes inside Pakistan. You apparently disagree with the Pakistani government on drone strikes.

        If you were Pakistan’s leader, what would you do?

  2. I was a little confused by your statement the attack was carried out by a 30 man company sized unit and all 16 were killed.

    I wonder at the tactics of the Afghanis attacking our bases when we have the air power to quickly decimate them. We will never be driven out of Afghanistan or Iraq since we are too powerful and our bases are basically impregnable. What we must fear is the rise of a true military leader in these countries who will not foolishly lose his troops in these suicide attacks but will develop a way of making our strength into a weakness. Until that day comes, both in Iraq and Afghanistan we will stay until we decide to stop wasting our nation’s wealth in creating an ever greater military and doing the impossible.

    I was also confused by press reports that called the Qandahar base a NATO base and referred to Bagram as an American base. I’m glad you straightened that out for me noting they are both American.

    I find it interesting that we follow the lead of the 19th Century British model in our dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks for the updates.

    • Isn’t Kandahar Air Base a joint ANA (ANAAC) ISAF base? The Afghan National Army Air Corps Kandahar Air Wing is based Kandahar Air Base .

      Is Baghram and ISAF base or a joint ANA/ISAF base?

      Matt Connolly what does “American base” mean? As you know there are 51 countries in Afghanistan other than Afghanistan and the US. Soon there will be over 50,000 non US non Afghan troops in Afghanistan. As a result, most everything in Afghanistan is joint ANSF/multinational.

      The attack on KAF was a squad sized nonevent. Why is it getting coverage? Didn’t they just fire 6 rounds at KAF before fleeing? To my knowledge, no one was wounded on the ISAF and ANSF side.

      “we are too powerful” meaning what?

      “and our bases are basically impregnable” what is that suppose to mean?

      You do realize that Iraq was primarily a war between the ISF and Iraq’s enemies; and that Afghanistan is primarily a war between the ANSF and Afgahnistan’s enemies, I hope. The only way the enemy wins is by defeating the ISF and ANSF. The ISF won in Iraq. Defeating the ANSF will be very challenging for AQ linked networks and the Taliban.

      “creating an ever greater military” what does this mean?
      “and doing the impossible” on what parallel universe is increasing the capacity of the ANSF “impossible”? I think you would concede that the ISF has won in Iraq.

      “I find it interesting that we follow the lead of the 19th Century British model in our dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan.” A meaningless jumble of words that are so generic to mean nothing.

      If we look at recorded human history to the present FID centric advisory/training missions have been common. You could think of the Trojan war as Greek special forces advising and training common Greek soldiers.
      1971-1988, the Iraqi Army was advised and trained by tens of thousands of Indian, Soviet and French soldiers. The US revolutionaries 1775-1783 were part of a French financed FID centric training/advisory mission.

      China 1942-1945 against Japan was a US financed FID centric training/advisory mission.

      The 2006 Hezbollah Israel war was an Iranian financed FID centric training/advisory war against Israel.

  3. Evidently it didn’t reach the US media, but the attack upon Kandahar airbase prevented a delegation of British ministers from visiting.

    Three British cabinet ministers, led by Foreign Secretary William Hague, were due to visit the Kandahar base later but were forced to change their plans at the last minute because of the attack. (BBC)

    That might seem trivial, but it is not. Those ministers are evidently on an evaluation mission for the new British administration of Cameron. At the same time a major programme of reforms at home is going to be announced on Tuesday. How many of the threatened economies are actually going to be enacted, remains uncertain. You probably heard the joke about the treasury minister leaving a note on his desk for his successor: “Sorry, there’s no money left. Best of luck.”

    It is obvious that the value of British participation in Afghanistan is being questioned.

    So the Taliban chose well to disrupt the visit.

  4. Iraq was never a platform for attacks against the U.S. When the President frames his statements based on neo-con falsehoods he keeps losing whatever credibility he once had.

  5. Dear Professor Cole :
    Thank you for your blog – I read it every day .
    I want to clarify something .
    Kandahar is a NATO base .
    For far too long , it was Canadian forces who patrolled ” beyond the wire “.
    In Canada , we see Kandahar airfield every time a soldier ( or diplomat or reporter)
    is sent home in a coffin .
    There is a ” ramp ceremony ” which is televised ;
    as is the arrival home .
    ( Our fallen are not hidden , unlike some of our allies .)

    • Would like to thank Canadians and other allies who sacrificed in Kandahar province. Would also like to remember the many Afghan mothers who will never see their brave sons again. Brave sons who died in the ANA and ANP. Kandahar province has seen horrific losses by the Afghan National Security forces.

      The many ANSF units operating in Kandahar province have advisors from many different countries. Thanks to them too.

      I fear that to resource the Kandahar operation, ANA and ANP will be depleted from the rest of Afghanistan . . . harming security in the rest of the country.

  6. “America does not fight for the sake of fighting. We abhor war. As one who has never experienced the field of battle – and I say that with humility, knowing, as General MacArthur said, “the soldier above all others prays for peace” – we fight because we must. We fight to keep our families and communities safe. We fight for the security of our allies and partners, because America believes that we will be safer when our friends are safer; that we will be stronger when the world is more just. ”

    Imagine the outrage and charges of hypocrisy if Bush had said this. Just imagine… But Obama said it, therefore – nothing.

    “But this is a different kind of war. There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey’s end – no armistice, no banner headline. (…) So the threat will not go away soon, but let’s be clear: Al Qaeda and its affiliates are small men on the wrong side of history. They lead no nation. ”

    Wonderful! Endless war on a global battlefield with every person a potential “enemy combatant”. Good thing Obama picked a candidate for SCOTUS who agrees with this interpretation.

  7. .
    One indelible lesson I learned in Infantry School concerned the 9 Principles of War developed by von Clausewicz. #1 is OBJECTIVE.
    “Objective – Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy’s ability to fight and will to fight.”
    This upcoming non-operation in Qandahar lacks a defined objective. There are about 300 people at ISAF Headquarters whose job it is to develop plans and strategies, and to manage implementation. This office is called C-3. The Chief of this office is a 2-star General. C-3 has failed in their mission, before the first shot is fired.

    I anticipate the defense against this charge is that they are in a new type of warfare. But nothing that General Petraeus wrote about Counterinsurgency went beyond what von Clausewicz had written on the subject 200 years ago.

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