Monday, December 18, 2006

Afghanistan: The vultures are circling, by Syed Saleem Shahzad- AsiaTimes Online

Some pertinent excerpts from a compelling, though lengthy, December 13th Asia Times Online article by Syed Saleem Shahzad:

In the plains of southwestern Afghanistan, confident Taliban move around openly with their weaponry, to the frustration of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Afghan National Army (ANA) troops who can see them, but seem helpless in containing them. Indeed, foreign troops are mostly held hostage in their bases, and their alternatives are stark: conduct aerial bombings in which civilians would surely be heavy casualties, or pull out.

The mood on the ground in Afghanistan is that the latter option will prevail.

Certainly, the present Afghan resistance against foreign troops and the administration of President Hamid Karzai is undoubtedly led by Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Islam is unquestionably the binding force. Nevertheless, at ground level the field command is in the hands of seasoned commanders who fought against the Soviets and who are driven more by Afghan traditions than by ideology. The Afghan battle strategy has always been based on preserving strength by appearing to give way to the enemy by letting them parade through the country in search operations that only upset the population. For the invaders, this is exhausting and brings small results

"They used to carry out air strikes. Now this has come to an end. They did have an effective network of informers, but we have successfully eliminated it and therefore they do not have any knowledge of our bases, so the air strikes stopped. They have
conducted limited ground operations, but they came under attack. So they stopped. We do not attack their base because they would retaliate with air strikes,..... and they are bored in their bases with no chance to do any activities," "We are not in any haste. Since the masses invited the Taliban to come down [from the
mountains] to their areas, our strength is increasing with every passing day. Six months ago, groups of Taliban were operating with about 10 people. Now they have 50 members and growing. So we have enough time till next spring, and they [NATO] know what will happen until next year," said Qari Hazrat.

(Qari Hazrat who was interviewed in this article is the commander of the Gerishk district and a part of the Taliban movement -Parts of Sangin also fall under his jurisdiction. They met with him there, just a few kilometers from a NATO base.)

Read full article: The vultures are circling", by Syed Saleem Shahzad here.

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