Kabul in the Noose

December 9, 2008

In a metaphor mix, Afghanistan’s capital appears encircled in a hangman’s noose as Taliban forces expands its footprint across the country.
In a report issued Monday by a France-based think tank:

  • The group said Taliban fighters have advanced out of southern Afghanistan, a region where they often hold de facto governing power, and carry out regular attacks in western and northwestern Afghanistan as well as in and around Kabul.
    Taliban forces can be found in 72% of Afghanistan, up from 54% a year earlier.
    “While the international community’s prospects in Afghanistan have never been bleaker, the Taliban has been experiencing a renaissance that has gained momentum since 2005,” the report said. “The West is in genuine danger of losing Afghanistan.”

And the end of foreign presence — not the end sought by the US — but an end nevertheless, could be fast approaching, and there might not be anything to be done about it.

kabul bomb

(Illustration from video footage last July — aftermath of a suicide bombing near central Kabul — can be found here)

The group’s statement also says the Taliban is “closing a noose around Kabul,” developing a strategy “where three out of the four main highways into Kabul are now compromised by Taliban activity.”

NATO and the tortured, tormented Aghan government, which reportedly controls only Kabul, beg to differ — figures used in the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) report are not credible.
From Reuters:

  • “We don’t see the figures in this report as being credible at all,” said NATO spokesman James Appathurai. “The Taliban are only present in the south and east which is already less than 50 percent of the country.”

    The Taliban, said Appathurai, “don’t control any areas where Afghan and international forces are present. Whenever Afghan or international forces patrol into an area they simply run away.
    “So the idea that the Taliban control large swathes of the country is simply impossible,” Appathurai said.

That last comment has a bad, bad not-so-good ominous ring to it.

In fact, the knowledgeable Juan Cole notes this morning:

  • ICSD used to be called the Senlis Group, and have done excellent reports on Afghanistan.
    It is also my experience that Western military personnel are in denial about how badly Afghanistan’s security is deteriorating.

The NATO response to the ICSD report is another Dufus Dick Cheney lie on Iraq: “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
Two years later Dufus Dick admitted he was wrong in the “throes” comment, but continued still the lie: “I firmly believe,” Cheney said, “that the decisions we’ve made with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan have been absolutely the sound ones in terms of the overall strategy.”

Wrong!
Inbound US troops are to be deployed south of Kabul to halt the Taliban instead of elsewhere:

  • The great majority of a 4,000-strong brigade, due to arrive next month, will be stationed in provinces neighbouring Kabul, rather than in the south or east, which have seen the heaviest fighting.
    Security around Kabul has dramatically worsened in the past 12 months.
    Taliban insurgents hold sway over large areas and often control major roads out of the city.
    Attacks on foreign and Afghan forces have risen steeply.

Meanwhile, the Islamic world celebrated Eid Al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice) starting yesterday, but the Afghan peoples are really hurting, as seen in this Al Jazeera English video. (h/t Informed Comment).

And just for the record:

  • “Above all, George W. Bush promised to uphold the honor and the dignity of his office. And through all the challenges and trials of his time in office, that is a charge that our president has kept.”

The noose is coming.

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