Timing the ‘Shadow Army’

February 12, 2009

afghanistan Wednesday’s seemingly-fearless, intricate attacks in Kabul by a way-over-resurgent Taliban should be very much a sign-post of an eye-opener on the bad road ahead in Afghanistan.

Apparently, a near-identical Mumbai operation with its seemingly random assaults and a kind of scatter-brained detail to its movements — The old, time-tested “shooting as they went” scenario.
Fifty-six mostly bystander/civilians were killed.
(Illustration found here).

These Taliban guys are putting a choke hold on the situation — timing is always crucial, but even more so in any precarious situation, which is now Afghanistan, and the US might be running out of time.
President Obama is reportedly set to increase the US troop level to about 60,000, but the bulk of the main force won’t be deployed until after a strategic review in time for a NATO summit in April.
He still dragging his feet — surge or no surge or surge, surge.
Bill Gates said Tuesday Obama has several options in front of him and most likely will make a decision in the “next few days” about how to handle this horribly deteriorating affair.
Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence, told the US Senate Intelligence Committee today that despite all that could be done (and was done for more than seven years), the Taliban and like-groups have “expanded in scope” and the real problem is with the Pakistani border — However, that’s a whole another glob of worms intertwined in the same bubbling bucket of worms.

And this shit don’t help.
From Agence France-Presse:

  • Thousands of US weapons, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, may be in Taliban or Al-Qaeda hands in Afghanistan because of lax controls, congressional auditors warned on Thursday.
    The Pentagon has failed to track an estimated 87,000 weapons given to Afghan security forces, one-third of the 242,000 shipped by the US government between December 2004 and June 2008, the Government Accountability Office said.

Those attacks were timed for Dick Holbrooke’s appearance in Kabul, a timely reminder from the Taliban on the Afghan twist for the fate of foreigners — an insurgency that will over time whittle an army into unmanageable shreds.
When irrational behavior becomes too sophisticated to grasp, what happens next?
New tactics introduced, hard to find any security:

  • Most of Wednesday’s attackers adopted a new look, according to witnesses. Some were clean-shaven and wore Western-style clothes, unlike past attackers, who wore traditional Afghan clothing and sported beards.

    Assaults in the capital are also becoming more complicated. Wednesday’s offensive involved at least eight insurgents in three different parts of the city, requiring considerable planning and coordination.

And a detailed view:

  • Eight Taliban attackers launched a three-pronged assault around 10 a.m. Wednesday…

    — Five men with assault rifles and hand grenades storm the Justice Ministry, killing two guards. Guards shoot one attacker dead, but the rest enter the ministry and kill 10 employees and one police officer. Security forces end the siege by storming the building and killing the attackers.
    — About the same time, a man wearing a suicide vest tries to force his way into the Education Ministry a half mile (one kilometer) away. Ministry guards shoot him dead before he can enter. There are no other casualties.
    — Two attackers wearing suicide vests enter a correctional department compound across town. Guards kill one attacker. The other enters the building and blows himself up, killing six police and wounding 29.

    Security officials say all the assailants were between 20 and 25 years old. Officials detain 21 suspects.
    Security forces recover six Kalashnikov assault rifles, two pistols, eight grenade launchers, 10 grenades, 24 gun magazines, 100 bullets, six mobile phones, one vest packed with 14 pounds (6.5 kilograms) of plastic explosives and 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of ball bearings.

Twenty years ago this Sunday — Feb. 15, 1989 — General Boris Gromov walked across Friendship Bridge out of Afghanistan and into what was then Soviet Uzbekistan, bringing to an inglorious end to not only a terrible military blunder, but the USSR itself.
Gromov reiterated an old axiom for Afghanistan at a recent Moscow news conference: He said force will accomplish nothing in Afghanistan, and notes that increasing or decreasing troop strength will only bring a negative result. The general says the best way to deal with Afghans is to reach an agreement with them.
Any other path seems to lead to disaster.

And in the shadows, a blending of Taliban and al-Qaeda, creating another backpedal across Friendship Bridge — the real, real giant of an underlying problem in the Afghan/Pakistan war zone:

  • Al Qaeda has reorganized its notorious paramilitary formations, setting the stage for a dramatic come back.

    The Shadow Army is active primarily in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and in eastern and southern Afghanistan, several US military and intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity. The force is well trained and equipped, and has defeated the Pakistani Army in engagements in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Peshawar, Khyber, and Swat. In Afghanistan, the Shadow Army has attacked Coalition and Afghan forces throughout the country.

    “The Shadow Army has been instrumental in the Taliban’s consolidation of power in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in the Northwest Frontier Province,” a senior US intelligence official told me. “They are also behind the Taliban’s successes in eastern and southern Afghanistan. They are helping to pinch Kabul.”

    The Shadow Army has a clear-cut military structure, a U.S. military intelligence officer said.
    A senior al Qaeda military leader is in command, while experienced officers command the brigades and subordinate battalions and companies.
    There are three or four brigades, including the re-formed Brigade 055 and several other Arab brigades. At its peak prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001 the 055 Brigade had an estimated 2,000 soldiers and officers in the ranks.
    The rebuilt units consist of Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, North Africans, Iraqis, as well as former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards.
    At present, the 055 Brigade has “completely reformed and is surpassing pre-2001 standards,” an official said.
    The other brigades are also considered well trained.

What the shit happened?
And what’s Obama to do?
Fight a shadow in a land of shadows with time fleeting away?

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