Monday, September 11, 2006

Grim reports

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, writes in the Washington Post:
Israel's high-tech surveillance and weaponry were no match for Hezbollah's low-tech network of underground tunnels. Hezbollah's success in stealth and total battlefield secrecy is an example of what extremists are trying to do worldwide.

In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban have learned to avoid U.S. and NATO surveillance satellites and drones in order to gather up to 400 guerrillas at a time for attacks on Afghan police stations and army posts. They have also learned to disperse before U.S. airpower is unleashed on them, to hide their weapons and merge into the local population.

In North and South Waziristan, the tribal regions along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, an alliance of extremist groups that includes al-Qaeda, Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, Central Asians, and Chechens has won a significant victory against the army of Pakistan. The army, which has lost some 800 soldiers in the past three years, has retreated, dismantled its checkpoints, released al-Qaeda prisoners and is now paying large "compensation" sums to the extremists.

This region, considered "terrorism central" by U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, is now a fully operational al-Qaeda base area offering a wide range of services, facilities, and military and explosives training for extremists around the world planning attacks. Waziristan is now a regional magnet. In the past six months up to 1,000 Uzbeks, escaping the crackdown in Uzbekistan after last year's massacre by government security forces in the town of Andijan, have found sanctuary with al-Qaeda in Waziristan.

In Iraq, according to a recent Pentagon study, attacks by insurgents jumped to 800 per week in the second quarter of this year -- double the number in the first quarter. Iraqi casualties have increased by 50 percent. The organization al-Qaeda in Iraq has spawned an array of new guerrilla tactics, weapons and explosive devices that it is conveying to the Taliban and other groups.

Moreover, efforts by armies to win the local citizens' hearts and minds and carry out reconstruction projects are also failing as extremists attack "soft" targets, such as teachers, civil servants and police officers, decapitating the local administration and terrorizing the people.

No doubt on all these battlefields Islamic extremists are taking massive casualties -- at least a thousand Taliban have been killed by NATO forces in the past six months. But on many fronts there is an inexhaustible supply of recruits for suicide-style warfare.
A Marine colonel in Iraq, the Washington Post:
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

Those conclusions are striking because, even after four years of fighting an unexpectedly difficult war in Iraq, the U.S. military has tended to maintain an optimistic view: that its mission is difficult, but that progress is being made. Although CIA station chiefs in Baghdad have filed negative classified reports over the past several years, military intelligence officials have consistently been more positive, both in public statements and in internal reports.

Devlin, as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) headquarters in Iraq, has been stationed there since February, so his report isn't being dismissed as the stunned assessment of a newly arrived officer. In addition, he has the reputation of being one of the Marine Corps' best intelligence officers, with a tendency to be careful and straightforward, said another Marine intelligence officer. Hence, the report is being taken seriously as it is examined inside the military establishment and also by some CIA officials.
The leaders of the 9/11 Commission in the Boston Globe detail 10 necessary steps as yet not taken:
Finally, preventing terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons must be elevated above all other problems of national security. Nuclear terrorism would have a devastating impact . The commission called for ``a maximum effort" against this threat, including stepped-up efforts to secure loose nuclear materials abroad. Our current efforts fall far short.

We will surely face more terrorist attacks, yet our sense of national urgency is lacking. Our elected leaders need to act now to provide for the common defense because the terrorists will not wait.


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