Monday, December 11, 2006

More warning signs in Afghanistan

The situation in Iraq has been mishandled in catastrophic ways. I believe the situation in Lebanon, specifically allowing Israel to fight a poorly conceived and executed war, was not handled well. Afghanistan now shows the potential for a Taliban resurgence, which will strain the United States and the NATO alliance.

The New York Times:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan, vastly expanding their training of suicide bombers and other recruits and fortifying alliances with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, diplomats and intelligence officials from several nations say. The result, they say, is virtually a Taliban mini-state.

The militants, the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year.

The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas, according to several American and NATO officials and Pakistani and Afghan intelligence officials.

This year more than 100 local leaders and government sympathizers or accused “American spies” have been killed, several of them in beheadings, as the militants have used a reign of terror to impose what President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan calls a creeping “Talibanization.” Last year, at least 100 others were also killed.
The Los Angeles Times:
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The conflict in Afghanistan has entered a dangerous phase, and the next three to six months could prove crucial in determining whether the United States and its NATO partners can suppress a revitalized enemy — or will be dragged into another drawn-out and costly fight with an Islamic insurgency, according to senior military and security officials and diplomats.

"I think we are approaching a tipping point, perhaps early in the new year," said a Western diplomat in the region, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Popular support for the central government is faltering, and Western military allies are deeply divided over how best to combat the insurgency.

On the other side of the fight, the Taliban has regained the strength to dominate large swaths of Afghanistan; government control is tenuous at best in at least 20% of the country, according to several Western diplomats and Afghan officials.

Militants have built a network of bases in the tribal hinterlands that straddle the frontier with Pakistan. Over the last year, a growing number of mobile encampments on the Afghan side of the border have given the insurgents greater self-sufficiency, military officials say, although the guerrillas still draw heavily on logistical support and weaponry funneled from the Pakistani side.

"They can come and go pretty much undetected," acknowledged U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., who is overseeing the training and equipping of the struggling Afghan national army.
The most important lesson from Iraq is to acknowledge when there is a developing problem and quickly work to correct it.


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