Monday, December 10, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

With al Qaeda in Iraq being taken apart, the time for al Qaeda to cut their losses and seek another battlefield is clearly here. There is little point to sending good money after bad.

Already, we see evidence that al Qaeda is looking back at Afghanistan after leaving the fight to the Taliban these many years:

The U.S. military is seeing early signs that al-Qaida may be stepping up its activities in Afghanistan, a senior defense official revealed for the first time Monday as Secretary Robert Gates made his third trip to this country.

Indeed, the Taliban alone have made this a violent year in Afghanistan:

This year has been the most violent since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Insurgency-related violence has claimed nearly 6,200 lives, according to a tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.

That figure is mentioned a lot in our press. It is very misleading. Keep in mind that about 80% of those losses are the Taliban gunmen themselves being waxed by NATO, Coalition, and Afghan forces. About 3% are Coalition losses. The rest are Afghan security and civilian losses.

The efforts the Taliban are expending make it possible for al Qaeda to return to the fight.

Yet the Taliban are losing lots of men. And we are still able to attack despite our relatively few troops and the need to spend a lot of time killing Taliban coming in from Pakistan. One target is Musa Qala:

Afghan troops fought their way into the centre of southern Taliban stronghold Musa Qala on Monday but encountered only light resistance as the rebels melted away, officials and the militants said.

The enemy said that they had 2,000 men to defend the city. Apparently not. We shall see if our forces can kill them as they flee. But at least we are finally reversing the idiotic decision by the British to hand the city over to the Taliban. And we shall see if the locals defect as Coalition troops go in to find and fight the hard core Taliban who stay in the area trying to wait us out.

Yet as tempting as it may be for al Qaeda to return to Afghanistan, I figure they will turn to Pakistan as the target for their jihad. The Taliban have made inroads in expanding their realm along the Afghan border where bin Laden still hides (assuming he is alive) and seem to have their sights set on Pakistan itself as they push east to the population centers of Pakistan:

The Swat valley, about five hours drive on mountain roads from Islamabad, had been a popular tourist destination with guides describing the sprawling and scenic golf course, built by a former princely ruler, as a golfer's paradise.

But this year well-armed militants appeared and began to enforce their brand of hardline sharia law.

Led by a young, charismatic cleric called Fazlullah, the militants, many, like Fazlullah, believed to be veterans of Afghan fighting, attacked the police, closed girls schools and video shops and tried to destroy Buddhist ruins.

The police disappeared when challenged and soon the militants held sway over a string of small towns along the Swat river, including Kabal.

But the Pakistani army intervened:

Last month, the army launched an offensive which the commander in charge said had succeeded in clearing the militants from most of the valley, sending them and Fazlullah running into remote valleys to the northwest.

"We're striking them wherever they are," Major General Nasser Janjua told a group of reporters in Mingora, the valley's main town, on Saturday.

Janjua said his troops had killed 290 of the militants, who he said were supported by the Taliban and al Qaeda, and captured 143 in the offensive involving 20,000 troops. He said only six of his men had been killed.

"The threat is scattered, the threat is diluted," he said at his sand-bagged headquarters set up in a government guest house.

I have hope that the Pakistanis are experience their own awakening and realize they cannot look the other way and hope for the best.

Still, with the Taliban getting waxed the last two years as they've sent cannon fodder to Afghanistan and jihadis thinking that they could win in Pakistan and possibly believing that the Islamic bomb is there for the taking, we might be seeing the end of the Afghan campaign of the Long War.

Not that the fighting there will end anytime soon. But the fighting in Pakistan may take center stage. With Pakistan's army finally entering the fight and al Qaeda looking to join in, the campaign is broadening. We are seeing the beginning of a general Taliban Campaign that spans Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And with our need to protect supply lines through Pakistan, we may begin to play a far more active role in fighting inside Pakistan.

All those in America who have urged us to abandon Iraq and focus on Afghanistan--with some even demanding we intervene in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden--may find that our dwindling role in Iraq will free us to do exactly that--join the Taliban Campaign in force to team up with Pakistani army forces to suppress the jihadis in the tribal areas and finally hunt down bin Laden.

I bet the "good war" in Afghanistan won't be viewed as favorably by our anti-Iraq War side once this campaign gets underway in earnest--as they've always claimed to want.