Friday, August 27, 2010

Worst Case Scenario

So the Taliban have launched some attacks in the relatively quiet north and west of Afghanistan:

Eight Afghan police gunned down at a checkpoint. Campaign workers kidnapped. Spanish trainers shot dead on their base.

Is this conclusion justified?

A spurt of violence this week in provinces far from the Taliban's main southern strongholds suggests the insurgency is spreading, even as the top U.S. commander insists the coalition has reversed the militants' momentum in key areas of the ethnic Pashtun south where the Islamist movement was born.

No. These attacks suggest no such thing. While such attacks might suggest the Taliban are spreading, that conclusion could only be reached if the enemy sustains and expands such attacks over time. Otherwise, this is just a raid--militarily insignificant--into hostile territory. We're likely to hunt the enemy down in the absence of local support for their mission or they'll flee south to friendly territory before we can catch them. In the west, it might even be an indication of Iranian support--which we know exists in relatively low levels--rather than southern Taliban spreading out.
I am always amazed by the eagerness of Western reporters to assume the worst--for us--in any military action.