Category Archives: War

Taliban’s PR

Is the Taliban on a PR offensive? Based on interviews given to CNN and the New York Times, it seems as though they might be.

CNN’s intrepid Nic Robertson, a quintessential war correspondent, sat down with Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid for a short interview. Mujahid is clear that the Taliban remains strong and will continue to battle American forces and try to destabilize Hamid Karzai’s government.  Here’s the video:

<script src=”http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/js/2.0/video/evp/module.js?loc=dom&vid=/video/world/2009/05/05/intv.afghan.taliban.cnn&#8221; type=”text/javascript”></script><noscript>Embedded video from <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a></noscript>

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on its conversation with a Taliban leader:

One Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban, a 28-year-old from the country’s tribal areas, in interviews with The New York Times, described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.

His account provided a keyhole view of the opponent the Americans and their NATO allies are up against, as well as the workings and ambitions of the Taliban as they prepared to meet the influx of American troops.

It also illustrated how the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of many brands of jihadist fighters backed by Al Qaeda, are spearheading wars on both sides of the border in what for them is a seamless conflict.

The tactician wears a thick but carefully shaped black beard and a well-trimmed shock of black hair, a look cultivated to allow him to move easily all over Pakistan. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by his fellow Taliban members.

The Times’ anonymous Pakistani Taliban source echoes Mujahid’s (sort of) on-camera statements to CNN, the point being that the Taliban will remain strong and continue fighting the Americans, Pakistanis and Afghanis who oppose them.

The Taliban’s PR machine seems to be going in full gear, despite obvious fears of being assassinated.  I suspect–but could be completely wrong since I have never been to Afghanistan, never spoken with the Taliban, and generally don’t know all that much about the situation there–that this is their response to President Obama’s plan to gain control of Afghanistan and the Pakistani border area.  They want Americans to know that this war will not be easy so they should give up now.  That’s why they go for CNN and the New York Times.  As much as I may dislike the Taliban, I don’t think that they are stupid.  And it seems like they are waging a pretty effective public relations campaign.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Pakistan, War

Jordanians in Afghanistan?

The intepid crusaders at Wikileaks have uncovered a document called “NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative”.  Unfortunately you can no longer access it.  (I’m not entirely sure if I think that is unfortunate or not.) But one of the biggest revelations of the finding was the fact that Jordanian forces are secretely part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

I don’t blame the Jordanians for wanting to keep that a secret.  Pretty much everyone I have talked to in the Middle East thinks that the war in Afghanistan is just as bad as Iraq.  Americans might think that Afghanistan is “the good war” but to most people in the Middle East it’s not.  I’m generalizing here, of course.  I know that there are varied opinions, but I think it’s safe to say that His Majesty King Abdullah won’t get any more popular by sending Jordanians to fight in Afghanistan.

But the King is a master statesman and politician.But His Majesty King Abdullah is a master politician and statesmen.  He recognizes the fact that the fight against Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and he knows that its in his best interest and the world’s if that battle is fought.  So he contributes what he can.  Secretely.  It makes sense.

Wikileaks describes Jordan this way:

Jordan is a middle eastern monarchy, backed by the US, and historically the CIA’s closest partner in its extraordinary rendition program. “the practice of torture is routine” in the country, according to a January 2007 report by UN special investigator for torture, Manfred Nowak.

That’s a bit simple, but not far off.  Jordan is close with the United States.  I just read some stunning facts King Abdullah in Ron Suskind’s book.  But I’m not sure if they have been the CIA’s closest partner in the extraordinary rendition program.  Egypt, Morocco, Syria and a host of other countries were deeply involved.

But once you start running your foreign policy in secret things get scary.  I know that the Jordanian government tortures prisoners.  King Abdullah probably covers this up by saying that “it is in his best interest and the world’s if that battle is fought” so he should “contribute what he can.  Secretely.”  It’s no good.

What’s the point?  Can you have secrecy and integrity? At what cost to each? That’s a question for someone who knows more than I do.  Even in the blogosphere I know that.

But if I can bring the tone down a little bit… I can’t imagine Jordanians in any place as verdant as Afghanistan.  One of my good Jordanian friends went to Vermont once.  She told me that it was too green, it gave her a headache.  That seems like it could be a problem on the battlefield.

Photo by Army.mil‘s flickr stream used under a Creative Commons lisence.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Terrorism, War

Fewer blue helmets

I came across this story today via David Axe’s blog War Is Boring:

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland plans to end its military missions in Lebanon, the Golan Heights and Chad as it cuts spending due to the global economic crisis, the defense minister said Wednesday….

Poland is trying to cut its defense spending this year by about 2 billion zlotys ($56 million) as its economy, the largest among the European Union’s new ex-communist members, shows signs of a significant slowdown.

Poland has about 500 troops in a U.N. force in Lebanon, 360 troops on U.N. duty on the Golan Heights — a territory captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — and about 400 in Chad on a European Union mission that is to become a U.N. mission in March.

I suspect that we’re going to see a lot of this in the next couples months and/or years.  As governments are forced to pay the exorbitant price of the global financial meltdown, they will become decreasingly interested in foreign military committments.  Why spend money keeping the peace in Bosnia or Lebanon when you desperately need dollars to bail out your banks?  I predict a (limited) return to isolationism among a lot of nations if this trend continues.  Be on the lookout.

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