Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The 'Looming Victory' in Afghanistan: Al-Qa'ida Focuses on 'AFPAK' & Obama's War

PART OF THE SERIES OF RESEARCH NOTES FOR MY CURRENT PROJECT, "The Art of the Martyr & Mujahid" (All Material Copyrighted) :

In April, a 15-page (in Arabic) "state of operations" document written by Shaykh 'Abdullah Sa'id, an aid to Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the senior military commander of al-Qa'ida's forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was issued on jihadi online discussion forums. This document is one sign in a series that show that AQ "Central" is shifting its primary attention and resources away from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan (which the U.S. military now calls by the ugly acronym "AFPAK"). Such a move makes strategic sense, considering U.S. president Barack Obama's heavy investment in the "good" war in southwest Asia. I wrote about this development recently when I highlighted the attention paid to AFPAK in the last lengthy videotape release from the Global Islamic Media Front, which featured AQ Central #2 and chief ideologue, Dr. Ayman al-Dhawahiri (Zawahiri).

The Pakistani government, under the corrupt president Asif 'Ali Zardari, recently began a major military assault in the Swat Valley and other Pakistani "Taliban" strongholds in the country's western belt of Pahstun tribal regions. The hand of the Obama administration is visible in Zardari's newfound "dedication" in military action against Pashtun tribal militias. Perhaps Zardari will get additional goodies for his cooperation.


AQ and its allies in Iraq have also increased the number of deadly kamikaze attacks in that country, taking advantage of the U.S. military's growing preoccupation with AFPAK. AQ terrorists (those who intentionally target civilians or show a wanton disregard for civilians in executing attacks) in Iraq have primarily targeted Arab and Iranian Shi'i pilgrims near Shi'i holy sites, perhaps hoping to rekindle an ethno-confessional civil war. The number of attacks on NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan has steadily increased since the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003, as Afghanistan quickly become the "forgotten" war.

Below, I have reproduced select sections from the document, followed with some preliminary analytical comments (in red or green); the quotes are taken from the official English translation of Sa'id's statement by the Global Islamic Media Front, with some comparison with certain passages in the Arabic original:

Shaykh Sa'id argues: "Anyone following the jihad in Afghanistan can clearly see the signs of victory looming over the horizon. They have become apparent and clear to the eyes. What has also become clear is the defeat and loss, both physical and moral, of the U.S. forces, NATO and the puppet Afghan army. Day by day, more and more of the general population supports the Taliban, while on the other hand, the anger and hatred felt towards the Americans and NATO has reached its limits, especially after the repetitive and revolting indiscriminate bombings which result in the injury and death of tens, rather hundreds of innocent Muslim men, women and children who have nowhere to run or escape, not to mention the increase of arrests, torture, and humiliation of the general population..."

AQ, the Afghan Taliban, and its Pashtun allies in western Pakistan (the so-called "Pakistani Taliban") have used the touchy issue of the killing of civilian deaths in U.S. and NATO air strikes and military operations in their media releases. A new video, "The Rain of Bombs," was released late last week by the Ansar Media Center and the Nid'a ul-Jihad, a jihadi media outlet connected to the Afghan Taliban and its allies in Pakistan. The video highlighted the civilian casualties from these military strikes in a clear attempt to turn viewers away from the U.S. and the Afghan government headed by President Hamid Karzai.

Sa'id then turns his attention to the campaign of kamikaze (suicide/"martyrdom") operations, which he claims are increasingly supported by the local population, citing a report from an unnamed "field commander":

"As for the special operations which the Taliban carry out, such and ambushes, mines, and martyrdom operations, we see a substantial increase in their number and quality in many areas of Afghanistan, especially lately, as we see that they have reached even the northern areas, such and Qundooz and others. In the latest operation carried out by the Taliban on the border of Badghis, they destroyed over 30 vehicles, taking an additional 25 as spoils, and killed or injured almost 40 of the apostate army, taking an additional 20 as prisoners. Lately, the Taliban have employed more bold tactics in their operations, especially ambushes and martyrdom operations. The general population has become more supportive of them; rather, those who supported and provided them shelter in the past are now the ones who carry out operations in their own areas."

Pashtun tribal militiamen ("Taliban") in Pakistan

Sa'id then highlights the increasing difficulty (he says) the NATO/U.S. military forces are having in moving around Afghanistan. In effect, he is arguing that they are now facing the same difficulties that the Soviets faced in the 1980s: controlling only the major population centers, though there have been major attacks even in the capital city of Kabul, with little to no control over the rural areas and countryside:

"On the other hand, weakness and has filled the ranks of the Americans and the alliance of their puppets; there movement between cities and villages is limited, and they are no longer present in areas which they previously had control of. America has now sheltered itself in Kabul, basing more and more of their troops there. The Mujahidoon day by day are closing in on Kabul, especially from Wardak. Now that America has seen the might, viciousness and courage of the Taliban in fighting and their increase in numbers, the definitive military defeat and eradication of the Taliban which they once often repeated is no longer a reality.

The security situation is increasingly delicate, and the imminent danger faced by the occupying
forces is no longer limited to the Taliban; today the general population is fighting alongside the Taliban due to their continual suffering under repetitive airstrikes carried out on civilians. This leads people to sympathize with and aid the Taliban, not to mention the fact that it is a religious obligation on every Muslim in Afghanistan.

The morale of the Taliban is continuingly rising, and all praise is due to Allah, while we see
that a breakdown of the morale of the NATO troops and their lack of desire to continue to engage in this long war which no one knows when and how it will end, especially now that after more than seven years, they have gained nothing. They have not made any progress nor have they quickly ended their battle with the Taliban. They have neither put an end to the Taliban nor have they caught the leaders of the Mujahidoon, these being the very reasons they launched their war on Afghanistan. For this reason, their morale in battle has broken, and they no longer have the motivation which once encouraged them to continue their lost war, paying its price day by day with the loss of lives. They continually taste its bitterness, broiling in an ocean of fire, while their politicians proudly, haughtily and falsely boast and lie that they are achieving victory in the battle against the Taliban. The Taliban threaten to break the strength of America and oust them from their land, and their motivation and determination to fight and repel the occupiers and reestablish the Islamic Emirate is continually on the rise..."

Sa'id then notes the growing discontent among U.S. allies within the NATO alliance over the "never-ending" war in Afghanistan. He predicts that these allies will eventually leave, pointing to what many members of what former U.S. "Decider" George W. Bush once called the "Coalition of the Willing" ended up doing (leaving) in Iraq. Sa'id pays particular attention to Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands:

"Along with the increase in flow of fighters into Afghanistan and the ranks of Taliban in number and unity, we see the extent of division amongst NATO forces and their anger over the length of this unending lost war which sees no end in near. In the end, the US will be left fighting alone in Afghanistan at which point we will see its end, Allah () willing. One by one, the allies will leave, Allah willing, as they did in Iraq. They are more public in their statements, which indicates that they will not continue in this lost war which sees no end in near. They are starting to acknowledge their inability to continue military operations under this stiff resistance from the people on one hand, and the rise of differences amongst the allies on the other. This statement was made by the Commander of the Canadian forces whose troops are tasting their death in Kandahar."

Sa'id closes by reminding his audience that history has shown that Afghanistan has rarely been conquered, noting that "history is repeating itself":

"Who could ever think that one day, the US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, would welcome negotiations with the Taliban or their sharing power? Who could ever think that Canada, Britain, Germany, and even the UN would acknowledge that the war cannot be won militarily, calling for a political solution? And who could ever think that the Taliban would reject negotiations? But one who follows history knows that no force invaded Afghanistan except that they were broken, defeated and fled. Today history repeats itself, for the Taliban are at the gates of a pulverizing and devastating victory against America, Allah willing, on all fronts, military, political and economical, a defeat which will remind us of the British defeat in the Khyber Pass."

Listen to an Urdu nasheed (loosely defined, a religion-themed song. In the case of nasheeds, it is more of a political or ideological song which uses religious themes selectively). Despite the language, the video montage shows jihadi leaders from a wide range of regions and countries including North Africa, Palestine, and Egypt, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Listen to a nasheed about the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SEE A RELATED POST, "Portraits of Jihad: Afghanistan and Pakistan."

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