High Noon in Marjah

The aggressive new strategy in Afghanistan embraced by the Obama Administration, modeled on the successful “surge” in Iraq, is costly, with a third of all American casualties in the conflict occurring since the first reinforcements were sent in May 2009. The latest offensive in Marjah in Helmand Province is going slower than anticipated due to fierce resistance, and it is only a warm-up for a much larger battle in the coming months in Kandahar, the Taliban’s stronghold. And Pakistan remains the key to victory.

As tough as the fighting is in Marjah, the more difficult phase will be capitalizing on the military success by establishing local governance and civil institutions that have credibility with the Afghan people. The national flag now waves above the city and a new governor has taken power, and the fact that for every two foreign soldiers in the offensive there were three Afghan soldiers is very helpful. Roughly a quarter of the city still remains to be taken, but the last bastions of the Taliban forces are said to be running out of ammunition.

The international and Afghan forces now control the main roads and markets, but a significant amount of mines and roadside bombs planted by the Taliban still need to be located and dismantled. Afghan police forces, soldiers, and government workers from elsewhere in the country are being brought into Marjah, and over 2,000 people have taken jobs with the new administration.

The effort in Afghanistan is much more difficult because of the national government’s lack of credibility. The population, including many of those who voted for Karazai, is disenchanted because of the widespread fraud in the last election. Karzai’s latest decision to take control of the Electoral Complaints Commission so that he appoints all five members is a further blow to his credibility and that of the government. Unfortunately, transgressions such as these mean that the links between a national government and the people that are required for a functioning democracy probably cannot be re-established until Karzai leaves office. Luckily, the Taliban’s own failures will provide a sharp contrast to what the local administrations can offer, leaving open an opportunity for such links to be developed on the ground level that can prevent the Taliban from returning.

The Pakistani crackdown on the Taliban actually holds more long-term significance than the offensive in Marjah. The capture of Mullah Baradar, the second-in-command of the Taliban, is extremely significant as he had close control over every area of management. Subsequent analysis focused heavily on what caused the Pakistanis to finally arrest such figures operating on their soil, but new information helps to provide a clearer picture of what happened.

Mullah Baradar was not the target of the raid, and just happened to be among those arrested in what one American official described as a “lucky accident.” The Pakistani ISI intelligence service refused to allow the CIA to directly question him until two weeks after he was caught. Contrary to proving Pakistan’s credibility as an ally, the arrest of Baradar and their conduct in handling his interrogation actually indicts them, leaving no room for them to claim that the Taliban’s leadership isn’t in their country. It is certain that Baradar knows where Mullah Omar is located, and it is likely he has information on Bin Laden’s location as well, if reports that he was staying in Quetta last fall are accurate. The ISI’s delay and possible coaching of Baradar so their complicity can remain hidden may have led to losing some crucial opportunities.

The embarrassment of Baradar being captured in Karachi is a major factor in the arrest of several other figures in Pakistan, but it is still very possible that this tougher stance will be short-lived. Large amounts of Pakistani territory, particularly in Baluchistan, still need to be cleansed before the Taliban can be defeated, but this will require a lengthy, bloody battle that could quickly lose public support and exhaust the military’s resources.

Pakistan’s long-term commitment to the fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups is in doubt, but their short-term cooperation is dealing the movement a mighty blow. Seven of the 15 members of the Quetta Shura Council that acts as their central headquarters have been captured by the Pakistanis. As The Long War Journal points out, this does not necessarily mean that half of the Taliban’s leadership has been eliminated, as there are four regional shuras and 10 committees that the Quetta Shura oversees. The four shuras are located in Quetta in Baluchistan Province; Peshawar in Northwest Frontier Province; Miramshah in North Waziristan; and the Gerdi Jangal refugee camp in Baluchistan Province. These captures are important, but the leadership has not been decapitated.

The drone strikes in Pakistan are also making the enemy pay a heavy toll. A son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a top Taliban commander, was recently killed in one. The Obama Administration is now launching three strikes a week on Pakistani soil on average, a three-fold increase from the days of the Bush Administration.

One more development on the Pakistani side deserves more attention. The Pakistani government wants to revise its law that charges those guilty of insulting Islam with blasphemy, carrying a penalty of death. This is a rebuke to extremists that argue that non-Muslims (which includes those they view as apostates) need to be violently targeted. President Zardari isn’t going to repeal the law, which would be truly bold, but it is positive that the government is trying to counter the viewpoint that such oppression is acceptable under that circumstance.

These successes provide much room for optimism, but that doesn’t mean the second phase of the surge in Afghanistan targeting Kandahar won’t be significantly bloodier. The Taliban’s strength has increased by 35 percent in the past two years, and now is estimated at about 27,000 fighters. The blood of Afghan and international soldiers and civilians is going to take the headlines, and their sacrifice can indeed prevent the Taliban from seizing parts of the country and bring stability to that country so that the West can be much safer. These sacrifices must be matched by sacrifices on the Pakistani side and the U.S. must make clear that if our soldiers are going to die in this war, we will accept nothing less than full cooperation from the Pakistanis.

  • suprkufrB

    Sometimes I'm driven to despair when I behold the peter pan world still believed in by far too many of those on our side. Being human, we are frequently reluctant to allow our beautiful theory to be savaged by an ugly fact.
    It's nice to be optimistic, but wiser to be realistic; sadly, the favorable outcome envisioned by Mr. Mauro simply isn't going to happen. Whether we remain in Afghanistan for one year or fifty years, whether we squander the lives of a thousand or a million of our soldiers, at the end of the day we'll withdraw from a country governed not by democratic principles, but by islam. There are fifty-six other islamic countries, not one of which is a democracy. Yes, I'm including Turkey and Indonesia, "democratic" in name only. Why on earth would we believe that Afghanistan would be any different?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CantKnowItAll CantKnowItAll

      I wonder if you are the first person that has had the idea to wipe another religion from the face of the earth. Certainly you are an individual, whose ideals couldn't possibly be compared to someone else, even if that individual had drawn the same conclusion. I feel sorry for you.

      • eyes wide open

        dont be sorry for an enlightened mind , be sorry for the victims of this CULT called islam . An alleged "religion " yea like the Thuggees of India , which in fact WERE wiped from the facre of the Earth , and rightly so , not necessarily by any mass slaughter , but by the systematic dismantling , harrassment and minimalization of that death cult of stranglers , for they had murdered far more in their 400 hundred years of existence , than could ever be their losses in the battles waged against them . No you " CantKnowitAll " but you can know enough , to reach the stark conclusion regarding the ethos and ,yes EVIL agenda of this cult called islam . Islam is NOT " another religion " , it is a cult which means to convert you or kill you , if you are not willing to submit to it ……..I dont call that a religion , not in the 21st century , I call it Barbarian , Uncivilised , Malignant , and Dangerous . A cult with a rather large membership and nothing more or less .

      • suprkufrB

        It is I who should feel sorry for you, as it's obvious that you are unable to read. Please point out to me where I advocated "…wip[ing] another religion from the the face of the earth." In case you haven't noticed, it's your beloved disciples of the great paedophile who have embraced such a strategy to advance their goal of imposing a world caliphate. If you ever do learn to read, spend a few hours with mein koranf – it'll help you to get your facts straight.
        I personally couldn't care less what these awful people do, so long as they confine it to their own backward sheikdoms. I do, however, wish to wipe them from the face of our civilized countries before their rot metastasizes to our tolerant and pluralistic societies.

  • suprkufrB

    Why are we all unable to stand up and simply tell the truth? The enemy is not this sect or that terrorist cell or yonder corrupt government; the enemy is islam. Period. We'll never get anywhere until our tolerant and pluralistic societies have digested and acknowledged this painful but undeniable fact. Moslems are brainwashed from birth to believe that their sole purpose in life must be to in one way or another, by militancy or by stealth, selflessly devote themselves to furthering the imposition of the world caliphate.

    • BS1977

      I just saw The Hurt Locker…and one of the most salient points this film makes: Our world is host to some very malevolent, horrendous people….people who drive car bombs into mosques, people who set off bombs in hotels, market places and blow up hundreds of people a month….any people who happen to be present when these god awful bombs go off….there is no rationality, no justification, no military or strategic reason for these terror bombings but they go on and on….and this is the enemy we are facing…..something incomprensible, evil and impossible to reason with. In the past year thousands of Pakistanis, Afghanis and Iraqis have been killed or maimed for life by this madness.

    • badaboo

      Spot on suprkfrB , that's the ugly truth , the heart of the matter , which for one way or another seems to elude both those on the left and right . Indeed even the military . I have a nephew , a Lt.Col.on his second tour , who is at the moment in Marjah , and his sentiments are similar . He says the peopke they pay to be on "our side " change sides like socks , so no one really knows where the loyalty lies , but one thing is for sure , they are first and foremost muslims , and always will be ….and that's not a good thing , as far as any plans we may have for Afghanistan

    • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

      Actually you are wrong. All emperical evidence states the worst you can be is to be proven to posses a rational mind, be a serial torturer, and have your sole motivation be the prolonged torture to death of innocent victims.

      On the scale of evil I would put the Hajis you saw on Level 17: Psychopaths who commit multiple vicious acts. This includes bin Laden and Zawahiri.

      The world has seen worst, and the world has learned to deal with worst. To see a true Level 22 at war, look no further than the evils of these two men:

      The worst of the worst, Hideki Tojo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hideki_T%C5%8Dj%C5%8

      A miserably close second:

      Those are the sole two people who I think of who have shown both the complete contempt yet absolutely no empathy of other human beings while having the institutional power behind them to volt them to an unknown status of torturers: true Level 23s.

      • badaboo

        well steve atleast you have them categorized where they belong …in the company of sadistic psych-paths , serial killers and outright mindless compassionless maniacs. so in essence you do have some loose but tenuous ties to realitry ,
        – being outrageous is a common reaction to horrendous events occurring around you , so stevieboy , you really ain't that "eerie " .

  • suprkufrB

    Surely it's by now obvious that appeasment will never succeed. These people simply will not budge from their position. Their mind-set is "what's mine is mine, and what's yours is negotiable." The days of presidents and prime ministers groveling before their saudi masters must come to an end forthwith. No further islamic immigration must be permitted, and ferreting out all the treacherous enemy agents within our borders must become our top priority. Any attack on Israel or any other free country must be met with immediate and cataclysmic retalliation.
    War has been declared against the kuffr, and it's long past time we realized it and did something about it.

    • Stephen D.

      Well said Supr! Time to revisit the Crusades!! They began in a just cause. The cause remains. Being called a Crusader is not an insult but rather a badge of honor! Ours is to tell people about Islam. The following is copied from another post today. It is worth reposting.
      It is not the “ambition ” of islam to subjugate the world to Islam it is THE GOAL of the PROPHET , and thus incumbent on all good muslims to struggle [jihad ] to achieve it .
      Islam by it’s own doctrine and dogma submits to no government , no authority , and is accountable to no one , but all MUST submit to islam .
      Indeed an ETHOS , which is anti-thetical to all humanity , and poses a clear and present danger to every human being on the face of the planet . This evil plague has taken on the charachter of a world-wide juggernaut on the move . There is no “moderate islam ” for if a muslim is moderate , then that person is not a good muslim for islam can live in peace with NO ONE . ~ Eyes Wide Open

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/WilliamJWard WilliamJamesWard

      Well put and concise conclusion, your premises are correct and the fact that all of
      our leaders see the war as and isolated problem is going to prove a disaster
      when the ground disappears out from under our feet. I think that the use of
      our nuclear weapons should be put out front and the destruction of not only
      our but the world's enemies should be planned for. America needs to quit
      screwing around with the lives of our people and let our feelings be known with
      radiation………………….Regards, William

  • USMCSniper

    Either we're going to give our troops every advantage in an effort to allow them to win or we should, in fact, get out. If Obama has in mind a Nixon-style "decent interval" where we are going to let troops be killed in an effort not to win a war but to simply contrive a politically-palatable "defeat with honor," then get them out of there.

    • badaboo

      Hey USMCSniper , way back in the time of Vietnam , it was – REQUEST PERMISSION TO RETURN FIRE SIR !! …….here we go again .
      Wasn't it Patton who said , "it is not our job to die in battle , but to make the enemy die in battle " –sorry , it's a paraphrase , but I'm pretty sure Patton said it .

      • Ozymandias

        Baby Poo & Snippy – still bitching about losing s despite overwhelming force combined with shock & awe – what a pair of whingers.

        Fact is you lost in Vietnam – you have already lost in Iraq – and you are well on the way to losing in Afghanistan – so what are you trying to prove – that you're stupid or incompetent or what?

        On the revised rules of engagement hobbling your troops – I think you will find that they they simply do not apply if 'under imminent threat' and as simply being in Afghanistan places invading enemies under imminent threat by definition – the issue does not therefore arise. And what about that lovely phrase 'collateral damage' as yankspeak for murdering civilians by mistake on purpose to pass on a message.

        Oh and by the way – I don't think the locals have access to satellite information, killer predator drones, A-10 cannon platforms or helicopter gunships or any other form of high tech murder machines do they – and yet you are still on the losing side – funny that isn't it – have you learned nothing from history. And all they essentially are AK 47s and IED – PS the 'I' stands for 'Improvised' – which really means home made – in the kitchen like jam – and you're still losing tch tch – no wonder your peevishness continues to sound so shrill – and to think you have such a fine defense industry and have cornered the market on patriotism – why you have even enshrined the word in legislation along with the word 'Homeland' – just like a certain German politician called Adolph used to do along with many other tinpot fascist dictatorships where commerce melds with the military and fear & propaganda are emblematic mantras of defending 'Freedom' – my oh my

        Toodle Pip – Ozzy

        • eyes wide open

          Spoken like the true muslim in disguise that you are Ozzy . Dont worry pal , people are getting smarter , even the jerks that have tyo be kicked in thee arse are staring to see the truth about your cult . As for yopur babble about the drones ? I dont care if all the have is plastic forks and spoons , wra is war , and cliaming "unfair " just vworks with the Dhimmis . Oh your deranged brotherhood will no doubt draw blood , but will not prevail . The only thing muslims and their cult will "rule over " is large mountains of sand and glass , as you continue to push the west , indeed the rest of humanity outside of islam to the tipping point . Whatsa matter Ozzy ? Islamic Forum won't even put up with a muslim pretending to be civilsed ….lol…what ? did they kick you out or the non-muslims you try to bait , cant last long enough before they get banned ?

          • Ozymandias

            Eyes Wide Open – are you deaf as well as blind? I don't think I mentioned anywhere in my post above any claim about anything being 'unfair' – merely that the greatest war machine on the planet is being whupped again – and effectively with 'forks & spoons' as you suggest – so all the 'support out troops' & mush about GIs being the finest, bravest, best trained, most accomplished, best equiped, fittest & most upstanding warriors in the history of the universe blah blah blah – is a little teensy weensy bit overdone don't you think?

            So why not address the reality which you failed to respond to whereby you lost in Vietnam, you have already lost in Iraq – and you are well on the way to losing in Afghanistan – as every invader since Alexander the Great lost 3200 years ago lost as well.

            Oh – sorry I forgot to mention one of your finest military triumphs in recent years………Grenada – well done chaps!

  • Linda Rivera

    Supported by US/EU tax dollars $$, global jihadists, Palestinian Authority Seek Islamic CONQUEST of America, Britain and the world.

    Friday sermon, Palestinian Authority TV. May 13, 2005. Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris:
    “The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world…” http://memritv.org/Transcript.asp?P1=669

    US/EU/UK have a moral obligation to immediately explain why they support global Muslim terrorism against our countries and why they seek a Muslim terror state in global jihad-embattled, vulnerable little Israel.

    The U.S. has an obligation to also explain to her citizens why Washington allows many Muslim terrorist training camps to flourish and increase in America.

    Has the US/EU/UK governments joined in the global jihad against the world's non-Muslim innocents?

    • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

      Little do the fools know how much they rule the Great Satan already. For all intensive purposes, Detroit is a Moslem state, and look at where it got it.

      20% unemployment. Once again, that is rat eating levels.

      • badaboo

        sorry steve that wasn't muslims , thatr was our yale and harvard erducated ceo's , their inability to make a better car , and their greed to keep the stockholders happy nonetheless in the face of failure by …..shpping the jobs overseas . I remember buying a T-Bird , 20 years ago – parts from Canada and China /asembled in Mexico . If you're old enough …remember those bumper stickers -"Buy American ,the job you save may be your own " ….no one listened . Ir onically even if you did …..you didn't ..lol..like my T-Bird . The muslims are merely putting the finishing touches on Detroit's death . And ya know , you don't hear them squawking about jobs …they get welfare .

  • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

    The Art of War states to be subtle, even to the edge of stillness. Unbeknown to JIHAD exists the great native nations of Cherokee and Sioux, who can wait out the Afghanis for not years but centuries. Just let them build the roads and fight in outer space and they will be happy. Nothing like a Native American-Afghani knife fight in outer space.

    And notice the liberal media has just sat this one out. It's like in The Wire, you just cannot count on them and they will always let you down. They are lukewarm at best when their guy is in office and extremely dangerous when someone has an (R) next to their name. They should be excommunicated. Just literally, revoke all current press rights and bring in a younger generation.

    Pictures of Mohammed. Quran flushed down a toilet. Puh-leeze. Notice that junk is now NOT being produced to inflame the Moslem world? If it was me, I would hang people like that for treason.

    But that's fine. Anything that supports America I'm down with. While we are at it, let's beat Mohammed Attah at his own game and start building things like Wal-Mosque, or McSaudis'. Have local Marines run them as outposts, and just play "How dirty can you be."

    Me? I'll start with the dollar menu being made exclusively of stray dogs and cats captured from major urban ghettos in the USA. Do things like the dog burger $.99 and cat mcNuggets $.99. They could trap coyote in Rome and do things like Holy Burger 3" thick.

    Who cares if they blow that up? Just put protective glass around the food service areas and toss food at them like the animals they are.

    • BS1977

      Eerie Steve, please go peddle your insanity at some other site. You are not funny, not relevant, not even mildly amusing. You might laugh at your own "humor" but no one else does. Get some professional help.

      • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

        fair's fair. How does a one month hiatus sound? Will see you on April's Fools day my 33 year old friend.

        But one thing, what better way to lure starving warriors out of a cave than free Moslem food? If it was me, I would kill them, grind them into hamburger, and feed their meat back to their women. Just like Osama says, there are levels of Satan-try. Little Satan, Big Satan, and Great Satan!

        • BS1977

          I will no longer respond to any of your demented posts.

        • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

          ok then. If you are happy I'm happy to be back to posting! I've got PR to boost.

          Hey, if the libs did it to the White House and branded something as sacred as that to me as a "miserable failure", I feel it would be prudent for me to spout some reason in war.

          And *heh* I've got some PR to earn! Check out my site if you could. It rocks.

    • suprkufrB

      Am I missing something here? I'm not smart, but I can lift heavy things. Eeerie Steve, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Perhaps I'm missing a breakthrough announcement of the derivation of a unified field theory, but you're going to have to become a little more comprehensible if you're looking to attract recruits.

  • 080

    I seem to recall that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the war was unwinnable. There may be a fundamental reason that we are there. It probably has something to do with our geostrategic position and oil. But no-one talks about that.

  • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

    Notice he said soldier, not Marine. Marines do not care what they are given as long as it is a kill order. Kill thy enemies virtue before thy kill their body. The one law of Art of War.

  • suprkufrB

    Either get a life or slash your wrists the long way. Marines kill our enemies if there is no viable option. Sand weasels indiscriminately kill innocents in their ruthless and warped compulsion to impose a stifling, misogynous and ignorant theocracy upon the free and enlightened countries of the world.
    You're going to lose – get used to it. We're tolerant slow to anger, but at the end of the day freedom will always triumph over totalitarianism.