The War of the Weak

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Terrorism is the weapon of the weak. The Taliban proved that once again last Monday with its attack on the government quarter in central Kabul. The attack killed 12 people, including seven terrorists, and left 71 people wounded. One of the dead was a five-year old boy that the Taliban fatally shot.

The main target of the latest Taliban assault on Kabul was the central bank, located next to the presidential palace. A suicide bomber tried to enter the bank but was shot by security before he could get inside. Other terrorists seized a shopping mall, ordering all vendors to leave, before taking up positions on the top floor and shooting it out for several hours with Afghan security forces before being killed. But the Taliban showed its particular revolting talent for death and destruction a few blocks away, where another suicide bomber detonated a vehicle disguised as an ambulance in front of the Ministry of Education, setting off a whirlwind of debris.

The purpose of the attack, like most other terrorist operations, was to get the attention of the international media. The Taliban are very media savvy and know that by targeting the well-protected government quarters in a city hosting a lot of foreign journalists, they would achieve their goal of capturing headlines worldwide, at least for a couple of days.

By penetrating Kabul’s defenses and staging such spectacular assaults (this is the third Taliban attack in the capital since last October), the Taliban also hoped to appear more powerful in the eyes of the world press than they really are. As one observer wrote, “The Taliban are using terrorism as a means of communication.”

Some in the media did fall for the Taliban’s propaganda line. The New York Times, for example, headlined its story about Monday’s assault, “Kabul Attack Shows Resilience of Afghan Militants”. In reality, it was Kabul’s inhabitants who were the resilient ones. The Times later reported merchants returned to their booths in the shopping mall and were conducting their business the day after the attack.

A Canadian national newspaper, The Globe And Mail, mistakenly saw in the Taliban assault a weakening of the Afghan presidency, titling its report, ‘The War at Karzai’s door: Kabul strike shows a leader losing grip.”

But rather than a show of strength, last Monday’s suicide attack was actually a sign of Taliban weakness. After nearly ten years the Taliban have not made any headway militarily in expelling the foreign troops from Afghanistan, let alone make good on their annual promise to capture Kabul. And due to the professionalism and toughness of NATO and American soldiers, the Taliban rarely stand up to them in battle, relying instead on IEDs and suicide bombers.

While suffering a disproportionate number of casualties of their own, the Taliban have also inflicted only a low rate of casualties on American troops. In Afghanistan, casualties have never been as high as they were in Iraq at the Iraq war’s worst point and are only a third the rate of those of Vietnam and World War Two.

IEDs and Kabul-like suicide attacks will also, like in Iraq, never gain the Taliban a military victory. One military analyst calls Islamic suicide bombers “an overrated tool”, saying they are reminiscent of Japan’s kamikazes that also sought to demoralize an overpowering enemy, but also failed. Unlike the Taliban’s suicide bombers, though, the kamikazes only attacked military targets.

Some Western media analysts stated the Taliban on Monday were also sending “a clear message” to the Afghan people that their government can’t protect them, since it can’t even protect itself from attack.

However, what concerned Kabul’s inhabitants after the Taliban assault, according to a New York Times story yesterday, was not their future security but rather the fact that bribery may have allowed the terrorists to bypass all the security checkpoints leading to their city. Corruption, they believed, is the only explanation for how the terrorists were able to enter the city with all their military equipment. “The government has police, intelligence guards and army soldiers in all the crossroads, so how can these people get in?,” wondered one Kabul resident, quoted in the Times story.

A report released on Tuesday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), confirms that corruption is not only the main concern among Kabul’s inhabitants, but of all Afghans countrywide. More than security or unemployment, a UNODC survey showed the bribes ordinary Afghans are forced to pay government officials, teachers, doctors and judges are their chief complaint.

The average bribe, according to the report, is about $160; and Afghans on average paid a bribe two out of every five times they dealt with a government employee. In all, Afghans pay an astounding $25 billion annually in bribes, a quarter of their country’s economic output. “Bribery is a crippling tax on people who are already among the poorest the world’s poorest,” said the UNODC’s executive director.

It is here, in the area of corruption, that an analyst for the military news publication Strategy Page says the “real battle” in Afghanistan is being fought. The daily struggle against “poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and corruption” is the “real war.” But this all-important side of the conflict is not being covered by a foreign media distracted by the noise of battle.

It is this aspect of the war, however, that will probably decide the fate of Afghanistan. Such corruption left unchecked will cause Afghans to lose all confidence in their institutions to the point where the United Nations has warned it could topple the government. It is also this corruption and grinding poverty that supplies the Taliban and drug gangs with “a steady stream” of gunmen.

The Obama administration should be put almost unbearable pressure on President Karzai at the upcoming Afghanistan security conference in London next week to tackle the corruption morass. An honest, efficient government is the most important factor in Afghanistan moving forward, both militarily and economically, as well as a guarantee Afghanistan will not return to the terrorist state it once was.

  • William Smart

    Terrorism worked for the Zionists, killing 700 British soldiers (who'd only ever protected them) and in particular, targetting the administration eg King David Hotel.

    Then there were cafe and bus bombings, 1937, drive-by shootings 1937, bombing markets 1938, bombing a ship 1940, suitcase bombs 1946, mining ambulances 1946, car-bombs 1946, letter and parcel bombs 1947, reprisal murder of hostages 1947 and truck-bombs 1948.

    But perhaps terrorism in defence of your homeland is less justifiable than terrorism to rob someone else of theirs.

    • http://theglow.110mb.com Yossi Rich

      First of all, Mr. Smart does not mention the so-called Arab revolt of 1936 which consisted of a wave of Arab terrorist attacks throughout what was then Palestine. As for the British, they were not protecting the Jews, they were protecting the shores of Palestine from desperate Jewish refugees running from Hitler's Germany. Britain stopped ships full of refugees from reaching Israel. Secondly, the British attitude toward the Arabs who attacked the Jews in various riots was way too friendly. In fact a common cry by the Arabs in the riots was "The government is with us!". Finally, the Jewish "terrorists", which included the Irgun and the more radical Lehi, did not attack civilians. The exception – the King David Hotel, was a botched operation where a warning to evacuate was not heeded.
      The Taliban are not defending their homeland. They are defending the kind of regime they want to install – a radical Islamic regime.

      • Edip Yuksel

        You are right, Taliban is defending a radical and oppressive regime, similarly Israel is defending a fascist and terrorist regime.

  • Lee James

    The kettle calls the pot black, corruption is a fine science in western countries,look at the corruption that caused the financial meltdown, corruption is a worldwide problem,why pick on Afghan?

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

      Lee, are you really that dumb? Of course corruption occurs in all political systems. But it is the strength of the rule of law that is a major contributor to the US's phenomenal success. Comparing the level of corruption in US government activities with that of Karzai's government is not only intellectually lazy, it's factually wrong.

      The last time I checked, US citizens don't regularly pay bribes to teachers, judges, and bureaucrats. Hence, the focus of the article. But I guess intellectual honesty wasn't your point: you just wanted a cheap shot at the US. How lame.

  • betty boop

    "…corruption is a fine science in western countries"… and Healthcare Legislation, The Left's poisonous stew, is being "cooked" in dark and secret places, like crack. Is this not the most corrupt government since the Nazi's?
    William, Zionists did not attack and kill thousands of Americans in various places and instances within recent memory. It is typical of the Left to side with the enemy, and resort to all sorts of bizarre arguments to defend the indefensible, but that does not make it right, and you've certainly chosen an obscure reference to bolster your anti-American position. If you dig around long enough, there's some history somewhere to make yourself sound like you can see the forest, when you are obviously lost in the trees.

  • USMCSniper

    Corruption on the petty level in Afghanistan or any third world country is the norm. Now here is real corruption.

    The Federal Reserve in the United States can enter into agreements with foreign central banks and foreign governments, and the GAO is prohibited from auditing or even seeing these agreements. Why should a government-established agency, whose police force has federal law enforcement powers, and whose notes have legal tender status in this country, be allowed to enter into agreements with foreign powers and foreign banking institutions with no oversight? Particularly when hundreds of billions of dollars of currency swaps have been announced and implemented, the Fed's negotiations with the European Central Bank, the Bank of International Settlements, and other institutions should face increased scrutiny, most especially because of their significant effect on foreign policy. If the State Department were able to do this, it would be characterized as a rogue agency and brought to heel, and if a private individual did this he might face prosecution under the Logan Act, yet the Fed avoids both fates.

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

      Sniper,

      While I agree with your sentiment, I respectfully believe you've missed the point of the article. The cause of weakness in the Karzai government is the systemic corruption at all levels of government. Sure, too many elites in too many countries are corrupt. But this corruption normally doesn't drive the countries to the precipice of failure. When you have to pay bribes 40% of the time you deal with a government representative, you have a failed state. In my experience, even Mexico isn't that corrupt. But Afghanistan is, hence, the main cause of continued difficulty in stabilizing the country.

      Regardless, the health care fiasco being hoisted on us by the dhimmicrats is perhaps the most brazen and wide spread corruption ever by the US ruling class.

  • eerie Steve

    Isn't this the opportune time for the CIA to really push drugs? No. Not crack, but oxycotin. Oxies really do outshine the needle and the spoon and they last for days. Nicknamed hillbilly heroin because of the prevalence in the south where workers get doctor prescriptions, oxies and counterfeit oxycotin really could win the war on terror.

    Just think:

    CIA + China = Counterfeit supply (ie placebo effect). Sell it back to the Chinese and just call them smiley vitamins.
    CIA + Mexico= The 'hook which pushes Chinese dollars into South America
    CIA + CASH= Taxable bullets for Uncle Sam
    CIA + Bullets + McCrystal + 100,000 Defensive infantry = Osama's goons die in big numbers this time around

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

      Steve,

      Based on your writing, it seems as though you know first hand about the drugs you mention. Can you say extra-topical?

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

    Bob,

    Please quit posting the same text in the comments of virtually every article here on FPM. You've been doing this for some time now. If you haven't gotten your point over by now, you won't ever. So please, give us a break. Go try the comments section of DailyKooks or HuffandPuffPost.

  • Abdulameer

    So, the Taliban's use of suicide bombers and IEDs, instead of direct military confrontation, shows how weak they really are. And, the more people murdered by suicide bombers and IEDs, surely the weaker the Taliban are. The Taliban will kill many thousands of people, and that will prove that they are very, very weak. Eventually, they will kill massive numbers of people, but that will be good news because it just proves how weak and insignificant they are. Let's celebrate!

  • TEM

    Abdul- Are you really M.Benjamin in drag? Radiacal Islam will succeed no more than your alternative religions of facisism or Marxism. That flawed as well as sick ideology will be thrown on the ash bin of history.
    You and your kind have been defeated, repeatedly on the battlefield as well as the arena of ideas, give it up, the 7th century was long ago.