Friday, March 19, 2010

More on the Taliban's persistence in Helmand

In the LA Times, the AP's Kathy Gannon quotes former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer on the Taliban presence in Helmand and Marja:
"As long as we have 10,000 folks on the ground and open the spigot of greenbacks the success will continue.  The U.S.-NATO-Karzai team will also get a boost from the large part of the media ... who will take a transitory local success and extrapolate it into a nationwide, permanent turning of the tide. How many times did we see that in Vietnam and in Iraq? How many times did the Soviets trumpet the same kind of victory in Afghanistan?" . . . ."Is it crippling or even hurtful (to the Taliban) over the long term? No," Scheuer said, citing multiple attacks in Kabul on Feb. 28, a day after the provincial government hoisted its flag in Marjah's town center, that underscored the Taliban's ability to strike throughout the country.
"I think the U.S. and NATO can make inroads and win tactical victories with conventional forces in Kandahar or most any other place they want to go in Afghanistan with big forces, but so what?" Scheuer said. "We do not have a tenth of the forces necessary to be everywhere at once and apply a nationwide strategy — even if we had one." [my emphasis]

And says the former governor of Helmand:
"The Taliban are not gone. They have only gone to the other districts of Grishk and Sangin," said Akhundzada, whose family has ruled the province for much of the past two decades.

"The administration of Helmand is generally corrupt and nothing is changing in Marjah, no signs of reform with the latest appointment," Akhundzada said. "It doesn't matter if you have thousands and thousands of NATO troops, you will still have Taliban in Helmand."
Highly respected journalist Ahmed Rashid, who wrote perhaps the definitive work on the Taliban, recently argued (in a WaPo op-ed) that the US need to talk with the Taliban.  Let's hope the White House is listening.  There simply is no viable military solution to Afghanistan's woes.

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