Monday, April 25, 2011

Jailbreak in Kandahar

The Taliban show more of their resourcefulness:
After digging a 1,000-foot tunnel under Kandahar’s main prison, the Taliban on Monday morning freed more than 450 prisoners from jail, in the latest major security breach at the troubled facility, according to Afghan officials and insurgent statements.

In celebrating the escape, a Taliban spokesman said more than 100 insurgent commanders were among those who slipped out of the Sarposa prison’s political wing into the pre-dawn darkness. Zabiullah Mujahid said in a message to the media that the plan was carried out after five months of careful preparation.

“We were trying to not leave anyone behind, not even one sick or old political prisoner,” Mujahid said.

I have the impression that there are really only two effective fighting forces in the world, the Americans and the Taliban. So perhaps it is inevitable that we are fighting each other.


Anonymous said...

"I have the impression that there are really only two effective fighting forces in the world, the Americans and the Taliban. So perhaps it is inevitable that we are fighting each other."

Since this comment is utterly wrong, either as a description of the Taliban or as an account of the origins of the war, I assume you are not serious. Obviously there are at least a dozen fighting forces, starting with the Israelis, who perform consistently as well as the Americans (and who find fighting guerrilla forces just as frustrating as the Americans do).

Yes, the Taliban have shown some elan in the last five years or so. Their performance in 2001 was poor at best. Many analysts attribute their improving skills to training from Pakistani intelligence (the fact that the Pakistani Army doesn't fight as well as the Taliban is, of course, irrelevant--Pakistan's government is divided against itself, and anyway this would not be the first time a country has been better at training foreign guerrilla forces than at training its own troops).

Perhaps it's also worth pointing out that Rumsfeld urged the attack on Iraq precisely because he did not view the Taliban as worthy opponents; he wanted a foe with tanks and similar large targets to show what the US (meaning, for Rumsfeld, the US Air Force) could do. Rumsfeld is not a credible witness to the Taliban's prowess (or anybody else's) one way or the other; but his stance does show the US didn't fight the Taliban because they were the other toughest kids on the block.

John said...

Harsh, you are harsh!

True, the Taliban looked awful in 2001; defending cities was not their thing. But in their own element it seems that they cannot be beaten. And by "Taliban" I mean "Afghan resistance fighters," since how committed the Afghans fighting against America are to the Taliban is open to question.

Besides, the Israelis, I would have pointed to the British as another possibly tough fighting force. But could either of them really fight the Americans for ten years?

I never meant to imply that we attacked the Taliban because they were tough; it was a nebulous statement about Karma, perhaps connected to a notion that we might have attacked five other countries by now if we hadn't found an opponent we can't seem to beat, or on the other hand that we find Afghanistan "strategic" precisely because our enemies there are so tough.

Anonymous said...

Indeed harsh, for which I apologize. I guess I feel strongly about this stuff.

I would certainly have named the British as well; also the Australians. I don't really know the current state of the German, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or either of the Korean armies, but these should all be candidates at least.

Of course, we're talking about effectiveness here in some abstract sense. A conventional war between comparably-sized conventional armies of the US or Israeli type would probably destroy both armies fairly quickly.

As for the reason we’re there, I don’t think this is actually a mystery. We’re there because of 9/11, and we’re still there because the establishment is bitter that the Bush admin. flubbed our chance to destroy al-Qaida as it then was. Keeping the Taliban out is the nearest we can now get to the kind of victory we feel we could and should have had at that time. It’s a poor substitute, but I don’t think one needs to think more deeply about it than that to understand the US establishment’s current motives.