16 May, 2006

I remember Osama...

...and so does the US government. For an interesting review of the complications of searching the Afghan-Pakistan border, see this. It looks like there's a major push under way, without the national armies of Afganistan or Pakistan. The connections between Al-Qaeda and the ISI are well known, so much so that the Afghan foreign minister is willing to say it out loud.
"According to everything we know, he [Osama bin Laden] really is living in Pakistan, near to the Afghan border. Our neighbor [Pakistan] could certainly catch him and put him in court. But to our knowledge, their efforts to do this have always been half-hearted."
- Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, May 14
The relations between Al-Qaeda and the Afghan army aren't much different.
Two years ago, US forces received confirmed information, with photographs, of the presence of high-profile al-Qaeda and Afghan operatives in Bazgal near Nuristan. It was impossible for US troops to take the risk of going after them alone in the maze of jungle and mountains, so they asked the ANA for assistance.

After many hours, the forces reached the area, but all the suspects had fled. Ground inquiries showed that they had left immediately after the Americans shared information with the ANA.
The US has moved the FBI into the border region, and in the tradition of the region is buying an army.
To improve the situation, the US is developing a special "Peace Force" in which the benchmark for recruitment is not military aptitude but staunch anti-Taliban tendencies. Many of the news [sic] force's members are either former communists or local villains. Perhaps they are attracted by the extremely generous pay - US$500-$1,000 a month.

The situation on the east remains in this state of balance, with the Taliban and some al-Qaeda operatives well bedded with a sympathetic local population, but in essence lying low.
It looks like the US is putting the pieces in place for a major push on both sides of the border. This creates new problems.
A massive operation, such as one in search of the elusive bin Laden, could ignite the tinder, and open up another front, as in the south of the country. All the pieces are already in place.
But if it gets bin Laden, I'd say it's worth it.

No comments: