Afghanistan

Bin Laden's Revenge

The deadly consequences of confusing Al Qaeda with the Taliban.

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An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban-Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, by Alex Strick van Linschoten & Felix Kuehn, Oxford University Press, 560 pages, $35

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, George Tenet, then head of the CIA, told national security advisers in the White House bunker that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were really the same. In An Enemy We Created, Kandahar-based field researchers Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn turn that story on its head. Drawing on six years of experience living in southern Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of interviews with senior Taliban officials, field commanders, and former militants, they find good reasons to doubt that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were once fused as a single entity. They do find, however, that after years of coalition night raids, aerial bombings, and billions in American aid to a predatory regime in Kabul, Al Qaeda ideology is influencing a new generation of Taliban-affiliated insurgents.

During their jihad against the Soviets, the progenitors of the Afghan Taliban, based in the south around greater Kandahar, were religious nationals fighting to protect their communities and customs against the communist government in Kabul and the external occupiers that backed it. "Afghan Arabs," on the other hand, were based mainly in the south-east and desperate for martyrdom. Many of them, including elements of Al Qaeda's predecessor (Maktab al-Khidmaat, or "Services Office"), were emptied from prisons of U.S.-allied Arab tyrannies, as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others disposed of their jihadists by exporting them to Afghanistan. One group of Arabs marked their tents white so they would stand out. Asked why, they replied, "We want them to bomb us! We want to die!"

When the Soviets withdrew in February 1989, thousands of these stateless jihadists were left behind. Eighteen months later, they found a new rallying cry and turned against their American and Saudi sponsors. The stationing of U.S. troops on Saudi soil was like an "earthquake," as America's war against Saddam was perceived as a conspiracy to control Muslim states and the oil under their sands. The authors, corroborating much of the existing literature, brilliantly illustrate how Osama bin Laden and his coterie, who in 1992 moved from Afghanistan to Sudan, would eventually seek to draw America into a prolonged and costly war, striking the "far enemy" to weaken the "near enemy"—apostate Arab regimes.

During this period, the book reveals, the Kandahari Taliban "were not ever listening to the radio in those days, being content simply to continue their studies free from the distractions of the outside world." They were less interested in global concerns than in the looting, murder, and chaos consuming their country. War-ravaged Afghans, looking for order, turned to the Taliban, which from the south gradually spread and established a legal system, arbitrating local disputes and enforcing their harsh interpretation of Sharia law.

By September 1996, U.S. officials largely welcomed the Taliban's capture of Kabul, a feat the militants accomplished with Pakistan's generous assistance. But bin Laden's relocation to Afghanistan earlier that year would become a source of constant friction, not only between Washington and Kabul but also between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The notoriously reclusive Mullah Mohammad Omar inherited bin Laden, but he repeatedly took him to task for his international media campaign calling for jihad against America. Taliban figures such as Mullah Mutawakil, Mullah Mohammad Khaksar, and Mullah Mohammed Rabbani argued that the Al Qaeda leader was becoming an obstacle for the international legitimacy the Taliban sought. The discontent was mutual. "No one at the camp liked the Taliban," recalls one foreign jihadi. "They were vicious, completely uncivilized." The application of Sharia, including public executions and decapitations, disgusted some jihadis. The Arab guests also challenged their hosts' Islamic credentials. Among other things, they smashed graveyard shrines, a local tradition they characterized as "tomb-worship."

In the wake of Al Qaeda's August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania—and the American missile strikes on Afghanistan that followed—political Talibs once again argued that bin Laden was a strategic liability. But unlike his underlings, Omar had grown close to bin Laden, coming to view him as a bridge to millions of Muslims around the world. Omar extended his hospitality to bin Laden for another year and a half. But he added a caveat: "Make arrangements for your move." He didn't move, but the Taliban did confiscate bin Laden's communications equipment to enforce a lower profile. By October 1999, however, U.N. sanctions targeting both groups had drawn the leaders closer.

After 9/11, senior Taliban military commanders demanded bin Laden's expulsion. A council of religious scholars also ordered the withdrawal of their Afghan sanctuary. Instead, Omar believed that such a "sophisticated operation" was "the work of governments." (Al Qaeda did not claim responsibility for 9/11 until autumn 2004.) Omar also refused to extradite his guest to a non-Muslim country, fearing alienation among the Muslim umma and worrying that even if he did hand over bin Laden, the U.S. would find some other pretext, such as human rights, with which to bully his government.

The authors argue persuasively that Omar's resistance, combined with President George W. Bush's "with us or against us" formulation, fed the perception that Al Qaeda and the Taliban were one, a supposed link that became "the principal strategic blunder of the war in Afghanistan."

Before and during the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora, the majority of Taliban and Al Qaeda senior leaders fled to Pakistan. Despite little support among senior Taliban commanders for reigniting an insurgency, by late 2003 Afghans who saw themselves as marginalized by their government reached out to their former protectors. As in the 1990s, the Taliban spread gradually from the South while the world was focused on Iraq.

By 2009, the Taliban had expanded their shadow government to the north and west. Among some senior Taliban figures, the authors discover that President Barack Obama's surge, announced in December 2009, came as a disappointment. These leaders had hoped for discussions with Washington about gaining a stronger leadership role and a future in Afghan society. Here the authors could have broadened their discussion about the Haqqani network, which is associated with Al Qaeda. The network—headed by the prominent mujahedeen commande Jalaluddin Haqqani, who once played a role in the Taliban government—had hosted many foreign fighters in its stronghold of southeast Afghanistan, and it is believed to be currently based in Miram Shah, Pakistan.

The book's most indelible mark on contemporary scholarship comes when it analyzes the implications of the coalition's kill and capture campaign, in which special operators hunt down militants one by one. These targeted operations, we learn, have significantly weakened the veteran Taliban leadership's hold over the insurgency. Filling the vacuum: younger fighters who are accustomed to war, motivated by Al Qaeda's ideology, and less inclined than their elders to reach a political settlement. Policies intended to eradicate bin Laden instead created conditions that enabled his vision to thrive.

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  1. Looks like hair splitting. I don’t think anybody thought they were exactly the same thing. But if the Taliban were giving Al Qaeda a safe haven, we might as well have treated them both like one and the same even if they weren’t.

    Certainly, there must have been a tense phone call from Sheik Omar to Osama bin Laden once we invaded Afghanistan in response to 9/11. The Taliban had effective control of almost all of Afghanistan–and had just finished off their opposition’s general–when 9/11 happened. The Taliban lost that becasue of 9/11. They lost a lot. I can imagine Sheik Omar saying to bin Laden, “Got any more bright ideas, jackass?!”

    Still–at least before we invaded–they might as well have been the same from thing from the U.S.’s perspective.

    I just don’t see why we should have differentiated between the two before the war started. If the Taliban wanted to differentiate themselves, they could have given us Osama bin Laden and been done with it. They picked their side. Once ObL attacked us, we picked a side, too.

    I don’t see the problem.

    1. Well said Ken. Further, there’s no evidence to support the ludicrous notion that night raids have strengthened our enemy. Ever so much faux-sage nonsense.

      1. It may not have strengthened them, but it did bring the U.S. previously lost “respect”.

        http://www.presstv.com/detail/…..s-respect/

        Atleast that’s what we’re told by the faux sage-in-chief.

        1. You realize that PressTV is the official English-language media organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, don’t you?

    2. Have either of you EVER heard the phrase “divide and conquer”? Not to mention that we’re still in Afghanistan PRECISELY because our government thinks the Taliban is another Al-Qaeda. They are, at best, a bunch of localized jerks, and treating them as part of some international terror network doesn’t do anything to help us, while cementing in the Afghanis minds (Taliban and non-Taliban alike) that we’re a direct threat to them (because we are).

      1. “at best” should be “at worst”.

      2. If you think we are a ‘direct threat’ to Afghans then you have no grounds to criticise others.

        Not to mention that we’re still in Afghanistan PRECISELY because our government thinks the Taliban is another Al-Qaeda.

        WRONG. We are still there because there is a misconception that we have to make Afghanistan into a stable democracy/’win hearts and minds’ first and then leave or else bad things happen (which happen anyway).

        1. If you think we are a ‘direct threat’ to Afghans then you have no grounds to criticise others.

          Considering we’ve been occupying their country for years and randomly kill people there with computer-aided death robots (including any male 16 or over, plus FUNERAL MOURNERS), duh we’re a direct threat to them.

          e are still there because there is a misconception that we have to make Afghanistan into a stable democracy/’win hearts and minds’ first and then leave or else bad things happen (which happen anyway).

          Hm, and why do we think Afghanistan isn’t stable? Why does our government think bad things will happen? Because our government thinks the Taliban, in an alliance with Al-Qaeda, is a threat to the U.S. Our continuing occupation is premised on the notion that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will “radicalize” everyone there. Which is happening, precisely because of what we’re doing there.

          1. randomly kill people there with computer-aided death robots (including any male 16

            If you think this is so then you have no grounds to criticise others. You want to believe in EVIL AMERICA so you do. Eat your own shit all you want.

            Hm, and why do we think Afghanistan isn’t stable? Why does our government think bad things will happen? Because our government thinks the Taliban, in an alliance with Al-Qaeda, is a threat to the U.S.

            WHICH IT OBVIOUSLY FUCKING IS. Afghanistan is unstable because it’s Afghanistan. Soviet invasion wrecked it.

            Taliban and Al-Qaeda will “radicalize” everyone there. Which is happening, precisely because of what we’re doing there.

            I’d ask for evidence, but I know you don’t have any.

            1. If you think this is so then you have no grounds to criticise others.

              If I accept what’s happening there as true, I can’t criticize it? Moron.

              WHICH IT OBVIOUSLY FUCKING IS. Afghanistan is unstable because it’s Afghanistan. Soviet invasion wrecked it.

              Yeah, but our presence only makes it worse. Our government thinks being there will keep them from radicalizing. In reality, without us there they’d still be a mess, but they’d be their OWN mess, and not a mess that hates us more every day. Want to create more terrorists? A continuing occupation of their country is a sure way to do it. This sort of meddling is the very essence of blowback theory.

              1. Darius, the problem with people like John and Cyto (and the base of the GOP for that matter) is that they think that blowback doesnt happen and if you say it does then you just HATEZ AMURRICA!!!

                (Which is utter bullshit)

                1. is that they think that blowback doesnt happen and if you say it does then you just HATEZ AMURRICA!!!

                  That’s because blowback is an urban legend that only anti-American idiots believe.

                  1. Yep, only other countries and dirty fucking terrorist have consequences resulting from their actions either real or perceived.

                    (I, at least, don’t think that the blowback is always actually provoked by us or that it is warranted. But fuck you for thinking you get to decide what is for OR anti-Amercican.)

                    1. You sound defensive.

                      Look, blowback is just a fancy way of saying that we got what we deserved, as a consequence of our country’s (or government’s) actions.

                      But the thing is that there hasn’t been any blowback when our government has seriously fucked with people in foreign adventures. And the supposed cause of the blowback of OBL was America defending Wahabis against an Arab socialist.

                      Sorry, but that’s laughable on the face of it. OBL did what he did for his own reasons and used America’s defense of SA as an excuse. OBL hated the Saudi regime before dessert shield. In fact he had already been exhile at that time.

                    2. So yeah, saying it was blowback is just a pseudo sophisticated way of saying that America got what it deserved, which an overwhelming majority of people consider to be an anti-American sentiment.

                    3. Shorter Zaytsev: “Believing in blowback means YOU HATE AMERICA!” You’ll have to do better than fancified ad hominem attacks.

                    4. Shorter Zaytsev: “Believing in blowback means YOU HATE AMERICA!”.

                      Pretty much.

                      I’ll note that you didn’t oppose my contention that blowback is a myth. Which you really should do if you believe in it and want to decisively refute my contention.

                      Maybe, you are accepting that it is a myth but contending that the motivation to believe that myth can not be summarized by the phrase anti-American.

                      How about you give me five other examples of blowback.

                      Because I can think of hundreds of cases of the US Government fucking with foreign countries with out any.

            2. I’d ask for evidence, but I know you don’t have any.

              Oh ye of little faith. For one thing, you’ve heard of the infiltration attacks, right? Where Afghanis get recruited and trained by us, then use those skills and equipment to kill American soldiers? Well, 11 percent of those deaths are caused by the Taliban. That’s a sure sign that the general population hates us, and it’s only going to get worse. Source.

              Second, as time goes on we’re getting more casualties faster. That’s evidence of their radicalization. They’ve killed as many Americans in the last 27 months as they did in the first nine years of the occupation. Source.

              1. The “general population” of Afghanistan is only vaguely aware of our existence and purpose. Some parts of Afghanistan still think they are fighting the Soviets. The Taliban post-invasion is a constantly-changing organization which scarcely resembles its predecessor, and is bereft of experienced commanders and leaders. I agree that Afghanistan is a clusterfuck (though mostly one that we stumbled into, rather than one of our making), and we should leave. None of the random bits of data that you reference are proof for a causal relationship between specific foreign policy and attacks against the American homeland (which is what “blowback” per Ron Paul posits).

                1. VG Zaetsyv wins.

                  In reality, without us there they’d still be a mess, but they’d be their OWN mess, and not a mess that hates us more every day.

                  I remember when they were there ‘own’ mess and still got thousands of American’s killed. I don’t wanna fix Afghanistan I just want to sterilize the enemy, regardless of his irrelevant feelings.

                2. The “general population” of Afghanistan is only vaguely aware of our existence and purpose. Some parts of Afghanistan still think they are fighting the Soviets.

                  As Cytotoxic is fond of saying, “citation?”

                  None of the random bits of data that you reference are proof for a causal relationship between specific foreign policy and attacks against the American homeland (which is what “blowback” per Ron Paul posits).

                  Did I say anything about attacks against “the American homeland”? No. If you think blowback (i.e. the consequences of our international adventures) is limited to direct attacks on America, you probably need to read up on what blowback actually is.

                  The information I cite DOES support the idea that our continued presence and operations there merely exacerbate their hostility, which wouldn’t be able to touch us at all if WE WEREN’T THERE.

                  1. Which begs the question, then, how ever did they manage to execute 9/11 since American terra firma is so impenetrable to those backwards little people in faraway lands who only hate us because we invaded their country? And what time machine did they conceive of over there that allowed them the prescience to hate America for invading Afghanistan before it actually happened?

                    Nevermind. I forgot. TEH BLOWBACK! Explains everything.

                    1. Simple, they were able to attack us because we have an idiotic immigration policy that allows members of hostile 3rd world cultures to come here. Otherwise the two oceans would have protected us.

                  2. To clarify my point.

                    I think we should have left Afghanistan 9 years ago. We should have gone in, destroyed the Taliban that enabled OBL, put a price on his head and then GTFO.

                    IMO that would have been the appropriate retaliation for 911 and served as a deterrent for a future nation-state to harbor terrorists and or attack us. I think the actual deterrent value has been eroded by getting sucked into a nation building quagmire.

                    At this point, all of the options are bad and i think the least bad option is to get out as soon as possible. And I fully expect that doing so will likely require further punitive expeditions in the not too distant future.

                    I entered this discussion by ridiculing the idea of blowback, which I stand by. Including the fact that most people that hear that concept see it as blaming America for 911 or some such thing. And that common perception is more accurate than the sophisticated believers in blowback want to acknowledge.

            3. Since when is judging the harsh actions of our government in a foreign land signify a belief in “evil America?” The American Government != America.

              1. Agreed.

                But the problem is taking the next step and saying that America deserves to be attacked in response to things that the government has done.

                Most people see that as anti-American even if that is not the intent of the person saying it.

                And anyways, that is separate from the issue of whether or not blowback is a real phenomena.

          2. To be fair, even if the idea that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were similar was discarded by our government today, it would probably still want to occupy the country. Our purpose there (such as it is) has become so muddled that Obama would just repeat the same tired phrases about beating back the Taliban insurgency and “nation-building”. And everyone would buy it because hey, who cares about our original reasons, right?

            If our government had thought differently about it years ago, we might be out by now; but I doubt anything today would move the current administration (or a Romney administration) from it’s plans.

      3. See my comment below.

        The reason democracy didn’t bloom in Afghanistan has nothing to do with U.S. strategy.

        1. I never claimed Afghanistan would be some sort of democratic paradise without us there. I never said ANYTHING about the reason they don’t have a working democracy. But the reason they hate us more and more every year IS because of U.S. strategy.

          1. This is not a popularity contest. The feelings of a nation of savages should not figure into our FP.

          2. It isn’t because of the strategy we used while we occupied their country.

            It’s because we occupied their country.

            I promise you, if a foreign invader ever occupies our country, there is no strategy they could employ that would ever make me stop resenting their occupation of our country.

            1. Our occupation IS the strategy. A better strategy would be “leave”, but that’s obviously not what we’re doing. Have you read anything I’ve typed except for the word “strategy”?

      4. You seem pretty sure about what all Afghanis think. If you had used “some” or even “many” as a qualifier I might have followed you. But I think your picture is missing the views of a lot of Afghanis who suffered horribly under the Taliban – and do still reading the stories about Taliban raids.

        My own suspicion is that we’re still in Afghanistan because the government believes, with good reason, that the moment we pull out the Taliban will reestablish its foothold and probably, with Pakistani aid, take over the country sooner or later. And yes, this could mean a safe haven for, if not Al Qaeda, some other Islamic jihadi type organization which could be a threat to us and the world.

        This is in no way an edorsement of our staying in Afghanistan because I’m still not sure what our end game is . . .does anyone? And I think we could handle any threat with other, covert-type actions. You know, the kind we should have taken with Bin Laden in the 90s.

        The thing that gets under my skin about your type of argument is that it seems have a blind spot for the fact that there is another side involved in the conflict; as if the U.S. is acting in a vacuum. There really are bad guys with bad intentions, almost always worse than ours. What exactly is in it for us in staying there other than hoping for a stable, non-aggresive ally? The chant regarding why we were in Iraq was “Oil, oil, oil!” Got something equally catchy for Afghanistan?

        1. You seem pretty sure about what all Afghanis think. If you had used “some” or even “many” as a qualifier I might have followed you. But I think your picture is missing the views of a lot of Afghanis who suffered horribly under the Taliban – and do still reading the stories about Taliban raids.

          You’ve got a point there. I don’t know that “all” Afghanis think that, but I’m pretty sure a lot of them do. And I think that number will increase. That some or even many of them don’t like the Taliban doesn’t mean they like us.

          My own suspicion is that we’re still in Afghanistan because the government believes, with good reason, that the moment we pull out the Taliban will reestablish its foothold and probably, with Pakistani aid, take over the country sooner or later. And yes, this could mean a safe haven for, if not Al Qaeda, some other Islamic jihadi type organization which could be a threat to us and the world.

          The only reason most of the people there, including the Taliban, care about us at all is because we’re still in their country. As for being a “safe haven”? What matters isn’t just whether there are radical Muslims (though that DOES matter; our occupation certainly isn’t helping on that front); it’s radical Muslims that have motive, means, and opportunity. In my mind, the chance of terrorists with all three of those will be far greater if we continue to occupy their country, rather than if we just leave them alone.

        2. The thing that gets under my skin about your type of argument is that it seems have a blind spot for the fact that there is another side involved in the conflict; as if the U.S. is acting in a vacuum. There really are bad guys with bad intentions, almost always worse than ours.

          We’re not acting in a vacuum. My ideas are based on the notion that we DON’T act in a vacuum, that our actions have consequences and can influence others in ways we don’t like. As for the actual bad guys? They exist, but I don’t think they’re as influential as some people think. If you read about the documents found with bin Laden, the guy was VERY upset that Al-Qaeda affiliates were attacking Muslims and pissing them off. There’s nothing worse for a group than alienating the very people you need to convince.

          If you look at actual numbers, the amount of people who are interested in trying to hurt isn’t very large. Most people in these Muslim countries aren’t terribly interested in us, except when our interests collide. Al-Qaeda isn’t much of a threat any more, and I don’t see another group filling the terrorist power-vacuum any time soon. Are there things we could be doing? Sure, the bin Laden raid was one of them. But our current strategy, of taking a big military boot and stomping on anyone that looks at us funny, is a loosing proposition.

          1. What exactly is in it for us in staying there other than hoping for a stable, non-aggresive ally?

            I don’t think there IS anything in it for us (aside from hope for change).

            The chant regarding why we were in Iraq was “Oil, oil, oil!” Got something equally catchy for Afghanistan?

            “Blowback, blowback, blowback!” Sound good?

            1. Sounds like bullshit.

              “There are very few people who want to hurt us; only reason they care about us is because we are there”

              They ‘cared’ enough about us before in sufficient number to kill thousands of Americans. This isn’t thinking on your part, it’s dogma.

              1. Surely, you don’t think having our troops stationed in their Holy Land and supporting vicious dictators in Egypt and elsewhere–that persecuted them–didn’t have an repercussions whatsoever, do you?

                1. It made things a little worse, but that’s not the primary motivation. The primary motivation of Islamic terrorists is Islam.

                  1. It made things a little worse, but that’s not the primary motivation. The primary motivation of Islamic terrorists is Islam.

                    That’s absurd.

                    AI don’t have to speculate about them being mad about us having our troops in Saudi Arabia since 1) They said they were mad about our troops being in Saudi Arabia and 2) ever heard of the Khobar Towers bombing?

                    bin Laden wanted a legitimate theocratic state in Saudi Arabia–with himself as the political leader. He saw our troops there–not as protecting Saudi Arabia from Iraq or Iran–but as protecting the Saudi Arabian regime from the people of Saudi Arabia.

                    We were backing vicious dictators from Mubarak in Egypt to Saudi Arabia, which is still a vicious dictatorship.

                    A huge chunk of the mujaheddin, who became Al Qaeda were Islamists who had been persecuted in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia–by our allies–and all but fled to places like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, as much as they were going to fight infidels.

                    Them being angry at us for supporting the dictators that persecuted them isn’t a theory. If some other country had done to you what we did to them, wouldn’t you be mad as hell?

                    1. I don’t have to speculate about them being mad about us having our troops in Saudi Arabia since 1) They said they were mad about our troops being in Saudi Arabia and 2) ever heard of the Khobar Towers bombing?

                      bin Laden wanted a legitimate theocratic state in Saudi Arabia–

                      Why should be give a shit what OBL wanted?

                      He was not the leader of a country, nor a religious leader. He violently opposed democracy everywhere in the Arab world so you can’t even say that he was some sort of pro democracy revolutionary.

                      The idea held by a lot of people, in the US and Europe, that he was some kind of representative of the will of the Arab people, is frankly delusional.

                      He was a charismatic, well connected psychopath. Should US foreign or domestic policy be twisted to appease every violent psycho with a political grudge? Cause, I’m not seeing why we should have done so in the case of OBL but not say Charles Manson.

                      with himself as the political leader. He saw our troops there–not as protecting Saudi Arabia from Iraq or Iran–but as protecting the Saudi Arabian regime from the people of Saudi Arabia.

                      This gets closer to the truth, but again, so what.

                      The soviets saw our policy as protecting an illegitimate government in west germany. Should we have cave in the face of terrorism?

                    2. I think that OBLs real motivation was an attempt to create a new caliphate, with himself as caliph of course, by uniting all Arabs in a holy war against the west, especially America. In that paradigm America’s presence in SA was not an intolerable casus belli but instead a propaganda target of opportunity.

                  2. What we did, we mostly did within the context of the Cold War–but that’s not the way the Islamists saw it.

                    Before the U.S. became the largest foreign source of aid to Egypt, that honor was held by the U.S.S.R. Using dictators to fight communism’s allies was a standard procedure during the Cold War, not just in North Africa–but in South America and elsewhere as well. But it’s still hard to convince average Arabs today that what we did was only about the Cold War!

                    But it was.

                    Those people weren’t mad at us because they were Muslim. They were mad at us because of all the evil shit we did to them. I myself have defended what we did during the Cold War, but there’s no reason to pretend that what we didn’t wasn’t evil. It’s just that it was hard to unwind all that stuff once the wall came down.

                    Sometimes, the alliances don’t go away–even when the reason for the alliances doesn’t exist anymore…

                    Regardless, you know the Iranians in the street are still mad at us for what we did in 1953, there, right?

                    If some foreign power were imposing some vicious dictator on me–becasue I was sympathetic to that foreign power’s adversary? I’m sure somebody would try to blame my resentment on my religion, but that wouldn’t be the cause. I’d be mad at them for imposing a vicious dictator on me! Why pretend otherwise?

                    1. Those people weren’t mad at us because they were Muslim. They were mad at us because of all the evil shit we did to them.

                      That line of argumentation would have more credibility if indigenous arab states were not more vicious to their own people than our so called clients.

                      Which by the way, meant that we gave the their governments money as a bribe to prevent war. In the case of Egypt, what exactly was so horrible about Mubarak as compared to Assad, Hussein or even the Sauds?

                      The idea that Arab states are peaceful lands of liberty except for the evil influence of the US government is absurd.

                      The reality is that we supported one group of assholes over another and used the influence provided by that support to encourage more civilized behavior towards their own people, not less.

              2. They ‘cared’ enough about us before in sufficient number to kill thousands of Americans. This isn’t thinking on your part, it’s dogma.

                And what WAS this magical mass-murder event you mention? Where would Afghanis have been attacking American troops other than AFGHANISTAN?

                1. *cough* 9/11 *cough*

                  Like it or not, whether the Taliban in Afghanistan was indistinguishable from AQ and OBL or not, they were sufficiently chummy to provide support and safety to the people, including OBL, who planned the attack. It’s not like we just fucking showed up in Afghanistan one day and said “FUCK YOU SAND NIGGERS! WE’RE A-HERE AND WE’RE A-GONNA KILL EVER’ LAST ONE A YAS!” The America-as-petulent-cowboy meme plays much better in regards or Iraq than Afghanistan.

                  1. *in regards TO Iraq than Afghanistan.

                  2. *cough* 9/11 *cough*

                    You DO realize that the Taliban ISN’T Al-Qaeda, right? It was Al-Qaeda that perpetrated 9/11, not the Taliban. Your statement is pretty ironic, considering the point of the article.

                    1. You DO realize there was an entire extra paragraph right underneath the part you quoted, right? Your statement is pretty ironic, considering the content of the rest of the post.

                      Again, we didn’t just show up in Afghanistan and go “Hey, hurr durr, look a Taliban, let’s a-kill the sonofabitch”.There was sufficient cooperation between the two groups that stomping the shit out of one for the actions of the other was entirely justified.

                  3. Al Qaeda is now and always has been 100% owned by and accountable to Western (read NATO) intelligence. It has always operated to advance NATO interests. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t read the papers: to wit, the Balkans war, in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria. Many high ranking govt officials now admit this (Sec Clinton) That the events of 9/11 were an inside job, and were created to engineer a popular response to the already planned (3 mos. prior) invasion of Afg. and Iraq, just hasn’t paid attention to the absolutely ridiculous claims that are inherent in the official narrative (and noticed the obvious contradictions and resulting implications). (see youtube link below: Best 9/11 vid

                    1. youtube.com/watch? v= MmbPh3u7_q0

                    2. google new middle east map,and tell me this isn’t happening right now.

    3. What makes you think the Taliban had effective control of Afghanistan? We don’t even have effective control of it after 10 years with the best military and the best military technology.

      1. They had no competition almost everywhere in Afghanistan.

        The only part they didn’t control was controlled by a general, who was assassinated a few days before 9/11.

        (as I recall)

        It may have been a few days after.

        1. It was just before http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_Shah_Massoud

          “Analysts believe Osama bin Laden ordered the assassination to help his Taliban protectors and ensure he would have their protection and co-operation in Afghanistan. Following the assassination, Osama bin Laden had an emissary deliver a cassette of Dahmane speaking of his love for his wife and his decision to blow himself up as well as $500 in an envelope to settle a debt, to the assassin’s widow. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan Wahhabi Islamist, have also been mentioned as possible organizers or collaborators of the Massoud assassins. The assassins are said to have entered United Front (Northern Alliance) territory under the auspices of the Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and had his assistance in bypassing “normal security procedures.”

    4. “”Sheik Omar””

      He wasn’t a sheik. He’s not even arab. He was also not the ‘elder’ of the Taliban in any way. He was a political choice among them to represent the leadership, mainly because the talibs thought he was the least likely to do anything.

      When commenting on an article about conflation, one might at least attempt to keep basic terms straight.

      The Taliban had effective control of almost all of Afghanistan–and had just finished off their opposition’s general–when 9/11 happened

      Not true. The “northern alliance” wasn’t really much of an alliance, but a variety of different regional warlords maintaining a civil war against the taliban. The ‘taliban’ didn’t kill Massoud either. That was Al Q. But there were still 3 or 4 other regional fights continuing. They had only recently massacred hazaras in central afghanistan and recaptured Mazar i Sharif within 12 months. They didn’t have “control”. They were still in the midst of civil war.

      Frankly I probably agree with your sentiment, but I don’t think you necessarily have the facts straight leading to it.

      1. When commenting on an article about conflation, one might at least attempt to keep basic terms straight.

        I’ve seen him repeatedly referred to as Sheik Omar. In fact, that seems to be the standard way to refer to him…

        http://tinyurl.com/984u5mb

        He might not be a Sheik, but it looks like that’s what everybody calls him.

        They didn’t have “control”. They were still in the midst of civil war.

        Here’s a political map of Afghanistan in 2001:

        http://www.afghanchamber.com/photo/taliban map.jpg

        They had very little competition in the areas they controlled–and they controlled the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan.

        They lost a lot because of 9/11. I’d bet that Sheik Omar was mad as hell about 9/11, and if he wasn’t? He should have been. At least, if I were Sheik Omar on September 9 of 2001, I would have wanted complete control of Afghanistan’s territory…

        I wouldn’t have wanted to provoke an invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S., like ObL may have wanted to do.

        I think bin Laden thought it was good for Al Qaeda either way. If 9/11 put a wedge between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia? He probably thought that was good for him and Al Qaeda, and if, instead of cowering away, the U.S. came and fought Al Qaeda in Afghanistan? I think bin Laden thought that would be a good thing for Al Qaeda, too.

        1. Here’s the map:

          http://www.afghanchamber.com/history/taliban.htm

          Slide about half way down that page for a political map from 2001.

          It’s hard to tell if these links work beforehand without a preview button, Hit and Run! I need a working preview button, damn it.

        2. He might not be a Sheik, but it looks like that’s what everybody calls him.

          So = one’s mis-statements are justified by those of others repeating the same.

          There have been plenty of sources calling afghans “arabs” as well. Doesn’t make it so.

          re: your maps = USAID may have in 2001 decided on a positive simplification, but the truth was, they were still *actively fighting* throughout the whole of the Northeast. Given that your earlier comment about having “assassinated the leader of the northern alliance” (not exactly correct) only days before 9/11… so wait… if they were in “control” of so much at that point, why was that even necessary then? Read Ghost Wars, et al, quit with the misinformative broad-stroke non-analysis. One might wonder how there was even a “northern alliance” for the CIA/Special Operations to ‘join’ in your description of things… they weren’t reinvented wholesale when we decided to get involved – indeed, there were armies of thousands involved in decades long struggles still actively fighting when we showed up.

  2. Squirrel at me.

    Redux: The Taliban weren’t our enemy because some of them didn’t like AQ and vice versa.

    Pathetic. This ‘research’ just goes to show you can reach any conclusion you want to if you just reach hard enough.

    1. And any conclusion can be ignored if you just disbelieve hard enough.

  3. Policies intended to eradicate bin Laden instead created conditions that enabled his vision to thrive.

    TOP. MEN.

    1. So where’s his vision thriving?

      1. Uh, Afghanistan. Try to keep up.

        1. Because Afghanistan is so much more in line with Islamist values now that before America invaded /DURRR.

          1. It’s much more in line with anti-American, radical Islamic values because we’ve been occupying their country and killing people there for OVER TEN YEARS,yes.

            1. Citation? You people said this about Iraq and that was BS. The Iraqis were no more anti-American at the end of the occupation than the beginning.

              1. Citation?

                Well I can’t really measure belief, but I do have two sources above about the escalation of violence, and the degree to which deaths caused by infiltrators are caused by the general populace and not the Taliban. Not conclusive, of course, but the information supports my conclusion.

                You people said this about Iraq and that was BS. The Iraqis were no more anti-American at the end of the occupation than the beginning.

                “You people”? Tsk tsk. So racist Cyto, you must really hate white people. Personally, I’ve never said anything about Iraq, but I know their feelings toward us are mixed, and they’re allied more closely with Iran than they used to. I guess for you, that’s a plus?

                1. The idea that Iraq is an ally of Iran is iffy. The relationship is highly tenuous.

                  I asked for evidence and you have failed to provide. That speaks for itself.

                  1. I asked for evidence and you have failed to provide. That speaks for itself.

                    You cry “evidence!”, then ignore it when it’s presented. Meanwhile, you spout a bunch of shit yourself without providing any proof.

                    1. I think anger is the second stage, so that’s progress.

                      The blue-on-blue attacks are your only evidence so far and while very bad they’re hardly proof-positive that Afghanistan as a whole is radicalising. It is an indictment of the shitty ANA and our misguided efforts to build it.

                    2. I think anger is the second stage, so that’s progress.

                      So you’re progressing. Good to hear.

                      The blue-on-blue attacks

                      What? Can’t you say anything intelligently?

  4. The NYRB had an interesting piece about the disastrous British occupation of Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842.

    http://www.nybooks.com/article…..ghanistan/

    One of striking similarities between then and now is the idea that in both cases, people thought the occupations failed becasue of some mistaken strategy or becasue the leadership was incompetent. Essentially, all the criticisms you hear about why the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan failed today? are the same things people blamed for the failure of the occupation of 1839-1842, too: bad strategy, bad leadership…

    But there is another possibility.

    Maybe, regardless of what strategy we used, maybe regardless of which leaders we had, the people of Afghanistan wouldn’t have wanted to be occupied by a foreign power any more today than they did in 1842.

    Maybe differentiating between the Taliban and Al Qaeda would have made some incremental difference–but enough of a difference to make any lasting change? Lasting change in a pro-American, democratic way that would have overwhelmed the social currents that have been driving events in the region, all the way through Pakistan, for the last 65 years?

    I doubt it.

    1. Maybe differentiating between the Taliban and Al Qaeda would have made some incremental difference–

      Differentiating between them might have gotten us out of Afghanistan by now, since our occupation there is predicated on the notion that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will radicalize Afghanis.

      1. Maybe believing a delusion would’ve gotten us to do the right(ish) thing. That doesn’t mean you should believe a delusion.

        1. Maybe believing a delusion would’ve gotten us to do the right(ish) thing. That doesn’t mean you should believe a delusion.

          Just keep believing Cyto. Remember, there IS a spoon!

          1. And we can bend it.

            1. That’s it, Cyto. Reality is only what you believe hard enough.

              1. Oh the projection…

      2. Considering that our vice president is on record in a public interview saying that “The Taliban is not, per se, our enemy”, I’m not sure if the ‘confused government’ argument really holds up. You’ve got leadership in place who very clearly DO NOT believe that the Taliban is the same as Al Qaeda – and have said so. And they are still intent on prosecuting a military operation in the country indefinitely. If our invasion of Afghanistan was ever predicated upon confusion in regards to the relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, it doesn’t seem to be now, and yet our strategy and course there hasn’t changed.

  5. In the meantime, maybe we need to think about whether Afghanistan was a success or a failure in terms of why we invaded and what we achieved.

    Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda ain’t what it used to be. The Taliban and the rest of the world know that terrorism against the United States will generate a military response. Unless you buy into neocon drivel, just becasue democracy didn’t bloom in Afghanistan the way it did in Germany and Japan, that doesn’t mean it was a failure.

    The future of Afghanistan was never up to us. It was, is, and always will be up the people of Afghanistan. If there’s a failure there, it’s not ours, it’s theirs.

    1. The moment we realized bin Laden left Afghanistan, we should have too. Everything after that can DEFINITELY be called a “failure”.

      1. Um. What?

    2. Good summary Ken. We pwnd them like we pwnd this thread. Lets wrap it up.

      1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        Nothing–nothing–is funnier than chest-beating “I won” statements on the internet. And when they’re from a sociopathic Objectivist moron (but I repeat myself), it’s even better.

        Dude, tell everyone how you won! Again! Because it never gets old.

        1. Does this mean I can’t perform a victory dance?

          Though I don’t think it has anything to do with him being an Objectivist, specifically.

          1. No you may not victory dance. But you can Safety Dance.

        2. I did. I totally won. Came up with evidence and he didn’t. I even had Epitard trumpet my winning with his own unique and consistent brand of humour.

          1. Came up with evidence and he didn’t.

            “Citation?”

            1. When you make claims of rising hostility/’radicalization’, be prepared to back it up. And further, be prepared to link that to military defeat.

              1. I did. You just choose to ignore them. Meanwhile, you provide absolutely no evidence at all, merely claims.

    3. To the extent that we tie our goals to their future their failure becomes our failure.

  6. Future scholars will look back at how the U.S. government dealt with a certain homegrown terrorist organization and wonder who it could have lumped every one of them together under the “libertarian” label. One faction is for IP and the other against it. One pragmatically a proponent of same-sex marriage recognition while another adamantly against any state involvement in marriage. One group in love with the idea of a state unable to force a woman to incubate, while the other horrified by the loss of the basic liberty of life to a budding individual.

    Ultimately, of course, how government agents engaged the libertarians will matter not one iota. The group will go to its demise fighting each other rather than joining together in a unified force against statism. Also, parachute pants will make a comeback.

    1. I think this is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever read on HandR.

      1. I,too, am eager for parachute pants to make a comeback.

    2. Incidentally, that’s the kind of thinking that the people who are about to vote Republican are employing too…

      The problem with our government isn’t that it’s too big! The problem isn’t entitlements run amok, or a defense sector that’s too big. The problem isn’t that the government has managed to infiltrate and regulate almost every aspect of our lives. No!!!

      The problem is that we have the wrong leaders. The problem is the government is using the wrong strategy. Why, if only we had the right strategy and the right leadership, a huge government world work wonderfully!

      They’re makin’ the same argument, it’s just that they’re applying it to domestic policy. But foreign occupations don’t work over the long run for reasons that have nothing to do with strategy or leadership. And using the right strategy or the correct leaders won’t make government takeovers work well domestically either.

    3. FoE, if I ever see you try anything that crazy again…this crew might just have some new parachute pants!

    4. Also, parachute pants will make a comeback.

      I will have to join the splinter group that forbids them and beheads those wearing them.

  7. Afghanistan will never be stable as long as that big bucket of crazy, known as Pakistan, lies just over the border. Remember, the origins of the Taliban lie in Pakistan, as that’s where the sons of the refugees from the Soviet invasion fled to. The radicals that would provide the ideology for the Taliban were volunteers at these refugee camps. Fast forward 30 years and it’s the same Pakistan that is putting an 11-year old, mentally retarded girl on trail for blasphemy.

    Unfortunately, it is also the same Pakistan that is China’s closest military ally, so the chance of us doing something substantal about Pakistani interference on the border is zero.

    1. Pakistan needs to be terminated. I think Afghanistan could be stable with a LOT of help from India-which I’ve heard is coming. All the more reason to leave.

    2. the same Pakistan that is China’s closest military ally

      Uhm, try ‘Dangerously retarded neighbor they generally try and mollify to keep from turning their borders into a risk area’. China doesn’t give a shit about Pakistan insofar as they don’t fly off the handle and start a south asian nuclear war.

  8. Full. Retard.

    The fact that guns have caused such heartache and loss to so many this summer doesn’t cross the little pistol-toting Biebs’ mind, it seems, as he lodges the fake pistol into the belly of the smiling gentleman beside him

  9. So the Taliban were/are mostly domestic terrorists to the region and pose(d) little if any threat to the U.S. . . . GO TEAM AMERICA, world police.

  10. Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani… Screw them all.

  11. OT;

    It is saturday and we did the boob thread, the war thread etc etc and now the threads are mostly dead so I was window shopping around the internet and discovered my new love. I must acquire one !

    http://www.ruger.com/products/…..odels.html

    1. I saw one new for around $600 bucks. While laminate is much preferable to plastic I’d still rather have a quality hardwood.

      1. Might of been $700 come to think of it. The ol’ $699.99 trick.

    2. I’ve heard many mixed opinions of the Gunsite Scout concept, and particularly this iteration.

      Nutnfancy has a detailed review. I think he also comes up with a ‘meh’. My impression is that its neither fish nor foul, and fails to outperform in any particular respect either as a hunter, tactical rifle, or target shooter/accuracy thing. Reminds me of working in a bike shop where we had great road bikes, great mountain bikes, and then… hybrids! Which took the best parts of either, and threw them out, becoming kind of a gay-looking useless douche-bike suitable only for tooling around a suburb in mom-jeans.

      Although I personally think the scout rifle looks *hotness*.

      Main complaint i’ve heard is that 16” barrels are kinda dumb for a .308. It goes boom real good, but isnt much of a shooter.

  12. I dunno. To me the biggest clue that they were working together was the assassination of the leader of the Northern Alliance just a few days before 9/11.

    If he were still alive, I think things would be vastly different in Afghanistan. The timing was no coincidence, the Taliban knew 9/11 was gonna happen and there would be a reprisal.

    1. To me the biggest clue that they were working together was the assassination of the leader of the Northern Alliance just a few days before 9/11.

      Well, true… but I dont think that has anything to do with expectations about 9/11. The taliban wanted Al Q to start earning their keep, and the massoud hit was part of the deal. See: Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. Good book. Also good is The Looming Tower by I forget who… a history of the Al Q principle members.

      1. I Forget Who has written many other excellent books by the way.

    1. Wait, there’s an investigation? Last time I checked, leaving an unatended animal in a car was de-facto animal cruelty – no mens rea required, no mitigating circumstances. And since the dog is treated by law as a cop then that means its handler is guilty of murder.

  13. Colorado Cops Killed in Crash

    The marijuana cultivators will no doubt be facing a charge of felony murder.

  14. You know what else can be blamed on the patriarchy?

  15. I think this may be the most depressing thread I have ever seen at H and R. I won’t comment. Instead I will try to provide some comic relief:

    Another progressive freaks out… where else… but on MSNBC

    1. WOW. This is what happens when you challenge proglydytes and win. Liberals accuse you of racism proglodytes self-destruct.

  16. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as a “single entity”? Perhaps not, but I have never understood this to be the argument employed by those in favor of OEF. Instead, the argument was that the two were sufficiently intertwined, and the Taliban sufficiently unwilling to give up that relationship, that invasion was a pre-requisite to operating in Afghanistan for the purposes of destroying Al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan.

    Seen in that light, the first six months of OEF were unquestionably a success: more Al-Qaeda senior personnel were captured or killed in those months than in the following years combined, and the organization has, for all intents and purposes, been prevented from perpetuating more 9/11s. Added bonus: we destroyed an execrable regime.

    Everything after those six months — especially the attempts to build democracy from scratch and deal with internal ethnic rivalries? Not nearly so successful.

    1. We failed in Tora Bora. Should’ve employed a nuke.

      1. Maybe we should just nuke EVERY country, then we’d be safe. /Cytotoxic

        1. No we should just nuke where necessary, like Tora Bora circa Oct 2001. But nice peak into your mind. You actually believe people who disagree with you just want to nuke every country in the same way liberals believe people who disagree with them want to see the elderly and poor starve to death.

          1. No we should just nuke where necessary

            Which according to you is every place that looks at us funny.

            1. Oops. Second sentence shouldn’t be part of the quote.

              1. Keep projecting your bullshit. It just highlights how bankrupt you are.

    2. This, pretty much in a nutshell. Our operations in Afghanistan should have consisted of smashing a lot of shit to smithereens, rubbing the noses of the baddies in it, and then leaving with a note saying “… so please don’t try that whole 9/11 thing again” on the door on our way out.

      Unfortunately, we never really had any clear goal in Afghanistan. It’s hard to even call it mission creep, because there was never really a fully articulated mission to begin with.

  17. OT: This asshole at Forbes named Rick Ungar thinks he has the FINAL PROOF Obamacare gives consumers ultimate control over their insurance. And that proof is (drumroll) tens of millions of dollars of federal subsidies to start up what is basically a nonprofit health insurance provider. I kid you not.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ri…..-consumer/

  18. Yes, well when I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards, that’s my policy.

    1. +1

      I wanted to kill the taliban in 1998, or whenever it was they blew up the fucking Buddhas and started shooting women and cheering about it.

      But I appreciate the Julius Cesar reference. Was that a movie quote?

      1. Ahh, Naked Gun. Of course.

  19. My God, there are a lot of Wilsonian interventionist asshats in the forum tonight.

  20. “Muslim cleric arrested for framing girl in Pakistan blasphemy case

    “(Reuters) – Pakistani authorities have arrested a Muslim cleric on suspicion of framing a Christian girl who was arrested under the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy law, a police official said on Sunday….

    “Police official Munir Hussain Jafri said a cleric was arrested after witnesses from Masih’s village on the edge of the capital Islamabad complained about his alleged actions.

    “‘Witnesses complained that he had torn pages from a Koran and placed them in her bag which had burned papers,’ Jafri told Reuters.

    “The cleric, Khalid Jadoon, appeared briefly in court on Sunday before he was sent to jail for a 14-day judicial remand.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article…..1320120902

  21. Sounds like a plan to me dude.

    http://www.IP-Anon.tk

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  23. Before and during the December 2001 battle of Tora http://www.ceinturesenfr.com/c…..-c-28.html Bora, the majority of Taliban and Al Qaeda senior leaders fled to Pakistan. Despite little support among senior Taliban commanders for reigniting an insurgency, by late 2003 Afghans who saw themselves as marginalized by their government reached out to their former protectors. As in the 1990s, the Taliban spread gradually from the South while the world was focused on Iraq.

  24. This is true this enemy is creating by the CIA and American policies against the Soviet Union but finally this attack America oppositely.

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  26. Agreed Ken.
    With that said, night raids and night key leader engagements/shuras were not permitted by operating forces in many parts of AFG due to the Afghan Gov not permitting them…which leads me to my second point. Most local afghans preferred night engagements because if they had valuable information on the Taliban it was best to give it to the Americans at night where Talibs couldn’t see us going into their homes.

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  28. It is not right regarding Bin Landen’s revenge, it is only an articficial story derived by US Policy maket to occuy Afhanistan. And not more than this….

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