NIGHTWATCH Extracts: Afghanistan, Russians, & Time

06 Russia, 08 Wild Cards

Afghanistan: An Afghan national army soldier fired on foreign troops at a military compound in Sangin district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, after which he sought refuge with the Taliban, who took him to a safe location, a Taliban spokesman said 5 November, Afghan Islamic Press reported. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) press office said it had received information about the incident and had launched an investigation to ascertain its veracity. The ISAF will release further details once the investigation is complete.

Comment: As noted previously, defection to the Taliban is contagious. Once it takes root among the Pashtuns, it will become unstoppable.

Taliban: A Taliban leader named Mullah Aminullah – an authentic associate of Mullah Omar — gave a televised interview to a Karachi television station in which he restated the longstanding Taliban position on negotiations. He said the Taliban will not engage in any peace talks as long as the Americans are in Afghanistan. The Taliban announced jihad when the infidels came to the country from everywhere, hence the movement will not negotiate. When these foreigners leave the country, the Taliban can speak about peace then.

Comment: Many would-be leaders pretend to speak for the Taliban without the authorization of Mullah Omar. Others pretend to speak for other anti-government groups, who are misinterpreted as the Taliban. Aminullah is in neither group. Taliban are in no hurry.

Russia and six former Soviet republics in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Thursday urged NATO-led forces in Afghanistan to end their “ineffective tactics” of pushing militants from combat zones in the south to other areas, especially the once relatively peaceful north.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, speaking on behalf of the CSTO, told the UN General Assembly that four of the organization's members – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – are in the central Asian region bordering Afghanistan and are concerned about the growing instability in the north caused by ineffective NATO tactics.

Churkin said the campaign by international and Afghan forces against Taliban and al-Qaida strongholds is ineffective because it is “squeezing militants from the combat zones, which allows them to maintain their combat power and relocate to other parts of the country including northbound.”

Churkin also said Russian troops engaged in anti-drug operations will continue. One Afghan elder in Shinwar District, Nangarhar Province said after last week's NATO-Russian-Afghan drug raid, that if he had known there were Russians, he would have killed them.

Comment: The Afghan presidency has accused the NATO command of agreeing to re-introduce Russian troops without his consent, even though Afghan police participated in the raid. The press accounts indicate somebody forgot to tell the Afghan president that the Russians are back.

Obviously there is more to the story than what is in the press. Nevertheless, any serious student of Afghanistan must know that the Pashtuns hate the Russians more than the Americans. The prospect of killing Russians is a larger recruiting incentive for the Taliban than killing Americans.


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