What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Baghlan blues

I've now read this article from Der Spiegel, alerted about it by the Insurgency Research Group blog. For now I'm trying to put together some verbally articulated impression of it, but most likely I won't succeed before heading off to watch the Champions' League finals with friends. Good for me I can get away from this. I'm sure the German KSK special forces are not so happy, though. Through caveats restricting them, their politicians back home have once again micro-managed what they could do on the ground in an important instance.
"The wheat is lush and green in the fields of northern Afghanistan this spring. A river winding its way through the broad valley dotted with walled houses completes the picturesque scene. Behind one of these walls, not far from the town of Pol-e-Khomri, sits a man whose enemies, having named him a "target," would like to see dead. He is the Baghlan bomber.
The Taliban commander is regarded as a brutal extremist with excellent connections to terror cells across the border in Pakistan. Security officials consider him to be one of the most dangerous players in the region, which is under German command as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. The military accuses him of laying roadside bombs and of sheltering suicide attackers prior to their bloody missions.
He is also thought to be behind one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan's history, the Nov. 6, 2007 attack on a sugar factory in the northwest province of Baghlan. The attack killed 79 people, including dozens of children and many parliamentarians and other politicians, as they celebrated the factory's reopening.
Germany's KSK special forces have been charged with capturing the terrorist, in cooperation with the Afghan secret service organization NDS and the Afghan army. The German elite soldiers were able to uncover the Taliban commander's location. They spent weeks studying his behavior and habits: when he left his house and with whom, how many men he had around him and what weapons they carried, the color of his turban and what vehicles he drove.
At the end of March, they decided to act to seize the commander. Under the protection of darkness, the KSK, together with Afghan forces, advanced toward their target. Wearing black and equipped with night-vision goggles, the team came within just a few hundred meters of their target before they were discovered by Taliban forces.
The dangerous terrorist escaped. It would, however, have been possible for the Germans to kill him -- but the KSK were not authorized to do so."
Read the rest of the article as well. It gives some background on ongoing operations in Badghis province, to which the insurgency has spread in the last couple of years, with the Spiegel's article now claiming there are 150 core fighters with some 500 foot soldiers allied to them with various motivations, operations that the Spiegel says Germany is ready to take part in only with delays and reluctantly.
So how was the KSK snatch team soft-compromised in the operation near Pul-i-Khumri? And why can der Spiegel only write about this incident, effectively as a scoop, only now, in May, if this all happened following proper German rules of engagement? Do those rules of engagement seem less defensible to German politicians than they claim?
(And I don't need to add, here again it is also a question if "Taliban" is really Taliban? So really not HiG instead?)

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