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

Monday, July 28, 2008

Disestablishment and the Jalalabad "pincer"

I come home from vacation to see that an ISAF (American and ANA) outpost has been left behind (disestablished as they say) in Wanat in Nuristan (near the border with Kunar province). This comes right after a major insurgent attack in which some 100 to 200 fighters were surged into the area for an assault on the base. It wasn't overrun, but one-fifth of the U.S. soldiers there (nine of them, out of fourty-five) have been killed in the attack. This resulted in the decision around July 16 to empty the base which was the new place for the soldiers who had earlier left behind another outpost further up in the same valley.
The BBC mentions that "The attack caused the biggest American loss of life in battle in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001." Well, my memory appears to be more nuanced: another major ambush, with six American dead and nineteen wounded, came in the same area last November.
There is much of an effort concentrated by those behind the insurgency on these areas. Ghosts of Alexander included a relevant infiltration map from Antonio Giustozzi's book a couple of days ago. Look:
The lower branch of the infiltration routes deserves attention, too, with one source, potentially gaining importance in the upcoming period, being Kurram Agency (besides Khyber's southern corners). Speaking of which, here's some more news from there (Kurram is where you find the below mentioned Parachinar), via NYT.
"The Taliban, which have solidified control across Pakistan’s tribal zone and are seeking new staging grounds to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan, have sided with fellow Sunni Muslims against an enclave of Shiites settled in Parachinar for centuries.
(...)
Thousands of displaced Shiites from Parachinar are scattered among relatives in Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province, which abuts the tribal areas, and in hotels and shelters where images of Iranian religious leaders decorate the halls.
Last month, a Pakistani government relief convoy loaded with food and medicines that had been sent to break the siege was attacked by the Taliban at the village of Pir Qayyum. Many of the 22 vehicles were burned and 12 drivers were killed by the Taliban, according to government officials here and Shiites.
(...)
... Shiites say the Taliban are doing more than just keeping the government at bay. The Shiites say that because they are stopping the militants from entering Afghanistan, the Taliban are attacking them.
(...)
In contrast to other parts of the tribal areas, the Pakistani Army has had a garrison in Parachinar for decades, but it failed to stop the violence, he said. “The government is indifferent,” Mr. Bangash said.
(...)
The driver of one of the trucks who survived (the attack on the relief convoy mentioned above - P.M.), Asif Hussain, described being captured at Pir Qayyum, taken to a Taliban training camp in the village of Shasho, interrogated and then released after convincing his captors that he was not Shiite, but Sunni.
“At the camp, the Taliban killed eight other drivers because they were Shia,” said Mr. Hussain, 33, in a telephone interview from Parachinar.
(...)
An official of the Pakistan Peoples Party from Parachinar, Mirza Jihadi, confirmed the existence of the Shasho camp, which, he said, is at a place where Afghan refugees used to live and is now controlled by loyalists of Mr. Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban."
To recap: the Pakistani army does nothing as mosque-to-mosque mortar exchanges became a regularity since last November. It is accused of locals of more than just indifference. "Haji Gulab Hussain, a retired government official who leads a Shiite tribal council" says they are deliberately aiding the insurgents this way. And the threat is that more ground could be opened up for infiltration.
This doesn't bode well for Jalalabad (more directly than for Kabul) - as much as what has recently been going on doesn't bode well for Peshawar, either. But rather than the actual taking of these towns, it's this not-boding-particularly-well feeling insurgents are looking to more firmly establish.
They have around a hundred training camps (29 in North and South Waziristan, for instance) in the borderlands in Pakistan according to the Long War Journal, usually well-provisioned with information from its generous sources, to give some measure of the problem.

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