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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Update: The Uzbeen valley ambush

Mistakes (September 8)
Graeme Smith accounts for The Globe and Mail of a classified NATO report that ended up leaked somehow. As an after-action review of the Uzbeen valley ambush of August 18, it concludes - quoting from page 2 of the G-and-M article:
" “This attack was most likely the result of two things,” the NATO report said. “Either, A) the ISAF forces picked a village that had a great deal of insurgents. The insurgents moved to defensive positions upon the ISAF approach and executed a rehearsed plan.
The report continued: “Or, B) the insurgents had intelligence indicating the route and destination.” "
Needless to say, version B is possible to an uncomfortable degree. What strikes me as amazing, though, is, if this is well-founded indeed, that the paratroopers went to the valley "in search of infiltrators from Pakistan rumoured to be lurking in the barren hills." If there were such rumours, then it's even more a case of negligence that the paras were ready to move in without aerial reconnaissance, totally unknowingly of the size and nature of the hostile force.
This here is a rather shocking photo by Véronique de Viguerie, of an insurgent posing in robbed French gear, some time, somewhere, in September, 2008.

I'd be interested to hear the story of that picture told in more detail (see what we know below, later on). Véronique de Viguerie is an experienced photographer, whose photos you may find at various sites on the net, including several galleries about Afghanistan. She has co-authored a book with another photographer about Afghanistan, titled Regards croisés.

Meanwhile, G-and-M also touches on the most likely version of who was the key coordinator behind the attack: a commander named mullah Rahmatullah. It's easy to explain how both Hizb-i-Islami and the Taliban might have ended up claiming credit for the same ambush against the French paras. It's likely that mullah Rahmatullah receives support from both and has gained quite a lot of autonomy in his area, like so many others elsewhere. News of another local commander, "Farouki," claiming credit for the ambush, may be indication of 1) possible competition with Rahmatullah in the area, or 2) that somebody has already started a successful rival insurgent enterprise, with Rahmatullah falsely claiming credit, or 3) that Farouki is simply a subordinate of Rahmatullah who was allowed to talk to a journalist on this occasion, or 4) that he leads his autonomous unit while cooperating much with others (perhaps the most likely scenario). This conforms quite well to the things Sébastien Pennes wrote in his study, which I wrote of yesterday.

Anyway, the Farouki version comes from Paris Match. Eric de Lavarène was the journalist who made the interview with Farouki. In it, the latter claimed that they are not supported by the local populace directly, but recruits do regularly join them - not very surprisingly, I would say, in an area where the local youth don't bump into alternative job announcements all the time. In case you can't read that interview in French, CNN wrote of it here, so you can learn some of what was revealed by it. There is, as an important addition to my speculation above about what may have been necessary with what was known in advance, a hint that Farouki's men made the local villagers pass on a warning to the French troops not to come to the area (which from an ISAF viewpoint may as well be equivalent to a message saying "Do come here," although it should then be interpreted as "do come here with a lot of careful preparation for it in advance").

1 comment:

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