The ‘War on Terror’ after Mullah Omar and Bin Laden

(Deutsche Welle) Taliban leader Mullah Omar provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Both men are now dead. But with the rise of Islamic State, there’s no end in sight to America’s 14-year-running “War on Terror.”

He had a $10 million bounty on his head for more than a decade. But the justice of the Old American West didn’t translate to South Asia. Mullah Mohammed Omar died in a Pakistani hospital more than two years ago, apparently from tuberculosis. Washington will keep its $10 million.

The US pulled no punches after 9/11. Its constitution was no obstacle. Yet through more than a decade of war, surveillance, detention and torture, the Afghan Taliban leader was ever elusive to the long and often merciless arm of American vengeance.

“Mullah Omar has protected himself not only from the public, but even from his own comrades in the Taliban,” Anand Gopal, author of “No Good Men Among the Living,” told DW. “There are very few members who’ve had access to Mullah Omar since 2001. In last four or five years, he has essentially vanished.”

Like Osama bin Laden, the Taliban leader probably crossed the porous Afghan-Pakistan border and found sanctuary on the territory of an ostensible American ally.

“Given the inadequate efforts by the Pakistani state to go after these kinds of individuals, and in the case of Mullah Omar, the enormous number of Afghan refugees made it relatively easy for him to find haven inside of Pakistan,” Daniel Markey, author of “No Exit from Pakistan,” told DW.

Continue reading

With US POW Bergdahl free, prisoner swap sparks controversy in Washington

(By Deutsche Welle) Five years ago, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl went missing from his post and fell into Taliban hands, making him the only known US prisoner of war. The prisoner swap that led to his release has sparked controversy in Washington.

US lawmakers are claiming that the White House has created a possible security risk by freeing five Taliban detainees in exchange for US army soldier Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom. They have also accused the administration of breaking the law by failing to notify Congress 30 days in advance.

Representative Buck McKeon and Senator James Inhofe, chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate Armed Service Committees respectively, celebrated Bergdahl’s release in a joint statement. But they expressed concern that the prisoner swap could provide an incentive for the Taliban to take further captives.

“America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for good reason,” the two Republicans wrote. “Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces in Afghanistan.”

But Stephen Biddle, a national security expert at The George Washington University, believes that the criticisms leveled by members of Congress against the Obama administration are weak.

“This idea that it will encourage further hostage taking – there’s no encouragement needed,” Biddle told DW. “For years before now, the limiter on how many American captives the Taliban take is how many they are able to get.”

Continue reading

Insider attacks threaten NATO mission in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle) A spike in insider attacks on NATO troops by Afghan soldiers and police has threatened to undermine trust between the comrades-in-arms. NATO has begun to resume work with Afghan units after suspending joint patrols.

After a decade of war and just two years before NATO’s 2014 withdrawal deadline, the US-led military coalition and Afghan forces are struggling to maintain confidence in each other amid a rise in insider attacks. NATO has begun to slowly lift a week-long suspension of joint patrols with Afghan security forces, which had been imposed as a consequence of the “green-on-blue” attacks.

The Long War Journal, a website devoted to tracking the so-called “global war on terrorism,” has reported that 51 coalition troops have been killed at the hands of rogue members of the Afghan military and police in 2012. That represents 15 percent of the total casualties suffered by the international coalition this year and a 35 percent increase over the number of green-on-blue attacks in 2011. Green refers to Afghan forces and blue to coalition troops.

“We’re all seized with (the) problem,” General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the American Forces Press Service. “You can’t whitewash it. We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change.”

“But we’ve got to make sure our Afghan counterparts are as seized about it as we are,” said America’s top military officer. “We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign.”

Although NATO claims that most of the attacks are the consequence of cultural differences and personal disputes, the Afghan government has said that the insider attacks are largely due to infiltration by Taliban insurgents, supported by the Iranian and Pakistani intelligence services.

“The National Security Council has enough evidence to prove that Afghans are being used and brainwashed by these foreign agencies,” Aymal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told the Washington Post. “They see this as a way of attacking the buildup of the Afghan National Security Forces…proving that they are weak and unable to protect the country.”

Continue reading