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Old 11-16-2008   #1
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Default How Should the U.S. Execute a Surge in Afghanistan?

How Should the U.S. Execute a Surge in Afghanistan?
by Lieutenant Colonel Robert A. Downey, Lieutenant Colonel Lee K. Grubbs, Commander Brian J. Malloy and Lieutenant Colonel Craig R. Wonson, Small Wars Journal

How Should the U.S. Execute a Surge in Afghanistan? (Full PDF Article)

Quote:
In the fall of 2006, the security situation in Iraq had deteriorated to a level worse than at any other period during the previous three years of U.S. occupation. Violence was on the rise and attacks by insurgents continued to increase even after the top Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, was killed by U.S. forces. Calls for a drawdown of U.S. troops gained considerable support in Washington as policymakers questioned whether long-term stability in Iraq was achievable or if continued U.S. presence would merely add to the growing number of casualties. Reinforcing the perception that U.S. forces were not making sufficient gains was the release of a Marine Corps intelligence report stating that the struggle against Sunni insurgents in Al Anbar Province could not be won militarily.

U.S. military commanders concluded that the best way to improve the security situation in Iraq was to adopt a more proactive “clear-hold-build” strategy supported by a significant increase in the number of ground combat units. This increase in forces, often referred to simply as “the surge”, introduced five additional combat brigades into Iraq that provided the means to wrest the initiative from the enemy. It allowed U.S. forces to simultaneously conduct large-scale operations to clear enemy safe havens, train Iraqi security forces, and disrupt insurgent lines of communication without having to leave key urban areas unprotected. In less than a year, the surge helped reduce the number of enemy attacks, increased the support of the Iraqi people, improved the security situation throughout the country, and all but defeated the insurgency.

The security situation in Afghanistan has steadily deteriorated since 2006 largely due to the lack of forces required to execute an effective counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. As the U.S. struggles to find a viable solution to this problem, calls for an Iraq-type surge of forces to help stabilize security and set conditions for political and economic improvement in Afghanistan have increased. President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have both acknowledged that additional forces are needed in Afghanistan but have not specifically outlined how many or what type. Although the goal of executing a surge in Afghanistan would be similar in nature to that of Iraq, the challenges presented by a larger, rural-based population with unique tribal dynamics, a harsher geography, and an enemy operating from bases outside the country will require a different focus and force structure...
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Old 11-16-2008   #2
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Default Wrong question. Should be: WHY should the US execute a surge in Afghanistan?

Noting that at least one of the authors has been to Afghanistan, I'm somewhat surprised he assists in this proposal.

My first hint that not all was going to be well was this:
Quote:
"...five additional combat brigades into Iraq that provided the means to wrest the initiative from the enemy. It allowed U.S. forces to simultaneously conduct large-scale operations to clear enemy safe havens, train Iraqi security forces, and disrupt insurgent lines of communication without having to leave key urban areas unprotected. In less than a year, the surge helped reduce the number of enemy attacks, increased the support of the Iraqi people, improved the security situation throughout the country, and all but defeated the insurgency."
They mention several times that Afghanistan is not iraq and then attempt to apply Iraqi lessons to the 'Stan -- not smart. Large scale operations in Afghanistan against whom? Clear safe havens? Where are they, other than those we know in Pakistan which are out of reach...

Urban areas? In Afghanistan, those are not the problem they were in Iraq. They further say:
Quote:
"the British in Malaya, or the U.S. in the Philippines, remain much the same even though the methods used to implement them often differ."
In both Malaya and the Philippines, the counterinsurgent WAS the government so those are probably bad examples; that is not true in Afghanistan and any effort to co-opt or remove that government will exchange the current Afghani tacit support of ISAF et.al. for hostility. One is also advised to note the time period involved in both of those insurgencies and ask if that amount of time is available to us in Afghanistan.
Quote:
"...be focused on accomplishing the same primary goals as the surge in Iraq. These include establishing persistent presence amongst the population, denying the enemy safe haven, and increasing the number of indigenous security forces."
Eight Brigades will not do the former -- and if it's a surge, use of that word implies its a one time shot. Then what?

You will not have enough people to establish persistent presence -- and a one year tour is far from persistent in any event; the local hoodlums will just wait it out -- they are not stupid. You cannot deny them the use of Pakistan thus only the possibility of the last item, improving indigenous capability, has any merit.
Quote:
"...To accomplish this at the district level, U.S. and NATO forces must reside in the villages and live amongst the Pashtun population."
Good luck selling that to most of NATO and even if we do it, dependent upon what is meant by 'reside,' the potential for problems is significant. We cannot 'reside' -- to do that, double your eight Brigades at a minimum would be required. We can provide presence but that will require small mobile forces and we not mobile or agile enough to do that even if all Commanders would agree to allowing Platoons to operate independently; the bad guys are simply far more agile and flexible than are we.

ADDED: They should not be and it doesn't have to be that way but today it is that way. It would take three to five years for us to improve training to the point we could compete fairly in anything other than a head to head firefight; those we'll win now.

They conclude:
Quote:
"A surge would establish and maintain a continuous presence in areas currently dominated by the Taliban, allow security forces to relentlessly pursue the enemy, and support the training of additional Afghan army and police units to augment, and eventually replace, the surge forces...
The surge will be effectively for one year. Then what? Relentless pursuit of non-armor wearing persons by armor wearing persons is unlikely to occur or be successful. One thing for sure, we will not in one year train enough ANA and Police to do much augmenting and certainly not to replace the surge force.
Quote:
"...If the U.S. does not surge these additional forces into Afghanistan, security will continue to deteriorate, the Taliban will assume control over much of the country, political instability will follow, and the U.S. will face strategic failure.
Perhaps; they may; political instability is already there; and how can we face strategic failure?

What was or is our strategic aim? Your paper didn't address that.

The answer to that question is important for both Afghanistan and the US and any future effort or proposals thereunto pertaining should be based on a realistic and achievable answer to that question..

Last edited by Ken White; 11-16-2008 at 03:07 AM. Reason: Addedndum
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Old 11-16-2008   #3
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Default "Why Should" and "What Should"

This is the third thread in a row in this forum on Astan over the last 3 days, which is not a complaint. Each thread raises slightly different issues, but all are related.

I agree with Ken that "Why Should" is a better question than "How Should". He added a more central question (actually two questions in one):

Quote:
What was or is our strategic aim?
I'll add some more (which drive the question of "What Should Be Done" in the longer term):

1. Is "Pashtunistan" a nationalistic movement (as the map suggests) ? If so, it has consequences for both Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Quote:
See, article's Map, p. 2 - roughly 100 km Pashtun "halo" (in Pakistan, adjacent to Afghanistan border), with a population of 28 million - as compared to 14 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan. Source: from article (with its sources):

(p.5)
There are approximately 42 million Pashtuns spread throughout the region with over 14 million living in Afghanistan. [9] These Afghan Pashtuns serve as the center of gravity for the Taliban, or in Maoist terms, the “sea” that supports 10,000 – 15,000 hardcore insurgents.[10] While most of the population in Iraq is concentrated in or around urban centers, 77% of the population in Afghanistan is dispersed throughout rural areas. [11] .....
.....
While Taliban activity is directed at the rural districts, their lines of communication transit across an ambiguous and unsecured border. Two-thirds of Pashtuns live in Western Pakistan along a 2,430 kilometer border with Afghanistan. The operational problem centers on the Pashtun population extending across the border which provides the Taliban protection and freedom of movement. ...

9 CIA Factbook. “Afghanistan Country Study.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat...k/geos/af.html (accessed October 5, 2008).

10 McMichael, William. 2008. Afghan Defense Minister Suggests Border Task Force. Defense News. October 6.

11 MSN Encarta Encyclopedia. “Afghanistan.” http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_...ghanistan.html (accessed October 5, 2008).
2. Have the Taliban co-opted Pashtun nationalism ? A cf. to the VietCom co-option of Vietnamese nationalism. The same thing if the Pashtuns on both sides of the border view the Taliban as their best shot for some kind of autonomy.

3. Can there be a long-term "acceptable" solution without dealing with the Pashtuns on both sides of the border (2/3 of them living in Pakistan) ?

4. Can there be a long-term "acceptable" solution without solving Pakistan's problems ? Kilcullen suggests that would be a three-decade project.

5. Can the US afford the long-term solutions needed here - or is there a better way to get at AQ and "neuter" it from launching future attacks against the US (which was the primary reason we went into Astan, as I remember back to 2001) ?
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Old 11-16-2008   #4
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Default Don't Refer to it as a Surge

Well, the first thing is to not/not refer to it as a surge. The surge is now inextricably linked to a significant increase in security in Iraq that has subsequently been maintained by generally competent security services. So, when the surge in Afghanistan takes place and the troops eventually go home, you are preparing yourself for failure by establishing expectations that were never realistic to begin with because Afghan security forces are not ready to take up the mantle of security. Additionally, we have not eliminated the safe haven of Pakistan, the Afghan state is simply not up to the task, and the tribes are no where as well organized and competent as Iraq's tribes. We have to approach Afghanistan informed by our experiences in Iraq, not dominated by them, and be careful about using terms and concepts that worked in one theater and transplanting them in another.
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Old 11-16-2008   #5
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Default I got my first hint a bit later than Ken...

...but agree with all of his concerns. For me the first and principle problem came in the third paragraph:

Quote:
The security situation in Afghanistan has steadily deteriorated since 2006 largely due to the lack of forces required to execute an effective counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy.
They have wrongly defined the problem. Defining the problem this way DOES lead one to conclude that a "surge" is needed, but I find the problem as they've stated it completely wrong.

Later in that same paragraph:

Quote:
Although the goal of executing a surge in Afghanistan would be similar in nature to that of Iraq, the challenges presented by a larger, rural-based population with unique tribal dynamics, a harsher geography, and an enemy operating from bases outside the country will require a different focus and force structure.
Count me skeptical that the differences between Iraq and Afghanistan will only change focus and force structure of a "surge" and not something more fundamental. Combined with the problem statement above, the authors are laying a sandy foundation for the rest of their arguments.
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Old 11-17-2008   #6
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Default Excellent questions jmm

I wish I had answers. All I have is the three paradoxes of Afghanistan that bedeviled me as a planner and make achievement of an 'acceptable end-state' there, well...impossible?

Paradox #1. You can't eliminate the military threat posed by the insurgents without destroying their sanctuaries in Pakistan...but you can't destroy their sanctuaries in Pakistan without creating a much larger and more dangerous situation (now with nukes!). Effective action against the sanctuaries would turn Pakistan into...well, Afghanistan.

Paradox #2. The more you build effective governance, the more opposition you generate. The majority of local and regional power brokers in Afghanistan have little stake in a strong central government. Why is the north quieter than the south? Because the Germans, Italians, and Spanish are so ineffective at interfering with their various satrapies. Want to see an increase in violence around Herat? Send in some Marines.

Paradox #3. The more achievable your strategic end-state, the less likely NATO will support it. I predict that most of our allies will have abandoned the field by 2011 in the best case. Scaling back your goals will only accelerate the process -and adding more US troops will also accelerate NATO withdrawals, as anyone who has attended a force gen conference can attest.
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Old 11-17-2008   #7
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Great points Eden, especially #1 and #2
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Old 11-17-2008   #8
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Thumbs up

What he said...
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Old 11-17-2008   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eden View Post
Paradox #1. You can't eliminate the military threat posed by the insurgents without destroying their sanctuaries in Pakistan...but you can't destroy their sanctuaries in Pakistan without creating a much larger and more dangerous situation (now with nukes!). Effective action against the sanctuaries would turn Pakistan into...well, Afghanistan.
The solution is centuries old.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Eden View Post
Paradox #2. The more you build effective governance, the more opposition you generate. The majority of local and regional power brokers in Afghanistan have little stake in a strong central government. Why is the north quieter than the south? Because the Germans, Italians, and Spanish are so ineffective at interfering with their various satrapies. Want to see an increase in violence around Herat? Send in some Marines.
Then don't build central government. Build/reinforce/co-opt/local governments/tribal leaders/warlords.


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Originally Posted by Eden View Post
Paradox #3. The more achievable your strategic end-state, the less likely NATO will support it. I predict that most of our allies will have abandoned the field by 2011 in the best case. Scaling back your goals will only accelerate the process -and adding more US troops will also accelerate NATO withdrawals, as anyone who has attended a force gen conference can attest.
Different messenger: different reaction from Europeans.

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Old 11-17-2008   #10
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Default Facile, fair graphics. C-

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Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
The solution is centuries old.
Good plan! A wall that took 20 years and the lives of a couple of million to build can be replicated today in two years with less than a 1,000 dead -- but it'll cost about $75B -- who pays?

More importantly, who provides the troops to man your wall -- then tech or high tech; it'll still have to be watched or it'll get breached. Unless they use the Manchu solution and buy someone to open a gate or two...
Quote:
Then don't build central government. Build/reinforce/co-opt/local governments/tribal leaders/warlords.
Good idea. Could you broach that at the next NATO Foreign Ministers Conference? See how it flies with them?

Better yet, try it with our moralistic new Congress and see how it flies...
Quote:
Different messenger: different reaction from Europeans.
Heh, yeah, messenger...

We'll see what happens when the message meets reality. You may nor have noticed but Europeans can be just as or more fickle than Americans. Eden said by 2011 -- it'll probably be us the Dutch, the Poles and the Romanians doing the fighting. France may stick but I wouldn't bet on it. The Canadians insist they're leaving then, the Brits are problematic at best. I suggest you not make heavy wagers on Europe following the messiah.

As for different, of course it's different. Europeans are different. So are Americans. Different from Europeans. Both are different compared to Afghans...
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Old 11-18-2008   #11
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Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
Different messenger: different reaction from Europeans.
We will believe that at our own peril. Support for Obama was the ultimate gesture of disapproval with President Bush. It was not an endorsement of anything that he will do in office. Once Obama gets sworn in, he will be - simply by virtue of being President of the US - at odds with all of those naive young unemployed college students who swooned at the rally in Germany. As for the leaders of Europe, their actions are generally more favorable to our interests than their rhetoric and than the blustering nonsense of their people.
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Old 11-18-2008   #12
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Default An Afghan news source & a map overlay

Since Astan is probably going to get much more attention, you might be interested in the Afghanistan News Service - Afghan news archives since January 1998 with more than 50,000 articles. Site is maintained by Fawad Ahmad Muslim, who worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from January 2002 to June of 2006 - recently opened his own IT company, the Jahaan Technology Corporation.

http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com...hive_2008.html

Ran into it when looking up background for "Defending Hamdan".

-------------------------------
Whether you want to build the Great Wall of Pashtunistan, or engage in PCE, TCE or a mix of both, it might help to consider the world as seen by the Pashtuns, without the artificial border. So, an overlay on the map in the article, which illustrates what Eden said.
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Old 11-19-2008   #13
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Originally Posted by DGreen View Post
So, when the surge in Afghanistan takes place and the troops eventually go home, you are preparing yourself for failure by establishing expectations that were never realistic to begin with because Afghan security forces are not ready to take up the mantle of security.
Not advocating any position discussed here, but it's worth noting that the Iraqi security forces were not ready to take up the mantle of security in Iraq in late 2006 - something we should have recognized much sooner - which is why we changed strategies. Also, there's a big difference between getting the security forces to do the "clear" part vs. the "hold" part. The Iraqi security forces now seem to be able to to hold areas already cleared by the Americans, but are they at the point where they could take on the insurgency themselves if it were to begin anew? I'm not so sure.

And if Afghan security forces are not yet ready to take up the mantle of security in Afghanistan (an argument with which I agree), the idea going around (O'Hanlon in the WSJ earlier this week) to intensify building and training the Afghan army seems a recipe for disaster. You'd think we learned from almost four years that simply training indigenous forces may be an exit strategy, but if all you're interested in is getting out, then why bother even sticking around at all? There will be mass bloodshed either way, whether you go home right away or stay around a little while longer to train an Army in order to convince yourself that that is the answer. Either way, it may be an exit strategy, but its not a strategy for "winning" (however you define winning)
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Old 11-19-2008   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
The solution is centuries old.

]

Didn't work all that well then either.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
Then don't build central government. Build/reinforce/co-opt/local governments/tribal leaders/warlords.
And create Somalia. No central government. Lots of warlords squabbling over control of resources. Complete lawlessness. Fertile ground for Islamic fundamentalists. AQ would love for the government of Afghanistan to fail.



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Different messenger: different reaction from Europeans.

Lets see how long that honeymoon lasts.

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Old 11-19-2008   #15
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Default No solutions offered, only some geography

Once "Pashtunistan" and "Baluchistan" are stripped away from Pakistan, the narrowness of Pakistan becomes apparent. So, it has been very logical for the Pakis to ally as much as possible with the Pashtuns. Another outstanding geographic feature is the nearness of Islamabad to the hot spots - sort of a forward command bunker.

Currently, the Paki focus is on military operations against its Pashtun allies - not in Pakistan's best interest from an historical standpoint.

Leaving aside Chinese and Russian interests in the region, the major player is India - which traditionally has allied with the Non-Pashtun Afghans. The animosity between India and Pakistan runs deep and has lasted throughout my lifetime.

The symbolic region where that animosity has been focused is Kashmir - which conveniently is located at the confluence of the Non-Pashtun Afghan, Pashtun, Pakistani and Indian areas. Since Kashmir is symbolic, its "solution" would require a real solution of the problems between Pakistan and India.

Based on the geography, our problem in Astan and "getting AQ" is a Pashtun problem, which will be only partially addressed by our efforts in Astan itself - no matter how well they are carried out. The largest part of "Pashtunistan" sits in Pakistan (as does the Taliban "government in exile" and AQ "HQs").

Since the present Afghan government (Karzai and some aside) is regarded as Non-Pashtun and an Indian ally, extension of its governance over Pashtun areas would be contrary to Pakistan's historical policies based on prevention of Indian influence in Astan. Which brings us back to the problems between India and Pakistan, symbolized by Kashmir.
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Old 11-19-2008   #16
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Default Pak and India

So perhaps we have a connection between the Pak and India conflict after all. Perhaps the best way to help Pakistan is to facilitate diplomacy between them and India? Wheres Bob's World? I would love to hear his thoughts on this one.
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Old 11-19-2008   #17
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Default Second that motion

Quote:
Wheres Bob's World? I would love to hear his thoughts on this one.
to the extent that he can share them with us.

Last edited by jmm99; 11-19-2008 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 11-20-2008   #18
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Default A Fledgling Transnational Movement

An interesting, in-depth article by RFE/RL on an apparent change in posture in the center of Deobandi Islam, which is in India, intended to affect and effect events in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Quote:
Taliban's Spiritual Fathers Denounce Terror. Could Taliban Be Next?
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty November 18, 2008 By Jeffrey Donovan, Abubakar Siddique

What would happen if the Taliban’s spiritual fathers denounced terrorism? That, in effect, is what has taken place in Deoband, the northern Indian hometown of the austere form of Sunni Islam followed by the Taliban.

In May, Darul Uloom Deoband Madrasah, located north of New Dehli, issued an unprecedented fatwa, or religious decree, against terrorism. Earlier this month, 4,000 senior Indian ulema and muftis -- Muslim clerics with the authority to interpret Islamic law -- backed the fatwa in a mass gathering in the city of Hyderabad.

Now, the Deobandi political leader in India has told RFE/RL that the next step is to gather Muslim leaders from across South Asia, including the Taliban, to discuss endorsing the antiterror decree.

It looks set to be a hot debate.

“The killing of innocents or atrocities against them is terrorism,” Maulana Mahmood Madani, general-secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i Hind (JUH), the conservative political party founded by Darul Uloom Deoband, told RFE/RL in explaining the May 31 fatwa. “That is how terrorism is defined.” ....
http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com...v182008.html#6

One certainly wishes them well if their movement would cause the Pashtuns and Taliban to say goodbye to AQ.

Please note well the following quote from Maulana Syedul Aarifeen, the Deobandi spokesman in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s restive Northwest Frontier Province:

Quote:
In the 1980s, Aarifeen’s late father -- Maulana Rahat Gul -- was instrumental in bringing together ulema to issue a fatwa declaring the fight against Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers as jihad. But Araifeen now wants an end to nearly three decades of war in the region. He tells RFE/RL the jirga between Pakistan and Afghanistan is the best forum to bring an end to the Taliban insurgencies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“This jirga should be held among Muslims,” Aarifeen said, “because Allah and his Prophet [Muhammad] said that when two Muslims have differences among themselves, you should seek rapprochement among them though consultation. And this process is called jirga in Pashto [language]. Now we see that there are differences among Muslims, who were united before. Now, the jirga is a good forum for us to unite again.”
In short, non-Muslims should stay out of the process - as he notes "called jirga in Pashto".

--------------------------------------------
However, before becoming too happy, the news is full of the Taliban rejection of Karzai's peace feelers. E.g., 17 & 18 Nov:

Quote:
Taliban Chief Mullah Omar Fails to Renounce Violence, U.S. Says
Bloomberg By Michael Heath Nov 18 , 2008
Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has failed to renounce violence and shown no inclination to negotiate, the Bush administration said, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai proposed peace talks with the Islamist movement. ....
http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com...v182008.html#1

Quote:
Taliban spurn Afghan president's offer for talks
By Noor Khan Associated Press November 17, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban militants rejected an offer of peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying Monday there would be no negotiations until foreign troops leave Afghanistan. ....
http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com...v172008.html#1

Zawahiri's response to the Deobandi fatwa will be that, for example, all those killed in the 9/11 attacks (except for his martyrs) were not innocents, or were religiously acceptable collateral damage - he has already written that ("Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents", issued prior to 9/11).

So, the Sharia legal argument hinges on how one parses the definition: “The killing of innocents or atrocities against them is terrorism.”

Last edited by jmm99; 11-20-2008 at 03:55 AM.
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Old 11-20-2008   #19
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I suspect that AQ and the loose conglomeration of multiple entities known as the Taliban have tipped over the edge from messengers of ideology to ongoing commercial concerns. Terrorist 'organizations' inevitably develop in one of two ways: either sustainment of the organization becomes an end in and of itself (see IRA, FARC, PLO) or they disappear from view (Red Brigades et al).

I doubt that any number of anti-terror fatwas, while welcome, will at this point have much effect on 'matured' Islamic terror groups.
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Old 11-22-2008   #20
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Default True dat

Quote:
I doubt that any number of anti-terror fatwas, while welcome, will at this point have much effect on 'matured' Islamic terror groups.
The hope (realizing that is not a strategy) is that more Muslim states and national groups will find it to be in their enlightened self-interest to take action against 'matured' Islamic terror groups. Baby step by baby step.
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