Afghans push back Taliban
With backing from the world’s most powerful military force, the Afghan military was able to push back Taliban insurgents. What is wrong with this picture?
Who is backing the Taliban?
How many insurgents are there?
What size of force and political investment is needed to squash the Taliban?
Is it even possible?
“Troops retake Afghan building after deadly, hours-long raid by insurgents, officials say
By Sayed Salahuddin, Updated: Sunday, May 22, 7:08 AM
KABUL — After an hours-long gunbattle, Afghan forces, backed by foreign troops, retook a government building that Taliban insurgents stormed in a commando-style raid on Sunday in southeastern town of Khost, the provincial police chief said.
Two of the assailants managed to blow up the suicide vests they were wearing inside the main department for Khost’s traffic while the other pair were killed after several hours of fighting with Afghan and foreign forces, Mohammad Hakim Ishaqzai said by phone.
“It is over,” he said. “We have the building under our control and all four of the attackers have been killed.”
Three police officers were killed and another three wounded in the exchange of fire, he said. Footage from a private television showed smoke rising from the multi-story compound that the Taliban had occupied.
Equipped with assault rifles, the Taliban group stormed the building in a raid just after dawn first by shooting the guard of the complex, officials said.
Afghan and NATO-led troops besieged the complex while an alliance helicopter hovered above, retaking the compound, they said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, the latest in a string of attacks since militants this month announced a nationwide spring offensive against the Afghan government and foreign troops.
Having suffered heavy losses in face-to-face or conventional battles in recent years, the insurgents mostly rely on roadside bombs, suicide attacks or commando-style attacks, usually involving a group of fighters equipped with arms and suicide vests. The surge of Taliban attacks follows a long winter lull and months of operations by NATO-led forces that resulted to the arrests and deaths of thousands of suspected insurgents.
Sunday’s attack comes a day after a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of student doctors at the main military hospital in a highly secure section of the capital, killing at least six and wounding more than 30.
Many recent Taliban attacks have targeted security forces or bases and come as Afghan forces plan to gradually take over security duties from U.S. forces and Washington prepares to cut its troop levels starting in July.
Separately, two Afghan police were wounded after an explosive device attached to a motorcycle went off in an area of southern Kandahar city on Sunday, a witness from the city said.”
Oh, this makes sense?
“US Gave Silent Backing To
Taliban Rise To Power
By Phillip Knightley
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban regime, now bracing for punitive US military strikes, was brought to power with Washington's silent blessing as it dallied in an abortive new "Great Game" in central Asia.
Keen to see Afghanistan under strong central rule to allow a US-led group to build a multi-billion-dollar oil and gas pipeline, Washington urged key allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to back the militia's bid for power in 1996, analysts said.
But it was soon forced to abandon its brief and shadowy flirtation with the Islamic purists, who US officials now say are unfit to rule, as the militia began imposing its brutal version of Islamic law, sparking a violent outcry from US women's groups.
While the United States has denied supporting the Taliban's rise, experts say that at the time they seized the capital five years ago, Washington saw the militia as a strange but potentially stabilizing force.
"Now, years on, the US has to cope with the damage for which it is partially responsible starting with its role during and after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan," said Radha Kumar of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Ahmed Rashid, a leading author and expert on Afghan affairs, said it was "clear" Washington, which armed and trained the Afghan mujahedin during their battle against Soviet invaders in the 1980s, indirectly supported the Taliban.
"The United States encouraged Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to support the Taliban, certainly right up to their advance on Kabul" on September 26, 1996, he said from his base in Lahore, Pakistan. "That seems very ironic now."
One key reason for US interest in the Taliban was a 4.5-billion-dollar oil and gas pipeline that a US-led oil consortium planned to build across war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The California-based Unocal Corp. in 1996 hatched plans to stretch the pipeline from the central Asian state of Turkmenistan to Pakistan and the United States and the oil consortium wanted most of Afghanistan to be under the stable control of one government to ensure the pipeline's security, the analysts said.
In the months before the Taliban took power, former US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Robin Raphel waged an intense round of shuttle diplomacy between the powers with possible stakes in the project.
"Robin Raphel was the face of the Unocal pipeline," said an official of the former Afghan government who was present at some of the meetings with her.
The Unocal consortium also included Saudi-based Delta Oil, Pakistan's Crescent Group and Gazprom of Russia.
The project was to start with a two-billion-dollar, 890-kilometer (556-mile) gas pipeline that would channel 1.9 billion cubic feet of gas to Pakistan each day.
In addition to tapping new sources of energy, the move also suited a major US strategic aim in the region: isolating its nemesis Iran and stifling a frequently-mooted rival pipeline project backed by Tehran, experts said.
"This was part of what I call a new great game between Russia, the United States, China, Iran and European companies for control of the new oil and gas resources that have been discovered," Rashid said. A dangerous game for influence in Afghanistan was played in the 19th century by Britain and Russia, at a strategic crossroads between South Asia and Czarist Russia.
The Unocal consortium feared there could be no pipeline as long as Afghanistan, battered by war since the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, was split among rival warlords. The Taliban, whose rise to power owed much to their bid to stamp out the drugs trade and install law and order, seemed attractive to Washington.
"It thought the Taliban might be a stabilizing factor if they controlled 90 percent of the country," said the CFR's Kumar.
When the Taliban rolled into Kabul, Washington appeared initially enthusiastic amid signs it would consider recognising the new regime.
The top US diplomat in Pakistan planned a visit to Kabul just days after it was captured by the Taliban and a State Department official expressed hope that the Taliban would "move quickly to restore order and security."
But Washington cancelled the diplomat's trip as protests against the Taliban's treatment of women erupted in the United States, news reports said at the time. Unocal withdrew from the pipeline consortium two years later.”