Tuesday, December 4, 2007

With Al Qaeda Safe Havens, What Do They Expect?

"The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue."

Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) on guerrilla warfare

The following article in today’s New York Times emphasizes once again that the Al Qaeda problem will never go away as long as the terrorists have safe havens in which to recruit, train and equip new “holy warriors”.

Our troops did a magnificent job in routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, our self-imposed and “politically correct” rules of engagement have now put us on the defense, trapped within the borders of that country.

We won’t enter the tribal regions of Pakistan to squash the Al Qaeda bases, but the enemy continues to make its own rules. Their leaders are free to casually sip tea, read the Quran and plan their next terror attacks in safety.

The initiative belongs to them…

* * * *

New York Times
December 4, 2007

U.S. Senses A Rise In Activity By Al Qaeda In Afghanistan

By Thom Shanker

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 3 — American military and intelligence officials are detecting early signs that Al Qaeda may be increasing its activities in Afghanistan, perhaps even seeking to return to its former base of operations, a senior Defense Department official said Monday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Kabul late Monday for meetings with government leaders and military commanders to discuss how to speed economic and political development at a time of increasing violence.

The senior Defense Department official, aboard Mr. Gates’s plane, said, “We are seeing early indicators that there may be some stepped-up activity by Al Qaeda.” No details were offered.

The official cautioned, “It’s pretty hard to pull trends out of a few indications,” but added that even tentative evidence of increased Qaeda activity in Afghanistan “is something we are concerned with.”

The official spoke on standard rules of anonymity to discuss intelligence on Al Qaeda and Mr. Gates’s agenda before the secretary’s third trip to Afghanistan during his first year in office.

Mr. Gates, in brief comments before landing in Kabul, said he was interested in how combat operations could be better woven into a “comprehensive development strategy” to include accelerated economic and political development.

“One of the clear concerns we all have is that in the last two or three years there has been an increase in the overall level of violence,” Mr. Gates said, adding that the rise in attacks and bombings was notable in southern Afghanistan, which had served as the Taliban’s spiritual base.

“I am not worried about a backslide as much as I am about how we continue the momentum going forward,” he added.

Officials said Mr. Gates also planned to assess whether the recent political turmoil in neighboring Pakistan had given greater freedom of movement to Taliban and Qaeda forces in tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Pentagon and military officials said the higher number of attacks and roadside bombings could be attributed to increased money for the insurgency from foreign sources and profits from domestic poppy production. The officials also attribute the increase in violence to the sanctuary provided in tribal areas of Pakistan that has allowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup.

Mr. Gates spent most of Monday in Djibouti, in eastern Africa, to inspect one of the most unusual missions in the American military. The operation, called Task Force Horn of Africa, has not captured or killed a single terrorist or foreign fighter, yet it is viewed by Pentagon officials as a model military deployment.

The task force’s mission is to apply the “soft power” Mr. Gates advocated in a Nov. 26 speech at Kansas State University, when he said American counterterrorism efforts required not only combat operations, but also a broader range of economic development and diplomacy.

American combat personnel in Djibouti train regional armed forces to strengthen their own counterterrorism abilities. Combat engineers build schools and hospitals and dig wells in an effort to promote stability and prevent terrorists from taking root.

In his first trip to Djibouti, Mr. Gates visited Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign Legion compound that is home to the 2,000 troops in the task force and support missions. The operation is already shaping the way the Pentagon will organize its efforts in coming years.

The American military is organizing a new Africa Command, the first American combatant command dedicated solely to Africa. The lessons learned from the operation in Djibouti will shape the command’s emphasis on defense as well as on diplomacy and development, according to senior Pentagon officials.

The mission was first devised to trap terrorists expected to flee Afghanistan along traditional smugglers’ routes down the Persian Gulf, into the Arabian Sea and past the Horn of Africa.

But the overlapping ground, maritime and air patrols across the region appear to have deterred the use of that route.

American intelligence and military officers say Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups continue to move through the region, with small numbers believed to be operating in ungoverned parts of Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen.

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The only path to victory in war is to turn the enemy’s offense into the enemy’s defense. As long as we remain on the defense in any war, we are simply reacting to the enemy’s tactics and he is the one who chooses when and where the next battles will be fought.

Such is the nature of guerrilla war…

SFC Chuck Grist

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