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Kandahar blog round-up

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15 July 2010 15:30

Prakash Mirchandani is the founder of Media Gurus and a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU. This is part two of a series on new media and the 'battle for Kandahar'.

Is GEN David Petraeus launching a new form of exit strategy from Kandahar and Afghanistan? Certainly the blogosphere seems to think so. In a charge led by Stars and Stripes, the view is: 'Unable so far to turn the tide against the Taliban in any decisive fashion, U.S. troops and the Afghan government are increasingly looking to local militias to provide security for their villages, especially in rural areas, to keep the insurgents from gaining more ground.'

Roland Paris suggests there is no other way out: 'One way of analyzing the Afghan mission is to see it as an interaction between two concurrent time-lines:  (1) the dwindling time that the Obama Administration and American public may be willing to maintain large numbers of forces in Afghanistan, and (2) the still-considerable time required to train and equip Afghan security forces that are capable of taking over most of the counterinsurgency effort.'

Several bloggers quote the Washington Post that President Hamid Karzai is strongly resisting the growth of such militias, which could line up against him after NATO and the Americans depart. However, rumours are growing that some form of agreement will be reached with the Afghan President.

That such a US departure is being planned, and that GEN Petraeus has to stem the perception that this is so, is reflected in Abu Muquwama's musing:

Pakistani journalists, government people, military people, well-to-do professionals, guys who sit in blankets in road side stops smoking and drinking tea...everyone thinks that the US will be getting out of Afghanistan no matter what. Even if they don't have any real solid reason for thinking so, the fact that they do creates its own dynamic.

An Afghan think tank based in the US suggests that no amount of gunfire will solve a problem which needs a purely Afghan-based tribal solution: 'In retrospect, some believe the battle for Kandahar is a matter of political negotiations rather than a decisive military campaign. In either case, our indigenous analysis suggests, both the Marjah and Kandahar scenarios to be the cause of increasing instability; and a sound and independent plan led by native Afghans should be examined for a possible win-win situation for both the Marjah/Kandahar inhabitants, and NATO forces.'

Military contractors have certainly noticed a 'surge' in hostile military activity around Kandahar as both ISAF and the Taliban continue with what is coyly called 'shaping operations' (ie. the targeted assassination of significant players). In his Kandahar Diary, one contractor writes:

There's no doubt things are hotting up. Our convoys are being hit every day by IED and ambushes – often, combined. The bad guys seem to be moving in larger groups and, to us, it seems that they are operating with virtual impunity on certain sections of Hwy 1, in particular in the vicinity of Hawz-e Madad where we can guarantee running an ambush as the convoy passes through the gardens that border the road. We’ve lost four KIA in that 10km stretch in the past week alone. I know this small section of highway is only a fly-spot on the map of Afghanistan, but I do wonder just what the hell ISAF is doing about it.

And in a very curious footnote, there are persistent stories in the blogosphere and recently on Afghan Tolo Television that Pakistani media is reporting the arrest of Mullah Omar, who is said to be in the custody of the intelligence department.

Photo by Flickr user isafmedia, used under a Creative Commons license.

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