Monday, May 22, 2006
The 'forgotten war' flares again
It is springtime, and here on the Pentagon beat we're watching with interest the so-called "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. Every spring, as the weather warms up, the Taliban come out of the hills and start mixing it up again with U.S. and Afghan forces.

I was just in Afghanistan in late February and early March. During the visit, U.S. and NATO commanders warned me it was going to be an active spring. Sure enough, their intelligence was correct. Taliban forces have moved into the south of the country flush with money and new weaponry.

The U.S. military doesn't like to get involved in body counts. You know, "We killed more of them than they killed of us, so we win." Vietnam proved that's the wrong measure of who is winning. That said, U.S. commanders do point out the Taliban has suffered "extraordinary losses" in the past three or four weeks, including some mid-level Taliban leaders who were captured or killed.

The Sunday night/Monday morning strike near Azizi in Kandahar is the latest example. It looks like up to 80 people might have been killed when U.S. Air Force A-10s strafed and bombed Taliban positions. Kandahar is one of three southern provinces where the Taliban have come back stronger than they were last year.

The locals say many of those killed were innocent civilians, including women and children.

The U.S. military says it thinks most victims were Taliban fighters or civilians with "terrorist ties." The military says it does not target civilians and insists it takes all reasonable measures to prevent unintended civilian deaths. But it's also not willing to let the Taliban have safe havens in civilian homes.

Here is a statement from the Combined Forces Command, Afghanistan: "The Coalition only targeted armed resistance, compounds and buildings known to harbor extremists. Coalition forces must retain their ability to defend against fire emanating from known enemy positions."

And here is a possible translation of that statement: "If you hang with the Taliban, you may die with the Taliban."

What do the latest skirmishes with the Taliban mean? Are the Taliban staging a comeback in Afghanistan? That is difficult to say. But one thing is clear: The war here has become a test of wills as much as a test of firepower.
Posted By Jamie McIntyre, CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent: 6:36 PM ET
  34 Comments
It may possibly mean that the American troops will not leave for a very long time if ever now that they've been sent and have become part of the Middle East mess. Even if Bin Laden is ever captured, there will always be someone who will take his place. No one wins... the violence in the Middle East has been going on for many years and I don't see an end in sight.
Posted By Anonymous M. Wong, Van Nuys, CA : 7:21 PM ET
I think what this means is that we will see the same thing every year fighting such an ambiguous concept such as the "war on terror". Each person killed becomes a martyr that inspires others to fight. What, do you think we'll convince them that their religious beliefs are inferior to ours? Turn this over to NATO so we can be prepared for real threats such as Iran and North Korea. The same goes for the debacle in Iraq that has cost thousands of lives and our world reputation and respect.
Posted By Anonymous Bob Goldie, San Francisco, CA : 7:29 PM ET
The Taliban will not be gotten rid of anytime soon, and certainly not while U.S. troups are invading the Middle East. The Islamic terrorist groups are feared and hated but people join them because they feel that there is an even worse threatening evil that needs to be dealt with first (the U.S. troups). These are people who believe that they are fighting against usurpers who will deny them their homes, their way of life, and their religion. Kind of like what our freedom fighters did back in 1775 and 1776.
Posted By Anonymous William Thomas, Tokyo : 7:29 PM ET
We've been given the "choice" of isolationism or the bully of the world. Neither choice is acceptable. It's time for the complacent in the USA stand up and take the power back.

Our leadership seems to have the misguided concept that they have the permission of God to recreate the world in their image and that the use of fear will cover the silent political and robber baron overthrow of our own government of checks and balances.

Let these people settle their own fights.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 7:34 PM ET
When will the United States learn? All of the firepower in the world is no match against a people who will give not only their lives, but the lives of their children in order to prevail.

The United States continues to wage war as if we are fighting Germany and Japan in World War II. If we continue to do so, we will be as ineffectual as the British were against the Colonies in the Revolutionary War.

When one side changes the tactics of warfare, the other side must also change their tactics or face defeat.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 7:41 PM ET
Where do these remainder Taliban get their money and re-enforcements? In order to do anything, you need funding, in order to get funding you need to get the money out - from banks - can't Karzai's government prevent that? These people live like the Flintstones in caves and still they can pose a threat to the U.S. and Nato forces? I never knew Fred and Whilma had such clout!
Posted By Anonymous Milena, Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 7:44 PM ET
"Forgotten War" what a joke, that was suppose to be the MAIN WAR. By the way where is the person who was responsible for the bombing of NYC? Taliban and its leader was responsible for the bombing of NYC. Our government just looked the other way and President Bush went after an old time foe of his father's. SAD. Although, I do believe that the Bushs' and the Bin Laden's have had occasion to meet socially. SICK! "Pentagon beat"? God help us all, especially with a war monger taking over (Hayden...ring a bell?) Afghanistan was for real, Iraq is a total disaster, never should have went in,(not to mention it was illegal to begin with, remember we found no WMD?) and I hope the American people do not forget that come election time. Yes, take down the Taliban that wronged us as Americans, leave the rest of the world alone. Iraq just elected a new democratic goverment, but mark my works (hope I end up eating them) they will never be able to rule that country. Religion plays too much of a part, sadly so! Innocent civilans killed? Think so?
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool NY : 7:46 PM ET
To be completely honest, I had forgotten about the war in Afghanistant. Bush has done a good job of making the country think we won at least one war against terror, even if the war in Iraq has grown more complicated and violent. Maybe it was the 'Mission Accomplished' banner that fooled me, but I'm glad you have decided to remind us that Iraq and immigration are not the only difficult issues facing the U.S. today.
Posted By Anonymous Emma Russell, Downingtown, PA : 7:48 PM ET
It is time that our military comes home from Afghanistan (as well as Iraq) The Afghanis need to take care of their own country. If they want to keep the Taliban out their government and daily life then they will find a way. The US has been there long enough. Bring our troops and money home.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Chattanooga, TN : 9:22 PM ET
It's a loss case.
Not only Osama is at large, there is no way to win, if at the eyes of all that people, we haven't but bring war to them.
I support our troops, but I deeply disagree with the way the brass has managed it. Its like taking an aspirin and pretend it will cure a cancer.
Posted By Anonymous Erwin Rubach, Phoenix, AZ : 10:05 PM ET
When i was a kid growing up in the 1980's on a small farm in Minnesota, we were constantly reminded of the threat posed to us by the former Soviet Union. President Reagan, the press, our teachers and parents all told us why we should detest that forgotten regime, and i clearly remember some of the key reasons given:
1. They spent huge amounts of their budget on military buildup
2. They invaded smaller, weaker countries such as Afghanistan in the name of "national security"
3. They spied on their own people, listened in on their conversations, and considered many within their own border to be "suspected enemies" of the state.
Has it really only been 20 years? And can we change our colors so dramatically and still call it red, white, and blue? If the cost of fighting the war on terror is the corruption of our system of values,then America has already lost, and no number of dead taliban can change that.
Posted By Anonymous ken sioux falls, south dakota : 10:23 PM ET
It is only a forgotten war because the media chooses not to report on it.

There is other news in the world the media doesn't report on either.

So what is going on in the Balkans? Do we still have troops there? Why? And why aren't you reporting on it?
Posted By Anonymous Jim Eiden, Bolingbrook IL : 10:57 PM ET
"Every spring, as the weather warms up, the Taliban come out of the hills and start mixing it up again with U.S. and Afghan forces."

Hmmm...so where do the Canadian soldiers. like the young woman that died last week fit in here? There ARE soldiers from other countriesin Afghanistan and, possible, some of them might be targetted as well. In fact, if I remember correctly, the Canadian military is now in command, isn't it?
Posted By Anonymous Brian, Daejeon S. Korea : 11:06 PM ET
The US should have finished this war before starting the other(Iraq). The rotation from one battlefield to the next is definitely wearing down the finest military in the world.
Posted By Anonymous Barry Honolulu, HI : 11:17 PM ET
Isn't there a saying: The invading army never wins?

Will we NEVER learn...?
Posted By Anonymous Lauren R., Wheeling, WV : 11:19 PM ET
I guess all is fair in war, but the primary flaw with the "If you hang with the Taliban, you may die with the Taliban," philosophy is that the Taliban has a way of making civilians offers they cannot refuse. They don't politely knock on the door and say, "May we have a safe haven, please?"

The Taliban forces unwilling Afghanistan people to participate in its jihad against the United States, invading their homes, killing children, raping women and coercing young men into their army at gunpoint.

If we must kill innocent civilians to get to the terrorists, then we should just admit it. You can't hide behind a "guilt by association" defense, when the association is not voluntary.
Posted By Anonymous Michele Jackson, Northridge, CA : 11:19 PM ET
I don't know what the fuss is about about our missiles killing innocent civilians, they crashed the planes into the Towers and the Pentagon and killed our innocents first. They want to hurt us, then we are going to hurt them. No let me rephrase that, we are going to disband their whole flipping network. Like Jaimew McIntyre said, "if you hang with the Taliban, you will be killed with the Taliban." And bring REAL victory for the United States of America.

I'm not talking about Iraq, we shouldn't be over there, we know where Bin Laden is, let's go get him, we are going to get him, why? Because we are America, we never let that happen. Even if it cost some American lives to get those terrorists, we are going to be victorious in this battle! I want to be a Marine and fight for those people who were killed on Sept. 11. I want to fight for America.
Posted By Anonymous Robin Guyton, Compton, CA : 11:20 PM ET
I think the Taliban are alot craftier then we give them credit. That being said they are still techologically behind. I think they are waiting it out and we have not heard the last of them. The sad fact of warfare is that some innocent people will lose their lives. It's not something we strive for, but in many cases it is unavoidable. It is especially difficult when the enemy look like the innocent. Let's just hope we don't stretch our military even thinner by going into Iran as well.
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 12:02 AM ET
Hi Jamie,
"Forgotten War?" Our troops are still there, still fighting..I'm not forgetting that Afghanistan is a country still in conflict..Please bring us more on the trouble and the progress..We have heard far too little on the news..The troops and the people of Afghanistan deserve our attention.Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 12:18 AM ET
I'm not sure of why we are in Afghanistan. It does not seem we can put in any meaningful amount of infrastructure (aside from the gas pipeline; and that's another story). Are we significantly reducing the poppy fields; I mean to levels lower than the pre-invasion levels?
Posted By Anonymous Toussaint Tyson; Gainesville, Florida : 12:34 AM ET
I have been to Afghanistan several times myself and I must say that I do not believe the Taliban are staging a comeback. It is a simple fact that most Islamic Extremists will wait and plan and seize the moment unless they are aggressed. The current military actions in Afghanistan appear to be designed to seek out those who are hiding out. Naturally they will respond. I support the current US effort as it getting into the Taliban's decision cycle and forcing the to react, come out, and be destroyed. Having personally witnessed the carnage that the Taliban have wrought, and the rebuilding efforts of the U.S. forces in concert with the Afghan National Army, I applaud our military commanders.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, Odenton MD : 8:01 AM ET
The Taliban is an extremely radical group of individuals who are not going to go away. They have similar fundamentals as the insurgents in Iraq...they care nothing of life and claim the will of a God is just cause for killing...even their own people. The latest skirmishes are there to show everyone that the Taliban is "alive and well". And you are correct when you say the war there is a test of wills but I don't think it is as much a test of firepower. Many of the members of the Taliban are radicals looking for a 'cause' and, just like the insurgency in Iraq, care nothing of any individual or nation but just want to create chaos.
Posted By Anonymous FB, Del Rio, Texas : 8:34 AM ET
The war in Afghanistan is the one thing a majority of americans can agree on. They were the only true country responsible for the Septmber 11 attacks, and going to war with them was totally within international law and accepted practice. It is a true but unfortunate fact that civilians get killed in war. This has been true ever since we developed modern warfare. The days of set piece battles between lines of archers and infantry are over. We feel sorry for those that die senseless deaths, but that does not mean we should not do battle with those who asked for battle.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Lowell, MA : 9:03 AM ET
War is not an easy thing and should never be undertaken lightly. I have served in the Army for 17 years on peace-keeping missions to combat missions from Europe to Bosnia to Turkey and Iraq. This is not a fight that will go away anytime soon. We need to understand that as a country. Having decided that this is an important fight to undertake, we need to prosecute it fully to the end. Look what happens when you cut and run as we did in Somalia. We have a country as wrecked as it was when we entered with Somalia gunmen now shooting at and taking hostages from international waters up to 200 miles of the coast of Somalia. Do not attempt to place your US liberal or conservative perspective onto the person carrying out these acts. They do not think like a pampered American. They come from a different place in thought and motivation whether in Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan. Bin Laden stated that after we pulled out of Somalia it was clear that the US was weak and likely unwilling to respond even when directly hit.

As a lifetime soldier, I loathe the thought of heading back to war yet again. But the alternative is worse. If we don't make the attempt to finish this, whether it takes 45 years as the Cold War did or not, it will not go away by itself. I would rather personally fight this out in the far off hills and deserts than have to fight this here at home.
Posted By Anonymous Bruce, Newport News, VA : 9:16 AM ET
Considering that the attacks of 9/11 occurred because Al-Qaeda had a safe haven in Taliban lead Afghanistan, one would think that it made sense to remove them from power so that we wouldn't have to worry about them again.

Here we are five years later and we are still hearing about the Taliban in Afghanistan. Does anyone seriously doubt that if we had invaded the country in 2001 with a half million troops that we would not be hearing about the Taliban now? Not to mention the fact that every government on Earth would have backed our decision to do so.

I don't understand why this administration thinks the voting public is just going to forgive mistake after mistake and keep sending our young people to die. Simply stating that this is going to be a long fight and the American people need to have a strong resolve is not a good enough excuse for their mistakes.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 10:18 AM ET
One line in your article stuck out at me, and it seemed to go by everyone else. "NATO intelligence warned that it was going to be an acitive spring." If your intelligence can see it coming, why can't you stop it?? I don't have a clue how it all works, but come on. . .
It's like being warned that there is going to be a bank robbery next week and your even given a 2 mile radius. Then, the robbery happens and we blow up 5 miles the next day. Meanwhile, the robbers are already 100 miles away.
Posted By Anonymous RLang Green Bay, WI : 10:46 AM ET
neither foray into the middle east has accomplished much but innocent bloodshed. we might have scattered the taliban briefly, but clearly they are not going to let us gain full control of their country. take a look at the last 40yrs in afghanistan...nothing but warfare. this is a permanent way of life for this region and "democracy" is not going to have much of an impact. our meddlings only seem to anger the civilians and provoke the resistance.
Posted By Anonymous Sean, New York, NY : 11:30 AM ET
This was the war that mattered in the first place and the only one that needed to be fought. This was the one the country was willing to shed blood and treasure for.

The war plan was terrible--starting with too few troops, beginning at the capital and pushing toward the borders (providing open paths for retreat), assigning the hunt for Bin Laden to local warlords (allowing them to use our supplies, air strikes, etc, to settle old scores with other warlords)...

Bin Laden got away...no surprise.

So, instead of bucking up and redoubling our efforts, our president decided to settle an old score with the guy who humiliated his daddy. And our gutless Congress gave over all their war-making powers to him to do it.

And we re-elected the fellow again. Sheesh...

We are reaping the results of our actions.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Chelmsford, MA : 11:47 AM ET
Unlike the war in Iraq, I have always supported the war in Afghanistan. Look, Bin Laden was given a safe haven and free reign in that country and he attacked us. I believe that we had every right after 9/11 and kick some Taliban tail. I also believe that if we hadn't been so gung-ho to get into a futile war in Irag and had kept the full firepower and intelligence of our armed forces in Afghanistan we would be much farther along then we are now. That war (an apparently inconsequential war in the eyes of the US dictatorship) has never had enough resources to fully defeat the Taliban and bring Bin laden to justice. Our chance to find Bin Laden and all his lackeys is probably long gone by now and we will never find him. How sad.
Posted By Anonymous Kita, Rochester, MN : 11:53 AM ET
To bad you can't dig out some of the old news footage from the Afghan-Russian War. US reporters discussing the terrain, the tenacity of the Afghan fighters and the poppy-opium connections that bought arms. We watched the Russians fail, waited a few years and in we went. Emotion trumped sanity and history repeats itself.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 12:17 PM ET
The situation in Afghanistan was a complete mess before we invaded after 9/11, largley in part due to covert CIA operationS with the mujahadin. When Russia withdrew, we left the country wide open to such extremists at the expense of the Afghan people.

Our military never seems to be able to complete the task. Instead of securing Afghanistan and making good on all the promises of recontruction, we started another war. THIS WAS DONE TO TAKE ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE FACT THAT WE HAD BIN LADEN AND LET HIM ESCAPE!

When are we going to make Bush and his administration accountable?!!!!

My heart goes out to the Afghani people, I also feel sorry for us. The greatset country in the world elected the worst man TWICE
Posted By Anonymous R. Dasani, Phoenix AZ : 12:31 PM ET
I do not understand how anyone can win a war against an enemy who so firmly believes his God and his beliefs are the only God and belief. We cannot change their religion, therefore we cannot change their way of thinking. They truly believe they are dying for their God. How can we possibly win against an enemy like that?
Posted By Anonymous Sadie, Vista, CA : 4:40 PM ET
It is truly amazing how many people think the Taliban/Afghanistan is responsible for 9/11. Hello??? Weren't the majority of the hijackers Saudi?

That said, there should not be any foreign troops over in Afghanistan anyway. Especially our Canadian troops who got hoodwinked into going over there and are now dying for no reason at all. Does anyone really believe catching Bin Laden will make even one iota of a difference?
Posted By Anonymous Ariel Cohen, Montreal, QUE : 5:50 PM ET
In response to Ariel Cohen of Montreal--You are right, the majority of the highjackers were Saudis, and the rest were Egyptian, UAE, etc--mostly the wealthy Arab countries. Why we never held any of them accountable is only explainable by close ties of our government to theirs (read, MONEY!).

Not a single Palestinian, Iraqi, Iranian, or Afghani was on any of those planes.


However, Al Queda, who was responsible for the attack, had a large number of training bases in Afghanistan. Bin Laden, their leader, was in Afghanistan. These organizations and this person were seen as the heart of the operation, and needed to be hunted down and destroyed. That was what was worth doing, and why I supported sending in a "hunting party."

However, we failed miserably for many frustrating reasons--poor planning, poor execution, having allies that were KNOWN to be untrustworthy (warlords).

Several years after the fact, perhaps you are right, that capturing or killing Bin Laden may not make any difference.

So we not only did not complete the mission, but are now stuck there, and started another war in another Muslim country.

It has turned into West against the fanatical Muslims. What a mess...
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Chelmsford, MA : 9:48 AM ET
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