Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Afghan insurgents learning from Iraq
The e-mail from the military's press office caught up with me in Frankfurt, Germany, halfway home between Afghanistan and Atlanta, Georgia: "Three U.S. Soldiers were injured today when a Coalition combat patrol was struck by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device just north of Salerno in the Khost Province."

We'd been with coalition soldiers at a forward operating base in Salerno, Afghanistan, 10 days earlier and spent time in Khost as well. We'd also been on a convoy with the U.S. military, though we haven't gotten word whether any of those injured were the same soldiers who were with us.

This was supposed to be the war that was over, the one that we had won, helping the Nothern Alliance kick out the Taliban after 9/11 and sending Osama bin Laden into hiding. Hamid Karzai had been elected president.

So it was surprising to me to hear the U.S. military using the i-word to describe what was going on in this country. "We're fighting an insurgency" was the message we kept hearing from the military. And they told us that parts of Afghanistan are as dangerous for the U.S. military as Iraq.

It didn't seem that way when we were in Khost. The roses were blooming, the market was busy. Flying over the valley, we could see the wheat harvest had been good this year.

It was hard to believe that just eight years ago, a few miles from here, Osama bin Laden had held a press conference to declare his holy war on America.

Just a few miles away, at a forward operating base closer to the Pakistani border, Lieutenant Billy Mariani of the 10th Mountain Division was describing a recent ambush. A rocket propelled grenade hit the hood of his car while out on patrol. His men returned fire. It was quick and intense. Before they could call in artillery, the bad guys escaped across the border into Pakistan, less than a half-mile away.

But the real danger is in southern Afghanistan, where we learned from Afghan and American officials that the Taliban is stronger this year than last and that in some places it had never left at all.

In Kandahar, newly sworn-in Afghan police officers who will be on the frontlines of the fight told us just how extensive the Taliban presence is. To underscore the point, a day after we left, there was a suicide bombing in downtown Kandahar aimed at a convoy of Canadian soldiers. Four people were killed.

Most Afghans we spoke to don't want a return to the bad old days of the Taliban. They are tired of war. They want peace and security, and they want jobs. They don't want to be scared to send their children to school. Life, they say, is already hard enough.

Afghanistan isn't Iraq. But the insurgents, be they Taliban, al Qaeda or various warlords, are learning from Iraq. That's why we're seeing more suicide bombings, more roadside bombings, more raids on villages.

One unfortunate result is that I'm expecting more e-mails like the one about Khost.
Posted By Henry Schuster, CNN Senior Producer: 1:22 PM ET
  26 Comments
There will never be peace in Iraq or Afghanistan. The United States continues to fight a conventional war against an enemy using unconventional means. While these insurgencies will never be able to annihilate the U.S. army, they will keep the U.S. army busy in Iraq an Afghanistan for years.

The U.S. should have never gone into Iraq, and it should have committed more of it's forces and other resources to bringing true peace to Afghanistan by building an economic infrastructure which would have given the people of Afghanistan an alternative to the political upheaval caused by insurgent forces.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 1:48 PM ET
How sad that insurgents are learning from Iraq when the Amercian military, under the misleadership of Rumsfeld and Bush, most certainly isn't.

I was opposed to the war in Iraq even before being opposed to it was "cool," and I hate the idea of sending even more troops into harn's way, but I question whether or not we have enough people to quell the sectarian violence. If the sectarian violence continues, it will likely further destabilize the region, including even more so in Afghanistan, as other countries in the area ally with the different sects.

We Americans must also demand that the Pentagon come up with a plan that includes specific goals-- and dates by which those goals will be met-- for training Iraqis to protect their country as well as what will be done in Afghanistan. Simply saying, "As the Iraqis will step up, we will step down," does not constitute a plan.

By the way, I thought the "Raw Data" segment you aired the other night which compared the number of deaths in Baghdad to the numbers of deaths in major US citites really helped put that mind-numbing statistic in perspective and made it seem all the more shocking.

To our troops and those of our allies; to the reporters brave enough to cover them; and to the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan: Stay Safe.
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 3:29 PM ET
Unfortunately, death is a reality many families will have to face, because this is a war that should not have happened. As far as the Taliban is concerned, it will continue to flourish as long as there are individuals in a hurry to make an entrance into the pearly gates. They have been spoon-fed this malarky for years. Many are willing to die for a so-called cause they believe is God's will. This is quite sad.
Posted By Anonymous Tina Jones Arizona : 8:41 PM ET
Thank you for continuing to cover the war in Afghanistan, the only war which was legitimate and which unfortunately has not been won. I am saddened to see the US has learned almost nothing from the mistakes made during the disastrous Russian attempt to control Afghanistan.

How is it that insurgents living in
caves can learn from their mistakes
and from those around them while a country with some of the best minds on the planet and with more money than almost any other cannot seem to do so ?

How arrogant (and ignorant) of us to start these wars without adequate planning and without an exit strategy.

Those of us (and there were many) who didn't speak up in time and let ourselves be dragged into these campaigns should try to remember this disaster the next time something similar happens. Of course, we didn't remember Vietnam, so why should we remember Iraq and Afghanistan ?
Posted By Anonymous Anna, Tacoma, Washington : 8:54 PM ET
The really sad thing is that this is that I'm sure the afghan people are really not surprised at this turn of events. Yet again we have gone back on our word when we promised that we would improve life and permanently remove the taliban.

I was so touched to see reports of rebuilding schools and women obtaining more rights, people smiling, playing music, and then we decided to forget our obligations to carry through our promise and went to war with a country that was no threat to us whatsoever, no WMD, no ties to al qaeda. We just left the afghan people to bascially fend for themselves after we completley destroyed their country.

Shame on Bush, shame on the neo cons and shame on you if you voted for them
Posted By Anonymous R. Dasani, Phoenix AZ : 8:56 PM ET
The U.S. is not the world's policeman, no matter how much they think they are. Afgahistan, Iraq, and all others they called themselves helping is just a ruse to get what they want. Why was there no help for the unfortunate of Rwanda? Brother killing brother. This is the same thing going on in Afghnistan, and Iraq. I smell oil.
Posted By Anonymous Stella Childs Louisiana : 8:56 PM ET
America should mind its own business! They are always meddling in other countries affairs. It is no wonder Americans are hated.
Posted By Anonymous Sheila Howell Brooklyn, New York : 9:01 PM ET
Some of us might be right about the fact that there will never be peace in Afghanistan.But as an Afghan I am still hopeful.Despite of a new democratic government things are not working because the same old corrupt clans have taken over the parliament who have committed mass murders, rape, and other horrible things. What can bring peace to Afghanistan is if all those clans are removed from the parliament and how is that possible noone can tell. I am sure those clans are linked with the insurgents.
Posted By Anonymous Mariam Arif, Burnaby British Columbia, Canada : 10:02 PM ET
I think if you look, you'll see the insurgents are growing throughout that region, in southern Kyrgytzstan and in Tajikistan as well. Kyrgyzstan is about to pass a law to prohibit the taliban from their country.
Posted By Anonymous Edith; Indianapolis IN : 11:00 PM ET
Mr. Bush saw murder and execution in Afghanistan and is ACTING on it. Mr. Clinton saw the same in Rwanda and did NOTHING. The young men and women are not abandoning their mission - we Americans safe at home should not abandon our support of those in defense of our country.
Posted By Anonymous Tina - Chicago IL : 11:51 PM ET
The U.S. military is made up of people who are all volunteers and they have been sent to places to fight wars for reasons that no one seems to really understand. Those volunteers joined to protect the U.S., to get a chance to obtain experience or education or both. Some just wanted to travel.

The people in the countries where the U.S. is conducting military operations only sees the forest of U.S. military and views it as an occupying force. They don't see the individuals that make up the forest and they do not want them there. The purpose that we were all told in the beginning was to help rid these countries of bad leaders and to help rebuild and stabilize a government of their choosing. Afganistan hasn't changed much and the bad leaders in control of Iraq now is the U.S.

Many have written in to show their dislike of U.S. policies or disdain for the people running our country. I hope that if those people complaining now did not vote in the last election will vote in the next election. If they voted in the last election and did not participate as a volunteer for the candidate of their choice, then they did not do enough.
Posted By Anonymous W. Thomas, Phoenix, Az. : 11:52 PM ET
It's a given that both of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will endure for years to come. My view is that the conservative media has much to answer for. From the very start, they have not only supported these wars, they have activily lobbied for its continuance. In Australia, as I'm sure in america, those opposed to the wars and the far right conservative policy's of Government are greeted with abuse and ridicule from the conservative medai. The right have little coherant facts or ideology to support their own position except that they believe it, so it must be true. Without the benefit of a decent rebuttal to those who object to the war, the resort to abuse, name calling, accusations of treason and cowardice. These far right conservative journalists, in your contry as in mine, must be brought to account for they're constant support and encouragement (from afar, mind you) of these bloody and futile conflicts wars. They were too quick to champion the reasons for the invasion of Iraq, now seen to be false in their entirity. And yet when the lies became clear, those same 'journalists' dismissed it as irrelevant, and supported Government justification of the invasion for the very reason that prior to the war they disavowed outright - regime change and the removal of Saddam Hussein. The conflict in Afghanistan has been virtually ignored by the far right's obsession with Iraq and the constant efforts to block efforts of objective reporting of the quagmire that has resulted. These people must be held accountable for their role in perpetrating these illegal, unjustifiable conflicts.
Posted By Anonymous Stuart, Canberra, Australia. : 11:54 PM ET
Oh, we're going to be in this conflict for a long long time people, and let this next thought sink in real good:

Our Sons and Daughters in Uniform over in Iraq, are not comming home, and judging by the way the GOP are holding political power in the Congress, it appears that The Global War on Terror will be further expanded throughout the Middle East and "The Universal National Service Act of 2003" (HR 163/S89), also know as "The Draft" will be ready to roll when call comes from The President.

I believe that by this time next year, our Armed Forces will be marching on Tehran and Iran's Energy Assets will become the sinews of another Operation in the Global War on Terror.

Julius Caeser didn't cross the Rhine River with a 140,000 Romans (Legio V Gallica), just to turn them all around and march them back to Rome, so that he could proove to the Roman Senate that he could.

No he steadied his course until he achieved his ultimate victory - Gaul.

The National Security Strategy of the United States under the Bush Administration outlines regime change throughout the Middle East, and "change" to the Middle East is what Nation will commit itself to achieve, and the President has said that he will settle for nothing less than ultimate victory - regime change to rogue nations that sponsor terrorism (The Middle East).



(p.s. I hope I'm wrong.)
Posted By Anonymous Chris, San Diego, CA : 1:18 AM ET
I'm glad that we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish that things had gone smoother as I'm sure most people do. It seems to me that a good portion of the American public don't believe in sacrifice. If it isn't like desert storm and things are nice and tidy, then it was a huge mistake.

The freedom and safety this country has, came from sacrifice. The revolutionary war, world war 2, etc. I'm sure it would have been easy to say that Hitler was a problem for Europe, not America, but I think the whole world is grateful that we got involved.

I find it very interesting that the postion that many people have against us being in iraq, which they feel so strongly about, is that we didn't find any WMD. The fact that Sadaam had a covert WMD program in the past and defied over a decade of UN sanctions and kicked out inspectors making it impossible to determine whether or not he had any WMD doesn't seem to matter. I wonder if we stumbled upon one piece of proof that Sadaam was trying to rebuild a WMD program, would all these people who feel so strongly change their mind? If so, do they even consider that there may be some WMD, but we just weren't able to find it? Of course, if everything went smoother, then this would be a non-issue. I think they call that "Monday morning quaterbacking".
Posted By Anonymous Jeff, Greensboro NC : 1:57 AM ET
If Bush hadn't invaded Iraq and spent more time in Afghanistan, we probably would have Bin Laden by now. What a waste! It's so like Viet Name in Iraq - a no win situation and the needless loss of American and Iraqi lives.
Posted By Anonymous Beverly A. Cortese, Town of Tonawanda, New York : 7:40 AM ET
This is another indication that the meddling of the Bush Administration in the Middle East is causing destabilization and uniting Islamic fundamentalists to jihad against the United States. We need to educate ourselves about Islamic culture and constructively engage in diplomacy to help solve the problems in this region. History teaches us that the Afghan people have always resisted outside interference in their country. The British learned this lesson, the Soviets learned this lesson and now we are being taught the same lesson. Had we limited ourselves to assisting the Afghan people in throwing off the yoke of the Taliban and concentrated on finding and bringing Osama to justice we would not be in the predicament we are in now. The Bush Administrations obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein squandered the good will of the world after 9/11 and has caused us to lose respect and credibility which will take years to rebuild.
Posted By Anonymous B.G. Finlay, Decatur, GA : 7:43 AM ET
Americans should mind their own business? If it wasn't for Americans Europe and many other countries around the world would be under different leadership right now.
Posted By Anonymous Richard, Jacksonville, Florida : 9:50 AM ET
The US as well as international community has done a lot for the Afgan people in terms of education and infrastructure. They are being under-reported. If the insurgents have become more daring does not mean that you have to critisize Bush and Rumsfeld.Rather than trying to find a military solution stop wasting time in the blame game that will have no effect on the ground.
Posted By Anonymous Ashish,Jersey City,NJ : 9:53 AM ET
A US centered perspective is counterproductive and the main reason for Bush's failure. Afghanistan was invaded by a NATO force which includes Canadian troops who are being sent home dead and injured. This is World War III but no politician has the guts to call it that, yet. US citizens have to look around and appreciate that this is not their war, and stop taking the British, Canadians, Australians and other allies for granted.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Toronto, Canada : 10:47 AM ET
I'm with Sheila. The US should have minded its business after 9-11 and left the Taliban alone. Of course, we should have bombed the heck out of Afghanistan, taking out any Al Qaida training camps or safe houses without any warning. But, after that was over, we should have let Afghanistan continue on in its path. Sure, the Taliban might not be the friendliest people, but who cares? Apparently the average Afghani would prefer to live under the Taliban than to take up arms against them. That's their business, not ours.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Vernal, UT : 11:02 AM ET
If people are going to use historical examples, they should use them accurately.

We did not begin the First World War or the Second World War. In both cases we waited until we were attacked to retaliate. We were not attacked in either case by a terrorist group, but by the militaries of the countries we later declared war on.

In WW1, Wilson did no enter the war until a German sub attacked a merchant ship 3 years after the war started.

In WW2, we did not enter the war until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, 2 years after the war started.

In both cases, I believe our retaliations were just. Germany and Japan's military actions deserved a declaration of war.

We are now no better than Germany during WW1 or Japan during WW11. We started a war in Iraq based on a complete and utter lie and thousands of innocent Iraqis and thousands of American troops are dead because of it.

I hope that history remembers Bush as it remembers Hitler, as an inept fool with an inferiority complex and a country stupid enough to elect him.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Baltimore, MD : 11:31 AM ET
Iraq did not attack us so why did we invade? Afghanistan did not attack us so why did we invade? Germany did not attack us so why did we invade?
We are witnessing the fall of the United States. Liberals have become domestic enemies of the United States and have tried to undermine the Constitution for the last 50 years. Why do you have to blame the one country that has done more good for humanity than ALL other countries combined. We could have sat back, waited for the next attack. Then we would round up a half dozen people that were responsible and throw them in jail. Meanwhile terror organizations around the world would grow stronger in the countries that are giving them a place to train and live. Or, we could do what 50% of Americans are too stupid to figure out, and that is to punish the countries aiding terrorists... like Iraq. If we are not wanted in Iraq, why have only a very small percentage of the Iraq population denounced our presence. United we stand, divided we fall. We are falling fast and I blame the ignorant Americans that have made it a habit to blame their own country for the worlds problems.
Posted By Anonymous Mike T, Dover, NH : 12:51 PM ET
When will the US leaders learn that you cannot occupy a foreign country, kill innocent people, destroy their infrastucture, and install a puppet government that is favorable to the US. Did the US leaders forget about the American Revolution, where we used the same guerilla tactics to oust the British. I know if a foreign country invaded the US, I would be killing as many of them as possible by any means.
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Boulder Colorado : 1:05 PM ET
Mike T, Dover .. is the ignorant American. Iraq had no terrorists. Iraq was a world unto its own. No terrorist could set his foot in. Saddam made sure of that. Ofcourse he was a terrorist,..but to his OWN people.Not to the rest of the world. Afghanistan breeds terrorists. Now why would the idiotic Bush and inbred Neocons diverts resources to Iraq and allow more terrorists to breed in Afghanistan? Mike T calls others ignorant...pity.
Posted By Anonymous thomas, Nashville TN : 7:29 PM ET
My son is a Staff Sgt with the 10th MOuntain Division in Afghanistan. Rightly so he can not tell me anything about what he does, but your article had my heart in my throat, as he is based at Salerno.
Posted By Anonymous Anne Conrad,Scottsville, VA. 24590 : 10:16 AM ET
I just thought today, while playing golf with my Dad, �We, as a world, would be better off with the US draft reinstated.� The draft civilizes the military. With the Vietnam generation now at the zenith of power in society, surely they would think twice about how to handle global affairs. Thinking twice is good. I don�t feel many new college graduates (me included) would feel a patriotic sensation tomorrow if he or she was told their number was called to serve their country in the war on terrorism. The native intuition deep down in the psyche of America would change� I cannot say what that is, but surely it out ranks the current sentiment.
Posted By Anonymous Jake Wagoner, St. Louis Missouri : 11:27 PM ET
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