Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Gen Petraeus turns up the heat on Pakistan, Afghanistan




It’s not just Pakistan where the United States has stepped up air raids against members of  al Qaeda and the Taliban. Last month,  U.S-led NATO planes in Afghanistan conducted 700 missions, more than twice the number for the same month the previous year. It was also one of the highest single-month totals of the nine-year Afghan War, the military-focused Danger Room blog said, citing U.S. Air Force statistics.

September was also the month when missile strikes by unmanned U.S. drone planes in northwest Pakistan hit the highest level of 20 since America launched its secret war inside Pakistan, widely seen as the main battleground of the Afghan war because of the sanctuary provided to top al Qaeda and Taliban.  And as if that was not enough, NATO helicopters from Afghanistan crossed the border on at least three occasions, triggering a firestorm  of criticism in Pakistan which closed off the supply lines to the foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Is there a pattern to this ? Has America under new commander General David Petraeus turned up the heat on Pakistan and Afghanistan  ahead of  a strategy review in December and before next July’s planned beginning of a troop drawdown ?  While there have been spikes in the past, this looks like part of a creeping rise in the use of air power, which had been eschewed by former commander LieutenantGeneral Stanley McChrystal  because of the risk of  civilian casualties from the raids. NATO planes carried out 500 sorties in August, up from 405 for the same month the previous year.

Some of the rise in the use of air raids can be attributed to the surge itself – with more troops on the ground and in harm’s way, you can expect  them to call in air support more often. More troops means more hard fighting as they go out and engage the enemy where previously they didn’t. They will also go into areas they were earlier too stretched to enter.  All this means greater use of air power.

from Tales from the Trail:

Holbrooke: No “dysfunction” on U.S. Afghan Team

 Barack Obama's team running the Afghan war has its issues -- but is it dysfunctional? No, sir, according to Richard Holbrooke.

" I have worked in every Democratic administration since the Kennedy administration, and I know dysfunctionality when I see it," Holbrooke, the administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the PBS NewsHour program.

Another week, another shura for Afghanistan’s Karzai

- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with the Bosphorus bridge in the background, poses for a photo in Istanbul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with the Bosphorus bridge in the background, poses for a photo in Istanbul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to be making a habit of going to shuras, or meeting of local elders, across the country in recent weeks. After attending shuras in Marjah, Tirin Kot and Kandahar over the past month and a half, Karzai flew to Kunduz in the north this past weekend for another meeting with tribal elders.  The U.S. military took a group of journalists to the town to watch the Afghan leader in action, his presence at shuras being a part of a carefully choreographed “hearts and minds” campaign aimed at getting local support for NATO operations in the area.

That the security situation in Kunduz is of concern seemed apparent soon after we got off our military plane from Kabul.  Greeted by our German military hosts, we were bundled into heavy flak jackets for a bumpy 5 minute ride at breakneck speed from the airfield to the provincial reconstruction team base.  As we listened to the standard instructions on what to do during a rocket attack, we also learned the last time a rocket had hit the base was just the day before we arrived. Once seen as one of the safer parts of Afghanistan, Kunduz has emerged as a relatively new battlefront in the fight with the Taliban, who have made inroads into the area from their main strongholds in the south and the east. 

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama: Not worrying about perceptions on Afghanistan

OBAMA/INTERVIEWAs President Barack Obama nears a decision on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, some experts say he should consider the signal his decision will send about his broader commitment to the war, which has grown increasingly unpopular at home.

The White House has been frustrated that its internal deliberations on the Afghanistan strategy have leaked into public view, something that Obama acknowledged on Monday in an interview with Reuters.