Springtime in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s Spring Offensive has been sprung; in Pakistan, the Taliban squashes a local festival, “miscreants” abound and an ally of Osama is kidnapped and beaten

A machinegunner with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, scours the outlying area for insurgents after firing his weapon on the enemy during a firefight near the remote mountain village of Salar Ban in the Shuryak Valley of Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. Photo by: Sgt. Joe Lindsay. Click to enlarge.

As the Coalition enters its sixth year in Afghanistan, the Taliban has threatened to unleash another of its spring offensive. “With the arrival of the warm weather, we will make the ground so hot for the invaders it will be unimaginable for them,” Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban threatened two weeks ago through his spokesman. While the past spring offensives have been crushed after Coalition forces destroyed Taliban formations unwise enough to mass in large numbers, this year’s offensive will include suicide bombers, roadside bombs and other techniques used in Salafist insurgencies in Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq, the Philippines, Thailand and elsewhere.

Coalition forces smashed a Taliban assault in Helmand province, killing thirty-two Taliban. Twelve were killed in the initial engagement, and twenty more were killed while “attempting to retreat into sanctuaries.” Two Taliban headquarters were destroyed and several weapons caches were unearthed. An American and Canadian soldier was killed in the fighting.

Last week, Marines from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fought a pitched battle with Taliban fighters while patroling in the Shuryak Valley of Kunar Province. After finding a ton of explosives and bomb-making material, the Marines took fire and killed upwards to twenty Taliban in what they called ‘The Battle of Salar Ban’. The Marines suffered no casualties. The Taliban has been roundly defeated every time it engaged the Coalition and Afghan National Army in open combat, and the recent engagements are no different.

A suicide car bomber prematurely detonated his explosives while attempting to attack a Canadian convoy in Kandahar. No Canadians were injured, but seven Afghan civilians were wounded in the explosion. Reuters reports “Security forces in Kandahar arrested nine suspected Taliban suicide bombers, two of them Pakistanis.” Six Afghan police were killed in two separate attacks in Kandahar & Khost.

While the Coalition and Afghan Army and police fight the Taliban insurgency, the Afghan Army continues to develop its organic logistical capabilities. The Afghan National Army’s “Movement Agency” has recently conducted its first independent resupply mission. CENTCOM provides the details on the current status and future makeup of the unit; “The CMA currently consists of 90 ANA troops and 33 new vehicles, and will mature to 890 people and 627 vehicles organized into four transportation companies. It will serve as the ANA’s national transportation system and stand ready to provide vital military transportation services for the ANA across Afghanistan.”

Across the border in Pakistan, the Taliban and the Pakistani government continue their strange dance. The Taliban “have threatened residents of a Dera Ismail Khan village to give up their annual spring fair with a religious group saying it will hold a conference to eulogise Mujahideen in its place.” “Miscreants” wounded six schoolchildren in a land-mine attack on a school bus. Sixty-nine Afghans were deported from Waziristan, as the Pakistanis believe their problem is driven by “foreigners” and not their own Pashtun tribesmen. Three Kashmiri “militants” were arrested “carrying explosives and ammunition” in the NWFP town of Tank while en route to South Waziristan. The Kashmiris belong to the terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen.

Twenty-four Islamist “militants” were killed battling over control of a local radio station in the Khyber Agency of the North West Frontier Province. According to the Daily Times, the local government ended the fighting by ordering “security personnel to open artillery fire to bring the situation under control.” The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was shut down after intelligence indicated it would be attacked. Later that day, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosives and wounded fifteen in a Peshawar market.

And in perhaps the oddest news story from Pakistan, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a known associate of Osama bin Laden and original signatory to the 1998 fatwa declaring war on the West and the establishment of al Qaeda’s International Islamic Front against the Jews and Crusaders was kidnapped, beaten and dumped in front of a mosque. The Los Angeles Times provides an excellent account of Khalil’s involvement with al Qaeda and bin Laden.

Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a signatory to Bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war on the United States and its allies, was severely beaten by eight armed men, supporters said…

Pakistani authorities arrested Khalil in 2004 when he was accused of aiding militants crossing into Afghanistan to attack U.S.-led forces.

He was detained at least two more times but was released each time under what Pakistan’s government insisted was close supervision to ensure he didn’t engage in militant activities.

As late as 2004, Khalil continued to raise funds and rally militants to wage jihad against the U.S. in a magazine called Al Hilal, published from his headquarters, in a mosque next to a school and across from an army base in Rawalpindi.

A November 2003 edition of the magazine featured an advertisement on the back page, announcing the “All-Pakistan Training Convention of Jamiat ul Ansar Activists,” at Khalil’s headquarters.

Despite Khalil’s terrorist pedigree, he remains free to this day. Pakistan’s treatment or lack thereof, of Khalil represents all that is wrong with the country’s problems in dealing with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

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