Reports of al Qaeda, Taliban defeats are ‘a major lie,’ says CBS reporter

On Sept. 30, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a program, aptly titled “The Longest War,” that discussed al Qaeda’s resurgence in Afghanistan. You can watch the program [above].

The program makes several points that we here at The Long War Journal have made for years: al Qaeda has provided key assistance to the Taliban, including training and personnel [see our report on the Shadow Army from February 2009]; al Qaeda remains entrenched in Afghanistan, and has a safe haven in Kunar (we warned about this starting in 2009); and the US military’s own press releases detail the reach of al Qaeda and other terror groups in the country (LWJ has been covering this exclusively for years, in painstaking detail).

See the following excerpt from the program’s transcript:

[Narrator:] He [a Taliban commander] told us al Qaeda fighters are rushing to Afghanistan and that he has more than a dozen of them under his command. He also said they have been the driving force that has made the Taliban more lethal on the battlefield.

LOGAN: Are you the only commander with al Qaeda fighters?

TALIBAN COMMANDER: There are many groups that have them. We can’t do this without them.

LOGAN: What skills do the al Qaeda fighters bring?

TALIBAN COMMANDER: They are masters of everything. For example, making IEDs, something we don’t know how to do. But they are teaching us. They are also master engineers and good with all weapons. When our weapons break, they are the ones who repair them. We can’t do this without them.

LOGAN: While the U.S. has been saying for a long time that al Qaeda in Afghanistan is almost defeated, the U.S. military’s own reports from the battlefield reveal a very different picture.

They are rich with detail about al Qaeda’s leaders and operations today, confirming the existence of al Qaeda training camps and multiple attack cells. Among those they say they’ve killed are al Qaeda weapons and explosives experts. In one month, the U.S. says it killed more than 25 al Qaeda leaders and fighters.

Kudos to 60 Minutes for covering these angles, they have long been ignored in the press.

Just over a week after Lara Logan released the report, she spoke to a government association in Chicago and provided a frank view of the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Logan said “there is a major lie being propagated” that al Qaeda and the Taliban have been defeated (she doesn’t say by whom, but Obama administration officials, led by John Brennan, have pushed these memes). “The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished …. They’re coming back,” she said. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Her ominous and frightening message was gleaned from years of covering our wars in the Middle East. She arrived in Chicago on the heels of her Sept. 30 report, “The Longest War.” It examined the Afghanistan conflict and exposed the perils that still confront America, 11 years after 9/11.

Eleven years later, “they” still hate us, now more than ever, Logan told the crowd. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished, she added. They’re coming back.

“I chose this subject because, one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated . . .” Logan declared in her native South African accent.

The lie is that America’s military might has tamed the Taliban.

“There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years,” Logan said. It is driven in part by “Taliban apologists,” who claim “they are just the poor moderate, gentler, kinder Taliban,” she added sarcastically. “It’s such nonsense!”

Logan stepped way out of the “objective,” journalistic role. The audience was riveted as she told of plowing through reams of documents, and interviewing John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban commander trained by al-Qaida. The Taliban and al-Qaida are teaming up and recruiting new terrorists to do us deadly harm, she reports.

She made a passionate case that our government is downplaying the strength of our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a rationale of getting us out of the longest war. We have been lulled into believing that the perils are in the past: “You’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight. In your arrogance, you think you write the script.”

Our enemies are writing the story, she suggests, and there’s no happy ending for us.

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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  • mike merlo says:

    the only thing this article serves to validate is what many, or is it only me(B Roggio?), have known all along which is the International element present in the various locales where Muslims are waging ‘jihad.’ While Ms Logan’s view/’take’ is worthy & demands acknowledgement what is most significant is that the Afghan Taliban have & continue to experience a marked deterioration of force levels. The fact that the articles author & Ms Logan validate this with they’re own admission’s suggests one maybe research the past propensity of Islamic communities submitting to outside leadership & whether or not this same variable has any chance of success in Afghanistan following the departure ISAF forces in 2014. Personally I think not.

  • Charu says:

    This is a lie shared by American politicians across the aisle and the general public who have no stomach for the 11 year long war and the daily casualties for an ungrateful nation. Short of taking the battle directly into Pakistan and wiping out the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership hiding out in there, this is a non-winnable stalemate with more needless deaths in store.
    I believe that the best that we can do under the circumstances is to take our troops out and let the Afghans fight it out themselves, and intervene strategically anytime the Taliban mass their troops for open battle against the ANA. And continue the drone war in Pakistan against AQ and the Haqqanis, and hunt down Mullah Omar, Al Zawahiri and the rest of the Taliban leadership, as well as Pakistani proxies like Hafiz Saeed and the LeT who liaison with AQ. We also need better intelligence inside Pakistan in order to capture these terrorists whenever they leave the state sanctuary to go to the Gulf states or to the KSA in order to raise funds and supplies for their jihad.
    Pakistan also needs to be treated like the rogue state that it is. This means that its terrorism-sympathizing elite and military leadership should have their means to freely travel and invest abroad severely curtailed. They need to be hit in their pocketbooks for their intransigence and their outlaw behavior. At the moment they have their cake and eat it too. But all of this tough action requires that our troops be out of there so that they can’t be held hostage to supply routes through Pakistan or to slow attrition from green-on-blue violence.

  • Mr. Nobody says:

    The Taliban commander described Al Qaeda in Afghanistan very well. They are providing tactical SME’s to the various Taliban groups to train them in explosives, weapons and tactics. Hmmmm sounds a lot like a Special Forces ODA. They are a force multiplier on the ground and provide expert trainers to the Taliban. Ms Logan is spot on in her assessment. The Taliban has never had a shortage of fighters or commanders to lead them and never will the way we fight this war with lawyers and politicians looking to get re elected.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    The Taliban are not experiencing a deterioration of “force levels”, if by that you mean that their fighters are becoming more and more limited. We’ve been through that before and that talking point was refuted here:
    The Taliban are not like Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, for example – where you have a very small amount of soldiers and fighters, not bound by any ideology, very prone to defect, and have no sanctuary to go hide in.
    The Taliban’s situation is in fact the exact opposite of that, and every single day their ranks are swelling with fighters. I make the comparison between the two forces because to imply that the Taliban’s “force levels” are eroding would have to mean that they face one (or more) of the same conditions that Gaddafi’s forces faced, but they do not. Their conditions are the opposite, therefore they are gaining fighters, not losing them.
    That is why it was so easy and quick to defeat Gaddafi’s forces, but the Taliban are still strong, alive and well after 11 years of fighting the best military superpower ever known to the world.

  • mike merlo says:

    thank you for pointing out a prior thread. I didn’t realize you & B Roggio had commented more. I was hospitalized at the time & will be sure to furnish the both of you with relevant information supporting my position.
    As usual you & many others continue to misidentify Afghan Taliban with Pakistani Taliban & some of the Pakistani’s collaborators. The Afghan Taliban have been & continue to experience a marked decline in their Force Levels. This was spoken to by B Roggio in a not so long ago posting. And once again in this posting by re-referencing “The Shadow Army.”
    A very recent post referencing the Philippines is an excellent template peppered with elements & variables that mirror what has taken place in the AfPak Theater. This template is easily matched with earlier historical developments contained within the Matrix of Limited War. This is also a common scenario.
    The so-called Taliban of today are what they are simply because their decimated ranks have been augmented & replenished by personnel other than Afghans. Many of the difficult to discern
    Command & Control aspects have been ‘fuzzily’ spoken of (touched upon?) by sporadic posts in TLWJ & other ‘sites’ focusing on the GWOT & the AfPak Theater. If this was not so then a ‘surge’ by the Afghan Taliban itself would have surfaced in the contested Provinces of Helmand & Kandahar. This Afghan Taliban ‘surge’ to date has failed materialize.
    This phenomena of warfare has historical precedence in the Vietnam War where the Communists of the North had determined that declining Force Levels of the Viet Cong (South Vietnamese) had precipitated a ‘crisis of manpower’. This ‘crisis’ became most evident to the North’s hierarchy in the aftermath of TET Offensive. To salvage this dilemma the ‘North’ simply began sending larger elements of the NVA to South Vietnam & embarked on a comprehensive engineering effort in expanding the Ho Chi Minh Trail to better accommodate the flow of Forces from the North to the South. As an aside another byproduct of this effort was an expansion of presence in Cambodia and the developing of a maritime capacity to move primarily material into South Vietnam via Cambodia.
    Once again thank you so much for bringing a prior thread to my attention. Having been waylaid by “aortic valve stenosis” & related physiological conditions I apologize for not having reviewed earlier. I very much welcome & appreciate your views & opinions.

  • This article is nonsense on the AQ part. They were crushed quickly in Astan and have dispersed elsewhere.
    They are not appreciated by most Afghans who thru their culture felt they owed them sanctuary after their help against the Soviets. AQ is their own worst enemy.
    As far as the Taliban, as I told them when I was there: if they aren’t shooting at me/my men, its local business not mine. Per their own culture, AQ killed 3,000 of my people and I am here to kill them. (they respected it by the way)

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Geoff, all I can say is someone should tell that to the specops guys who keep targeting and killing AQ in Afghanistan… Either they are wrong, or you are. I know where my money is…

  • sundoesntrise says:

    Mike, thank you for your comments.
    I do admit on some level, it’s easy to mismatch the Afghan for the Pakistani Taliban, but their situations are both the same. The TTP hide in Kunar/Nuristan, the Afghan Taliban hide in the rest of the tribal areas to rest and recuperate.
    “This was spoken to by B Roggio in a not so long ago posting. And once again in this posting by re-referencing “The Shadow Army.””
    I would like to see that post by Bill. Of course, it’s always been known that foreigners bolster the Taliban in their operations. That is a given. But what I meant in my original post was that indigenous Pashtuns living in the area have flooded into the Taliban’s ranks in a continuous stream. The “surge” of fighters into new areas, such as NW Afghanistan, has enabled the Taliban to control more land than they did before. Of course the Pashtun fighters are augmented by foreigners; it’s always been that way. They respect the foreign fighters as “guests”, revered for their knowledge of Islam and their tactical fighting skills.
    But their ranks will always be replenished; that’s why they still exist. We can kill hordes upon hordes of them and they will keep coming, and that’s because they have knowledge of the terrain, sanctuaries to go hide in, and a radical ideology that attracts people to their cause. The Taliban may be joined at the hip with Al Qaeda; but they are still not Al Qaeda themselves. They are a separate entity from the foreign fighters you reference.
    Also, all talking points aside, I would like to see any raw data available that proves statistically that the Afghan Taliban are experiencing a “deterioration of force levels”, as you claim, and that they are suffering from a shortage of fighters. Violence in Afghanistan has not abated that much recently, and the Taliban are the spearhead of the Afghan resistance; if they suffered a shortage of fighters, ISAF generals would jump all over that as “proof” that it’s time to leave.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Not sure what you mean by my “re-referencing “The Shadow Army.”” Can you clarify? I can say that I’ve repeatedly stated that the Shadow Army is used as force multipliers, not as replacement fighters.
    I see no evidence whatsoever that the Taliban are having problems replacing their forces in the field. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on the issue. The refugee camps in Pakistan as well as Pakistani Pashtuns and the other Pakistani jihadi groups have always provided an ample recruiting base. These sources have not dried up.
    In the south, the Taliban did what a smart insurgent group should do when faced with overwhelming force: they largely withdrew or blended back into the population, and are conducting harassment attacks, assassinations, and such. We haven’t beaten them back in the east or north, and haven’t denied their safe haven in Pakistan.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    “The refugee camps in Pakistan as well as Pakistani Pashtuns and the other Pakistani jihadi groups have always provided an ample recruiting base. These sources have not dried up.”
    That is one of the points I was trying to make; they have a huge base to recruit from. The Taliban are very well known for their ‘recruitment drives’ in many areas of Pakistan, where they collect money and fighters.
    There could also be a disagreement about exactly ‘who’ is ‘who’, but I think that the Pakistani Taliban have the Afghan Taliban’s back, and vice-versa. They rely on each other for survival and sometimes they seem like the same entity.

  • mike merlo says:

    @Bill Roggio
    at some point in time, depending on the ebb & flow of ‘events,’ a “Force Multiplier” (Shadow Army in this case) ceases being categorized as such. While information (intel?) for a layman such as myself is difficult to come by; obviously all of which I fallback on is Open Sourced. A ‘creative application’ of what little has been made available reveals a Force(Shadow Army) that has assumed a more independent operational status if not completely so. While your view in most if not all circles interested in this subject would most likely defer to what you’ve determined to be the ‘status quo.’ That doesn’t necessarily make what I’ve postulated any less plausible or probable particularly in light of the events that have & are ‘playing out’ in regions(ME, Horn of Africa, Sahael, ‘Red Sea,’ Sinai, Iraq, Syria, Mediterranean Africa etc.,.) other than the AfPak Theater. Having mentioned the Vietnam War as an example if one desires a possibly a more definitive example a more than cursory ‘look’ at the Korean War serves as a credible example.
    Concerning ‘replacing’ Taliban. Do you mean replacing with Pakistani, Foreigners other than Pakistani or with Afghans? On Multiple postings of your own you have singled out ‘conflicts of interest’, incidents of fratricide, fallings-out over negotiations, mixed ‘signals’ on publicized information, open leadership quarrels, Taliban Afghani disenchantment with Foreign & Pakistani interlopers, etc.,. All of the aforementioned come with a price particularly when ‘played out’ in a timeline that has entered its second decade. It is also significant to note the number of times, particularly over the last 3 to 5 years, the many TLWJ posts that indicate a foreign presence among the killed,captured or wounded in the many engagements it has reported on.
    With all due respect TLWJ should seriously consider tasking someone to cull all that they’ve posted concerning Force Composition. Having done that a shifting through ‘sources’ ‘other than’ I’m sure will result in a ‘number’ that comport’s with what I’ve been strongly suggesting.
    The above is just one of many Posts by TLWJ that ‘support’ my position/view.
    As an aside I am still awaiting the surfacing of ‘elements’ singled out by Dressler in his White paper on The Haqqani Network.
    ‘Our’ views on AQ & The Islamic Internationale are near identical so it is reasonable to conclude the ‘same’ holds true for what I’m suggesting.

  • mike merlo says:

    due to the many “moving parts” involved in disassembling & reconstructing this ‘morass’ I’ve waded us into my response(s) to you will some what suffer in respect to a timely response. So please excuse my turtleness. I very much appreciate & welcome your challenge “all talking points aside.” I couldn’t agree with you more. Who knows maybe I’m so far out in left field that The Afghan Taliban will wish to find the time to ‘set me straight.’

  • Ghost Soldier says:

    It would be nice if our intelligence community would put some time into becoming knowledgeable about Kunar province. In the next few years, the words ‘Kunar’ and ‘Nuristan’ will haunt the smarty pants folks in suits.
    Too bad they have no idea what is going on there.


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