"We Are Back"
Pre-Election Attacks against Germans?
In recent months, several propaganda videos have been published condemning the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan, and the BND is also anticipating insurgent attacks against German soldiers. The videos have repeatedly mentioned the Sept. 27 date of the federal election in Germany. Officials are warning that there's a growing threat of attacks against German forces in an effort to influence the election back home, where a majority of people oppose the Afghanistan deployment.The commander of the ISAF international security force in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, is also expressing deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Kunduz. Last Wednesday, McChrystal flew to northern Afghanistan to discuss the precarious situation with German and Afghan officials in charge of military operations in the area. After his visit, McChrystal told SPIEGEL ONLINE he was "concerned" about the changing situation. He said Kunduz now warranted "serious scrutiny."McChrystal said that the groups were supported in their efforts to build "enclaves in the north" by fighters in the south of the country where the Taliban-led insurgency has plagued ISAF efforts to establish security and rebuild the country. ISAF officials believe the insurgents are taking aim at the security force's new supply routes in the north that go through Kunduz.The general called on the German and Afghan forces to conduct further operations like last month's in Charah Dara, west of the German base. While there had been some "operational successes" in the counter-insurgency missions, McChrystal said after a meeting with officers to discuss the operations of the past two weeks, a "single operation will never have a decisive effect" and the fight against the Taliban requires a "prolonged effort with multiple successes." He said the battle against the Taliban should not be neglected. "If we don't get in front of the situations, the situation will get in front of us," the ISAF chief said.
"We Are Back"
It appears he is correct. After Afghan troops pulled out of the parts of Chahar Dara they had largely won back last week, the Taliban returned and resumed control.
On Friday, Afghan General Murad Ali Murad said that 600 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers had been stationed in Chahar Dara to keep the Taliban from returning. But on Saturday, district chief Khel said only about 300 remained further to the north to keep the Taliban from returning.The Taliban appears to be going on the offensive. "We are back," Commander Mullah Shamslullah, a man considered to be one of the Taliban's leaders in Chahar Dara, said by telephone, "everything is going to be the same as it was earlier." His fighters could be heard in the background shouting "God is great." Shamslullah said the Taliban had their base back and that more than 150 Talib fighters had returned after briefly going into hiding.Of course, Shamslullah's statements are part of the insurgency's propaganda efforts, but they also seem to be supported by the findings of the Bundeswehr. The Germans have also been noting a return of the insurgents to their stronghold -- undeterred by the Afghan army. The area is far too large to be controlled by a contingent of 300 ANA soldiers. But the German army isn't in a position to stop them, either. They're being forced to watch as the Taliban return to a stronghold located just a 15-minute drive away from the German camp.
History Repeating Itself?
The reports coming from the Kunduz area raise doubts about the success of Operation Adler. The Afghan Army said it wouldn't repeat the mistake made in past offensives that troops were removed too quickly, enabling the enemy to quickly return to the area. But it appeared to have done exactly that last week.At the German base in Kunduz, sources even said that ANA General Murad Ali Murad wanted to withdraw his troops completely at the start of the week.The withdrawal of Afghan troops is reminiscent of a failure often made by the US army that it now admits was a mistake: After beating away the Taliban from their strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the Americans often withdrew too quickly. They left the local populations to their own devices in dealing with returning Taliban, and local people lost faith in the international security force as a result. he same could now happen in areas where German soldiers have been deployed. At the same time, the Taliban's return also creates a greater threat for the German army. Now back and presumably rearmed with weapons and explosives, the Taliban could seek revenge on the Afghan army, but also the Bundeswehr. Three hundred German soldiers as well as ISAF fight jets helped their Afghan army colleagues in Operation Adler, and the Bundeswehr could quickly become a target.On Thursday, two rockets were fired near the German base. And for the coming days and weeks, the German forces are bracing for new attacks -- ones that could be better targeted and organized than before.
A Taliban roadside bomb killed at least 12 people Monday in a key commercial city in western Afghanistan, officials said, amid worsening security before a presidential poll this month.The remote-controlled device may have been aimed at a local police chief but killed mainly passers-by when it exploded during rush hour near a blood bank in Herat, a relatively peaceful city near the Iranian border.Violence has escalated ahead of the August 20 presidential poll that is seen as a key test of Western-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.Nine foreign soldiers, including six Americans, were killed in the south and east, where the Taliban is strongest, in the last three days.NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who took over Saturday, said he wanted Afghanistan's own forces to play a greater role in providing security over the next four years."I believe that during my term as NATO secretary-general, Afghans must take over lead responsibility for security in most of their country," he told a news conference in Brussels.U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met on Sunday at an air base in Belgium with Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesman said.Gates obtained an update on a review of the war being conducted by McChrystal. The unusual meeting, attended by other top U.S. defense officials, was not announced in advance.The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the election and have called on Afghans to boycott the ballot, the second direct presidential poll since the Islamists were toppled in 2001.In Ghazni province, a Taliban stronghold southeast of the capital, insurgents have posted notices in mosques and to walls, warning people to stay at home a day before the poll."In order that this illegitimate process faces failure, fighters will intensively attack polling centers, and warn voters to stay home one day before," one item posted overnight read.