Saturday, November 03, 2001

Front Lines
U.S. jets blasted the front north of Kabul night and day Saturday, elating opposition commanders, who said the bombardment was doing just what it should: weakening Taliban defenses of the capital. At Mazar-e-Sharif, opposition forces claimed to have seized an outlying district in heavy fighting as they pressed toward the city itself. President Bush indicated the campaign would not ease during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins around Nov. 17.

Enemy Territory
A U.S. helicopter that flew into Afghanistan to pick up a sick soldier crashed because of bad weather. The crash damaged the helicopter and injured the four-member crew, who were rescued by another helicopter. The downed helicopter was later destroyed by US. fighter jets. Michael Ledeen discussed the anti-government demonstrations that have been going on in Iran since October 12th.

The Alliance
In Raiwind, Pakistan, several hundred thousand members of Tableeghi Jamaat" (Group of Preachers) gathered to beg God's forgiveness, while keeping themselves strictly aloof from what's happening in Afghanistan or on the streets of Pakistan. Unlike jihadi outfits and religious parties calling for holy war, the Tableeghis, known as the pacifist pedagogues of the faith, reiterated their commitment to peaceful preaching of Islam, rather than resort to violent means. In Quetta, more usual demonstrations by supporters of Taliban in Balochistan were out protesting; thousands of activists of various groups, including JUI-F, JI, Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, converged at Ayub stadium after Friday prayer.

Home Front
National Guardsmen with M-16s and Humvees patrolled the Golden Gate and other California bridges and traffic across the spans was lighter than usual. 22 more suspected terrorist organizations will face restrictions that allow the government to freeze their assets. Those added to the list include the Palestinian group Hamas and Hezbollah. National Guard troops could be helping protect the Capitol as early as next week under a preliminary congressional plan to relieve the building's police force. Anthrax was confirmed at sorting machines in New York City and a stamp store in Kansas City, Mo. FBI agents, many wearing oversized hazardous materials suits, raided an apartment in Trenton, NJ, bringing out bags of seized materials and taking one man in for questioning. Massachussets police were looking for a Ryder truck that may be rigged as a car bomb.

Fifth Column
Emad Ibrahim Saad, 35, of Los Angeles, was arrested Thursday for vandalizing three Catholic churches. The AP reported that a university student was charged with burning the U.S. flag in a fire that charred more than two acres of woodland in northern Virginia. Officials said the boy, who is Russian, may not have been expressing support for the enemy, but may be a nut.

Friday, November 02, 2001

Front Lines
B52s carpet-bombed Taliban front lines north of Kabul and around Mazar-e-Sharif. Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun leader, said he survived a Taliban attack on a meeting of tribal elders he convened in Uruzgan province, and that his forces captured 12 Taliban soldiers in the skirmish. The Taliban claimed to have captured 25 of his men and said they will be hanged.

Enemy Territory
The Taliban claim to have shot down a US plane and the US admits that a helicopter went down. The crew was rescued and the craft destroyed. CNN and ABC were given a guided propaganda tour by the Taliban. The bearded ones also made the claim that 70-100 Americans had been killed in Afghanistan, a claim refuted by the US. 1,000 armed jihadi from the Pakistani Tehrik Nifaz Shariah Mohammadi crossed into Afghanistan to fight the hated Americans. Some details on the Ranger incursion into Kandahar: the objective may have been to capture/kill Mullah Omar and Bin Laden and wipe out a meeting of top Talibs. Rev. Al Sharpton, fresh from his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, announced his desire to go to Afghanistan to visit the eight jailed Western charity workers charged by the Taliban with attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The Alliance
Northern Alliance troops were quoted complaining that the US air support was ineffective. Turkish soldiers are on their way to the Afghan theater, but some members of the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance are skeptical. Forces around Mazar and Kabul were said to be preparing for an offensive. A Palestinian was quoted in one of the London papers calling Tony Blair "a pimp." The Times of London ran a piece on 26-year-old Abu Mindar, from East London, who ran away to join the Taliban, was given a gun and told to fire "over thataway" and promptly jumped back to Pakistan as fast as his tubby little legs could carry him. The Daily Jang, an Urdu-langauge newspaper in Pakistan was reported to have received an anthrax-laced letter. French Muslims expressed regret no aircraft had smashed into the Eifel Tower. In Britain, Mossadek Jouini was jailed for three years in connection with hoax threats connected with the WTC attack; he had promised similar attacks in Britain if Blair supported the Americans.

Home Front
A 17th anthrax case was confirmed. There as a report of fake coast guard vessels near chemical plants in West Virginia. Bill Clinton was quoted in the NY Post telling Paul McCartny's girlfriend that he was "better trained, better prepared" to lead the nation during wartime than George Bush.

Fifth Column
Malik Zulu Shabazz, of the New Black Panther Party, hosted a venomous anti-American, anti-Semitic pep rally at the National Press Club October 31st, which won him an appearance on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes. Shabazz' incoherent vitriol probably turned as many viewers against any kind of acceptance of Islam as had the sight of the WTC attack. A Muslim chaplain at a women's prison in New York state was put on paid administrative leave after a similar performance at a gathering of inmates. Dr. Ron Walters, in an article carried by Black Press USA, complained that Bill Clinton had 'boos from the same beer-drinking crowd of blue-collar New York City fire and police department ''heroes'' being honored, many of them White men who Black communities know as some of the country's most demonstrated racists.' Marcellee Gralapp, art director of the Boulder, Colo., public library, refuses to hang an American flag from the entrance of the library's main branch. "It could compromise our objectivity," she sniffs. "We have people of every faith and culture walking into this building, and we want everybody to feel welcome."

Thursday, November 01, 2001

How tough are they?
That's it. I heard it one too many times: the Afghans are too tough, we'll never beat them in a ground war. The latest was the fellow on O'Reilly tonight. "The last person to win a ground war in Afghanistan was Alexander the Great."

Nonsense. The Soviets had them whupped, using an army that's not as good as ours is today. The only hold-outs were Masood in the Panjir Valley. Hekmatyar was collaborating, Dostum was on the government side, and the Talibs were hiding in Pakistan. Two factors threw the Sovs out: first, the USA provided Stinger missiles to Masood (Hekmatyar's forces actually attacked Masood's and took some away from them). That altered the balance enough for Masood to tie them down into a war of attrition. Reagan was busy spending the Soviets into the ground and the Soviet Union collapsed behind them.

Certain of the Soviet units were very effective: the SpetsNaz -- the equivalent to our Special Forces -- and the airborne troops acquitted themselves very well. The ground forces had horrible problems with equipment, especially the T62 tank, which broke down at the drop of a hat; and their command structure was so top-heavy it was funny.

One might even ask, if the Afghans are so tough, what were the Soviets doing there at all? Afghanistan had an army, and it wasn't up to the standards of the Russians. Period.

Afghanistan isn't a country; it's an area. Just under half the population is Pashtuns (aka Pathans), the same as those living in Pakistan. Pakland fought a war with India about twenty years ago, when East Pakistan decided it wanted to become Bangladesh. The Hindus beat them up and sent them home.

Masood, the hero of the Soviet War, wasn't a Pashtun; he was a Tadjik. General Dostum, who is probably the most competent commander the Northern Alliance has left, is, I believe, an Uzbek. The Uzbeks and Tadjiks are Turkic people, a different cultural strain from the Pashtuns, who are Indo-European speakers. The Hazaras have mongol features and are Shi'ites. Of the four groupings, the Uzbeks and Tadjiks are the toughest.

How tough? Well, pretty tough. They control about 10% of Afghanistan, and the other Pashtun-controlled 90% hasn't been able to beat them up yet.

Oh, and the al Qaeda Arab hotshots Bin Laden has imported? They've never been good soldiers. Iraq caved in the 100-hours war. The Arab states attack Israeli teen-agers and granny-ladies because if they attack with regular forces the Israelis beat the hell out of them and take more land with almost monotonous regularity.

Can the US handle them? Compared to the Japanese, they ain't squat. Compared to yesteryear's Germans, they ain't squat. Compared to human waves of screaming Chinese and North Koreans, they ain't squat.

How to take Afghanistan?

We can do what we're doing: support the Northern Alliance from the air and let them take over. Don't worry about what the successor state's going to look like, because it's their country, not ours;

or we can put two brigades of 82nd Airborne into Kabul, two into Kandahar, two of the 101st into Mazar and two into Herat. That turns it into guerilla war, preferably in winter. Why? Because there's a difference between a man with a gun and a soldier. The soldiers win, hands down, every time.

And why in winter? Because no matter who you are, if you're living in the Hindu Kush in winter, you're going to build a fire. Every time you build a fire, you're a target because the US forces do infrared right. Meanwhile, "General McArthur" is rebuilding the area into a secular state, Pakistan is collapsing into anarchy, and the Saudi royal family is coming down with the vapors.