AN AFGHAN UPDATE: A MINI-TET OFFENSIVE BY THE TALIBAN?
"Our predecessors had entered into in innocence, convinced that the cruel civil war represented the cutting edge of some global design. In four years of struggle they had been unable to develop a strategy to achieve victory - and for all one can know now such a strategy was not attainable. They had done enough to produce a major commitment of American power and credibility, but not enough to bring it to a conclusion. In the last year of the Johnson Administration the Communists had launched a massive countrywide offensive. Few students of the subject question today that it was massively defeated. But its scale and sacrifice turned it into a psychological victory....Public support was ebbing for a war we would not win but also seemed unable to end."
Henry Alfred Kissinger, White House Years, 1979, pp. 226-227.
"No one stars a war - or rather none one in his senses ought to do so - without first being clear in his own mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is its political purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is the governing principle which will sets its course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which is required, and make its influence felt throughout down to the smallest operational detail."
Karl von Clausewitz, Vom Kreige, edited and translated by Sir Michael Howard & Peter Paret, 1976, p. 579.
The attack on Sunday by the Taliban in Kabul (see below for a Stratfor, 'red alert' for a full and immediate report) was most definitely not a rehash of the Tet Offensive of course. Not by any means whatsoever. Nor however does it merely seem a rehash of another random Taliban attack. It most definitely seems to be a military action on a much larger and more co-ordinated scale, showing a level of both preparation and skill, as well as pre-positioning of men and supplies in what would seem to be on the surface, the most secure urban space in all of Afghanistan, to a higher and more sophisticated degree then previously in this war. At the very least, for now, the attack seems to indicate to this non-military observer / professional (id est., like ninety-nine percent [99%] of all commentators on Afghanistan in the Anglophone press and media), is that any plans by the American Administration and their allies in NATO to spend anno domini 2010 'building up,' forces, taking the fight to the Taliban in Helmand Province and elsewhere, and do one years of training of Afghan forces and, then by say mid-2011, to commence, 'building-down', said forces seems to betray an ignorance of the very facts which Sunday's attack shows is, clearly staring us in the face. The eighteen month action plan that Washington signed-off on in mid-December of last year, is a completely fanciful, if not Utopian project. There is the possibility of turning the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, with something approaching the numbers that Washington is providing to its ground-commander in Kabul, General McChrystal (30,000-35,000) with say three to five years of commitment to the same. To expect a successful turn-around of the situation before then, is a complete fantasy. The hunger these days for 'successful exit strategies', notwithstanding.
Red Alert Update: Taliban Assault on Kabul January 18, 2010 0827 GMT
The Taliban attack in Kabul is reportedly winding down. The assault began around 9:35 a.m. local time Jan. 18 (the day the new Cabinet was being sworn in) when reports of rocket fire and explosions were heard in the Afghan capital near several government buildings.
Just 23 minutes later, reports emerged that the Taliban had claimed the attack in a message to the Afghan Islamic Press. In the claim, Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed said 20 suicide assailants were attacking the Presidential Palace, the Central Bank and the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Mines and Industries. The Serena Hotel, the Defense Ministry and Afghan Telecom had also reportedly come under attack.
A little after noon local time, militants began to lay siege on two major shopping centers, including a mall called the Grand Afghan Shopping Center near the Justice Ministry. Eyewitnesses reported militants carrying rocket-propelled grenades had entered the second and third floors of the mall. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) reportedly detonated outside one of the shopping centers killing several security forces.
Around the same time, reports emerged that militants who had earlier breached the southern gate of the presidential palace had entered the building where a swearing-in ceremony for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet was scheduled to take place. The Afghan government denied any breach of the palace had taken place. Several minutes later, another blast was heard outside the Cinema Pamir in an area far from the other attacks, about 1 kilometer away from the Serena hotel.
The size of this attack (if it involved 20 assailants as the Taliban have claimed) is more than twice as large as the Feb. 11, 2009, attack in Kabul, which involved a team of eight attackers. While a complete and concise assessment of what has been struck is still being compiled, it does appear that the Justice Ministry (the main target of the February 2009 attack) was again hit hard and there are reports of a substantial fire burning inside the building. It is unclear if the fire was started by a rocket attack or assailants who had succeeded in penetrating the building’s security.
STRATFOR sources are reporting that the Taliban may have used suicide vehicle bombs and artillery rockets in addition to the suicide bombers on foot and armed gunmen. If so, this is a new wrinkle. We have seen VBIEDS and artillery rockets employed by the Taliban in Kabul, but not in coordination with an armed assault. www.stratfor.com
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