Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Mounting Troubles in Afghanistan Signal Further Dangers
The news from Pakistan's border regions is getting worse, not better, and it seems unlikely that the new wave of attacks and recruitment are the result of Taliban desperation or lack of power, as the administration likes to say.

The recent call by Zawahiri to residents of Kabul to rise up against the Americans is not so interesting for the text of the message, but because it shows an ability to comment on recent events, and project a message in an area and at a time when such projections have a strong psychological impact.

Far from weakening, the Taliban and its remaining al Qaeda allies, operating often with the continued assistance of the Pakistani military and intelligence, are gaining strength. For the past year I and others have been forwarding the observations of those on the ground on how the Taliban has re-armed with new weapons, increased its communications capabilities-including encryption-and greatly enhanced its mobility by purchasing a new fleet of 4X4 vehicles. The Washington Post carried an intersting article on this again yesterday.

It is the classic dilema in combatting non-state armed groups that enjoy either civilian support or are able to intimidate civilians into cooperation. The central government is weak, drug money provides endless resources to warlords who are able to keep the central government at bay, and radical Islamists thrive in the chaos.

Without intelligence dominance, despite the presence of tens of thousands of Pakistani troops in the region, U.S. and NATO forces will be limited to fighting the hot war there, able to push back against significant armed actions. But they will not be able to decapitate the movement or keep it from growing. The central government, riddled with corruption, badly infiltrated by the enemy and with a fraction of the enemy's resources, is unlikely to be expanding its influence in the near future.

That leaves the U.S. and NATO troops in the uneviable position of trying to keep a bush fire from turning into a roaring forest fire, but unable to identify the pyromaniacs.
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