Last week US President George W Bush announced a "reorientation" of US forces in the Middle East with an emphasis on the war in Afghanistan.
The change in focus has already been called an "Afghan surge", and speculation began immediately that US forces would intensify its cross-border assaults on Pakistan’s tribal border regions as part of the move.
A post on the blog "Abu Muqawama" by Kip, agrees with the steps taken by the White House Administration to "overtly undertake commando operations in Pakistan":
Pakistan will continue to complain that the US is violating its sovereignty. Either Pakistan is a sovereign state capable of preventing sanctuary, or it isn’t. You can’t claim the rights of sovereignty simultaneous to claiming you can’t control the area from which attacks are being launched against another sovereign state. And certainly you can’t have your military and intelligence agencies participate in attacks against another sovereign state and claim immunity.
Newshoggers.com argues that the Bush Administration’s "reorientation" is overdue and insufficient, pouncing on Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s comments that "I’m not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan. I am convinced we can".
That’s pretty straight talk and is probably a result of commander’s sense of frustration with the White House. Bush short-changed the commanders on the ground in Afghanistan, letting them have less additional troops than they’d asked for and later than they’d asked for them. And Mullen’s words are an implicit endorsement of Obama’s plan for the region.
While the US increases numbers in Afghanistan, Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing for next month’s general election. He restated last week that Canadian forces will completely withdraw from Afghanistan by 2011. Impolitical blog claims that:
The commitment not to seek any further extensions appeared to catch even some senior Conservatives by surprise, with at least one saying they had been aware of Harper’s private determination to ‘end this thing’ – but that he would state so publicly was mystifying.
To date, 97 Canadian nationals have been killed in Afghanistan since their deployment. For an insight into the role of Western troops in Afghanistan, Graham Thomson’s blog "Edmonton Journal" goes on a foot patrol with Canadian troops.
While many have just observed the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, last week was also the seventh anniversary of the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud (who warned of an imminent attack in the West in April 2001). September 9 is known as Massoud Day, a national holiday for the military commander for the Jamiat Islami party and the Northern Alliance.
Some images from Kabul on Massoud Day can be seen at J.L. Krueger’s (ex-US military officer in Afghanistan "on contract helping the Afghan National Army become self-sufficient") blog.
Meanwhile, as the US demands the freedom to be more overt about its operations, it seems the British have also been having a hard time staging their incursions without being detected. Western forces in Afghanistan are finding that it’s imperative to have a tough and reliable helicopter which can work in the "hot and high" fly zones – but at the same time doesn’t immediately announce who you are. That’s right – you need a Russian helicopter! As the US and UK forces have discovered, they’re perfect for blending in among the "Stans’ dusty airfields", full of decommissioned Russian military helicopters, now being used as civilian aircraft, still in their military paint-jobs.
But how do you get a good second-hand one? War is Boring suggests "if you’re the UK special forces community, you purchase second-hand Mi-17s from former-enemy-current-pal Bulgaria, ship them via Lithuania, refit them with some of your own equipment and give at least some of them recycled serial numbers to confuse those pesky journalists and plane spotters. Voilà: instant commando choppers!
Here’s one we prepared earlier:
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