Saturday, November 20, 2010

Think Afghanistan. Think tanks.

We had nothing to do with Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, Afghan Taliban claim
The Afghan Taliban on Monday denied they were mixed up in Al Qaeda's 9/11 plot - or that they would ever target the U.S. homeland.

The bizarre denial came in a letter to "the members of the American Congress" nine years after the attacks were hatched by one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Ahmadi said the Afghanistan war "began on the basis of an event which is a mystery" and claimed the U.S. still is motivated by 9/11.

Read more:

Think tank: 92% of Afghans never heard of 9/11
A report (PDF) from the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) shows that 92 percent of those surveyed had never heard of the coordinated multiple attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001. It also shows that four in 10 Afghans believe the US is on their soil in order to "destroy Islam or occupy Afghanistan."

The survey also suggests that Afghans are skeptical of their own government's ability to protect them, and have little regard for the fledgling democratic institutions the country is building. Fully 43 percent could not name one positive aspect of democracy, and nearly two-thirds -- 61 percent -- said they didn't think Afghan forces would be able to keep up the fight against the Taliban if and when Western forces withdrew.

“We need to explain to the Afghan people why we are here, and both show and convince them that their future is better with us than with the Taliban,” ICOS lead field researcher Norine MacDonald said in a statement.

Military to deploy heavily armoured tanks to Afghanistan for the first time as the US escalates its assault on the Taliban
The US is escalating its assault on the Taliban with a sharp rise in bombing and missile raids, more relaxed rules on the destruction of civilian property and the deployment of heavily armoured M1 Abrams tanks to Afghanistan for the first time.

The Americans say they plan to deploy a company of M1 Abrams tanks, considered among the most lethal of US military vehicles with an ability to destroy buildings more than a mile away. The fast 68-tonne tanks will be used by US marines in Helmand province where the Americans say the Taliban are equipped with weapons such as rocket propelled grenades.

Under Petraeus's predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, who was sacked by the White House over criticism of his civilian superiors, the US counter-insurgency strategy laid a heavy emphasis on separating and protecting Afghan civilians from the Taliban.

Although that is not being formally abandoned, Petraeus has decided to take the fight to the insurgents and American forces have taken a more aggressive stance.

McChrystal's emphasis on protecting civilian lives did not sit well with many in the military, including front line troops who were prevented, for example, from destroying houses that might be used to hide roadside bombs or provide shelter for attack. American troops now routinely destroy houses they believe to be a threat. But the shift has angered Karzai who has argued that night raids by special forces and other tactics are fuelling support for the Taliban.

The number of "special operations" missions targeted at Taliban leaders has more than tripled since General David Petraeus took over as Nato commander in Afghanistan in July. Nato planes dropped about 1,000 bombs and missiles last month, more than at any time since the early stages of the war in 2001.

One US official told the Washington Post that the new strategy is forcing back the Taliban.

"We've taken the gloves off, and it has had huge impact," the official said.



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