Being unembedded in Afghanistan is a rarity, most journalists preferring to be near and dear to the military.
That’s why Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley are in a class of their own. They’re just back from the war-torn country and reveal the utter failure of the American-led counter-insurgency. Here’s Scahill:
Well, first of all, what’s abundantly clear from traveling around the Pashtun heartland—the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan are where the Taliban have their strongholds, and also Rick and I traveled in areas that are really heavily populated by members of the Haqqani network, which is the insurgent group that the United States government most closely identifies with al-Qaeda, with strong links to Pakistan’s ISI spy agency, and so we traveled around these areas talking to tribal leadership, to civilians. We even interviewed some current Taliban commanders, as well as former senior members of the Taliban government, including Mullah Zaeef, who was the former Taliban spokesperson to Pakistan, the man who after 9/11 really emerged as the public face of the Taliban. He then was taken for four years to Guantánamo prison. So, much of what Rick and I focused on was trying to get a sense of the nature of the insurgency. And what’s abundantly clear is that the US counterinsurgency strategy, the so-called COIN doctrine, has utterly failed.
The Taliban are gaining in popularity, gaining in strength. The leadership of the Taliban acknowledged that the so-called targeted killing campaign of senior Taliban leadership has been successful, but they say that it’s only producing new generations of leaders within the Taliban that are actually more radical than the previous generation. In fact, when we talked to Mullah Zaeef, who’s under house arrest in Kabul, he has Hamid Karzai’s military forces in front of his house, and when we entered there, they went nuts about Rick’s camera, and they tried to sort of grab his camera from him. And then we entered Mullah Zaeef’s house, and we interviewed him. And what he was saying is, look, if you kill all of the old-school Taliban leaders, people who actually were part of a government that had diplomatic relations with Muslim countries, that knew how to negotiate, you’re not going to like what you create in that, because this new generation—and he said to us, “I know this new generation. They’re more radical.” And evidence of this can be found in the fact that when Mullah Mohammed Omar, who—all the Taliban people we talked to—is still running the show, still issuing orders through the shadow governors that the Taliban has—all over the country they have a shadow government, and in many cases, local people go to that shadow government instead of the Karzai government, because they feel that they’re going to get results there. But what they were saying is that within this structure, when they try to give orders to new commanders, sometimes it’s met with hostility from the new generation of Taliban. A few months ago in Paktia province, which is a Taliban area just outside of Kabul, Mullah Omar sent an emissary to a new Taliban commander to try to say that “you’re violating some of the rules of Taliban combat,” and they literally murdered his emissary.