JAMESTOWN ON THE JIHADISThe Jamestown Foundation
has released two new updates on Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq:
"Islamist Ideologues Struggle to Raise Morale
" by Stephen Ulph
"History Overtakes Optimism in Afghanistan
" by Michael Scheuer
Ulph sees mounting weakness in the recent apocalyptic propaganda coming from al Qaida ogans:"The tale, told in a dramatic, semi-lyrical vein, is an effective morale booster for the mujahideen since it explains away many of their concerns: the infrequent surfacing of bin Laden, the lack of decisive results in Iraq, the seeming self-confidence of the Americans and the appearance of disunity among the jihadi leadership. For al-Kinani, the jihad in Iraq is not failing because it was never anything more than a rehearsal and a training ground for the fight in the U.S., where the FBI "are trembling" at what these mysterious developments portend. Al-Kinani's analysis importantly maintains the image of a coherent leadership of the heroes of the jihadi elite who are carrying out a consistent plan. These musings are interesting not only for the fact that the statement is put out by GIMF, lending its analysis some internal authority for the web mujahideen, but also as a window into the apocalyptic strain of jihadi commentary and propaganda, which remains doggedly resilient in the face of victory postponed."
At some point, in order to retain credibility, al Qaida must be seen by its admirers in carrying out a successful attack against American power or failing that, having attempted an act of terrorism of suitable scale . If not 9/11 at least 3/11 or Bali. Simply shooting up a shopping mall or setting off a generic car bombing is not going to do the trick.
In the second article, Scheuer offers a pessimistic assessment of current U.S. and allied counterinsurgency and democratization efforts in Afghanistan:"Near-Spring Reality: After two nationwide elections, few of those who disagree with President Karzai have put their weapons away and decided to wait peaceably for the next election. Indeed, there has been an up-tick in violence after each election. While the Afghans are avaricious consumers and innovative users of the tools of modernity—be it ordnance or communications gear—they are steadfast opponents of "Westernization," particularly of the variety that downplays religion, asserts women's rights, ignores ethnic rivalries and hatreds, and seeks to undermine tribal politics and loyalties. "
This is however, the norm in Afghanistan regardless of whether the government in Kabul was monarchist, republican, communist, mujahedin or Taliban. The center has never exercised effective control over the provinces except in rare instances. Even the Taliban, whose rule was tighter than most Afghan regimes, was forced to bribe and co-opt many local warlords in their march across the country and by the time of their overthrow, the Taliban's harsh rule had begun alienating even some of the Pushtun subtribes in Paktia.
Dr. Scheuer is more on target here:
"While it is too early to say that Afghanistan is again lost to the West, the trend lines are heading in the direction of another Western defeat and withdrawal. If such is the case, the result will be rightfully attributed to the failure of Western leaders—military, political, and media—to have read and assimilated the lessons of Afghan history before invading. One Westerner, the eminent British military historian Sir John Keegan, did read that history and offered a clear and early warning. "The Russians [1979-89]…foolishly did not try to punish rogue Afghans, as [Britain's Lord] Robert's did, but to rule the country," Keegan wrote on September 14, 2001 in the Daily Telegraph. "Since Afghanistan is ungovernable, the failure of their effort was predictable....America should not seek to change the regime, but simply to find and kill the terrorists." U.S. and Western leaders should heed Sir John's prescient words
The only answer to the Pushtun tribal support network for al Qaida may be, unfortunately a decimating punitive expedition on the coupled with an offer of a generous amnesty for those tribes who wish to yield honorably. The Pakistanis will not do such a thing for us unless the regime in Islamabad feels itself in great danger or that al Qaida and the Taliban may " detach" the historically Afghanistani Northwest provinces from Pakistan - a longstanding fear of the Pakistani elite.