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The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Friday, May 25, 2007

The War in Afghanistan 2007 Weeks 20 and 21

Canadians still haven't been told what a huge impact the death of Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's chief military commander, will have on our mission in Afghanistan.

Dadullah was the last of the Taliban OG's from Kandahar. Turning him into worm food means the terrorist group will be shifting the bullseye of the insurgency from the southern province of Kandahar, where Canadian troops are stationed, to the eastern provinces and Kabul, closer to the home base of Dadullah's military rivals.

Every history of the Taliban states that Kandahar is the "spiritual home" of the Taliban, and where most of their leaders come from. It was where the terrorist group sprang up before sweeping across the country to capture Kabul. They've been trying to recreate that moment ever since being driven out of power in 2001 by the U.S.The "Feared Taliban Spring Offensive" of 2006 was intended to capture Kandahar, drive out the Canadians, and springboard an assault of Kabul. Instead Canadian troops 'moiderized' the insurgents and forced them into a humiliating retreat.

The "Feared Taliban Spring Offensive" of 2007 was supposed to be a revamped plan of attack with the same goals under the personal command of Mullah Dadullah. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.

The British pre-empted the spring offensive with one of their own sending Taliban fighters running from their stronghold in Helmand province, next door to Kandahar. Air strikes began wiping out Taliban leaders in the south. And then the Green Berets found Dadullah and shot him dead. What party-poopers.

With Dadullah dead, the thrust of what remains of the "Feared Taliban Spring Offensive" will be in the southeastern provinces of Paktika, Paktia and Khost where the leaders of the fragmented Taliban forces live. Taliban deputy chief Jalaluddin Haqqani can direct fighters in Paktia province from his homebase in Pakistan's tribal area. Warlord Saifullah Mansoor calls the Gardez area his home territory and independent anti-American tribal leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar works out of Kunar province, although he's been laying low while he waits to see which side is gaining the upper hand. With Dadullah's death, he may chose to stay on the sidelines, sensing the tide has turned to NATO's side. All together they may control 2500 fighters.

The heat isn't entirely off Kandahar, but enough that reconstruction can proceed faster and more efficiently. Already the effects of a year of NATO's presence in south Afghanistan are paying off.

Dadullah was killed in the Sangin area of Helmand province. The same week in another village in the area, an incident demonstrated how far the pendulum has swung in Afghanistan. Tribal leaders and a Taliban commander named Hajji Wali Mohammed had what was by all accounts an angry meeting. The elders told him and his group of 50 fighters to stop using the area to stage ambushes on NATO troops.

"Hajji Wali Mohammad refused and said he would continue with the jihad against the foreigners. So when he was walking home after the meeting the local people killed him and his two bodyguards," a villager told police afterward.

This is the side of the Afghanistan conflict you don't read in the mainstream media.

Taliban forces have been pressing Kandahar all month, launching ambushes but leaving corpses of their fighters behind. Eight one day. 15 the next. On the 14th, airstrikes killed 60 in the Zahari district, including three Taliban commanders. The Globe and Mail carried a story about the death of Mullah Manan and his two lieutenants, but didn't highlight this telling anecdote that appeared at the tail of the report.

"After a quarrel with a local village about whether the elders would allow Taliban fighters to operate in their area, Mullah Munan reputedly sent two insurgents to set an ambush on a nearby road. His men spotted a Canadian patrol passing near the village and opened fire, provoking a fight designed to catch the offending locals in the crossfire. But the Canadian soldiers disappointed Mullah Munan by exercising restraint in their response, villagers say..."

Another example of a village opposed to the Taliban. You don't think this is a trend, do you?

Kandahar Backlash

The Taliban reacted as they always do--with terror tactics.

Ten police were killed in a double terror bombing in Kandahar city. Four private security guards died when a remote-controlled bomb in a truck went off. Fifteen minutes later, when rescue workers had arrived, a second car bomb hit police inspecting the wreckage, killing six. Then, later the same day, a suicide bomber attacked a motorcade in an attempt to kill the governor of Kandahar. Except the governor wasn't in the motorcade. The Afghan culture minister was, and he was injured, not killed. Three civilians died in the attack.

This Tuesday, Taliban fighters attacked a police post in Kandahar but were fought off, leaving 10 dead and showing that the police aren't complete pushovers. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed four police.

The Taliban leaders announced that Mullah Dadullah's younger brother would be his replacement. Should we call him Junior Dadullah?

The Fighting Shifts

As expected, the bulk of fighting over the two weeks since Dadullah was killed has shifted to the east.

On Friday, the 18th, Taliban forces ambushed Afghan troops in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul. Air strikes killed about two dozen.

Another 100 insurgents were killed in Paktia province last Saturday when they ambushed Afghan troops. Chechens, Arabs, and Pakistanis were most of the dead. 13 Afghan soldiers and one American died in the battles. Bodies of dead Taliban have begun showing up in Pakistan's tribal area of North Waziristan where they are brought for burial, 13 in the past 3 days.

(Seven "foreigners" were among the 13 Taliban killed in the Garmsir district of Helmand province on Wednesday. This raises the question of how much of the "insurgency" is being fought by non-Afghan forces.)

Air strikes the 12th killed 40 insurgent fighters in Paktika province, close to the border with Pakistan. A ground battle left another 15 dead in Paktika with the remaining insurgents fleeing back to Pakistan.

30 Taliban fighters were killed in the central province Ghazni Sunday morning. At least 18 rebels were wounded and 11 arrested including regional Taliban commander Mullah Habibullah.

A suicide bomber killed 14 civilians and wounded 35 in the town of Gardez, Paktia province, on Monday. Insurgents kidnapped a Filipino woman working for an Indian company 60 miles southeast of Kabul. Her body was found in a well in Gardez Thursday.

On Monday Taliban attacked a police post in Paktia province. Two fighters were killed.

Six police and a district chief were killed Thursday by roadside bombs in Paktika.

Troubles Ahead

A roadside bomb targetted the car of the provincial police chief in Badakhshan province as he was going to work. One of his bodyguards was killed. Three other guards and the chief were wounded.

A suicide bomber on foot blew himself up Saturday at a busy market in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Three German soldiers were killed as well as six Afghan civilians.

A roadside bomb Wednesday killed one Finnish soldier and wounded four Norwegians in the northern province of Faryab.

A suicide bomber was spotted and chased in Kabul Wednesday. He blew himself up, killing one policeman and one civilian.

These attacks are usually portrayed in the mainstream press as evidence that the Taliban are expanding their offensive throughout the country into areas that have "until now" been unaffected by the violence. "In the usually quiet north, where militant violence is rare" is how the reporters start their stories.

The reporters fail to apply the simplest logic. Water always finds the path of least resistance. Driven away from Kandahar and Helmand, the Taliban is finding it easier to attack in areas of Afghanistan where NATO troops are unprepared and unwilling to engage in battle. The Germans in Kunduz, the French in Kabul, and the Finns in Faryab thought they were as far away from combat as they could be and still purport to be part of the NATO mission.

"Poor bastards" they must have muttered whenever a Canadian or Brit was killed in battle, all the while thanking the foresight of their politicians for keeping them combat-free with all kinds of restrictions on their participation.

With the fight shifting to the east, they may soon find themselves on the front line.

The Dutch in Uruzgan province should be alerted as well. Given the air reconnaissance going on over Uruzgan this week, it appears the Taliban are moving from the southern provinces to easier pickings. Dutch forces stationed in Uruzgan has refused to fight Taliban forces unless attacked first. That weakness may be challenged all too soon.

The NATO contingency has been bolstered by 1,188 well-trained Polish troops who are being prepared to face Taliban forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

They will formally begin their patrolling missions in early June. The Polish soldiers are to be stationed in the Ghazni and Paktika provinces. Polish Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek, an adviser to the Afghan defense ministry in Kabul, said Poland is sending its best and most experienced soldiers.

Short Snappers

The Taliban insurgency has cost the lives of more than 1800 people so far this year, the vast majority being Taliban fighters themselves.

In May to date roadside and suicide bombings have killed 85 people and wounded another 250.

When reading or watching reports about the resurgent Taliban keep in mind this tidbit from within the Taliban camp in their own words (emphasis ours):

The 30-page, tenth issue of al-Sumoud, meaning 'The Resistance', an electronic publication from the Taliban, the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, was distributed to jihadist forums yesterday, Thursday, May 10, 2007. Included within the magazine's twelve articles are an editorial in which the author argues that America is seeking the same solution to its difficulties in Afghanistan as the former Soviet Union had done previously, and an interview with a military official for the province of Nangarhar, Anwar al-Haq, nicknamed the Mujahida. Both the editorial and interview continue themes present in similar articles printed in the last issue of al-Sumoud, where the author claimed a joint peace jirga between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a means for America to escape Afghanistan, and the military commander of Kunar was asked questions of American losses vis-a -vis alleged success of the Mujahideen.

In the editorial, which is titled: "Whether or Not America is Playing with Russia's Cards in the Losing Gamble", the author finds the suicide bombing targeting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney at Bagram Air Base, kidnapping of Italian journalist Daniel Mastrogiacomo leading to the release of Taliban officials, kidnapping of French nationals, and murdering eight Canadian forces in Kandahar in a single day as evidence of a clear victory for the Mujahideen. America and its agent Afghan President Hamid Karzai establishing new fronts and jirgas to mete a peaceful solution and ultimately withdrawal of coalition forces, is believed by the author to mirror the Soviet's failure in the past. The only solution is given as the immediate departure of all foreign forces without any terms or conditions.

During the interview between al-Sumoud and Anwar al-Haq, responses from the military official of Nangarhar implicitly call for financial support as he gestures that despite being stationed in a strategic area the Mujahideen do not have much financial or material abilities. He adds later when questioned about the differences between the previous jihad against the former Soviet Union and the present jihad against the U.S.-led coalition, that the primary disparity is in terms of support. The official also claims that the media fabricates the number of Mujahideen killed in military operations versus the enemy appearing unscathed. He states that the numbers of coalition forces killed by the Mujahideen are many more times that of the Mujahideen, alleging that five to six soldiers die in each bombing with an improvised explosive device (IED), and at least nine to ten die as a result of suicide operations.

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