The Black Rod

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 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:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War in Afghanistan 2007 Week 44

If you depend on the Mainstream Media to tell you about NATO's mission to Afghanistan, you hear nothing but reports of failure, division and impending defeat.

That's strange.

We see signs of success everywhere, and never more than in the past week.

Just last Sunday U.S.-led coalition forces killed about 80 Taliban fighters near Musa Quala in Helmand province. It was the fifth major battle in the area since Sept. 1st. and the Taliban death toll tops 250 for Musa Quala alone.

The official report says a combined Afghan-coalition force was on a reconnaissance patrol when it was attacked by insurgents from a trench line with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Over the next six hours the U.S. and Afghan troops manoeuvred to fix the enemy positions, then called in air strikes.

Four precision bombs decimated the enemy forces, killing about 80.

Find 'em, fix 'em, f-kill 'em (the f is silent). A time-honoured tactic that's been perfected by our forces. Final score: us, 80 and them, zero. Like a boxer who has discovered his opponent is a sucker for the old one-two.

Apart from perfecting technique, the significance of the battle is where it took place.

Insurgents seized Musa Qala and district in February and have held it ever since. They took over four months after British troops left as part of a highly controversial "peace agreement" that put local Afghan elders in charge of ensuring Taliban fighters didn't menace the people. Given unfettered access to the town Taliban forces used it as a safe haven, then, after a regional commander was killed in an air strike, they swept the elders aside and took control.

Residents from Musa Qala say the Taliban has spent the summer fortifying positions and digging trench llines and bunkers everywhere.

Local officials told AP (the phone lines to Musa Qala have not been cut off) that foreign fighters from Pakistan, Chechnya and central Asia operate suicide bomber training camps and build IED's which are used to kill Canadian troops in neighbouring Kandahar province.

General Dan McNeill, who succeeded the British General David Richards as the leader of Nato forces in Afghanistan, had called the peace agreement "an intellectual mistake and a strategic disaster".

His predecessor, however, said as late as Oct. 11 that such cease-fire deals are "...the right thing in principle."

In World War 2, Winston Churchill cashiered officers for lesser failures than Richards'.

In present day England, Gen. Richards will soon become the commander-in-chief of Britain's land forces.

McNeill, a no-nonsense American, has sent his Special Forces in to do what the British forces were reluctant to do. And it may be paying off bigtime.

Monday, the UK's Daily Telegraph reported that a highly influential Afghan tribal leader is talking with Afghan government officials about defecting from the Taliban insurgency and taking thousands of his tribesmen with him.

According to the Telegraph report, a majority of the fighters operating in Musa Qala are from one tribe, nearly all of whom are loyal to Mullah Abdul Salaam. They were aligned with the Taliban, but once word of the negotiations leaked out on the weekend, Taliban officials outside of Helmand province sent assassins to kill Salaam. The murder attempt failed and an agreement for Salaam to withdraw his forces from combat could be reached within days, says the Telegraph.

The MSM has missed this story because they're too focussed on the divisions within NATO over Afghanistan operations, and too ardently trying to promote a non-existent split between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and General Hillier.

The huge splits within the Taliban movement have gone unnoticed and unreported, starting with the decision by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyer ,who leads the insurgents in the north of Afghanistan, to opt out of the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive (TM The Black Rod).

Hekmatyer, no doubt inspired by the deaths of several high-level Taliban commanders in coalition air strikes, could see who was winning and who wasn't. Mullah Salaam can see the same thing.

After Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's chief military commander for the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive (TM The Black Rod), was killed, the Taliban's official leadership faced an unprecedented challenge. New Bucks like Jalaluddin Haqqani (okay, middle-aged bucks), whose power base is in eastern Afghanistan, want to wrest power from Mullah Omar, who they consider and old fogey.

The introduction of Al Qaeda tactics like suicide bombers has alienated many Afghans and caused a split in the insurgency between the local Taliban who just want to fight foreign troops and the Pakistan-based Taliban who want to cleanse the region of anyone that disagrees with them regardless of civilian casualties.

The United Nations rep to Afghanistan told the body in his official report this month that the Taliban has lost a large number of mid- level leaders who have been replaced by foreign ``elements.'' In some cases, that has not gone down well with the locals.'' This summer saw a literal civil war in Pakistan's lawless tribal region when local Taliban fighters drove out Uzbek fighters loyal to Al Qaeda at the expense of hundreds of dead, Taliban who wouldn't be coming to Afghanistant to fight NATO troops. But it only gets better.

Two weeks ago Asia Times carried a report quoting "a top Pakistani security official who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity," that Pakistan is planning an all-out battle against Islamic fundamentalists in the tribal region of North and South Waziristan.

Previous military operations, said the Asia Times story, had limite objectives. But Pakistan authorities have given the military the order to go for broke "to break the back of the Taliban and a-Qaeda in Pakistan and reclaim the entire area."


If true, the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are about to be destroyed. The insurgents who have been hiding there will be forced into Afghanistan, but guess who will be waiting for them? And this report came before Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan, before the terror attacks predicted by Waziristan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud when she arrived, and before she runs for office on a platform of driving the Taliban out.

Did we say there was good news or did we say there was good news?

The Taliban has accepted it cannot defeat NATO, US and even Afghan forces in battle. They have resorted to terror tactics instead. But even these are not as effective as they hoped.

The UN Security Council was informed two weeks ago there has been 133 suicide bomb attacks this year compared to 88 during the first nine months of 2006, roughly a 50 percent increase. There were 123 suicide attacks in total last year. The suicide bombings killed 183 Afghans during the first half of 2007, 121 of them civilians.

Afghan forces, particularly the police, have borne the brunt of the other casualties.Roadside bombings have increased about 30 percent to 606 by mid-October.

"The number of ISAF and coalition soldiers who have been killed by suicide bombers this year is a total of nine," said a U.S. military official at a recent briefing. "I am not implying that these losses are trivial ... but from a strategic standpoint it is not militarily significant," he said.

Here's a pathetic example of the Taliban's kamikaze forces:

Afghan suicide bomber kills own family 15.
October 2007, 12:29
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer

A mother who tried to stop her son from carrying out a suicide bomb attack triggered an explosion in the family's home in southern Afghanistan that killed the would-be bomber, his mother and three siblings, police said Monday. The would-be bomber had been studying at a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan, and when he returned to his home in Uruzgan province over the weekend announced that he planned to carry out a suicide attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said.

The MSM loves to recite the total fatality figure for Afghanistan, which is running at about 5,200 so far. The majority of deaths , which the news agencies count as about 3,600 have been Taliban fighters. Civilian deaths top 1000.

Or do they?

NATO apparently possesses a trove of classified, video clandestine footage taken by UAV's and military aircraft. Two weeks ago, NATO's secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer made a pitch to declassify video surveillance footage shot by NATO forces to counter Taliban propaganda video posted on jihadist Internet sites.

One video shown to NATO commanders recently shows an insurgent pulling a burka from a backpack and slipping it on, covering himself in the head-to-foot robe to disguise himself as a woman. He then opened fire with an AK-47 on western troops.

How would he be classified when his dead body was recovered?
Or this guy...

Foreign fighters of violent bent bolster Taliban
By David Rohde
Published: October 29, 2007
GARDEZ, Afghanistan:
Afghan police officers working a highway checkpoint near here noticed something odd recently about a passenger in a red pickup truck. Though covered head to toe in a burqa, the traditional veil worn by Afghan women, she was unusually tall. When the police asked her questions, she refused to answer.

When the veil was eventually removed, the police found not a woman at all, but Andre Vladimirovich Bataloff, a 27-year-old man from Siberia with a flowing red beard, pasty skin and piercing blue eyes. Inside the truck was 1,000 pounds of explosives.

Did you catch it? Siberia.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Taliban is hiring mercenaries from around the globe--Siberia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, several Arab countries, Turkey and western China.

The influx of seveal hundred foreign fighters this year is the largest foreign recruitment since 2001. It appears there's a shortage of cannon fodder at the local level.

By the end of the year the Taliban dead will number 4000 at least. Assume a ratio of one wounded to every dead that's another 4000 men who will live out their lives known as Limpy Muhammed in their home villages.

Add to last year's toll and you have 14 thousand dead and wounded, with nothing to show for it except more lost territory and a stronger Afghan and coalition army waiting for next year's Feared Taliban Spring Offensive (TM The Black Rod).


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