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.

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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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 03, 2008

War In Afghanistan 2007: Weeks 50, 51 and 52

One year ago The Black Rod started writing about the war in Afghanistan because of the great divide between what we read on the Internet and the overwhelmingly defeatist reporting in the mainstream media.

We were especially incensed at learning, belatedly, about the tremendous victory of the Canadians in Panjwai who forced theTaliban into a humiliating retreat, something we hadn't heard a word about in the national newspapers or on television newscasts which spent 2006 concentrating on Canadian casualties and predicting the imminent success of a "resurgent" Taliban.

The reporting has gotten marginally better with more stories being published, often from reporters embedded with Canadian troops. But the news outlets are still so indoctrinated in anti-Americanism that they leap to report the slightest bad or negative news from Afghanistan while ignoring oceans of positive news. So we've decided to continue our Afghanistan coverage in 2008 as a much-needed counter to the MSM.

That said, we still need to conclude our War in Afghanistan 2007 coverage. So here it is, our Afghanistan '07 Top Ten wrap.

1. Musa Qala.
Taliban forces held Musa Qala, a town of 15-20,000, in a reign of terror for 10 months after sweeping aside local elders and imposing their own brand of medieval fanatic rule. It served as the crown jewel of the insurgency, the only significant piece of territory captured and held by the Taliban insurgents in 2007 and a base from which they operated against British and Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan.

But in December, a small army of 3000 British soldiers, led by the Special Boat Service, supporting a battalion of the Afghan National Army, bolstered by American, Danish and Estonian troops, and covered by the thickest aircover since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, chased the insurgents out in a picture-perfect text-book assault.

The retaking of Musa Qala sent the Taliban fighters running like scared rabbits and left them with absolutely nothing to show for their 2007 "year of decision" offensive which was supposed to drive NATO out of Afghanistan and return theTaliban to power.

They were defeated at every turn, crushed in every battle and run out of large sections of Kandahar and Helmand provinces which were supposed to be where they had their bedrock support. "Supposed to be", that is, if you believed what you read and heard in the Mainsteam media.

2. Mucho Moola
Reported in the British papers but almost unknown in North America was the enormous haul of opium found in Musa Qala worth. The Times of London said it was 12 tons of processed opium-- brown heroin-- worth 150 million pounds sterling, or almost 300 million dollars U.S. (or Canadian).

That's money right out of the Taliban's pocket. Remember all those stories telling how poorly the Afghan government pays its soldiers and police compared to how richly the Taliban pays their fighters? Well, somebody just got a pay cut. And with the opium factories in Musa Qala shut for good, the prospect of making up that money next year looks bad indeed.

Next to drugs, the big money earner for the Taliban was millions in ransom paid by Italy, Germany and South Korea for kidnapped civilians. They may have to turn to more kidnapping to fund the insurgency.

3. Mullah Dadullah
He's dead. We can't say that often enough. And every time we say it, it brings a smile to our faces.

Dadullah was the Elvis of the Taliban insurgency. He was so ruthless that his own bosses sidelined him a few times because even they found his bloodthirsty attacks on civilians unpalatable.

After the disastrous offensive in 2006, Mullah Dadullah was brought in to lead the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive of 2007. The only problem was... he got killed. And the offensive fizzled.

The Sunday Times has reported that Dadullah was actually killed in May by British forces rather than the American special forces everyone thought.

When five Taliban commanders, including Dadullah's brother, were released in exchange for an Italian journalist, coalition intelligence units tracked them to Pakistan, then to Helmand province where they met with Dadullah. The U.S. Delta Force which would normally be used was unavailable, so the British Special Boat Service C Squadron was sent to do the job.

The helicopter insertion was spotted and a four-hour gunbattle followed. When it was over, Dadullah was dead. He had been shot in the classic special ops double-tap--two in the chest and one in the head.

The Taliban appointed his baby brother Mansoor Dadullah to replace him as commander in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. He was as big a disaster as his big bro, losing the stronghold of Sangin to the British, a broader section of Kandahar to the Canadians, and eventually Musa Qala.

To add insult to injury, the year ended with news that Mullah Omar had fired baby Dadullah

""Mullah Mansoor Dadullah is not [in] obedience to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in his actions and has carried out activities which were against the rules of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," said Omar in an official statement. "So the Decision Authorities [or Shura Majlis, executive council] of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have removed Mansoor Dadullah from his post and he will no longer be serving the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in [any way] and no Taliban will obey his orders any more."

4. Help Wanted
"... they (the Taliban) have a recruiting problem." Canadian Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, ISAF's deputy commander at its Regional Command South. told Canwest News in the last days of 2007.

More and more bodies of Arabs, Chechens, and other foreigners are being found among the insurgents killed in recent battles in Afghanistan's southern provinces.

"Taliban insurgents are depending more on foreign fighters because of increased difficulties recruiting locals, Canadian Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse said."

Keep that in mind the next time you read about how the insurgency is growing and spreading.

The foreign fighters are more brutal and more unwavering fundamentalist in imposing shariah law in their areas of influence, a fact that is alienating the populace from the Taliban.

During the Musa Qala operation, Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for Afghanistan's National Security Council said elders from the Pashtun Alizi tribe in the area were particularly angry about the presence of foreign fighters and were cooperating with the central government.

This is a phenomenon that's been accelerating throughout the year. More and more we hear stories of families who once donated a son to the Taliban now sending their sons to join the Afghan army.

The yearly losses of 4000 or more Taliban dead aren't much of a recruiting slogan.

5. ANA
As in Afghan National Army.


Throughout 2006 and well into 2007 you read over and over again how poorly trained, poorly motivated, poorly paid the Afghan army was. Afghanistan couldn't raise enough soldiers; they deserted in droves; they failed to complete their training; they ran at the first hint of a fight; they were a ragtag bunch without decent uniforms and armed with hand-me-down rifles.

You haven't heard that for a while.

The ANA has become a well-trained fighting force which can stand up on its own to the Taliban. They are not NATO quality, and they don't have to be. They just need to be good enough to defeat Taliban fighters in the field. And they are.

They need coalition support in logistics and airpower. And they have it. They've begun their own operations under the watchful eyes of American mentors, but with each month they get stronger amd more experienced.

The success of the ANA can be measured by how the Taliban now avoid them as robustly as they avoid American, British and Canadian troops. The Taliban prefer to attack police stations and checkpoints.

6. The Weak Sisters

....better watch out.

The Taliban know they can't dislodge the Canadians from Kandahar (despite the best efforts of Taliban Jack Layton and Stephene Dion.) They can't dislodge the British from Helmand and they can't budge the Americans anywhere they set camp. And now they can't even take on the ANA.

So they will likely look for easier targets---the weak sisters of the coalition, Italy (of course), Germany and France (although the French under Sarkozy may be about to trade their skirts for combat trousers.)

The Germans are an especially juicy goose. They are already so afraid of anything approaching combat they spend their time in Afghanistan coming up with a slew of new restrictions on their troops.

While the British, Canadian and American soldiers are in the thick of fighting, the Germans are so bored in their camps in northern Afghanistan they're running out of ways to amuse themselves.

Their rescue helicopters won't fly at night and their troops can't travel more than two hours drive from hospitals. Here's a story from the Times showing how pampered the Germans are and how its affecting the war effort.

The Sunday Times
November 18, 2007
For us ze war is over by tea time, ja
Jerome Starkey

THEY are on the front line of the war on terror, but German pilots facing the Taliban are insisting they stop at tea time every day to comply with health and safety regulations.


The helicopter pilots, who provide medical back-up to Nato ground troops, set off for their base by mid-afternoon so they can be grounded by sundown.

Their refusal to fly in the dark is hampering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive, which involves 500 Nato-led troops plus 1,000 Afghan troops and police.

Although Germany has sent 3,200 troops to Afghanistan, they operate under restrictive rules of engagement.

They spend much of their time in an enormous base, complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-e-Sharif, a 90-minute flight from the fighting. They also have a base at Kunduz.

Germany, which has lost 25 soldiers in Afghanistan to suicide attacks and roadside bombs, commands the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the north. But its men are not allowed to travel more than two hours from a "role two medical facility" - a hospital equipped for emergency surgery.

The restrictions have fuelled tensions among allied troops. Norwegian soldiers, who were fighting to stem a growing Taliban insurgency in this remote stretch of Afghanistan's northwest frontier, were forced to desert their Afghan comrades midway through a firefight when German medical evacuation helicopters withdrew.

The Germans contribute unmanned surveillance planes, an electronic warfare team and a hospital to the operation.

One Norwegian cavalry officer, who was engaged in a day-long fight with more than 40 Taliban near Jari Siya in Badghis, said: "It's hopeless. We were attacking the bad guys, then [at] three or four o'clock, the helicopters are leaving.

"We had to go back to base. We should have had Norwegian helicopters. At least they can fly at night."

Abandoned by their western allies, the 600 men from the Afghan army's 209 Corps were forced to retreat until a convoy of American Humvees arrived the next day to reinforce them.

The story prompted this comment from a British soldier:

have been working in the AOR (area of operations - ed.) of RC North. The German contingent are the most un-productive Nation in Afghanistan. There are 2,500+ men at the camp and as already stated they just sit around smoking and drinking coffee. These guys and girls get the same NATO medal as the soldiers operating under fire on a daily basis.

Mark, Bristol, uk

7. Suicide Bombers

The Taliban launched more than 140 suicide bomb attacks in 2007, killing mostly civilians. The most effective attacks were in Kabul and against buses of police.

The use of suicide bombers is a two-edged sword. They have virtually no tactical use against coalition troops. They are used primarily to demonstrate the Karzai government cannot provide security to Afghan civilians.

Yet the instinct for security in war-torn Afghanistan cannot be underestimated.

Whenever coalition forces drive Taliban insurgents out of a town, the residents always say they welcomed the security that Taliban rule brought.

Mansoor Dadullah was interviewed in June by a Pakistani journalist on behalf of a Swiss publication Die Weltwoche. A transcript of the interview touches on the security issue:

Q. What do you offer people in return for their support?

A. We have done a great deal for the people. While we were in power the Afghans enjoyed something that the occupying forces from 42 countries have not been able to provide them since: security. You could even leave a sack of gold lying in your car. The people lived in security. Muslim dignity was preserved. The coalition troops call the Taliban terrorists. In reality we lived in peace, and they brought death and destruction to Afghanistan. Even the Taliban's enemies admit that Afghanistan was more secure under our control than it is now.

But the Taliban face blowback from their use of suicide bombers. The Afghan people turn against the insurgents when civilians are killed. This has split the Taliban leadership. The foreigner fighters and new commanders embrace suicide bombing, even if it means civilian deaths. The local Afghan commanders reject using civilians as disposable pawns.

Sometimes though, like yesterday, suicide bombers can make you smile.

January 2, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Five suspected Taliban militants were killed when a suicide car bomb they were building went off prematurely in the southern province of Kandahar, police said Wednesday.


8. IED's

Roadside bombs have been the most dangerous weapon of the insurgency. Almost all the deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan in 2007 were caused by IED's.

The lesson to be learned is you don't win playing defence. Whenever the Canadians go on the offensive, the roadside bomb fatalities fall to zero. When they back off, the casualties rise again.

The good news is that accidents like these are not all that unusual:

KABUL, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Two Taliban insurgents were killed as their mine exploded prematurely in Afghanistan's central Ghazni province in the wee hours of Tuesday, police said. "Some Taliban fighters were busy in planting a mine on a road in Nawa district very early today to target government troops. Suddenly it exploded killing two insurgents on the spot," senior police officer in the province Mohammad Zaman told Xinhua.

However, Taliban purported spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said three fighters were killed in the premature explosion.

9. One war won.

As we declared last January, we've won the Education war.

The number of stories about Taliban attacks on teachers, schools and students has almost dried up. They attacks still happen, as we've reported, but nowhere at the rate of 2006.

Afghans have spoken loud and clear. They want their children to go to school. They value education. And when Taliban insurgents try to close schools, intimidate teachers and murder students, they only lose support.

The next showdown will be the Electricity War.

The Taliban managed to delay the reconstruction of the Kajaki Dam for a year. But their removal from their base in Musa Qala means work has resumed.

It's a huge project and will take at least two years to finish. But when finished it will bring power to 1.7 million Afghans. The Taliban will fight with all they've got to prevent that, prevent bringing Afghans into the 20th century, nevermind the 21st. They know that once the electricity flows, they have lost.

10. The Taliban's media allies are hard at work

They hate it when you point out the obvious, but the Taliban couldn't ask for better allies than the mainstream media. They are united in a common goal, whether the MSM will admit it or not---to get western forces out of Afghanistan. The vast majority of stories are slanted with that goal in mind.

Why are the Taliban so confident despite their clear weakness? Because the western media tell them they are winning.

NATO announcements of victory are ignored or disparaged, but the Taliban's annual announcement of a spring offensive gets reverential treatment, with subsequent stories complete with fawning references to how strong the Taliban have become, how wide the insurgency has grown, how well-armed they are, how fearless, how relentless.

Compare that with the Canadian media's determination not to be cheerleaders for their governments. They therefore conjoin the atrocities of the Taliban with phony complaints of human rights abuses by Canadian soldiers.

The Taliban murders childen.

Canadians let Taliban suspects get slapped.

There's a moral equivalency for you.

And that's IF the media reports on the victims of the Taliban in the first place.

And that's why we'll be continuing our Afghanistan coverage in the new year.

( Our thanks to the many readers from around the world who have expressed their appreciation and support for our series. In particular the kind words from the families of Canadian soldiers who have fallen in battle or who are still fighting overseas, who say the series has been a valuable resource in keeping track of the true progess of the campaign. )

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