October 30, 2006

Taliban factions map

For those who are having trouble (like me) keeping up with the increasingly complex Taliban dynamics in Afghanistan, here's a heavily oversimplified map, just depicting the three major anti-government factions' geographic centers of gravity:

As outlined in NYT reporter Elizabeth Rubin's "In the Land of the Taliban" (link) there are now three factions going under the collective name in NATO parlance of Anti-Coalition Militias (ACM)). They are:

1. "Council" Taliban: the Taliban of ex-Afghan leader Mullah Omar and, more recently, the allegedly charismatic Mullah Dadullah, based in Quetta, Pakistan. The centre of their Afghan strength in the old days was the area where the borders of Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces met. Recently, they have begun to have a presence in the next province over to the west, Helmand, as local opium farmers and distributors react negatively to Afghan government suppression efforts there.

2. The Hezb-i-Islami, or Hekmatyar faction: The private army of former Afghan PM Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, once famous for bombarding Kabul flat during the countries 1990s civil war. As extremist as Omar's Taliban, Hekmatyar's faction was abandoned by its Pakistani backers as the Omar faction grew in power in the late 1990s. Hekmatyar's base of support was always in the Khyber Pass Jalalabad area, east of Kabul, but he still has supporters throughout Afghanistan.

3. The Haqqani faction: Centred in the city of Khost, the followers of popular warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani continue to resist extension of the Karzai government's authority into their border region. Popular with Middle Eastern private backers, Haqqani in the past has been eagerly courted by the Karzai government with offers of government positions. He and his son, Sirajuddin, are reputedly the commanders of the mujahideen forces that have recently fought the Pakistani government to a draw in Waziristan.

This graphic may be worth comparing to the NATO casualties graphic at this post and the current ISAF "placemat". One observation worth making is that both the Hekmatyar and Haqqani factions are almost entirely in the area overseen by Regional Command-East (RC-East), centred on the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division, also known as Task Force Spartan. The Council Taliban are operating almost entirely in the RC-South area, in the area of operations of the NATO brigade comprising UK, Canadian, Dutch and Australian troops.

NOTE: Nothing in the above should be taken to mean, by the way, that there is any sign of division between the various Taliban factions: they are presently extremely closely allied. Haqqani has acknowledged the spiritual and political overlordship of Mullah Omar, and Omar has named Haqqani as his senior military commander. Hekmatyar and the Hizb-i Islami fighters have some nominal independence, but he is also reported to have accepted the Quetta Council's authority. Hekmatyar and Omar are die-hard rejectionists, while repeated Afghan, American and Pakistani overtures to Haqqani to come in from the cold have been consistently rejected for four years straight now. The public statements of all three men and their representatives have repeatedly stated they will not negotiate with the Karzai government until NATO leaves Afghanistan.

UPDATE: More here from the ever-reliable Ahmed Rashid. Note that the 300 per cent increase in attacks he refers to is in eastern Afghanistan, aka the US 3rd BCT's area, not the southern (Kandahar) front.

Posted by BruceR at 06:28 PM

The other side of OCdt Juarez

This was rather disturbing to read. For the record, all overseas service in the Canadian reserves remains voluntary: no reservist is ever obligated to go. Mr. Francisco Juarez may have left his basic training course due to his disagreement with Canadian foreign policy, but it is wholly inappropriate for he or the media to suggest his quitting was prompted out of a realistic concern regarding imminent or non-voluntary overseas service.

For instance: "He says he was being groomed to become a second lieutenant and would have been in Kandahar by early next year?" Completely false.

Posted by BruceR at 05:16 PM

Missing weapons report: thoughts

You may have read already about how the U.S. has no accountability for the 370,000 small arms it gave to Iraqi indigenous forces over the last few years. No lists of serial numbers, nothing. Oh, well.

The full audit report is here (PDF). In case you were curious what kinds of weapons the Iraqis got, as I was, here's the breakdown:

Iraqi Ministry of Defence (Armed Forces): 109,145 weapons in total, 72,244 of which were AK-47-type assault rifles. Also 29,000 9mm pistols, 7,400 7.62mm machine guns, 330 carbines and shotguns, 100 RPG-7s (-7VM, to be precise), and 12 .50 calibre heavy machine guns.

Iraqi Ministry of the Interior (Internal Security Forces): 261,106 weapons in total, 147,900 of which were 9 mm pistols. The rest includes 93,900 AK-47s (3,900 with under-barrel grenade launchers), 12,700 7.62mm MGs, 1,200 submachine guns, carbines and shotguns, 1,400 RPG-7s, and 60 sniper rifles.

These are the weapons purchased, by ministry. The actual distribution turned out somewhat different, however. Most of the under-barrel grenade launchers were never issued, and those that were went to the army, for instance. For the other weapon types, existing large quantities of similar weapons in both ministry's inventories (and the lack of documentation) made it difficult to determine who had received what from the new purchases. Suffice it to say, everyone seems to be fairly well equipped with small arms, regardless.

Now, Glocks and AK-47s are about the most reliable weapons you can buy, so obviously some good thinking went into the purchasing here. At $135 million, the prices don't seem exorbitant, either. Less thought went into spare parts purchasing: pretty much only the 7.62mm MGs and AK-47s had parts purchased for them, and those in fairly small amounts (less than 1% of the overall program cost). No repair manuals were purchased, and the Ministry of the Interior currently has no trained weapons maintainers, apparently.

As for accountability, 13,000 pistols and 100 SMGs were found by the auditors to be completely unaccounted for in official inventories. Not too impressive. But hopefully this is mostly the fault of the inventories (I can see it being difficult of keeping track of every police officer's sidearm in Iraq under the best of circumstances). Certainly the types of weapons assessed as missing (9mm) are not exactly those that terrorists or insurgents would have excessive difficulty obtaining for themselves in any case, so it's unlikely the bureaucratic shortfalls here add significantly to the existing danger posed by prevalent small arms to Western military forces in Iraq or other countries.

Posted by BruceR at 01:41 PM

Cdns announce bravery medals; meanwhile TB says 'nix' and AQ says it's on

Nice convergence of developments to mull over the same weekend as the first significant Canadian anti-Afghan War rallies.

First, the Governor General announced the first ever awards of the new military valour medals that were created to replace the old British medals. 1 SMV (Star of Military Valour) and 3 MMVs (Medals of Military Valour), from four separate Afghan actions.

For those keeping score at home, the SMV ranks in the current Canadian hierarchy about where the old Distinguished Service Order (DSO)/Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) did (the Brits had that old officer/man distinction going, of course, necessitating two medals for equivalent heroic acts). The MMV would be roughly equivalent to the old Military Cross (MC)/Military Medal(MM) in British/Commonwealth army service.

The Victoria Cross remains in both British and Canadian service as the senior, Medal of Honor-level heroism award. It has not been awarded in Canadian service since World War Two. The American army equivalents to the SMV and MMV, for second- and third-order suicidal acts of battlefield heroism, would be the DSC and Silver Star.

Meanwhile, both the Omar and Hekmatyar factions of the Taliban (or, as NATO soldiers informally call them, "Timmy"), in separate statements, turned down an offer by the Karzai government to join a jirga of Pashtun leaders to discuss their grievances, or any negotiations with the central government until after foreign troops leave.

In other news, there is some increasing chatter about Canada now becoming a higher-value target in the eyes of Al Qaeda.

Posted by BruceR at 12:51 AM