U.S. Loses Warload that could have helped in War On Terror

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Hyperlink: http://www.smh.com.au/news/0109/17/world/world11.html

Copyright, The Sydney Morning Herald, Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only President loses the warlord who could have helped him on ground

Killed ... Ahmad Shah Massoud

By Paul McGeough in New York

As President George Bush hatches plans to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy his network, it seems that terrorism's grandmaster might also have taken the life of the last Afghan warlord who really could have helped the Americans. After a week of denials, aides to Ahmad Shah Massoud confirmed at the weekend that he had died from injuries received last Sunday. Two Algerians, masquerading as journalists, exploded a concealed bomb while interviewing Massoud at his bunker at Khoja Bahauddin in the opposition-controlled north-east of Afghanistan. Massoud, 49, was the leader of the Northern Alliance opposition to the Taliban, and a one-time Afghan defence minister who commanded a whole chapter of his country's violent history. Gaunt and charismatic, Massoud was legendary for his abilities as a military strategist. He was the glue that held together the often fractious alliance of tribal fighters trying to block the Taliban's imposition of their harsh rule on the country.

But now the last line of resistance against the Taliban is badly breached - Massoud's men are leaderless and pinned down in a postage-stamp corner of the country. It was there, Massoud's aides say, that the Algerian interlopers, whom they believed to have been trained and directed by bin Laden, struck. The Taliban have long sheltered bin Laden, steadfastly refusing to surrender him to the West to be dealt with for a series of terrorist attacks that have claimed thousands of lives in the US, the Middle East and Africa.

After the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, the US tried and failed to destroy bin Laden with missiles, balking at sending in ground troops because of the risk to American lives. Last Tuesday's terror attacks, for which bin Laden is the only named suspect, will make the US less squeamish. But if it is to try again - and the Pentagon is not ruling out a ground effort - Massoud would have been invaluable for his knowledge of the impossible mountain terrain and of the Taliban.

Massoud railed against the US for its neglect of the Afghan conflict in what proved to be one of his last press interviews, in a midnight encounter with the Herald at his Khoja Bahauddin bunker last month. "The Taliban act on the advice of bin Laden and they have maybe 35,000 fighters from Pakistan and the Arab countries," he said. "The way they are cleaning out the minority village communities of the north is nothing less than ethnic cleansing. "Where is the US? Why is the United Nations not investigating this? Why will no-one help us?"

In the old days, the US and Britain funded Massoud to the tune of billions. If Mr Bush and the generals go back into the CIA files from the 1980s - during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan - they will find themselves going backwards into a graveyard of rivalry and hate that was as much of their making as it was of the other countries that have made a plaything of Afghanistan. The world walked away from Afghanistan with the end of the Cold War - the Soviet Union in collapse and defeat and the US uncaring, because it had only ever been there to challenge Moscow within a Cold War construct.

But now that Washington is returning to the region it will be confronted by a series of relationships between Afghanistan's neighbours, its friends and enemies, that are contradictory, dysfunctional and, if US soldiers are going in, possibly life-threatening. In one corner is the Taliban - an aggressive enemy to the US. But Washington's friends in the region - Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - are independently also friends of the Taliban. Afghan tribes descended into their own civil war after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Taliban could not have taken control without support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan wanted the Taliban in charge because it believed they could aid its conflict with India.

Now, if Pakistan bows to US pressure by genuinely joining the pursuit of bin Laden, it risks a damaging split in its military and a serious backlash from a significant body of fundamentalist support for the Taliban among Pakistanis. The Saudis backed the Taliban because of their support for its Sunni brand of the Muslim faith, as opposed to the Shia Muslim faith predominant in Iran. Saudi Arabia poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, and although it still recognises the Taliban, the relationship has cooled - principally because the Taliban give sanctuary to bin Laden. The Saudis still have some influence in Kabul. The Americans, who have guaranteed Saudi Arabia's security since the Gulf crisis, will expect it to be used to their advantage in the hunt for bin Laden - but the Saudis have consistently hampered US efforts to get direct access to terrorists. Iran is an enemy of the US, but it also is a significant backer of Massoud's Northern Alliance. Russia continues to interfere in the region, also supplying arms and logistic support to the Northern Alliance. Moscow opposes the Taliban, which it fears will export its brand of Islam to the north; it opposes bin Laden because he nurtures and trains Moscow's opponents in Chechnya and Daghestan, two of Russia's 21 republics that are fighting for independence.

The region is fraught with danger and the US needs to understand that. If bin Laden disposed of Massoud as a gesture to his Taliban hosts, it is going to make it just that little bit more difficult for the Taliban to give him up.

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 06, 2001


That's ok, we did not need him anyway. The Taliban are soon to be dead too.

-- jimmie-the-weed (thinkasur@aol.com), October 06, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ