Bin Laden is the principal responsible for the attempts of September 11, 2001. And also probably those of March 11, 2004. But in a lax way, of ideological religious sponsorship. As he was in these dates, first sheltered in Afghanistan, and later hidden in its inaccessible and intricate Eastern mountains.
Al-Qaida is the principal reference franchisor of the radical Islamic, at level of the Umma, or Islamic universal community. And this is very important, because the Islam is a very socialized religion. Neither Hezbolla, nor Hamas, nor Iran, nor the Moslem Brothers, nor Tehkrit el Taliban have Bin Laden’s or al-Qaeda’s global ascendancy in the modern radical Islam.
His strategic principal aim is to implant a universal Caliphate. And neither of the Moslem actual states serve them. Because they are heretics, as the chií Iran. Because they are «corrupt», in spite of her religious radicalism, as Saudi Arabia, in hands of the thousand (or are they seven thousand?) «princes» of the family of Ibn Saud, the State founder at the beginning of last century. Or because they are «westernized», as almost all the remaining ones, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Tunis, etc.
It seems to be necessary, then, to capture Bin Laden or the high command of al-Qaida. Some looking for revenge for the received attacks, as Spain and Great Britain. Others, as the USA, to eradicate an islamist violent extremism. That extends his influence through the world and that from time to time commits an outrage against his country or against his allies.
Is it possible to do it? Which will be the difficulties? The direct actions against al-Qaeda, will turn out to be quite effective as are glimpsed?
The «last» Occurrence of the Military American Strategy in Afghanistan.
The general Stanley McChrystal closes the «Infernal Circle» of searching and apprehension of Osama Bin Laden. At the beginning of December, 2009, the general McChrystal, chief of the American Forces in the theater of Afghanistan, in one of his appearances in the Congress to explain and to defend the need of the intensification of the military operations in Afghanistan, has revealed his new find, after a «well-considered» reflexion. The general has conditioned directly the success of the fight against al-Qaeda to Bin Laden’s elimination. Is it certain this, operationally speaking?
Introduction. The Situation of the «Problem».
The Taliban and al-Qaeda form two vertically organized movements and from below to up, same in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That does that its cells do not know exactly which are the top chiefs. They only know where they have to go to receive support or to send or to receive information or to communicate with another «peer» cell. The ideological and geographical nearness allows them to collaborate tactically. The commands of these movements act by exception, not by presence or by deliberate action. This way, they give doctrinal orientations, establish essential lines of military and proselytizing action for the different territories and areas, they throw threats and warnings to the enemy governments and indicate punctual important (strategic) aims at the level of the set of the organization. This allows them to operate well, without the intervention of its high commands. The death of the mullah Omar or mullah Haqqani and two or three chiefs in an American bombardment, would concern little its efficiency, at its real military irregular levels of action. The «martyrdom» of the aforesaid or Bin Laden or his «managing director» al-Zawahiri would perform almost equal importance as their existence.
The operative key of the Taliban resides in their innumerable local chiefs, with their small guerrillas bands. They are the persons in charge of intimidating, teaching, scaring, attacking and occupying more or less temporarily some of the numerous settlements and hamlets, at both side of the frontier. According to the pressure degree that they should exercise on the villagers in order that they inform them, hide them and support them. Evidently its elementary degree of operative development keeps the movement at the defensive. Without being able to dispute to any of the present Armies in these areas, any territory or village. Without being able to realize other attack actions beyond ambushes, assaults to very small enemy isolated units, harassment by medium range fire, kidnapping, short duration isolated incursions and ways and paths mining. Ideologically concentrated in the conversion to their movement, to their semi nomadic cells, of the most related or nearby Pashtuns. In a minor and less extensive degree, operate the cells of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The First great Attempt of Capturing Bin Laden and his direct close Friends.
In the autumn of 2001 took place the rapid crumbling of the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, seated in a precarious and bad constructed state, which was giving cover and logistic support to the headquarters of al-Qaeda. This one, together with his «escort agents», a small group of active members and of training proselytes, gathered with time, forming an extensive and lax march deployment. And they slipped, following the narrow and steep routes that the zone was offering them, through the Afghan mountains up to Torah Bora. It began then, in December, 2001, the great operation of search and apprehension of the maximum leader of al-Qaeda. That was the direct and declared responsible person of the attempts of September 11 against the USA. Americans met for it near 100 groups specialized in «Long Range Independent Operations», in the zone in which it was supposed that Bin Laden was hiding. Why they did not catch or killed him? Possibly, if they were Israeli commands, they had achieved it.
In its day, according to the reports that are appearing to the public light, they said that it was for «lack of means». «We needed more soldiers there!, there declared recently the agent of the CIA Gary Bernstein. During his testimony, he assured that «we might have finished everything there». In 50 pages of a report published this year, are mentioned the testimonies of several military persons in charge. That saw how their High Commands were denying to them, for example, the thousand necessary men, according to them, to stop up the entrances and exits to Pakistan, or several bombardments.
Did they needed more than 100 elite commands for an operation of circle and annihilation of a band of irregular in fugue, terrified by the typical vague and nearby bombardments? Operation that would be limited to the zone where the enemy tracks and their electronic sensors, satellites, spies and intelligence agencies, were locating approximately the enemy. Surrounded the zone, by means of a double ring, not necessarily unbroken, but effective, the commands would penetrate centripetally in the suspicious area. Acting simultaneously, patiently, methodically and secretly, like a «swarm» of small units. Where the flank and the rear of every small unit would be defended by his initiative and offensive activity. And by the «influence» radiated by a nearby companion unit.
Also they imputed part of the responsibility in the escape to a “falcon” like Donald Rumsfeld. In those days, they say now, that Rumsfeld declared that if the USA was so hard in Afghanistan (for cleanly capturing the responsible person of that treacherous and civil tragedy?), it would wake up an anti-American feeling, bigger than that already existed. And because of it, he was supporter of a more «light» tactics, using controlled bombardments and with the collaboration with the Afghan Army.
The failure of an operation constituted a decisive strategic failure. In fact, for years there has not been trustworthy information of Osama’s whereabouts. As has just admitted the secretary of Defense Robert Gates, last December 7. And now, in 2009, al-Qaeda is renewed and spread. And Bin Laden, as the dead Che, inspires but does not command, a new generation of Islamic extremists, spread over numerous countries.
The Historical Precedents. The Geostrategic Present Stage.
Abdur Rahman, proclaimed Emir of Kabul in 1883, saw his sovereignty progressively reinforced on the totality of Afghanistan, immediately after the crushing by the British of the uprising, the same year, of Ayub Khan in Kandahar. In November, 1893, Abdur Rahman signed a “formal agreement” in Kabul with sir Mortimer Durand, secretary of Foreign Affairs of the British general governor in the India, Lord Lansdowne. That one fixed and established the political border between the India and Afghanistan. It was known since then as the line or the frontier tracing Durand.
The problem generated by this tracing was that the pashtunes, as definite and different race, remained divided geographically in 2 parts, placed in 2 territories of different sovereignties. The pashtunes lands of Chitral, Bajaur, Swat, Buner, Dhir, Khyber (with its gorge between Pesahwar and Kabul), Kuram and two Waziristans, stayed inside the British India. After the independence of the India, all these territories were incorporated to Pakistan. The Islamic state created at the time to satisfy and shelter the most part of the Indian Muslims. And that was including originally Bangladesh, at the far end of the Indian subcontinent, where the Bengali Muslims were living.
The pashtunes are nowadays 12-15 % of the Pakistani population. They are a poor minority, placed in zones with insufficient ground networks and of difficult development. But 25 % of the officers of the Pakistani army are pashtunes. As well as also about 40 % of officers of ISI (the Pakistani secret information service). The individuals of pashtún race are approximately 25 millions in the country.
In the northern part of Baluchistan live tribes of pashtún race. In the South and North Waziristan’s regions the Pashtuns are more concentrated, forming a real Pakistani Pashtunistan. Within the great pashtun race, the Mahsuds (these specially inclined to breaking the agreements and treaties) are in the Waziristan central zone, the Wasirs and the Afridis live in the zone of Tirah and the Mohmands, at the north of Tirah. The great zone of Chitral, at the north of the border, is formed by the Bajaur, Dhir and Swat districts. The Waziristans are the most problematic, independent and turbulent tribes.
In Afghanistan, the Pashtuns are at the south and south-east, reaching 35% of the population and around 12,5 millions persons. Another important Afghan races are the Uzbecs (10%) and the Tajiks (25%), which live in the north of the country, bordering the Tajikistan and Uzbekistan independent republics. In the center live the Hazaras (20 % of the population), related with the Persian and in the south are the Baluchis (10 %), related, in turn, with the Pakistani Baluchistan tribes. The flow of Afghans, specially Pashtuns, towards Pakistan or coming back home, when the military conditions are smoothed, does that the figures, lacking for decades of an official census, are variable and vague.
After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the dispute arose with Afghanistan, which was looking for an exit to the sea, for the possession of the wide frontier tribal zones. Both countries almost came to the armed conflict, until they signed in 1963 an agreement of borders determination. The borders existing during the British domain were ratified in it. And Afghanistan stayed as an interior country, without access to the sea routes.
A pashtún independent and sovereign state does not exist. Their nation is divided between two Islamic states, not rivals and complementary. In none of them the pashtunes can impose their social and economic demands. Till now the Afghan Taliban revolt realizes her ambushes and assaults with limited aim mainly in the districts of pashtún majority. The tayicos and the hazaras form great part of the current security forces that get up slow, painfully and with reluctance in Afghanistan: approximately 90 thousand policemen and approximately 80 thousand native soldiers, with variable degrees of motivation, loyalty and training. In the pashtunes districts neither are enrollments to the national army nor to the Afghan police. Sometimes It looks like a pashtún war of liberation inside a country oppressive or neglected towards them.
These administrative colonialist policies were a frequent practice of all the imperial metropolis. To distribute the sovereignty of the territories, following geographical considerations. As a child would do it, drawing vaguely a map in his games. And leaving the different «regional races», separated and distributed between the forced resultant states. So creating permanent instability and, therefore, dependence and intervention need or foreign guardianship from the superpowers. There we have the cases of Moldavia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, North Ossetia, etc.
Barack Obama wants to reach 400 thousand operational and effective men in the Afghan security forces. To be able to leave them the defense of Afghanistan. Will he be able to motivate and to achieve that they enlist? Will they be loyal to a staggering and slightly representative democracy? Will they be effective in the hard fighting against the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurrections?
How is it Necessary to Attack in the Pashtunes mountainous tribal Zones?
We can say that, inside a partial area of these, the gravity center of the fight resides in the control of the passages and in the dominant heights of these. The military deployments must be long and narrow, as is required by orography. And in the marches, they must take advantage simultaneously of the whole net of paths, gorges and ways of a zone. This offers to them a certain previous deployment for the combat. It is not easy to rely on the support of air fire, for the requirements of maneuverability of the aircrafts. Punctual bombardments of saturation can be realized on an enemy reinforced position, which he has decided to defend. There must be avoided the heavy fires on the settlements, even suspicious, which do not answer to the unquestionable safety of the own expeditionary forces. The units to employ in the «interfaces of action» with the enemy in these hostile zones, are the small units of elite light infantry with high mountain training. No principal «mother» column, methodically advancing through these areas, can survive without deploying a combat advance guard, which should be occupying temporarily and successively the dominant points at the flanks of the advance path, and a rear guard that goes forward by successive observed bounds.
The advantage of the pashtunes over the regular forces, specially the foreigners, resides in the knowledge of their own area, on it they can move at great speed. They have a tactical elementary natural skill and a special trickery incorporated into their survival sense. They are capable of waiting patiently for a favorable opportunity for action, choosing generally when and where to do it. And they do not have shame in moving back when they can not realize their plans and can be threatened or cornered by the infidel modern enemy.
In addition, nowadays, the Taliban enjoy a complicated system of natural caves at several levels, in some frontier zones. That is reinforced by tunnels of communication, provided with zones extended for the waiting and the storage of goods of all classes. This system is used to facilitate the traffic between both countries, without having to use the frontier passages or the most habitual and known gorges, as «stages» of the complete journey. And as temporary refuge when the allies carry out operations at battalion or regiment levels, of search of rebels or of reprisal, on the pashtunes zones where they have been more active. The highland villages are numerous, small and spread for both zones in the Pakistani Afghan border. In them also a small group of Taliban can be camouflaged, waiting for the passing through of a military “flood”, as the mentioned ones.
The pashtunes have small military collective discipline and the enemy heavy fires air and ordnance affect their spirit and decision. Also, it affects them very much to see threatened or occupied their line of retreat and the light and medium enemy fires, when they receive them from heights superior to those that they occupy. The pashtunes can attack at night some aims that worth it, but they are not natural night fighters.
The global, polyvalent, integrator knowledge that needs the approximation to an armed religious politician revolt, is diverse and multiple. We recommend our readers, as complement, the reading of the different articles that, on the Taliban and al-Qaeda revolts we are publishing in the last months. With it, they will acquire a «prism» to observe, to discern and to predict the development of those «modern conflicts».