Afghan Conflict Intensifying

In comments made during a speech at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security, General David Petraeus noted the number of attacks in Afghanistan over the last week hit the highest level since the December 2001 fall of the Taliban. Attacks have risen to over 400 insurgent attacks a week compared to under 50 per week back in January 2004. More from the New York Times:

The violence that has surged for two years in Afghanistan reached a new high last week, and more difficulty lies ahead, the commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East said Thursday.

Gen. David Petraeus said the number of attacks in Afghanistan over the last week hit the highest level since the December 2001 fall of the Taliban.

"Some of this will go up because we are going to go after their sanctuaries and safe havens as we must," Petraeus, in charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as leader of U.S. Central Command, said during a speech at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security.

"But there is no question the situation has deteriorated over the course of the past two years in particular and there are difficult times ahead," he said.

There were more than 400 insurgent attacks last week, including ambushes, small arms volleys, assaults on Afghan infrastructure and government offices, and roadside bomb and mine explosions. In comparison, attacks in January 2004 were less than 50 per week.

Extremist attacks in the rural nation tend to increase in the summer months, and in part are spurred by military efforts to crack down on insurgents, Petraeus said.

Petraeus, who led beefed-up U.S. military efforts that helped turnabout violence in Iraq in 2007, noted several challenges in Afghanistan he did not face while in Baghdad -- including the inability of U.S. troops to live among the local residents.

It is probable that the violence will continue to escalate as Afghanistan approaches its presidential elections in August and as more US and NATO troops arrive in the country before waning as the harsh Afghan winter sets in.

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A Fateful Fortnight

According to Fox News, the commander of US Central Command, General David Petraeus has made some rather blunt comments to unnamed US officials offering a stark assessment of the situation in Pakistan. In General Petraeus' view the next two weeks are critical to determining whether the Pakistani government will survive.

"The Pakistanis have run out of excuses" and are "finally getting serious" about combating the threat from Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists operating out of Northwest Pakistan, the general added.

But Petraeus also said wearily that "we've heard it all before" from the Pakistanis and he is looking to see concrete action by the government to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks before determining the United States' next course of action, which is presently set on propping up the Pakistani government and military with counterinsurgency training and foreign aid.

Petraeus made these assessment in talks with lawmakers and Obama administration officials this week, according to individuals familiar with the discussions.

They said Petraeus and senior administration officials believe the Pakistani army, led by Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, is "superior" to the civilian government, led by President Ali Zardari, and could conceivably survive even if Zardari's government falls to the Taliban.

Pakistan has indeed run out of excuses but whether it has run out of time remains an open question. The Taliban are a destabilizing threat but it is hard to envision "bearded guys with Kalashnikovs and a nostalgia for the 7th century" toppling the world's sixth largest army, and a very professional one at that, in an open battle. Yet at the same time, this isn't the Battle of the Punjab that the Pakistani army has been prepping for since 1947, the existential threat is an insidious one for which Pakistan may not be fully prepared. It is also an open question whether global policy makers have yet realized that Pakistan is a failed state not because the bearded ones stand at the gates of Buner but rather because the Pakistani elites care more about their own welfare than they do about the survival of the experiment that is Pakistan.

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The Iraq Debate -- The Most Important Question

General David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker will be briefing the Congress on the state of the war the whole of the coming week.  On the eve of the briefing, the Washington Post published an editorial entitled Accepting Iraqi Reality.

I quote below the concluding paragraph of this Editorial.

The most important question, however, must be faced by Mr. Bush:  If Iraqis are not moving toward political reconciliation, what justifies a continuing commitment of U.S. troops, with the painful sacrifices in lives that entails? U.S. generals have said repeatedly that tactical military successes will be unsustainable without political breakthroughs. The Jones commission said that the "sustained progress" it believes is possible within the Iraqi Security Forces "depends on such a political agreement." If there is to be no political accord in the near future -- and such an accord seems as distant today as it did in January -- what will be the goals of the U.S. mission in Iraq?

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When Troop Withdraw was ACTUALLY a Troop Increase

Have you heard the latest news about the amount of troops we have in Iraq?  The total is now closer to 168,000 according to Fox news.  

To put things in prespective, we had around 130,000 over there in January of this year.  An increase of about 38,000 troops.  The surge was reportedly only to be around 30,000 additional troops, remember?

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