Archive for May 3, 2011
What Bin Laden’s Death Could Mean
Will Osama Bin Laden’s death have any effect on the fight in Afghanistan?
The former U.S. Marine Corps commander in Afghanistan’s volatile Southwest provinces says yes, but it will be largely symbolic.
“I think psychologically, it’s going to be a blow to the insurgency for several reasons,” Maj. Gen. Richards P. Mills told a bloggers’ roundtable today (Tuesday). Mills, commander of NATO’s Regional Command Southwest until last month, says Bin Laden had a “mythical standing within the terrorist organizations” and his demise at the hands of U.S. special operations forces May 1 could undermine morale.
Mills, who also commanded the I (first) Marine Expeditionary Force (pronounced Eye-Mef), in Afghanistan’s Helmand and Nimruz provinces, says the slaying of the world’s most wanted terrorist also sends a message to insurgent leaders. “It proves the point that the Americans don’t walk away” from a difficult mission, he said. “No matter how tough, no matter how long it takes, we get it done,” Mills said, adding that it disproves “the insurgent propaganda that the Americans are going to leave very quickly and forget about Afghanistan and walk away from you.”
Al Qaeda was in the background of the conflict in Helmand, Mills said, so Bin Laden’s death probably won’t have much effect on the ground there, but for the Taliban, it “will probably frighten the senior leadership more[knowing] that they are being hunted.”
Mills took over leadership of NATO operations in Helmand and Nimruz provinces from a British general in April 2010 just after the big offensive in Marja. There was additional heavy fighting in places like Sangin on his watch. His command of 30,000 troops included 20,000 U.S. Marines as well as troops from Britain, Georgia, Denmark, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Tonga and Estonia. The coalition forces also partnered with the Afghan National Army’s 215th corps.
Mills was the first Marine Corps officer to head a NATO regional command in combat.
The 4GWAR blog asked him just who the enemy was in Helmand, foreign fighters or home grown insurgents?
Mills said his troops had battled a combination of local insurgents and “a corps of out-of-area fighters” from “Pakistan most notably.” He said the outsiders provided the locals with structure, training and leadership on the ground but the majority of fighters, “60 or 70 percent,” were locals. He noted that widespread unemployment was a driving force behind recruiting for the insurgency in largely poor and rural Helmand Province.
One issue coalition forces were able to exploit he said, was the fact that insurgent leaders who remained safe in Pakistan strongholds were, in effect, phoning it in from Quetta. Some hadn’t been back to Afghanistan for years. “I think that’s a real weakness there,” Mills said, “as the war turned against them, I think the local Taliban became very resentful that the leadership could run to safety, and they had to stay and fight.”
In the Wake of the Raid
Now that al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is dead and buried (somewhere at sea) what happens next?
Analysts and government officials are warning that the U.S. and its allies may face retaliatory attack but individual countries are reacting differently to the potential danger.
Right after the news about the U.S. raid on Bin Laden’s secret compound in Pakistan, security alerts went up at U.S. embassies and military installations domestically and around the word. But prices of commodities like petroleum and silver came down — at least for a while.
Britain and India have also stepped up security at government buildings at home and at their diplomatic missions around the world. The Philippines and Indonesia – which have active al Qaeda-affiliated cells – tightened security at embassies and airports. African nations like Kenya and Nigeria have also stepped up security.
But Australian officials said they did not see a need to raise the nation’s terrorism threat alert above medium – two levels below the highest warning.
The U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans. But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that lacking any specific threat information, the new National Terrorism Advisory System was not raising a new terrorist threat alert.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said “we will only issue alerts when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public.”