Five years ago this week, the Taliban's al-Qa'ida allies made final
preparations to launch devastating attacks on America that would precipitate
the "war on terror," the US led invasion of Afghanistan and the
subsequent invasion of Iraq.
Far from ending terrorism, George Bush's tactics of using overwhelming
military might to fight extremism appear to have rebounded, spawning an
epidemic of global terrorism that has claimed an estimated 72,265 lives
since 2001, most of them Iraqi civilians.
The rest, some 30,626, according to official US figures, have been killed in
a combination of terror attacks and counter-insurgency actions by the US and
its allies. The figures were compiled by the US based National Memorial
Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (Mipt).
A US led-invasion swept away the Taliban regime in a matter of weeks, and
did the same to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in 2003, but far from bringing
stability and democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome has been one of
constant warfare. Yesterday hundreds of Nato troops, backed by warplanes and
helicopter gunships, were involved in the offensive on the area, southwest
of Kandahar, that has been a centre of Taliban resistance.
Nato said more than 200 Taliban fighters were killed in the fierce fighting
in which four Canadian soldiers also died. Eighty Taliban fighters were
The district where the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, was born, south-west of
Kandahar, is again under Taliban control, a situation mirrored across large
swaths of the south of the country. The government of Hamid Karzai clings on
to the cities of the south while Nato forces in Kandahar and Helmand are
locked in an all-out war.
In Punjwai and Jerai districts south-west of Kandahar, as many as 1,500
Taliban fighters have been holding off repeated attempts by Afghan and
Canadian soldiers to dislodge them since May. Their resistance has marked a
new phase in the growing Taliban insurgency, an evolution from the
hit-and-run raids by groups of eight to 15 fighters that characterised the
attacks in the south previously to large bodies of fighters taking and
Operation Medusa, the latest attempt to dislodge them, began on Saturday and
involves some 2,000 troops. Highway 1, which links Kandahar to Lashkargar,
has been cut since June. Yesterday Nato forces placed a ban on civilian
movement along the road as helicopters and aircraft together with artillery
pounded suspected Taliban positions.
In Iraq, three and a half years after the invasion, the situation remains
equally dire and the numbers of Iraqi casualtieshas soared by 51 per cent
according to US figures. Some 3,000 civilians are now dying every month in
Iraq the Pentagon says.
President Bush has shifted his approach in an effort to shore up faltering
public support for the war. No longer does he stress the benefits of
securing peace in Iraq, but rather he is laying out the peril of a failure.
Observers of the President say that in recent weeks his language has become
increasingly grim as he details what he believes would be the consequences
of US withdrawal. "We can allow the Middle East to continue on its
course on the course it was headed before September the 11th,"
he said in a speech last week. "And a generation from now, our children
will face a region dominated by terrorist states and radical dictators armed
with nuclear weapons. Or we can stop that from happening, by rallying the
world to confront the ideology of hate and give the people of the Middle
East a future of hope."
Away from such rhetoric, the situation on the ground in Iraq only appears to
be getting worse. According to a new, grim assessment by the Pentagon, Iraqi
civilians are increasingly suffering as a result of the violence and chaos.
In recent months the numbers of Iraqi casualties both civilians and
security forces - has soared by 51 per cent. The deaths are the result of a
spiral in sectarian clashes as well as an ongoing insurgency against the US
and UK occupation that remains "potent and viable". The average
number of attacks of all types now stands at around 800 a week.
"Although the overall number of attacks increased in all categories,
the proportion of those attacks directed against civilians increased
substantially," the Pentagon report said. "Death squads and
terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife,
with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders
of their respective sectarian groups."
The report said in the period since the establishment of an Iraqi government
in mid-May and 11 August, Iraqi civilian and security personnel have been
killed at a rate of around 120 a day. This is an increase from around 80 a
day between mid-February to mid-May. Two years ago the number stood at 30 a
day. Calculated over a year, the most recent rate of killings would equal
more than 43,000 Iraqi casualties.
The Pentagon report, Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq, added: "
The core conflict in Iraq changed into a struggle between Sunni and Shia
extremists seeking to control key areas in Baghdad, create or protect
sectarian enclaves, divert economic resources, and impose their own
respective political and religious agendas."
While the Pentagon may seek to portray such sectarian violence as the
biggest challenge, it admits that the anti-occupation insurgency remains
Indeed other figures, released this summer by the US military, suggest
attacks against US and Iraqi forces had doubled since January. The figures
showed that in July US forces encountered 2,625 roadside bombs, of which
1,666 exploded and 959 were disarmed. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or
were found. The figures suggested that the insurgency had strengthened
despite the killing of senior al-Qa'ida fighter, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in
Yesterday, the Iraqi authorities announced the arrest of a man they say is
the second-in-command ofal-Qa'ida in Iraq. Iraq's national security adviser,
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, said Hamed Jumaa al-Saedi was detained a few days ago.
Mr Rubaie said the man was behind the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra in
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited