Karzai believes Taliban is on the verge of defeat
While meeting with US President George W Bush in Washington, Afghan president Hamid Karzai has said he believes his government is safely out of the woods in its battle with the Taliban.
"They're not posing any threat to the government of Afghanistan," insists Karzai.
Karzai does, however, concede that the Taliban continues to pose a very real threat to Afghan civilians. "It's a force that's defeated, it's a force that is frustrated," he said. "They are acting in cowardice by killing children."
Karzai is referring, among other things, to a recent Taliban bomb campaign that took the lives of 35 Afghans on the same day that a US airstrike killed seven Afghan children in the process of attacking an Al Qaida outpost.
Karzai's pronouncement came as the Royal 22nd Regiment--the Vandoos--has fought their way into hostile territory, and following the Taliban setback of a ceasefire declared by insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Hekmatayar, while still intending to establish a theocracy in Afghanistan through "political struggles", has reportedly grown fed up with the Taliban's attacks on civilians.
There have also been reported differences within the Taliban itself, as some members of the Taliban have reportedly denounced Mullah Mohammad Amar's appointment of Chechen and Uzbek commanders.
In short, the Taliban and its alliance with relatively independant insurgent groups in Afghanistan has grown increasingly unstable.
If Karzai's government is indeed as stable as he claims, this is a very good sign that Canada's misison in Afghanistan is moving in a successful direction. However, there is still plenty of work to be done--particularly rooting out and destroying Taliban forces in the south, as well as securing the gains made by NATO forces throughout Afghanistan so rebuilding and development work can be completed in safety.
Bush has also hinted at possible offensives against Al Qaeda outposts in Pakistan.
"With real actionable intelligence, we will get the job done," Bush announced.
While he has not solidly commited himself to gaining the permission of Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's recent struggles with the pro-Taliban Red Mosque have made it all the more likely that Bush will recieve such permission. Pakistan has already given permission for NATO to continue hot-pursuit operations into Pakisan.
Recently, a Pakistani brigadier-general promised a full-scale offensive against Al Qaida positions on the Pakistani side of the Aghansitan/Pakistan border. The US gift of a squadron of F-16 fighters to Pakistan during the past year will probably be very helpful in such an offensive.
However, with lingering security concerns regarding the border with Pakistan seemingly moving toward being solved, there are still concerns about Afghanistan's western border, with Iran. It has been reported that weapons being smuggled into Afghanistan from Iran are falling into the Taliban's hands. Although the Iranian regime is reportedly hostile to the Taliban, it is still very likely that the Iranian regime is supporting non-Taliban insurgent groups such as Hekmatayar's, if only to spite the United States in its support of the Karzai government.
Simply put, while progress is being made, the battle for Afghanistan is not over yet. And while it does raise necessary questions about how to finish the job, it does help to underscore the foolishness of forcing Canadian troops to leave a battle which they are winning, especially considering that allowing the Taliban to gain sufficient strength to re-assert itself at least in an effectively partioned Afghanistan would continue to pose a threat to the western world.
Although the Taliban may pose no threat to the Afghan government today, that doesn't mean they won't tomorrow. This battle is not over yet.