Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Shaking the “battered Taliban syndrome”

Now this can only be a step in the right direction.

CNN is reporting (via Captain Ed) that the Taliban is pursuing negotiations with the new Karzai government in Afghanistan, with a mind toward forging a peace deal.  According to CNN, the Sunni Islamist movement has had quite enough of al Qaeda’s all-encompassing war against non-Muslims (which seems lately to resemble more and more a war against everyone except al Qaeda fighters) and wishes to become a legitimate political movement within Afghanistan, without al Qaeda’s “help” bringing them nothing but grief.

One sign that they may be serious is the fact that Saudi Arabia is hosting the talks between government officials and Taliban leaders.  Captain Ed points out that the Saudis have their own reasons to see the Taliban sever their ties with al Qaeda and join forces with Karzai; al Qaeda has been gunning for the Saudi royal family as well for years, and lately the Taliban have been accepting arms support from Iran, which has got to make anyone worried about Iran’s sphere of influence fidgety.  It is unlikely that the Saudis would be wasting their time if they thought there was a chance that the Taliban were setting them up with sham negotiations meant only to buy time for al Qaeda to regroup.

As for our own interests, NATO troops would have a whole lot less of a rough time fighting the remaining shreds of al Qaeda than they would the wider Taliban movement.  The Taliban would also feel safe in Afghanistan for a change, meaning fewer hostile fighters scurrying across the border into Pakistan, where NATO rockets and aerial drones have improved their accuracy in eliminating them but still annoy the not-yet-stable Pakistani government with their intrusiveness.  Fewer incursions into Pakistan’s territory and airspace can only help make things more stable in that country.

Obstacles remain.  The Taliban have declared their separation from al Qaeda, but a formal renunciation of violence in general is necessary, as is adherence to the democratic principles enshrined in the country’s new constitution, before Hamid Karzai fully welcomes them into the new Afghanistan’s political process.  However, Karzai is negotiating from a position of strength (the Taliban came to him, after all), and he may even be in a position to compel them to give up their leaders in exchange for safe haven.  Wouldn’t it be a measure of poetic justice if the Taliban ultimately brought about the downfall of the leaders of the terrorist group that brought the wrath of the U.S. and NATO on the heads of the Taliban-led Afghan government in 2001 in the first place?

Palin Minefield: No casualties…yet

Governor Palin officially entered the foreign policy gauntlet this morning, holding meetings at the United Nations with Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.  (Hot Air has video.)  Further leaders she’ll be meeting today include Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Jalal Talabani of Iraq, Ali Asif Zardari of Pakistan, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.

OK, Governor Palin has now trod upon the sector of the campaign minefield occupied by foreign leaders.  Karzai and Uribe reported having been impressed and pleased by Palin in their respective meetings, so no tripped mines yet.  So far, as far as the campaign minefield in general is concerned, there have been nearby explosions, but nobody’s been killed or maimed to date by any of the diciest aspects of the campaign so far.

Details and minefield highlights below the break.

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Forced down? By whom? Hillary’s sniper?

Sen. Joe Biden’s helicopter was “forced down” in Afghanistan mountains crawling with al-Qaeda?  That’s what he told a National Guard audience in Maryland today.  From Jake Tapper (emphasis mine):

If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me,” Biden said. “Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.”

… [E]arlier this month at a fundraiser, he made a similar remark, when discussing how he doesn’t care about the Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s controversies like whether she sold a state plane on eBay, or when she went from supporting to opposing the Bridge to Nowhere.

“What I care about is: What in God’s name is she going to do — along with John McCain — about the thousands of people who don’t have health care?” Biden said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Biden said he would ask Palin about “The superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down…John McCain wants to know where Bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where. That’s where Al Qaeda is. That’s where Bin Laden is. It’s not in the country of Iraq.”

OK…when Joe Biden tells — actually, no, let’s say, when a normal person tells a National Guard audience that his helicopter was forced down in the middle of what he says is a hotbed of al Qaeda activity, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Yes, of course, you wonder how he managed to survive the rest of the attack.  In other words, you get the impression that his helicopter was forced down by enemy activity.

What Biden doesn’t mention is that his helicopter was grounded by weather, and he and his travel-mates were driven back to base without incident before they traveled elsewhere.  Tapper again:

In February 2008, Biden — along with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. — was on a chopper that made an emergency landing in the mountains of Afghanistan.

A snowstorm had forced them down.

No one was injured, and the Associated Press reported at the time that “the senators and their delegation returned to Bagram Air Base in a motor convoy, and left for Turkey.

Sen. Kerry was not quite so traumatized by the ordeal as Sen. Biden evidently was:

[Kerry told the AP at the time] We sat up there and traded stories.” Kerry joked, “We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn’t have to do it…Other than getting a little cold, it was fine.”

Given Biden’s well-documented history of creative self-aggrandizement, I doubt he was unaware how his harrowing tale of being forced out of the air in the epicenter of al Qaeda activity might sound, especially in front of a military audience.  You would think that he might have learned something from Hillary Clinton’s “tall tale” about dodging nonexistent sniper fire in Bosnia. I know the prospect of Sinbad making me look stupid would definitely make me think twice about spinning yarns that transform me into a combat veteran.