Misplaced Bluster

by Joshua Foust on 6/15/2008 · 6 comments

Well over one thousand prisoners were broken free in a brazen assault on a prison in Kandahar this week—around 400 or so of them suspected Taliban. The subsequent manhunt has killed a few dozen insurgents and some escapees returned. It is a rather stark reminder of the scale of the problems existing in Afghanistan today.

So what does Hamid Karzai do? Huff and puff about right-of-pursuit into Pakistan. No one is denying he is correct, and that cross-border militancy is a major problem (though some might quibble with the difference between illegal cross-border attacks and official responses, though the government of Pakistan should show some flexibility). Karzai has problems far larger than being blustery about cross-border attacks, especially if that jail break was not organized by Pakistani militants. His anger is definitely not misplaced, merely his timing.

And here is a bigger question: the ANA, ANP, and whatever other semi-formal security forces (like the Arbakai of Paktya) are completely tied up in trying to keep the peace inside Afghanistan. Where is he going to get an expeditionary or punitive force to cross into Kurram or Bajaur?


Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use

{ 6 comments }

Inkan1969 June 16, 2008 at 9:51 am

Honestly, Karzai’s remarks sounded like they had a tone of desperation to me. I still can’t fathom how devastating the consequences of the jailbreak will be. I don’t know what the government and NATO/ISAF can do to counter the Taliban’s morale boost.

Inkan1969 June 16, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Now we’re seeing the consequences. I’m reading the reports of the Taliban taking over Arghandab villages? What’s going to happen? Will the ANA/ISAF be able to send enough troops in time to protect Kandahar? What will be the casualty number? If ANA/ISAF hopefully expells the Taliban from the villages, will they be able to maintain a presence there? I’m very scared right now.

Laurence June 17, 2008 at 9:41 am

Josh, Thanks for following Afghanistan news.

Askar-Guraiz June 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Desperation or not, empty rhetoric or not, this whole notion of ‘Karzai sending forces over the border’ is a misreading of what he said. Historically, Kabul has had on again off again agents operations in Wazirstans and few other border areas. Might help to look into stories of Dr. Najib’s network with the Wazirs, or Khad operations in NWFP against Afghan Mujahideen. A better read of Karzai’s statement could be that he was either speaking for the drones and Special Forces that are/will strike, or a reactivation of some of those Dr. Najib instruments.

Here is word for word of what Karzai said: “…When Baitullah Mehsud overtly declares that he wants to go to Afghanistan to kill foreigners and Afghans, then what is our defense ought to be? Prayers and pleas?

When Mullah Omar-e-Pakistani says he is responsible for the suicide bombing in Marko Jalalabad, then what is our defense ought to be? Pronouncing poems, or something that can provide our salvation, provide our security. We are being killed here anyways, so it is better to go a step forward and go there and kill ourselves so at least the enemy cannot get to us. Mullah Fazl-Ullah, who said this {perhaps referring to some statement the journalist might have quoted from Fazl-Ullah to prompt the reaction}, we have to be granted the right to go to his house and kill him right there. Wherever he is. Baitullah Mehsud, we are going after him there, explicitly, he should know, we tell the Pakistani government that we are coming after Baitullah Mehsud there and striking him right there. We hit them yesterday.

… Afghanistan has tolerated this tragedy for thirty years. It has been thirty years that this jihad doesn’t end in Afghanistan . I swear to god, even if you bring the Imam of Kaba-e-Sharifa { Mecca } to form a government in Afghanistan , Pakistan won’t let him, and still say it is Jihad. These are the facts. So we have ran out of patience. Thousands of people are being sent to our land, our houses are being set on fire, our schools are being torched, our people are being devastated. Afghanistan has the right to defend its own life. And has the right to defend its own land. How is it possible that a foreigner, with such courage!, stands up and says he is going to Afghanistan to kill humans? And we practice silence! Do we lack patriotism? Do we lack history? Do we lack courage? What is it that we lack? Behind whom do we fall in the rankings for defense of our rights, courage and life?”

Askar-Guraiz June 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Desperation or not, empty rhetoric or not, this whole notion of ‘Karzai sending forces over the border’ is a misreading of what he said. Historically, Kabul has had on again off again agents operations in Wazirstans and few other border areas. Might help to look into stories of Dr. Najib’s network with the Wazirs, or Khad operations in NWFP against Afghan Mujahideen. A better read of Karzai’s statement could be that he was either speaking for the drones and Special Forces that are/will strike, or a reactivation of some of those Dr. Najib instruments.

Here is word for word of what Karzai said: “…When Baitullah Mehsud overtly declares that he wants to go to Afghanistan to kill foreigners and Afghans, then what is our defense ought to be? Prayers and pleas?

When Mullah Omar-e-Pakistani says he is responsible for the suicide bombing in Marko Jalalabad, then what is our defense ought to be? Pronouncing poems, or something that can provide our salvation, provide our security. We are being killed here anyways, so it is better to go a step forward and go there and kill ourselves so at least the enemy cannot get to us. Mullah Fazl-Ullah, who said this {perhaps referring to some statement the journalist might have quoted from Fazl-Ullah to prompt the reaction}, we have to be granted the right to go to his house and kill him right there. Wherever he is. Baitullah Mehsud, we are going after him there, explicitly, he should know, we tell the Pakistani government that we are coming after Baitullah Mehsud there and striking him right there. We hit them yesterday.

… Afghanistan has tolerated this tragedy for thirty years. It has been thirty years that this jihad doesn’t end in Afghanistan . I swear to god, even if you bring the Imam of Kaba-e-Sharifa { Mecca } to form a government in Afghanistan , Pakistan won’t let him, and still say it is Jihad. These are the facts. So we have ran out of patience. Thousands of people are being sent to our land, our houses are being set on fire, our schools are being torched, our people are being devastated. Afghanistan has the right to defend its own life. And has the right to defend its own land. How is it possible that a foreigner, with such courage!, stands up and says he is going to Afghanistan to kill humans? And we practice silence! Do we lack patriotism? Do we lack history? Do we lack courage? What is it that we lack? Behind whom do we fall in the rankings for defense of our rights, courage and life?”

fnord June 18, 2008 at 5:01 am

Askar Guraiz: Thanx for the translation, really interesting. I would argue that undfortunately, the consequences of the words mean more than the words themselves: It has been broadcasted as an intention to disregard the border through media, and so will be spun by various sources. Why did Karzai need to go out and provoke the Pakistanis *in public*? SUrely, crossborder raids have been going on for quite a while. Why the need to go out a few days after 11 pakistani soldiers got killed and stoke the fires even more?

Previous post:

Next post: