Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jihadis Growing in Tenth Year of Afghan War

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the US war in Afghanistan, making it the longest war in US history.

What began as a US-Saudi-Pakistani sponsored anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and led to the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, is now threatening to engulf Africa, Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia in its growing flames. And its effects are continuing to be strongly felt in America and Europe.

The victorious veterans of the 1980s Afghan resistance have successfully indoctrinated and trained several generations of battle-hardened global jihadis to take on the United States and various pro-Western governments in Islamic nations in all parts of the world. This trend is accelerating as the US steps up its attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according a recent report in Newsweek magazine. Here is an excerpt from its report:

"The Central Asians retreated to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the late 1990s after failing to topple their home governments. Now they seem ready to try again, using guerrilla tactics and know-how they’ve picked up from the Taliban about improvised explosive devices. Small groups of Tajik and Uzbek militants began moving into Tajikistan in late winter 2009, says a Taliban subcommander in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. In Kunduz they joined up with fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Qaeda-linked group active there and in Tajikistan. “Once these first groups made it back safely [to Tajikistan], they signaled to militants here in Kunduz and even in Pakistan’s tribal areas that the journey was possible,” the subcommander, who didn’t want to be named for security reasons, tells Newsweek."

As the Central Asian fighters return to their home countries, there have also been similar reports of Arab jihadis moving into the Arabian peninsula, particularly Yemen. The American-born radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki is reportedly in Yemen, encouraging young Muslims to participate in global jihad against the West. Al-Awlaki is said to be linked to US Army Major Nidal Hasan, accused of murdering colleagues in shootings at Fort Hood.

In the past two years Al Qaida has established a local franchise in Yemen, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has claimed responsibility for audacious attacks – including the failed Christmas Day 2009 airplane bombing attempt in Detroit, Michigan, and an attempt to kill British Ambassador in Yemen earlier in 2010.

Beyond the Arabian peninsula, there are concerns about the rising Al Qaeda influence in the Horn of Africa. The head of Somalia's weakened transitional government, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has recently accused Islamist insurgents of seeking to turn the war-stricken country into a base for Al Qaeda to bring terror to the Horn of Africa.

Even as the foreign fighters leave the Afghan battle field to return for jihad in their home countries, the loss of troop strength for the Taliban is more than offset by a rush of young Afghans joining up, according to the Newsweek story. An Afghan government official in Kunduz’s Emam Saheb district told Newsweek that the insurgents now have near-total control of the province’s northern frontier.

Recognizing the expanding threat of global Jihad, the US Central Command has responded by setting up "Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force" which is charged with planning and conducting secret military operations in geographies under US CentCom. The main advantage of clandestine activity by special ops personnel is that it does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress. This makes it easier to hide the operations from the public and provides plausible deniability to the President even if he gave the orders for operations. According to a New York Times report, “Special operations troops have already been sent into a number of countries to carry out reconnaissance missions, including operations to gather intelligence about airstrips and bridges.”

Unfortunately emphasis on armed warfare, open or secret, is no substitute for the use of soft power aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the populations at large. Rather than help to achieve peace and stability, the secret wars fuel further resentment, and often become counterproductive in defeating the extremists.

It is important for the United States to go beyond the rhetoric about winning the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims. It is now time to step up its public diplomacy along with necessary foreign policy changes and a sincere charm offensive to try and win the hearts and minds of the common people in the Islamic world. Only then can the Islamic militants be isolated, marginalized, and eventually defeated.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

80/20 Strategy and Marshall Plan For Pakistan

US Afghan Exit: Trigger for India to Talk to Pakistan?

Facts and Myths about Afghanistan and Pakistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Stephen Cohen on India-Pakistan Relations

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Obama's New Regional Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?

Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?

FATA Faceoff Fears

FATA Raid Charades


Safwan said...

Good points but the Muslim world needs to do more, much more, as well. The Muslim narrative is too ideological and often illogical. Voices of reform and moderation should get louder in Muslim countries.

Sher said...

Dear Mr. Haq:

At the time the Russians were kicked out of Afghanistan, there was a third party: Ahmad Shah Masood and his followers. Taliban killed Ahmad Shah Msood who was a leader of Afghanis against the Russians, Ahmad shah Masood was supposed to have established a government instead of US selected Karzai. What happened to his followers?

Riaz Haq said...

Sher: "Taliban killed Ahmad Shah Msood who was a leader of Afghanis against the Russians, Ahmad shah Masood was supposed to have established a government instead of US selected Karzai. What happened to his followers?"

Afghanistan has significant ethnic divisions. The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group followed by Tajiks and Uzbeks.
Ahmad Shah Masood was a Tajik, a member of the Northern Alliance which is hated by the vast majority of Pashtuns. That's why the Americans picked Karzai who is Pashtun, and initially Karzai relied heavily on NA suport to consolidate his power. In the last elecion., howeber, Karzai defeated Abdullah Abdullah, a Tajik and a follower of Ahmad Shah Masud.

Iqbal M said...

Riaz, amused by your musing. Your well written article is expression of a hyphenated American. Below is a reproduction of an American's point of view, and further below is an article by a veteran journalist. Take your pick.

Anonymous said...

given the fact that the US is almost always headed for political gridlock with republicans controlling the senate,there is very little the US can do.

And btw why is Sri lanka painted green on your map?Last i checked it was a buddhist country with a big hindu minority.

Riaz Haq said...


You have shared interesting links.

Given the rapidly expanding war into Central Asia, Arabian Peninsula and Africa, I don't think US would take the risk of invading Pakistan at this time.

Just the expansion of war to new geographies will stretch the US too thin too take on the challenge of going into Pakistan.

Let's not forget that Pakistan is a much bigger and more difficult country than either Iraq or Afghanistan, and it has the world's 4th or 5th largest military armed with nukes.

Wasim said...


Margolis made a very ammateurish attempt on analysing Pakistan and surroundings Geo Political situation and consequent reaction by US, let,s leave it at that. Only Pakistan can bailout US form Afghanistan gracefully.

Riaz Haq said...


I agree that Pakistan can help bail out US from Afghanistan. In return, Pakistan wants a key role in Afghanistan's future that excludes India. However, US has an interest in maintaining close strategic ties with India as counterbalance to China. So it gets a little more complicated when you get down to US policy balancing multiple considerations.

Wasim said...

Well the situation here is vivid, refer to time of US incursion in Afghanistan, remember India ,s offer of unconditional all out support, but US still picked Pakistan and for good reasons. Pakistan,s greater role in post war Afghanistan is,nt limited in intent to exlude India only, add Iran as well, the main reason for Hamid Gul to bring Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Central Asian states have that valuable potential.
What we are risking now, though still meager in possibility, US pushing for permanent security council status for India as trade in and balancing it against China. Thanks to Chinese for their maturity, they steer things allright.

Riaz Haq said...

I think it's important to see US-India relationship in the context of what John Hulsman and Wes Mitchell describe as America's "Godfather Doctrine".

"The Godfather Doctrine", a foreign policy parable by John Hulsman and Wes Mitchell, uses the Godfather movie metaphor to describe the current situation the United States is confronted with. As a superpower in relative decline like the Godfather in the movie, Uncle Sam faces a situation similar to the one Vito Corleone's sons Michael and Sonny and adopted son Tom Hagen, the consiglieri, faced right after the unexpected attack on the feared but aging Vito Corleone at the peak of his power. It compares the fruit stand attack on Vito by upstarts (Sollozzo) to the 911 attacks by Al Qaeda on the United States.

I think the elaborate international alliances and institutions that US has built over 60 years ago, such as UN Security Council, NATO, World Bank, OECD, WTO, IMF, IAEA etc, through which America exercises tremendous power and control, are being weakened partly due to America's own missteps, and my guess is that these alliances and institutions will not survive as they are today. There will be a huge realignment of nations, as the powerful new players, including China, Russia, Germany, Japan, Brazil, India, South Africa want greater say in the affairs of the world. So do the Iranians, the Koreans and the Arabs.

So the only way the US can retain significant power and influence is by co-opting some of these emerging nations. The ones that seems ready to play ball are India and established economic powers like Germany and Japan, who have economically benefited from globalization under the US leadership. Others, such as Russia, China and Brazil, who have also benefited from globalization, are not willing to be co-opted by the US.

In my opinion, India appears to be well on its way to join the US as a close ally in this emerging new multipolar world. There is a burgeoning US-India relationship in almost all spheres. Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh summed it up well when he said to former President Bush on his visit to the White House last year, "The people of India deeply love you."

Anonymous said...

"In my opinion, India appears to be well on its way to join the US as a close ally in this emerging new multipolar world. There is a burgeoning US-India relationship in almost all spheres. Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh summed it up well when he said to former President Bush on his visit to the White House last year, "The people of India deeply love you."

and india would do far better than us (anyone surprised) in using this friendship. we were close ally to US too right from 1950s to end of 1980s. What did we learn or benefit? SIPHER.

Anonymous said...

"Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests"

Perhaps Pakistan forgot about it when dealing with the US.

As far as "charm offensive to try and win the hearts and minds of the common people in the Islamic world" is concerned - I have heard it a lot, from a lot of people. Can someone tell me how you do that?

Anonymous said...

and india would do far better than us (anyone surprised) in using this friendship. we were close ally to US too right from 1950s to end of 1980s. What did we learn or benefit? SIPHER.

True the US is a very dangerous ally to have the number of regimes it betrayed is legion Pakistan,Imperial Iran,Saddam etc etc.

In sharp contrast the USSR stood by us like a rock right till its end even though we offered it neither bases or an explicit alliance.

Which is why regardless of the 'Indians love u' BS that our PM tells America if you notice we have not bought anything critical from the USA be it fighter planes or nuclear power plants etc

Russia is still the country Indians
instinctively trust we have so far ordered 300 PAK-FA (5 gen stealth fighter) and 16 nuclear power plants vs ziltch from US.

From US we just buy non essential stuff like C-17,C-130 transport(very few) and P-8I patrol aircraft and ofcourse boeing civilian planes.

This more than any 'we love you' BS is solid proof that the foreign office hasn't lost its marbles.

Russia>Israel>EU>Japan>US in descending order of countries we trust

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "As far as "charm offensive to try and win the hearts and minds of the common people in the Islamic world" is concerned - I have heard it a lot, from a lot of people. Can someone tell me how you do that?"

The best example I can give you is the work an American Greg Mortenson is doing on a relatively small scale now that could be replicated on a much a larger scale.

n 1993, Greg Mortenson, an American from the state of Montana, went to climb K2, the world's second highest mountain, in the Karakoram range of northern Pakistan. After more than 70 days on the mountain, Mortenson and three other climbers completed a life-saving rescue of a fifth climber that took more than 75 hours. After the rescue, he began his descent of the mountain and became weak and exhausted. Two local Balti porters took Mortenson to the nearest city, but he took a wrong turn along the way and ended up in Korphe, a small village, where he recovered.

To pay the remote community back for their compassion, Mortenson said he would build a school for the village. After a frustrating time trying to raise money, Mortenson convinced Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to found the Central Asia Institute. A non-profit organization, CAI's mission is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hoerni named Mortenson as CAI's first Executive Director.

In the process of building schools, Mortenson has survived an eight-day armed 1996 kidnapping in the tribal areas of Waziristan in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, escaped a 2003 firefight between Afghan opium warlords, endured a fatwā by an angry Islamic cleric for educating girls, and received hate mail and threats from fellow Americans for helping educate Muslim children.

He believes that the best way to "fight" terrorism is to build schools free of the Taliban's oversight (because he believes the Taliban promotes hatred). Because of this, several of the school's Mortenson's group built were destroyed by the Taliban, but the communities rebuilt them.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Russia is still the country Indians instinctively trust we have so far ordered 300 PAK-FA (5 gen stealth fighter) and 16 nuclear power plants vs ziltch from US."

There are practical reasons for it and it's the easy way out for Indian military which is based on Russian equipment, infrastructure, training and technology. It's much easier for Indian military to absorb more of what they are familiar with, than buy American which would require big operational changes.

The downside of it is that Russians capacity is deteriorating, and it can not be trusted to deliver more advanced stuff reliably on time time, within budget and built to specs.

It is well known that Russia's industrial base and support infrastructure have significantly atrophied since the demise of the Soviet Union. Russia now derives such a disproportionate amount of revenue from oil and gas that the non-energy industrial sector has diminished in significance for the Russian economy. According to Times of India, India has complained to Russia about the unreliability of some of its weapon systems as well as tardy product support in execution of several projects. Top-level sources say it has been made very clear to Russia that apart from "quality control" of the military equipment being bought from it, India wants assurances on maintenance of delivery schedules of contracted weapon systems, uninterrupted supply of spares and life-term product support. The Indian Air Force is upset with the "distortions" on the canopies of the Sukhoi-30MKI Phase-3 fighter jets.

Anonymous said...

The downside of it is that Russians capacity is deteriorating, and it can not be trusted to deliver more advanced stuff reliably on time time, within budget and built to specs.

It was deteriorating it is recovering now Do look up yasen SSN,Borei SSBN,Angara SLV,MC 21 civilian airliner etc etc and besides Russia gives us tech the US won't share with the UK.

Hypersonic missiles: Brahmos 2
Stealth fighter: PAK FA
Nuclear submarine: Akula 2 +tech help for arihant sub
MTA transport plane

All coproduction and joint development as opposed to screw driver assembly that US offers its allies.

Teething troubles are normal in all bleeding edge system for the simple reason that the newer the tech more the unknowns but the Russians have NEVER done things like stopping arms supplies during a war or sanctioning us or refusing to integrate non russian weapons on russian planes etc etc like US routinely does.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "besides Russia gives us tech the US won't share with the UK."

I think that's a good reason to develop indigenous capacity in India....the next question then is whether India can absorb advanced weapons technology?

Unlike China, India lacks the necessary industrial and manufacturing base for greater self reliance in infrastructure equipment and defense armaments. India also runs large current account deficits while China is enjoying large surpluses strengthening its economic position in the world.

India is overwhelmingly dependent on foreign imports, mainly Russian and Israeli, for about 70 per cent of its defense requirement, especially for critical military products and high-end defense technology, according to an Indian defense analyst Dinesh Kumar. Kumar adds that "India’s defense ministry officially admits to attaining only 30 to 35 per cent self-reliance capability for its defense requirement. But even this figure is suspect given that India’s self-reliance mostly accrues from transfer of technology, license production and foreign consultancy despite considerable investment in time and money".

On the same theme, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that "India has had little success with military equipment production, and has had problems producing Russian Su-30MKI fighter jets and T-90S tanks, English Hawk training jets and French Scorpene submarines."

On India's perennial dependence on imports, here's how blogger Vijainder Thakur sees India's loose meaning of "indigenous" Smerch and other imports:

"The Russians will come here set up the plant for us and supply the critical manufacturing machinery. Indian labor and technical management will run the plant which will simply assemble the system. Critical components and the solid propellant rocket motor fuel will still come from Perm Powder Mill. However, bureaucrats in New Delhi and the nation as a whole will be happy. The Smerch system will be proudly paraded on Rajpath every republic day as an indigenous weapon system.

A decade or so down the line, Smerch will get outdated and India will negotiate a new deal with Russia for the license production of a new multiple rocket system for the Indian Army.

China will by then have developed its own follow up system besides having used the solid propellant motors to develop other weapon systems and assist its space research program."

Anonymous said...

I think that's a good reason to develop indigenous capacity in India....the next question then is whether India can absorb advanced weapons technology?

Please have a look at :



Nuclear Submarine:

Aircraft carriers:

So I believe we are making some progress.

Though yes a lot more needs to be done.

We are are indeed lagging behind China on this front.

satwa gunam said...


I like the statement made by somebody as to country is permanent enemy or friend.

During the good days, america did give lot of aid to pakistan.

Problem was the pakistan society was moved toward fundamentalism by the zia and also side effect muhajadeen of afghan.

Pakistan created taliban for its grand plan to even gobble afghanistan over a period time.

Further during this period, education field was not brought up like what india had done for feudal reason of the rulers.

Nobody expected the 9/11 and the reversal of usa relation ship with taliban. Pakistan could not cut the umbalical cord like what usa did after the incidence.

Now in the current scenario, it is the friend of the cat and protector of the milk. OBviousy you have these contradiction haunting pakistan

satwa gunam said...


I am surprised by your positive comments about the indian relationship with usa.

However i feel india must not take the relationship for granted and work for its independent course of action as it had done in the last few decades when it was not in the good books of usa.

India has greater social challenges to handle and also china and pakistan. For usa, it is looking at india as a market to dump its nuclear technology for a good money when the whole world is moving toward alternate energy.

satwa gunam said...

I agree with the various veiws that usa will never invade pakistan. Which ever does not suit its need, it will pump in to change the ruler is the old game of usa which it will do now, in case of the rulers not playing ball with them. It is ok with the local ruler asserting their rights in the public space as it appreciates that the local rulers needs to show some amount of independence.

In my perception pakistan will be safer from invasion till such time, it is not looked upon isreal as a threat

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece titled "Coming Nuclear Flashpoint" by former CIA officer Michael Scheuer about India's deep involvement in Afghanistan aimed at hurting Pakistan:

Indian officials also have talked of their intention to use Afghanistan as a springboard for exploiting economic opportunities and accessing energy resources in Central Asia. Military-oriented Indian publications like the Indian Defense Review, moreover, haven’t been shy about crowing over how the growing Indian presence in Afghanistan is making the Pakistan Army more ‘worried with each passing day [that] its so-called strategic depth is becoming shallower by the minute.’

All this sets the stage for tragedy, even though Western and Indian commentators are trumpeting India’s performance in Afghanistan as the triumph of ‘soft power’ over military operations. This is nonsense. The success of India’s soft power has depended utterly on the presence of 100,000-plus US-NATO bayonets, and even those haven’t been enough to stop lethal attacks on Indian military personnel, construction crews and New Delhi’s embassy in Kabul.

A good deal of the Indian media portrays India’s activities in Afghanistan as successfully winning Afghan hearts and minds and building a long-term welcome for India. This is unlikely. If the Afghans have little materially, they do possess a prodigious historical memory and recall that India fully backed the murderous Soviet occupation (1979-1989) and then the Afghan communist regime until it fell in April 1992. This knowledge will be especially fresh among all mujahedin who fought the Soviets—and believed Indian pilots flew combat missions against them—but most intense among the Taliban-led Afghan Pashtuns whose war against Ahmed Shah Masood and his Northern Alliance was prolonged and made more costly by generous Indian aid to Masood. The idea that India’s money-backed soft power is enough to negate such recollections and the vengefulness they fuel could only be believed by those trained at Harvard.

The real rub, of course, will come when NATO withdraws in defeat and leaves India high and dry in a country that dislikes foreigners, and especially non-Muslim polytheists like the Indians.

When NATO goes, India’s personnel and interests will face attack by Afghan mujahedin, Pakistan-backed Islamist militants and probably Pakistani Special Forces. To repeat, Pakistan can’t strategically tolerate a growing and solidifying Indian presence in Afghanistan and will risk war to end it. New Delhi will then face the excruciating decision all nations rightfully dread—‘How best to save face?’ Will New Delhi decide to deploy large numbers of troops to protect its nationals and investments by defeating the fresh-from-victory Taliban and its allies, among whom will be Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the other Gulf states? Or will it decide not to throw good money and lives after bad and draw down its presence to a Kabul embassy, if the Taliban will permit one?

At that point, cool heads in New Delhi probably will see that India’s rapid move into Afghanistan was based on the wrong but understandable conclusion that Washington meant to defeat its 9/11 attackers. Undone by US-NATO fecklessness, they will also see that what once was a glittering economic and diplomatic opportunity has been transformed into a potentially war-causing question of national honor, willpower and prestige.

Anonymous said...

Riaz the US phased withdrawal will probably in the most optimistic scenario begin in 2012 and will finally end as in zero/token US/NATO troops in 2015.

So even if India's formidable diplomatic corps does nothing(very unlikely) you can expect at least more of the same for another 5 years.

And as for return on investment I think from a purely impartial military point of view the amount of mayhem,chaos that India has allegedly caused inside Pakistan due to its 'investments' in Afghanistan has more than paid for itself.

If this was a master card commercial.It would be something like:

Embasies,consulates and intel staff:$100mn

Aid to Afghanistan:$2 billion

Seeing Pakistan go up in flames:Priceless

There are somethings money can't buy for everything else...

I hope you'll be good humoured enough to publish this.

Anonymous said...


You talk about Americans leaving (which is probably imminent), the rise of Taliban, and the risks Indians would face staying in Afghanistan; yet you fail to ponder "What would be the risks to Pakistan?"

A defeated US, and a strong Taliban would mean only one thing - a much more destabilized Pakistan.

When hardliner Islamic Taliban fractions have a realization that they can defeat the only super, they would certainly feel more confident about imposing their brand of Islam in Pakistan - something that you witnessed in Swat a few months back.

I am not sure whose loss would be bigger then. United States - that would have a dent on its military repute, India - that would find its political aspirations diminished, or Pakistan - that would share a border with hardline Taliban on rampage blowing up schools and killing people with "unIslamic behavior"??

SM said...

Btw, if there is any country in the region that has sacrificed the most, that would be Pakistan - Economically, militarily, financially, reputation wise, and all that because of instability due to extremism, religious and political mis-adventurism by itself and the west.

US would just loose a trillion and may walk off (with their tails down), and even India may exit soon and all it would loose is a billion dollar of aid to Afghans (spend for a good cause) and its aspirations to play in Pakistani backyard.

But Pakistan would have to live up-to their extremist neighbor (Taliban) knowing full well that it was the country that offered its bases to US and the payback time is near.

Anonymous said...

>> And as for return on investment I think from a purely impartial military point of view the amount of mayhem,chaos that India has allegedly caused inside Pakistan due to its 'investments' in Afghanistan has more than paid for itself.

>> Seeing Pakistan go up in flames:Priceless."


@anonymous1 - this is a dirty way of thinking and is simply despicable.

First, you cannot attach money to the lives of innocent people. It is childish to make such a statement.

Second, if the experiences of our neighbor can remind you of anything, it must be the fact that if you sow seeds of hate all you get is a crop of more hate and vengeance, something the region (including India) can ill afford.

It is a laughable that people like you (including Mr Riaz) find it amusing to take a dig at the ills of the neighboring country, knowing full well that the entire region suffers from the same problems (perhaps at different levels).

Its time to grow up !!

Riaz Haq said...

Even if most Americans choose to assign no value to the lives of many poor Afghan and Pakistani civilians killed as "collateral", here is an analysis by a blogger at of the exorbitant financial cost of the US war in Afghanistan to the American taxpayers:

The estimated cost to kill each Taliban is as high as $100 million, with a conservative estimate being $50 million.

1. Taliban Field Strength: 35,000 troops

2. Taliban Killed Per Year by Coalition forces: 2,000 (best available information)

3. Pentagon Direct Costs for Afghan War for 2010: $100 billion

4. Pentagon Indirect Costs for Afghan War for 2010: $100 billion

Using the fact that 2,000 Taliban are being killed each year and that the Pentagon spends $200 billion per year on the war in Afghanistan, one simply has to divide one number into the other. That calculation reveals that $100 million is being spent to kill each Taliban soldier. In order to be conservative, the author decided to double the number of Taliban being killed each year by U.S. and NATO forces (although the likelihood of such being true is unlikely). This reduces the cost to kill each Taliban to $50 million, which is the title of this article. The final number is outrageously high regardless of how one calculates it.

To put this information another way, using the conservative estimate of $50 million to kill each Taliban:

It costs the American taxpayers $1 billion to kill 20 Taliban

As the U.S. military estimates there to be 35,000 hard-core Taliban and assuming that no reinforcements and replacements will arrive from Pakistan and Iran:

Just killing the existing Taliban would cost $1.75 Trillion, not including the growing numbers of new Taliban recruits joining every day.

The reason for these exorbitant costs is that United States has the world’s most mechanized, computerized, weaponized and synchronized military, not to mention the most pampered (at least at Forward Operating Bases). An estimated 150,000 civilian contractors support, protect, feed and cater to the American personnel in Afghanistan, which is an astonishing number. The Americans enjoy such perks and distinctions in part because no other country is willing to pay (waste) so much money on their military.

The ponderous American war machine is a logistics nightmare and a maintenance train wreck. It is also part-myth. This author served at a senior level within the U.S. Air Force. Air Force “smart” bombs are no way near as consistently accurate as the Pentagon boasts; Army mortars remain inaccurate; even standard American field rifles are frequently outmatched by Taliban weapons, which have a longer range. The American public would pale if it actually learned the full story about the poor quality of the weapons and equipment that are being purchased with its tax dollars. The Taliban’s best ally within the United States may be the Pentagon, whose contempt for fiscal responsibility and accountability may force a premature U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Americans cannot continue to fund these Pentagon excesses.

If President Obama refuses to drastically reform the Pentagon’s inefficient way of making war, he may conclude that the Taliban is simply too expensive an enemy to fight. He would then have little choice but to abandon the Afghan people to the Taliban’s “Super-Soldiers.” That would be an intolerable disgrace.

satwa gunam said...


I am surprised about the indian and pakistani military official at one go. They have so much domestic problem in house and instead of spending their resource to strengthen the internal fabric, they are trying to strengthen its presence outside the country.

I am not buying the argument of many of the thesis that india is highly operational in afghanistan as it has enough problem with china and pakistan to handle. Further i donot see any agressive leader like indira gandhi today in congress or bjp to push such an agenda.

Anonymous said...

My reason for writing these posts is simple, really: I want Pakistan to be a progressive state, with positive relations with all its neighbors, as well as the rest of the world. That necessarily means clarifying perceptions that I might see as untrue.
A tall order, admittedly, given the negative perception of the country and doubts that Pakistan may not even survive.
But the first step is to understand the truth of what is happening in the region, and to do that the question to ask is: Who benefits?
I may be wrong. If so, I am willing to listen to alternative viewpoints. Let's assume for the sake of argument that what I said was all 'conspiracy theory' etc. We would then need an alternative 'sensible' explanation and solution:
So, is India, indeed, magnanimous and altruistic in its spending of billions toward Afghanistan infrastructure, electric grids, education programs for Afghans, etc?Perhaps.
There's also this: that it's along with the two modern Indian air bases in Northern Afghanistan, the 14+ 'consulates' all along the Afghan-Pakistan border, the 'special' Afghan students in India, the creation of RAAM along the lines of RAW with Northern Alliance men, the frequent (photographed) visits of Baloch separatist leaders in Indian consulates, the bombers of mosques and shrines who have been followed, tracked and found to have ties to Indian 'consulates').
Who benefits? Is it true that the militant activity is blowback for Pakistan from its militant creations?
Yes, true. But who is funding/arming them now? Because after Pakistan went against them under pressure from the US, they turned against Pakistan, which was the only possible outcome. Whose strategy did this fulfil?
Who benefits?
Another element in the mix: Who created Jundallah? Who funds and arms it? After they killed several Iranian generals, Pakistan captured and turned over some of their leaders to Iran. Care to guess their funding?
Who benefits?

As regards Deobandi, Wahabbi, Naqshbandi, Cheshire cats, Muggles or any other ilk: These are just red herrings. They are levers to use and pull, in order to get the poor ignorant sods to blow themselves up by reinforcing their twisted beliefs.
The real question is: who is pulling the levers?
Who benefits?

But these are merely smaller subsets in the new overall "Great Game" which is what seems to be happening.

1. The present "Great Game" is control and access routes to oil/energy and the region for the next 40 or so years until alternative sources are developed
2. To provide a market for the military products of the military-industrial complex by perpetual war.
There is no intention of leaving the region.
The main competitors/players battling for access/control of the region are the US, China and the partners of these two. Within this battle are the subsets of regional conflicts.
China’s building of the port in Gwadar, Balochistan gives it direct access to the Persian Gulf and allows it a cheaper route for its energy needs. The only way to block this is to control Pakistan. One method to ‘control’ Pakistan was suggested by Maj. Ralph Peters in his now infamous redrawn map of the region which advocated a break-up of Pakistan.
India, ready and willing, is the means by which the break-up of Pakistan is being envisaged, through its ‘consulates’ in Afghanistan that fund the militant groups (the Baloch groups, the Pakistani Taliban, etc) which are bombing Pakistani cities, Shia/Sunni mosques, Sufi shrines etc. Mercenaries are already in place inside Pakistan.
Negative media portrayal of Pakistan is another important component to prepare the public should a war take place. They will be more accepting of a war on a country that has a negative image.
It is no coincidence that such portrayals are already at a high level, and that some violent incidents take place when needed.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of an OP Ed by Ambassadors Ayaz Wazir (from FATA) published in The News:

The war in Afghanistan has not only ruined that country but has badly affected its neighbours and the world at large. The overall security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated considerably. The year 2010 has been the deadliest since the occupation of the country by foreign forces. While the insurgency continues unabated, elections to the lower house were held last month, which is a step in the right direction. It can strengthen President Karzai provided those supporting peace efforts are elected to parliament. If those who prefer the status quo or oppose the peace process are elected, it will make Karzai's efforts much more difficult.
As far as the international partners in the war on terror are concerned, one can see the unease, particularly amongst the European countries, due to the public resentment against an "open-ended" military presence in Afghanistan.
The growing realisation that the war is not winnable militarily forces them to activate the tracks for reconciliation within Afghanistan. They seem to have realised that Pakistan's role in finding a peaceful solution to the problem is not only important but crucial.
Pakistan has suffered most of all – but what has it gained in return? Its losses in terms of men and material are far more than those of the US and NATO. Its economy is nosediving and is now dependant entirely on foreign help. Foreign investment has stopped and capital outflow is on the rise. Inflation is sky-high, corruption is rampant, institutions stand destroyed and accountability is a closed chapter. Relations with the neighbours are not as cordial and the trust deficit with the West is widening.
In his book 'Obama's Wars', Bob Woodward has quoted Mike McConnell, the former US national intelligence director as having said that Pakistan is a dishonest partner, unwilling or unable to stop elements of its intelligence service from giving clandestine aid, weapons and money to the Afghan Taliban. On the one hand the US lauds Pakistan for playing a vital role in the war on terror and on the other it accuses Pakistan of helping the Taliban.
The US says it wants to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans but at the same time it does not hesitate in using force to force opponents to agree to its terms and conditions. Washington needs to reconsider its policy options. It should avoid setting conditions on the future dispensation that is to emerge in that country and stop changing goal posts or having double standards - if it wants to attain peace in Afghanistan. The readers would recall that during the Taliban period the US insisted on the formation of a broad-based government but the same principle was thrown to the winds in the Bonn Accord when an extremely narrow-based government was installed in Kabul. Similarly while it castigates Pakistan for not carrying out a harsh military offensive against Haqqani elements, it has quietly opened up lines of communication with that faction, according to Guardian.

anoop said...

Here is an interesting piece of news. Apart from Indonesia no Islamic country polled did have a favourable view of Pakistan. Even China, who are considered as brothers by some Pakistanis, hate them.

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "Apart from Indonesia no Islamic country polled did have a favourable view of Pakistan. Even China, who are considered as brothers by some Pakistanis, hate them."

My reading of the Pew data suggests that the only ones who really "hate" Pakistan are Indians...a full 81% of them. The rest are either favorable or ambivalent in spite of massive propaganda campaign to demonize Pakistan by western, Jewish and Indian media.

Riaz Haq said...

Australian Army is being trained by Afghan fighters, according to Australia's Sydney Morning Herald:

The Herald can also reveal that the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, discussed their relationship with the warlords at a meeting in Kabul on October 2. A leaked summary of their meeting reveals that Mr Karzai told Ms Gillard tribal leaders had praised Australia's co-operation with ''warlordy types''.

The fighters met Australian officers they will work alongside and were shown combat training displays at the Cultana base in South Australia and at Holsworthy Barracks in outer Sydney.

The militia is Oruzgan's most effective fighting force but moving closer to it risks undermining the Afghan institutions that need to be reinforced before Australian Defence Force troops can leave.

One Australian special forces officer said the militia was respected and had ''saved many Australian lives''.

Defence said that in the exercise, Leadership Look, the Afghans were ''intimately involved in the planning and execution of training objectives'' for the special forces soldiers as they prepared to go to Afghanistan.

But Martine van Bijlert, an analyst on Afghanistan, speaking from Kabul, said: ''We're shaping [Afghanistan] to our short-term needs rather than what the country needs in the long term. Does the country really need commanders with what are in essence private armies?''

The Dutch refused to work with Matiullah and blocked his appointment as the local police chief. He holds no formal government position but is allied with Mr Karzai and is considered the most powerful man in Oruzgan. He denies allegations of corruption and human rights abuse.

But Defence said: ''It is important the ADF works within the cultural norms of Afghanistan. Therefore in some areas where influential local Afghan leaders still operate, their co-operation can be crucial to maintaining security and stability.''

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston was at the Kabul meeting and was recorded telling Mr Karzai the partnership between Australian special forces and Matiullah's militia was ''a proud one''.

The Defence chief admitted that when Australian troops arrived in Oruzgan they did not understand the complex ''tribal dynamics'' but now had a more ''enlightened'' view.

The militia wears the uniform of the Provincial Response Company but is not controlled from Kabul and answers to Matiullah.

''They fight for their own group. They fight for very different reasons than, for instance, the Afghan army,'' said Ms van Bijlert.

The militia command group has been brought to Australia for improved training in a safe environment.

The visit came after negotiations between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence. Agreements were made about travel documents and warnings were given to the government that, as one source said, ''issues could arise'' if the Afghans claimed asylum in Australia in future years.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Jack Hunter titled "Peter King's Radical Ignorance" in The American Conservative magazine:

This is not unlike when we are told that terrorists simply “hate our freedom,” as President Bush and his Republican supporters like Rep. King have always considered a satisfactory explanation for our problems with radical Islam. Yet using two of the very examples cited at King’s hearings—Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad—what can we deduce about what actually causes domestic Islamic terrorism? If virtually every would-be domestic Islamic terrorist cites the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as their primary motivation—which virtually all of them do including Hasan and Shahzad—and yet we are still fighting wars in both countries allegedly in the name of fighting terrorists… might it be time to reexamine and perhaps reassess our foreign policy? Are we attacking the problem of radical Islam or helping to create it? Has the War on Terror actually become a war for it?

Yet few dare raise these most pertinent questions. When longtime DC-based tax activist Grover Norquist suggested in January that conservatives should begin to have a conversation about the wisdom of our war in Afghanistan, he was swiftly denounced by many on the Right for even daring to discuss the matter. Norquist defended his suggestion: “I’m confident about where that conversation would go. And I think the people who are against that conversation know where it would go, too.” Addressing some of his harsher critics, Norquist shot back: “Shut up is not an argument… Many of the people who want us to stay in Afghanistan are smart people. There are good arguments for their position. So let’s hear them.”

But hearing any serious cost/benefit analysis about our current foreign policy is about as likely to happen as Washington leaders addressing and correcting our reckless domestic policy of trillion dollar deficits and debt. It is simply assumed that the status quo, whatever it may be, is somehow beneficial and necessary by its own volition. Or perhaps worse, politicians fear that the many special interests involved could potentially be jeopardized by any substantive examination of the way Washington conducts its business.

This characteristic intellectual laziness among the political class is particularly troubling when it comes to the threat of terrorism, domestic or otherwise. We continue to fret over the Islamic terror effect while steadfastly refusing to even consider the cause of Islamic terrorism, making King’s hearings last week little more than another example of Washington’s typical grandstanding buffoonery. Yes, King and his allies on this issue are indeed right that the problem of domestic Islamic terrorism is a concern—but their ongoing blindness toward the primary cause of their concern prevents them from even attempting to examine this issue comprehensively. Peter King might as well have called for congressional hearings on the problem of teenage sex while leaving raging hormones completely out of the equation. And let us hear no more from Washington leaders who want to “keep us safe” until they are first willing to look at the policies of their own making that continue to endanger us the most.

Riaz Haq said...

US CIA drones have struck a day after Raymond Davis's release, killing 40 Pakistanis believed to be innocent civilians, according to the BBC:

At least 40 people have died in a US drone strike in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, local officials say.

Most of the victims were believed to be civilians attending a tribal meeting near the regional capital, Miranshah.

Earlier reports had said militants were among the dead. The area is an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold and US drones regularly target the region.

The latest deaths come amid rising anti-US anger in Pakistan after a CIA contractor was acquitted of murder.

The freeing of Raymond Davis has sparked protests across Pakistan.

Many people are angered that so-called "blood money" reported to amount to more than $2m (£1.24m) was paid to the families of the two men he killed in Lahore. The relatives then pardoned him under Sharia law and the court freed him.
Militants not 'present'

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Thursday's drone strike is the deadliest such attack since 2006 when 80 people were killed in the tribal region of Bajaur.

Officials say two drones were involved in the latest attack, in the Datta Khel area 40km (25 miles) west of Miranshah.

One missile was fired at a car carrying suspected militants. Local tribesmen say the drones then fired another three missiles at their meeting, or jirga.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's president has finally realized and stated that US presence in Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan in an interview with the the Guardian newspaper:

"Just as the Mexican drug war on US borders makes a difference to Texas and American society, we are talking about a war on our border which is obviously having a huge effect. Only today a suicide bomber has attacked a police compound in Baluchistan. I think it [the Afghan war] has an effect on the entire region, and specially our country," Zardari said.

Asked about harsh criticism of Pakistan's co-operation in the "war on terror" published in a White House report last week, Zardari said Pakistan always listened to Washington's views. But he suggested some members of Congress and the US media did not know what they were talking about when it came to Pakistan.

"The United States has been an ally of Pakistan for the last 60 years. We respect and appreciate their political system. So every time a new parliament comes in, new boys come in, new representatives come in, it takes them time to understand the international situation. Not Obama, but the Congress, interest groups and the media get affected by 'deadline-itis' [over ending the Afghan war]," Zardari said.

"I think it is maybe 12 years since America has become engaged in Afghanistan and obviously everybody's patience is on edge, especially the American public, which is looking for answers. There are no short-term answers and it is very difficult to make the American taxpayer understand."
"Our emphasis has been on security rather than our commerce and we need commerce for our survival.

"We have all the gas in the world waiting to go through to markets in India and the Red Sea but it cannot be brought in until Afghanistan is settled. So Afghanistan is a growth issue for us. I think most of the time, the quantification of the effect of the war is not calculated [by the US].
According to senior intelligence officials, the "war on terror" has cost the Pakistani economy approximately $68bn (£42bn) since 2001.

More than 33,300 Pakistani civilians and military personnel have been killed or seriously injured. Last year's record-breaking floods added to the strain on the economy.

Zardari said the security situation was also undercutting efforts to strengthen democratic institutions bypassed or overturned during the military rule of his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf. "Democracy is evolving. It's a new democracy. It takes time to bring institutions back. Destroying institutions during a decade of dictatorial regime is easy ... So there is a political impact as well as an economic impact."

Pakistani officials say relations with the US reached a "low ebb" following the recent row over Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis; a CIA drone attack in Pakistan's tribal areas last month that accidentally killed dozens of civilian elders meeting in a jirga (council), and Pakistan's suspicions that it is being excluded from discussions about an Afghan peace deal.

Zardari, who is expected to visit Washington next month, said he would ask Obama to share drone technology with Pakistan so future attacks could be planned and directed under a "Pakistani flag". Although this request had been turned down in the past, he said he was hopeful the Americans would be more receptive this time, given the huge anger and rising anti-American feeling that the drone attacks were causing.

Zardari and other senior government officials said all parties felt a sense of growing urgency about forging an inclusive peace settlement in Afghanistan, but the process must be "Afghan-led". Pakistan was ready to play its part, consistent with its national interest, they said.

Riaz Haq said...

US-NATO War Served Al-Qaeda Strategy
Thursday 9 June 2011
by: Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service,

Al-Qaeda strategists have been assisting the Taliban fight against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan because they believe that foreign occupation has been the biggest factor in generating Muslim support for uprisings against their governments, according to the just-published book by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistani journalist whose body was found in a canal outside Islamabad last week with evidence of having been tortured.

That Al-Qaeda view of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, which Shahzad reports in the book based on conversations with several senior Al- Qaeda commanders, represents the most authoritative picture of the organisation's thinking available to the public.

Shahzad's book "Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban" was published on May 24 – only three days before he went missing from Islamabad on his way to a television interview. His body was found May 31.

Shahzad, who had been the Pakistan bureau chief for the Hong Kong- based Asia Times, had unique access to senior Al-Qaeda commanders and cadres, as well as those of the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban organisations. His account of Al-Qaeda strategy is particularly valuable because of the overall ideological system and strategic thinking that emerged from many encounters Shahzad had with senior officials over several years.

Shahzad's account reveals that Osama bin Laden was a "figurehead" for public consumption, and that it was Dr. Ayman Zawahiri who formulated the organisation's ideological line or devised operational plans.

Shahzad summarises the Al-Qaeda strategy as being to "win the war against the West in Afghanistan" before shifting the struggle to Central Asia and Bangladesh. He credits Al-Qaeda and its militant allies in North and South Waziristan with having transformed the tribal areas of Pakistan into the main strategic base for the Taliban resistance to US-NATO forces.

But Shahzad's account makes it clear that the real objective of Al-Qaeda in strengthening the Taliban struggle against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan was to continue the US-NATO occupation as an indispensable condition for the success of Al-Qaeda's global strategy of polarising the Islamic world.

Shahzad writes that Al-Qaeda strategists believed its terrorist attacks on 9/11 would lead to a US invasion of Afghanistan which would in turn cause a worldwide "Muslim backlash". That "backlash" was particularly important to what emerges in Shahzad's account as the primary Al-Qaeda aim of stimulating revolts against regimes in Muslim countries.

Shahzad reveals that the strategy behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the large Al-Qaeda ambitions to reshape the Muslim world came from Zawahiri's "Egyptian camp" within Al-Qaeda. That group, under Zawahiri's leadership, had already settled on a strategic vision by the mid-1990s, according to Shahzad.

The Zawahiri group's strategy, according to Shahzad, was to "speak out against corrupt and despotic Muslim governments and make them targets to destroy their image in the eyes of the common people". But they would do so by linking those regimes to the United States.

Mayraj said...

"In case you haven’t been following the news: last year’s parliamentary election was so chaotic and flawed that it resulted in the near-total disenfranchisement of Afghanistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority, which makes up a healthy 40 percent of the population. Many Pashtuns either didn’t vote, because of sympathy or support for the Taliban and dislike of the Afghan government, or couldn’t vote, because of Taliban threats and violence. As a result, in some provinces in the south and east where Pashtuns dominate, not a single Pashtun was elected to parliament. For Karzai, that was a disaster, especially since he’s trying to reach out to his Pashtun base as part of his search for a deal with the Taliban and its allies. Earlier this year, a special court appointed by Karzai ruled that sixty-two members of parliament, mostly non-Pashtuns, were elected fraudulently, a step toward installing Pashtun members in their place. Not surprisingly, Karzai’s opponents in parliament, especially Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who oppose Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban, cried foul, challenged the constitutionality of the court, and demanded the impeachment of Karzai.
If the war in Afghanistan ever made any sense at all, this stuff makes it clear that it's close to hopeless."

Government in Afghanistan Nears Collapse

Riaz Haq said...

In a CNN interview, Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, says al Qeada is much bigger than it was on 9/11.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian Op Ed on latest blowback from Mali in Algeria:

To listen to David Cameron's rhetoric this week, it could be 2001 all over again. Eleven years into the war on terror, it might have been Tony Blair speaking after 9/11. As the bloody siege of the part BP-operated In Amenas gas plant in Algeria came to an end, the British prime minister claimed, like George Bush and Blair before him, that the country faced an "existential" and "global threat" to "our interests and way of life".

While British RAF aircraft backed French military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali, and troops were reported to be on alert for deployment to the west African state, Cameron promised that a "generational struggle" would be pursued with "iron resolve". The fight over the new front in the terror war in North Africa and the Sahel region, he warned, could go on for decades.

So in austerity-blighted Britain, just as thousands of soldiers are being made redundant, while Barack Obama has declared that "a decade of war is now ending", armed intervention is being ratcheted up in yet another part of the Muslim world. Of course, it's French troops in action this time. But even in Britain the talk is of escalating drone attacks and special forces, and Cameron has refused to rule out troops on the ground.

You'd think the war on terror had been a huge success, the way the western powers keep at it, Groundhog Day-style. In reality, it has been a disastrous failure, even in its own terms – which is why the Obama administration felt it had to change its name to "overseas contingency operations", until US defence secretary Leon Panetta revived the old title this week.

Instead of fighting terror, it has fuelled it everywhere it's been unleashed: from Afghanistan to Pakistan, from Iraq to Yemen, spreading it from Osama bin Laden's Afghan lairs eastwards to central Asia and westwards to North Africa – as US, British and other western forces have invaded, bombed, tortured and kidnapped their way across the Arab and Muslim world for over a decade.

So a violent jihadist movement that grew out of western intervention, occupation and support for dictatorship was countered with more of the same. And the law of unintended consequences has meanwhile been played out in spectacular fashion: from the original incubation of al-Qaida in the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union, to the spread of terror from western-occupied Afghanistan to Pakistan, to the strategic boost to Iran delivered by the US-British invasion of Iraq.

When it came to Libya, the blowback was much faster – and Mali took the impact. Nato's intervention in Libya's civil war nearly two years ago escalated the killing and ethnic cleansing, and played the decisive role in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. In the ensuing maelstrom, Tuareg people who had fought for Gaddafi went home to Mali and weapons caches flooded over the border.

Within a couple of months this had tipped longstanding demands for self-determination into armed rebellion – and then the takeover of northern Mali by Islamist fighters, some linked to al-Qaida. Foreign secretary William Hague acknowledged this week that Nato's Libyan intervention had "contributed" to Mali's war, but claimed the problem would have been worse without it.

In fact, the spillover might have been contained if the western powers had supported a negotiated settlement in Libya, just as all-out war in Mali might have been avoided if the Malian government's French and US sponsors had backed a political instead of a military solution to the country's divisions.....

Riaz Haq said...

Syria and ISIS are both the consequence of the Iraq war. It was the Iraq war that got Syria's Assad involved in supporting Al Qaeda recruits who used Syria to launch attacks on American forces in Iraq. US military presence is a magnet for Jihadis in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Riaz Haq said...

Two Decades After 911, #Militants Have Only Multiplied. As many as 230,000 #Salafi jihadist fighters in nearly 70 countries, with the largest numbers in #Syria, #Afghanistan and #Pakistan, says the Center for Strategic and International Studies. @CSIS

Nearly four times as many Sunni Islamic militants are operating around the world today as on Sept. 11, 2001, despite nearly two decades of American-led campaigns to combat Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, a new independent study concludes.

That amounts to as many as 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters in nearly 70 countries, with the largest numbers in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

The report’s conclusions, drawing on multiple databases dating to 1980 to compile one of the most extensive studies of its kind, underscore the resiliency of these terrorist groups, and the policy failures by the United States and its allies in responding. The findings also highlight the continuing potency of the groups’ ideology and social-media branding in raising money and attracting new recruits as they pivot from battlefield defeats in strongholds like Iraq and Syria to direct guerrilla-style attacks there and in other hot spots.

“Some of these groups do want to target Americans overseas and at home, particularly the Islamic State and Al Qaeda,” said Seth G. Jones, the director of the center’s transnational threats project and one of the report’s six authors. “All this indicates that terrorism is alive and well, and that Americans should be concerned.”


“The good news is that there has not been an attack anywhere near the scale of 9/11 in the U.S. since that day, a significant achievement,” the center said. “The bad news is that the ideology that leads someone to fly a plane into a building or drive a car into a crowded sidewalk seems to have metastasized.”

“Many of the conflicts that comprise America’s global counterterrorism campaign have a fiercely local component to them, meaning there is little that a Western country and its military can actually do to impact events on the ground for a sustained period of time,” the center added.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged at a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that the fight against the Islamic State and other Salafi jihadist groups was far from over. General Dunford said that the United States must maintain sufficient forces and political will “to make sure that we’re putting pressure on and disrupting these terrorist networks.”

But at what cost? Last week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs released its annual report, the Costs of War study, in which it calculated that the United States will have spent $5.9 trillion on activities related to the global counterterrorism campaign by October 2019.