Afghan Defense Minister: ‘Major Increase’ In Foreign Fighters To Afghanistan

The New York Times’ John Burns reports on a statement by the Afghan Defense Minister that weakening of Al Qaeda in Iraq has resulted in “growing numbers of well-trained “foreign fighters” [going] to join the insurgency in Afghanistan instead.”

[Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak said] that the increased flow of insurgents from outside Afghanistan had contributed to the heightened intensity of the fighting here this year, which he described as the “worst” since the American-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001. American commanders have said that overall violence here has increased by 30 percent in the past year and have called for more troops.

The defense minister said that “the success of coalition forces in Iraq” had combined with developments in countries neighboring Afghanistan to cause “a major increase in the number of foreign fighters” coming to Afghanistan.

“There is no doubt that they are better equipped than before,” he said. “They are well trained, more sophisticated, and their coordination is much better.”


Back in February 2007, in testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, journalist Peter Bergen described how tactics used by Al Qaeda in Iraq had migrated to Afghanistan:

Suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices, and beheadings of hostages — all techniques al Qaeda perfected in Iraq — are being employed by the Taliban to strengthen their influence in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan. Hekmat Karzai, an Afghan national security expert, points out that suicide bombings were virtually unknown in Afghanistan until 2005, when there were 21 attacks. According to the U.S. military there were 139 such attacks in 2006. This exponentially rising number of suicide attacks is mirrored by other grim statistics — IED attacks in Afghanistan more than doubled from 783 in 2005 to 1,677 in 2006, and the number of “direct” attacks by insurgents using weapons against international forces tripled from 1,558 to 4,542 during the same time period. […]

Luckily, for the moment, the suicide attackers in Afghanistan have not been nearly as deadly as those in Iraq. As one U.S. military official explained, almost all of the Taliban’s suicide bombers are “Pashtun country guys from Pakistan,” with little effective training.

According to Gen. Wardak, that moment seems now to have passed. Shockingly, it turns out that invading Iraq and transforming it into an open source laboratory for terrorism was not an effective anti-terrorism strategy.

For more on the growing crisis in Afghanistan, see last Friday’s Progress Report.

For more on the Iraq war’s disastrous consequences for the “war on terror,” see these previous posts.