Counterterrorism’s Bill Roggio on Afghanistan
BR: Thanks, Hugh. It’s always a pleasure to speak to you.
HH: Bill, let’s set up. I want to talk about Afghanistan. Can you tell people your most recent, the parameters of your most recent visit to Afghanistan?
BR: Sure. Yes, over the Summer, I was in Southern Afghanistan, in Kandahar. I embedded with the Canadian forces there, conducted Operation Mountain Thrust with them for a short period of time, and I also spent about a week and half or so in Kabul, and I was there just as the Kabul riots broke out, and did some reporting from there as well.
HH: Yesterday, you broke a story out of Afghanistan. Any confirmation today about the capture of this very major Taliban/al Qaeda figure?
BR: Yeah, Guluddin Hekmatyar is..he’s the leader of Hizb-i-Islami. Right now, it’s up in the air whether he actually has been captured or not. Last night, my sources were very confident, and it was also broken in the news that he was indeed captured. Now, there is some speculation of whether it is indeed him. The person they captured did look like Hekmatyar. They’re running a DNA and fingerprint test on him right now, and hopefully, we’ll know shortly. But if he was indeed captured, this is a major find. HIG, which is the name of his group, is, you know, is a major element of the insurgency in Afghanistan. They’ve launched a lot of rockets at the U.S. bases, and they’ve been basically a thorn in their side. And he can close links to Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri, so he will have an understanding of the operations in Afghanistan.
HH: Now the reason I really wanted to speak to you today is because Joe Biden and John Kerry, as quoted by E.J. Dionne in this morning’s Washington Post, are out with a new meme, the potential disaster looming in Afghanistan. Biden says we’re on the verge of failure there. John Kerry’s gone even further, and thinks it’s disastrous. What’s your assessment of their assessment, Bill Roggio?
BR: No, I think they’re absolutely wrong. I would strongly encourage both of them to go to Afghanistan and see what’s going on. Kabul, while they believe there may be one al Qaeda cell setting up in Kabul, the city’s very peaceful. You can ride on the streets and walk the streets there. Most of the country is secure. It’s those eastern and southern regions that border with Pakistan, where there’s Taliban activity. Basically, and especially in the southeast, these are areas, we’re pushing into areas that we’ve never really established a permanent presence in, after the invasion of Afghanistan. So one of the rules of warfare is when you make contact with your enemy, there will be combat. And that is what we’re seeing right now. The Canadians fighting in Kandahar are conducting Operation Medusa. They are just butchering the Taliban right now. They’ve taken five dead, the Canadians. They’ve killed over 520 Taliban fighters in this Panjwai region, just west of Kandahar City. There’s been a report in Helmand Province, which is probably the worst province in Afghanistan as far as security goes. Michael Yon was there. He’ll tell you how bad it was there. The Australian unit, special forces unit, conducted a fight over a period of nine days, killed over 150 Taliban, took six wounded. I mean, this is how the Taliban fights in Afghanistan. They’re not very well equipped, their tactics are poor. Sure, they may be massing in large numbers, but we’re just picking apart via air, and via maneuver on the ground.
HH: There is a story in today’s, September 13th’s Australian about that battle you just referred to, and they’ve got Spectre gunships. It sounds like…it’s not a massacre, because they’re attempting to join the battle. But they’re not very bright.
BR: No, they’re not. I mentioned this when I was in Afghanistan. It was one of the reasons I really wanted to go there, was to talk to people on the ground, to see if my suspicions and my investigations actually held up. And you know, they keep doing the same stupid things over and over again. The Taliban thinks they can mass in large formations, and attack Coalition forces. Well, sure, maybe once in a while, they’ll overrun a local police station. It quickly gets retaken by Afghan or U.S. forces, because I mean, the fact is, it’s a large country, and your troops can’t be everywhere. They’re quickly defeated whenever they do actually pop up in the open. So they’re not learning from their mistakes. Over 2,300 Taliban killed since April of this year.
HH: Let me play for you a little John Kerry, if I can get Moses to do that. It would be cut number five from his speech, which I believe was two days ago:
JK: Neither can the administration pretend that the war in Afghanistan is over, or that the peace has been secured. On Thursday, the President said that we’re on the offensive against terrorists in Afghanistan, even as the American NATO commander on the ground showed the opposite is true, by making an urgent plea for more troops.
HH: Stop right there. Now Bill Roggio, those are not contradictory, by the way, but I’d like your comments on that.
BR: Sure. He is right that the fight isn’t over in Afghanistan. I mean, this is an insurgency. They’re not defeated on the battlefield. You have to win the hearts and minds, and conduct reconstruction.
HH: And in fact, in Afghanistan, the battle’s never over.
BR: The battle is never over in Afghanistan. They’ve been at war for over thirty years, and they’ll be at war, probably, for another thirty years. That’s not the point. What he’s talking about with the NATO commander requesting troops, NATO only has fulfilled 85% of its commitment. They’re looking for that last 15%. And what that does is it allows them to have a strategic reserve, which will allow them to deploy, say, a battalion or brigade sized force. That’s anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 troops, into hot spots as needed. So the NATO commander has turned around to NATO and said, okay, NATO countries, live up to your commitment here. So Senator Kerry is distorting the facts here with that statement.
HH: Should he know that?
BR: He should know that.
HH: Do you think he does?
BR: I think he knows it, yes.
HH: All right. Let’s play a little bit more of John Kerry. Same cut, pick up.
JK: The truth is, the Bush-Cheney administration has engaged in a policy of cut and run in that country. This administration has cut an run while the Taliban-led insurgency is running amok across entire regions of the country. The administration has cut and run while Osama bin Laden and his henchmen hide and plot in a lawless no man’s land. They cut and run, even as we learn from Pakistani intelligence that the mastermind of the most recent attempt to blow up American airliners was an al Qaeda leader operating from Afghanistan. Yes…
HH: All right. Bill Roggio, your reaction to that little bit?
BR: That last bit is extremely humorous. Listening to the Pakistani intelligence tell us where they think that Osama bin Laden and the planners of their most recent plot are actually in Afghanistan. The very fact of the matter is, and I’ve been reporting this for well over a year now, is there’s a section within Pakistan called Waziristan, north and south Waziristan, and its tribal agencies, which there’s recently been a peace deal cut between the Taliban and al Qaeda, and the Pakistani government. This is where they are operating from. The Pakistani government is…nothing that they say about the location of Osama bin Laden, or where the Taliban is operating from can be trusted at this point. Mr. Kerry bought it, or Senator Kerry bought it, hook, line and sinker, and I find that to be quite humorous.
HH: Last question, Bill Keller. Do American troops have adequate numbers in Afghanistan for the missions they are entrusted with?
BR: I would say that it’s difficult in a situation like this. You can never have enough troops when you’re in a country of, you know, 30 million, or 25 million as in Iraq. The question is, are the troops being used properly? I would say sure, we could have more troops in Afghanistan. But the reality is, we could put those troops in, and we could need more troops for another area. It’s the way you use your forces. That’s what’s important. What’s important in winning the insurgency here in Afghanistan is getting the Afghan army…
HH: Up and running. Bill Roggio, I just called you Bill Keller. Sorry for the slander. Bill Roggio of Counterterrorismblog.com and the Fourth Rail, always a pleasure.
End of interview.