The United States and Britain have concluded that Afghanistan must be re-conquered. Four years after a US-led alliance, helped quietly by Russian armor and Uzbek commandoes, drove the Taliban regime and al Qaeda out of the country, US president George W. Bush and British premier Tony Blair are gearing up with Australia for a repeat campaign.
This was the key decision the two leaders took at the G8 summit in Scotland last week, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources. While the official communiques were all about aid to Africa and climate warming, the real business discussed behind the summit’s closed doors turned on the next stage of the war on terror. Before the leaders were confidential backgrounders on Afghanistan, prepared over months of staff work and analysis and delivered by senior US officials and intelligence officers who arrived at Gleneagles in the Bush party.
These studies sought to learn from the mistakes made four years ago.
They also examined the tactics that enabled the Taliban and al Qaeda since the beginning of this year to sweep back into large tracts of southern and northern Afghanistan and gain control of the country’s main road system. The two partners-in-terror have even captured a safe passageway for movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan – almost on the same scale as the route they controlled before the 2001 war.
(DEBKA-Net-Weekly 206 of May 20, 2005 reported: Afghanistan in Reverse: Taliban-al Qaeda Duo in Comeback)
Sources familiar with the G8 session report that American and British officials were clearly preparing for Afghanistan War 2, a conflict that may well spill over the border into the unruly Pakistan regions where the Taliban and al Qaeda maintain their bases and sanctuaries. This new round of fighting might take American and coalition forces to relatively untouched areas like the Badakhan province bordering on Tajikistan northwest of Konar and Little Pamir abutting on China.
Blair improvises link between London bombing and Afghanistan
American troop strength is already getting organized.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, the Bush administration’s military planning for Afghanistan also affects Iraq. Round about December, when Iraq goes to the polls for a parliament, the US will build up its strength in Iraq – possibly by introducing fresh units and holding up the troop rotation due then. Some of those extra contingents will be sent to southern Iraq. They will relieve almost half the British strength and allow some 3,500 commandos to be detached from the 7,500-strong British Iraqi army for combat in Afghanistan.
According to our sources, the plans for their assignment to Afghanistan are almost complete. Blair has ordered finance minister Gordon Brown to allocate half a billion pounds sterling for the operation.
The four terrorists who bombed three London Tube trains and a bus, killing 52 people, injuring 700 and leaving 36 unaccounted for, provided Blair with the PR cue he needed to prepare the public for the renewed offensive in Afghanistan. That explains the odd timing of the press leak that partially lifted the veil off the war plan and its confirmation by the British defense minister John Reid Sunday, July 10, when England was still reeling with shock after its first suicide bomb attacks.
(DEBKA-Net-Weekly 213, of July 8 was the first world publication to define the perpetrators as suicide killers.)
The news had originally been intended for release at the end of the G8 conference. The terror attack altered its timing and publication strategy. Blair’s ad lib created a linkage in people’s minds between the London bombings and the new British deployment in Afghanistan, drawing for a parallel on Washington’s 2001 war offensive in Afghanistan in direct response to the 9/11suicide attacks.
Putin puts in two rubles
But Bush and Blair found theirs was not the only war plan before the summit of leaders of the world’s industrial nations. They learned of the Russia president Vladimir Putin‘s resolve to finally subdue the Islamist Chechen separatists.
Senior Russian officials briefed the conference on the rebels’ blueprints for a major terrorist strike in Moscow or some other big Russian city in revenge for the liquidation of their leader Aslan Maskhadov in March. The Chechens are also determined to demonstrate that despite the loss of their leader, they are still full capable of striking deep inside Russian.
Putin’s plan is to strike them first.
He too as has chosen his moment in the light of the deep internal divisions within the Arab segment of the Chechen guerrilla movement. This wing is an operational arm of al Qaeda’s Saudi, Balkan and West European networks. (Their divisions will be explored in a separate article in this issue.)
Putin and his advisers believe that an offensive embarked on in the late summer months of August and September would have a good chance of hitting two birds, the Chechen insurgency and al Qaeda in Chechnya.
When word of the July 7 attacks in London reached G8, they were widely seen as al Qaeda’s method of compelling the summiteers to see who really dictated the world’s agenda. But at least three leaders present knew the attack for what it really was: a pre-emptive operation to show them that al Qaeda would not be caught napping. Its leaders were fully apprised of the assault plans the Americans, British and Russians were preparing to launch against the terrorist legions in Afghanistan and Chechnya and had begun relocating their combatants from Iraq to the new warfronts – as will be seen in the next article.