Tuesday July 12, the day French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived for an unannounced visit to Afghanistan and stated that a quarter of France's 4,000-strong contingent would be pulled out by the end of 2012, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother, Kandahar strongman Ahmad Wali, was shot dead by a bodyguard at his home.
This was no coincidence, debkafile's military and intelligence sources note: It was Taliban's way of refuting once again the accounts of the situation in Afghanistan presented by US, British and French leaders after more than a decade of relentless warfare as having little resemblance to reality. This was the object of four insurgent terrorist attacks in the two weeks since June 28, as demonstrated by the following six points:
1. America's signal feat in wiping out the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2 has very little bearing on the Afghan war because US intelligence has not made comparable progress in piercing the Afghan insurgents' inner counsels.
2. Taliban, in contrast, has attained a superior ability to plumb secret US and NATO (ISFA) moves.
3. On June 28, the insurgents struck one of the most heavily-guarded sites in the country, the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul: Between 7 and 10 gunmen, some with bomb vests, and a bomb car, made their way past check posts and security inspections into the hotel, captured the building and killed several senior Afghan security officers preparing to attend a secret security conference the following day. This conference was to discuss the handover of seven areas including three provinces to the Afghan national security forces (ANSF) in the coming days.
Afghan security forces in several hours of combat failed to dislodge the Taliban fighters. In the end US attack helicopters were called in. By targeting the gunmen from above, the helicopter shooters ended the hotel siege.
By this incident, the Afghan army and police showed they are nowhere near ready to shoulder the burdens of security in the absence of foreign forces. Taliban for its part demonstrated the futility of US and NATO leaders discussing timetables for the security handover to President Karzai's regime because the insurgents were fully capable of derailing them.
4. A week after the hotel attack, British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived at Lashgar Gah, the British base in the southern province of Helmund. The date of his arrival, like those of other Western leaders' visits to this country, was kept secret. Nonetheless, a few hours before he landed, Taliban abducted a British soldier from that base and murdered him.
According to debkafile's sources, Taliban chose to prove by this act that it was in possession of top British secrets like Cameron's movements and that its combatants were able to make free of British bases at any time for terrorist attacks. The British government was meant to infer that it would be best advised to remove its forces from Afghanistan with all possible speed.
Cameron used the visit to announce that British forces faced "two more fighting seasons." In the face of evidence to the contrary, he also said the campaign against the Taliban in the Helmand province was having "success" and the transition to Afghani security control was "on track."
5. Saturday, July 9, three days after Leon Panetta moved from the CIA to the Pentagon, the new defense secretary paid his first unannounced visit to Afghanistan. As he landed in Kabul, one of the bodyguards of a high-ranking deputy of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security opened fire on a group of US military advisers and killed two of them.
Here, too, the Taliban was directing a clear message to Washington: There was no way Afghans would be ready to take over the burdens of security and enable a US military drawdown in 2014.
6. Tuesday, June 12, French President Sarkozy was handed the same message in yet another deadly wrapping: The assassination of President Karzai's brother. This time, Taliban was demonstrating that no top member of the Karzai regime would ever be safe – even in his home, and that a single targeted murder could undo two years of strenuous US, British and Canadian efforts to draw even one stable front line against Taliban in South Afghanistan.