NR: "Afghanistan is a war being waged within many wars."
December 01, 2009
Michael's prepared piece about who the enemies are in Afghanistan. (VO only)
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These American soldiers fight for their lives in Afghanistan, besieged repeatedly by Taliban assaults, roadside bombs and ambush, with the American death toll ever rising. But for America to ultimately win in Afghanistan, it must overcome more than just the Taliban insurgents, for Afghanistan is a war being waged within many wars. Some overt, some not.
It is a battlefield for a host of competing interests, a proxy war between Pakistan and India, competition for influence from Iran and even China. Rivalries waged not just with bombs and bullets, but with billions in aid and reconstruction projects, with spies and with trade. And the United States is mired in the middle of them all.
Among Americans adversaries foremost is the Afghan Taliban. Ousted from government in 2001 by the U.S. invasion, its fighters and commanders have been launching their attacks for eight years from safe havens just across the Pakistani border from valleys like these.
Though Pakistan is technically an American ally, it suits Pakistan's strategic interest to allow these Afghan fighters to shelter along its borders. For there are two Talibans; one Afghan fighting the Americans and one Pakistani an entirely different Taliban, it's aim to overthrow the Pakistani government.
The Pakistani military has taken the fight to the homegrown Taliban, but does little to disrupt the Afghan Taliban. Why? The answer put simply is because of India. For decades Pakistan and India have been bitter rivals, fighting wars and arguing over disputed borders. For both, Afghanistan is just yet another battlefield in which to fight.
India backs the Afghan government and the forces that had fought against the Taliban. Meanwhile, elements in the Pakistani government tacitly support the Afghans fighting against that same Afghan government. This carnage perhaps the most obvious sign of that friction. It's the Indian embassy in Kabul ravaged by a massive bombing last year. A bombing U.S. intelligence claims was helped by Pakistan's spy agency.
Then, there is Iran -- willing to help anyone who would fight against America. Its role adding another layer to an already complicated battleground.
This Afghan Army general commands all Afghan forces in the country's south and he says the Iranians are supplying the Taliban. "Unfortunately," he says, "we find many weapons and explosives with Iranian markings." And he claims, "We have much evidence that small pockets of Afghan insurgents are being trained in Iran and deployed to fight against U.S. troops."
As President Obama unveils his new strategy for America's war in Afghanistan, he must contend with all of this -- an ever stronger Taliban, his nuclear-armed allies India and Pakistan vying with each other, as well as the subtle hand of Iran, none of which bodes for a quick nor easy victory in what has become Obama's war.
Michael Ware, CNN, New York.