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March 25, 2004
We Keep Them Running

US and Afghan officials told the press today that the new spring offensive in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- which isn't even fully underway yet -- has impacted al-Qaeda's ability to mount their own offensive and has forced them into spending their time on the run:

Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, increasingly pursued by American and Pakistani forces, are on the run or hunkering down rather than mounting a threatened spring offensive of their own, U.S. and Afghan officials say. ... "We're doing a great deal to disrupt operations," the spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, said in Kabul. "The absence of violence against the Afghan people generally shows how well we're doing."

With spring "we would expect stepped-up activities against the Afghan people and aid agencies and that's one of the things Mountain Storm is designed to prevent," Hilferty said.

Spokesmen for the Taliban militia, the deposed rulers of Afghanistan, have allegedly promised a spring offensive of their own. Whether the talk was bluster or not, Taliban offensives traditionally come in the spring. But so far, two weeks into the Pakistan and U.S. operations, retaliatory attacks have been sporadic, and borderline suicidal.

While planned suicide attacks have been a hallmark of Islamofascist strategy for the past several years, the ad-hoc nature of these latest suicide missions indicate a sense of desperation not seen with AQ terrorists before. The Pakistanis and the Americans have kept them from being able to establish positions and coordinate forces. The Pakistani effort has gotten the attention of AQ leadership, which sent a tape out today trying to get the Pakistanis to rise up against Pervez Musharraf:

A tape purportedly recorded by Ayman al-Zawahri, the No. 2 figure in the al-Qaida terror group, called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a "traitor" Thursday and urged people to overthrow his government. ... "Every Muslim in Pakistan should work hard to get rid of this client government, which will continue to submit to America until it destroys Pakistan." ...

It was not known when the tape was made, but the speaker appeared to be referring to the conflict in South Waziristan when he said, "I call on the Pakistani army: you, poor army, what a miserable state Musharraf has put you in ... Musharraf ruins your natural fences those tribes on the border by engaging you in a fight with them. Then he removes your nuclear weapons. Will you stay silent until Pakistan is divided again?"

AQ leadership initiated this Pakistani offensive when they tried twice to assassinate Musharraf, who was until then a somewhat reluctant partner in the war on terror. After having tasted AQ's 'friendship,' Musharraf has become a convert, vowing to kill every last al-Qaeda operative that Pakistan can find.

And if AQ wasn't suicidal over that, there's one more piece of news -- 2,000 Marines will soon be coming to Afghanistan to pick up bin Laden's scent:

About 2,000 Marines aboard ships in the Persian Gulf plan to go ashore in Afghanistan to join the search for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, defense officials said Thursday.

The Marines are from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which began a six-month deployment on Feb. 19. They are aboard the USS Wasp, the USS Shreveport and the USS Whidbey Island, and are part of a larger expeditionary strike group that includes the cruisers USS Leyte Gulf and USS Yorktown, destroyer USS McFaul and attack submarine USS Connecticut.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 25, 2004 5:18 PM

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