Russia not willing to help?
September 15, 2001 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Russia not willing to help? Meanwhile, Nikolai Kovalyov, the former head of the Russian FSB security service, warned the US that an attack on Afghanistan would fail to capture Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the atrocities, and would backfire on the US. "In Afghanistan's mountainous terrain it takes a trainload of explosives to destroy three militants," he said. "The chance of hitting bin Laden is zero."
posted by rushmc (17 comments total)
I dont think that quote says Russia is not willing to help.
posted by Satapher at 8:09 AM on September 15, 2001

It does, however, point out the utter futility of military retaliation.
posted by Optamystic at 8:18 AM on September 15, 2001

I dont think that quote says Russia is not willing to help.

No, the quote doesn't. The article does.
posted by rushmc at 8:23 AM on September 15, 2001

Sorry, This will be long as I couldn't find a link.

Tamim, a writer and columnist in San Francisco, who comes from Afghanistan.
This is very interesting and a little chilling....

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone
Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean
killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity,
but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we
do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the
belly to do what must be done."

And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am
from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never
lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will
listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt
in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York.
I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the
government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who
took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a
plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think
Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in
the concentration camps."

It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity.
They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone
would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of
International thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The
answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few
years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled
orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food. There are
millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in
mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all
destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan
people have not overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age.
Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the
Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn
their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done.
Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health
care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least
get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat,
only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe
the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too
fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping
bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this
horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the
Taliban--by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true
fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with
ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be
done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as
needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent
people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table
is Americans dying. And not just
because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to
Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks. Because to get any
troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us?
Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other
Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a
world war between Islam and the West.

And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants.
That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right
there. He really believes Islam would beat the West. It might seem
ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the
West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in those
lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, that's even better
from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong, in the end the West
would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and
millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that?
Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

Tamim Ansary<<
posted by redhead at 8:33 AM on September 15, 2001

Here is the link.
posted by vowe at 8:36 AM on September 15, 2001

Thanks vowe
posted by redhead at 8:43 AM on September 15, 2001

see this thread
posted by asok at 8:49 AM on September 15, 2001

redhead: For future reference, it's generally not appropriate to post an entire story to the body of a thread. It's not a big deal, I'm just pointing this out because I've seen several instances of it lately, and it's important to stop the precedent. It makes the thread too hard to read.

If you'd like to share something, but you can't find a link, put it up on the web yourself and link to it. Use homestead or geocities or f2s or something. Though you can't self-link in a front-page post, it's fine to do so within a thread. Particularly if you label it as a self-link.
posted by gd779 at 9:05 AM on September 15, 2001

We're getting mixed message from Russia because their goals in Central Asia may turn out to be broader. There was a meeting between leaders of Russia, India, and several Central Asian republics recently purely to discuss how the threat of fundamentalism coming out of Afghanistan could be contained or eliminated. Keep in mind that the Taliban still do not control all of Afghanistan--there are several northern provinces still controlled by Uzbek and Tajik resistance forces. (Here's a link to some maps.) Even Iran hates the Taliban, because the Taliban are oppressing Shi'a Muslims in Afghanistan. In the light of all that, a mission only to "arrest Bin Laden" doesn't seem as interesting to the Russians (or the Indians, or the Iranians).
posted by gimonca at 10:14 AM on September 15, 2001

We're getting mixed message from Russia because their goals in Central Asia may turn out to be broader.

Completely agree: and even broader still, if the "anti-terrorism" mandate is extended (expediently) to Chechnya. That said, with the Red Army in tatters, there'd be little enthusiasm for re-engaging with Afghanistan, given that it was as disastrous a campaign in the 1980s as Napoleon's in Russia.
posted by holgate at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2001

The USSR was in a war in Afghanistan that was long, ugly, bloody, and ultimately lost. They went in, with all of the artillery of the Cold War, and left ten years later with their heads in their hands. The Afghani's won the war, and now they may be "Back in the dark age's", but accustomed to war with nothing to lose, a formidable landscape, and a fervently religious theocracy. The Russians know that future better than any of us do; I am not surprised that they would be catching their breath a little bit, especially since they are geographically much more likely to feel the immediate fallout from an invasion.

It is true that they are also in the midst of their own crisis in Chechnya, perhaps of their own making, perhaps not, but it seems that since there are apartment blocks being bombed with regularity, they feel that they too have a problem on their hands.

It is impossible to know what is in the hearts of all those countries who have pledged their support, but everyone must be pausing for a moment all over the world and evaluating the enormity of the situation--where does "rooting out terrorism" stop? The ETA and the Basque country? The IRA? India? Sierra Leone?

Are we pledging to fight anyone who's ever planted a bomb?
posted by binski69 at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2001

Binski69 is just about on target. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan turned out to be much like America's Vietnam. Thier percieved lack of support is actually a note of caution for the United States. I hope and pray we don't go in there. As a final thought, if we are going to have a war on terrorism, do we close down the school for the Americas? We have certainly done our share of training others to commit acts of terror.
posted by Antagonist at 2:16 PM on September 15, 2001

Considering the current state of the art in US sattellite surveilance, I don't know that the Russian statement can be considered as true as it was during their own mass forays into Afghanistan.

THEORETICALLY, a constant monitoring and instant strike against any terrorist camp that might spring up in sattelite photographs would keep the terrorists scattered, on the move, and would slowly erode the group by attritition. We're talking years, here - chasing them and swatting as you may a fly with a newspaper.

A long term plan, but we have the resources and the resolve to do so; and it keeps us out of civillian centers...

... until, of course, the group realizez the only place they have a chance for safety is to move into civillian centers, using civillians as a shield.
posted by Perigee at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2001

... until, of course, the group realizez the only place they have a chance for safety is to move into civillian centers, using civillians as a shield.

And they will, and they will use mosques and other religious and civilian infrastructure to support military operations (personnel and munitions), and we will destroy same, and we will be vilified for it. Be prepared for all of that.
posted by rushmc at 3:42 PM on September 15, 2001

I'm not sure that's acurate, Perigee. Afghanistan vs. USSR was a modern war, in the same sense that US vs. Iraq was a modern war. Its just very difficult to get anything accomplished in Afghanistan because of the mountains and the locals.

Also, who actually thinks bin Laden is still in Afghanistan? I assume that he's had plastic surgery and is now living in Israel, running his entire operation out of a suitcase and a satellite phone.
posted by Ptrin at 7:23 PM on September 15, 2001

Trying to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age is fruitless, since they're barely out of the stone age as it is. To kill bin Laden and his entire organization AND hurt the Taliban (let's be honest - this would be "hurting" them by killing as many of their members as possible), we're going to have to do special forces strikes against individuals, small groups, and other similar targets. A topographical map of Afghanistan will explain very effectively why bombing raids are not going to be very effective.

it won't work any other way. But we use the threat of stone-age bombing as a lever to garner the intelligence we need to throw effective hits at the targets...somebody get on the horn to Pakistan! wait - too late.

I smell General Powell's work here.
posted by UncleFes at 9:47 PM on September 15, 2001

Not entirely sure either Ptrin - I'm making the supposition based purely on the well-demonstrated capability of US satellite surveliance ability, and making an assumption that Russia's was not up to the same level - or even nearly that level - at that time.

One way or another, rushmc is right; 'Human Shields' is no new concept out here on the new fronteer. Yippie-ki-yay, MFs...

posted by Perigee at 11:53 PM on September 15, 2001

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