in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet, The Times has learnt. The clandestine payments, whose existence was hidden from the incoming French forces, were disclosed by Western military officials.
US intelligence officials were flabbergasted when they found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had also been buying off militants, notably in Herat province in the far west. In June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome made a démarche, or diplomatic protest, to the Berlusconi Government over allegations concerning the tactic.
However, a number of high-ranking officers in Nato have told The Times that payments were subsequently discovered to have been made in the Sarobi area as well.
Western officials say that because the French knew nothing of the payments they made a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment.
Benedict Brogan explains,
As the Times reveals, the French made a “catastrophically incorrect threat assessment” because they had no idea. Barely a month after waving goodbye to their Italian “colleagues”, 10 French soldiers were killed in an ambush, their bodies mutilated, and their equipment and uniforms paraded by the jubilant Taliban. For good measure, the beardies published photos to make their PR point.
Back to The Times article,
Had it not been for the chance presence of some US special forces in the area who were able to call in air support for them, they would have been in an even worse situation. “The French were carrying just two medium machine guns and 100 rounds of ammunition per man. They were asking for trouble and the insurgents managed to get among them.”
A force from the 8th Marine Parachute Regiment took an hour and a half to reach the French over the mountains.
A few salient points about this story:
- The Italian Secret Service was paying wages of appeasement in the “tens of thousands of dollars regularly to individual insurgent commanders.”
- They didn’t tell anyone in NATO.
- The French went in underarmed.
- The Americans had to rush in.
And now comes the punch line: Pres. Obama talks to Gen. McChrystal for only a few minutes in the past three months. On Afghanistan,
Obama wants to avoid any semblance of a “rush to war.” Nine months on, that doesn’t seem like a danger.
And, does he have a clue about the double-dealing in NATO?
Here in the US, Americans, In Reversal, Now Back Afghan Troop Surge
But Obama is in no rush to make a decision, holding a series of high-level meetings with military and political advisers on his next move.
And the upsurge in overall support for more troops in the IBD/TIPP Poll may not sway Obama.
That’s because the turnaround comes from a surge in support from Republicans — up 27 points just in October to 72%. A month ago, GOP respondents had leaned against sending more troops, 47%-45%.
Opposition to a rapid withdrawal cut across party lines. While Republicans were the most hawkish, saying no to a rapid withdrawal by 84%-13%, a solid majority of Democrats, 62%-30%, also agreed. Independents were talking tough as well, rejecting the idea by 68%-25%.
Will the White House come through?