Is Iran Responsible for the Escalation of the Afghan War?
I recently came across an interesting article in the Army Times which denotes a disturbing caveat to the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. While the media continues to dwell on the economy and the boo-hoo stories of those who can’t afford a digital cable conversion box, the violence in Afghanistan has gone through the roof and US casualties are multiplying at a staggering geometric rate. Far be it for me to draw attention away from important matters like the new American Idol, but here is what I see in the latest trends.
The Army Times article details the recent revelation that certain Farsi speaking insurgent groups have suddenly become equipped with body armor and kevlar helmets as well as vastly improved battlefield tactics and, shockingly, improved marksmanship. Coupled with the huge increase in IED attacks since the fighting season began in the spring, particularly the sharply growing presence of the state-of-the-art EFPs, leads me to believe that the war is about to take an ugly turn for the worse. I think we have a new villain entering the fray in the form of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) who, with or without the consent of the Iranian leadership, have taken it upon themselves to institute a major policy shift with regard to Afghanistan.
What has led me to this conclusion despite the DoDs hesitation to come out and verify my hunch? I suppose it is a great deal of speculation considering that there is not a whole lot of hard evidence on the ground to substantiate the theory. However, it does not take a genius to read between the lines. Let us start with the change in battlefield conditions in Afghanistan.
As covered in the Army Times article, US forces recently engaged a large insurgent group in the northwest corner of Afghanistan that possessed advanced equipment to include body armor and kevlar helmets. The soldiers on the ground reported that this group was not fighting like the typical insurgents and used conventional tactics and displayed vastly improved marksmanship (a real surprise considering it is well known gospel that just about everybody in the Middle East can’t shoot for shit). Did I also mention that these folks spoke Farsi? What do these things tell us?
First off, this merry band of cracker jack fucks have some serious financial backing. Body armor and helmets cost a great deal of money, and it may shock some people to know that body armor costs a great deal more than weapons in that part of the world. Whereas one can buy an AK-47 or even RPG for less than $100, body armor will put you back thousands.
Second, someone is taking the time, effort and resources to train these people and values them enough to give them protection. Generally, groups like the Taliban use the peasants that flock to them as cannon fodder. Moreover, the various tribes allied to the Taliban have a history of fighting NATO forces and then becoming disinterested and leaving the conflict as rapidly as they came. This is not a departure from Afghan norms, however the presence of semi-professional soldiers bent on a semi-conventional conflict with US forces (when it suits them) is a radical shift from the seasonal and ad hoc martial tendencies of the typical Afghan rebel.
Finally, though the presence of Farsi speakers is not, in itself, atypical (considering that many tribes speak it in the northwest as well as Uzbek and Tajik groups) , the fact that THESE well armed, and equipped fighters were speaking Farsi is a red flag. We have seen these types of fighters in Iraq and it is well known that they were trained and funded by the Revolutionary Guard. The fighters in Afghanistan fit the bill to the tee.
And what of the increased IED activity? This also lends credence to the notion that an Iranian finger is in the pudding. Historically, the Afghan way of war has been one direct confrontation with enemy forces. This held true through the Soviet War and up to the current conflict.
Anyone that has even a modicum of knowledge about Afghanistan is aware that the Afghans are a martial people that practices warfare on foreigners and each other as a matter of course. Many tribes are built around a cult of personal bravery and victory and, unlike the Iraqis, relish a good firefight. The trend toward the skulking and cowardly act of IED planting is a marked shift from everything we know and have seen from the Afghans to this point. It is either a move in the direction of pragmatism on their part, or an indication that new, non-Afghan groups are increasing their influence in the theatre. Again, the indicators are pointed squarely in the direction of the Revolutionary Guard who have practiced and perfected IED tactics in Iraq.
So if it is indeed the IRG what does this say about the future course of the war? Traditionally, Iran has had little interest in getting involved in Afghanistan and even less love for the Taliban (a Sunni group). Iran’s involvement has been minimal thus far and the intelligence agency most linked to foreign fighters has been the Pakistani ISI maintaining contacts with its former Taliban protégés. If Tehran has decided to take a more direct and overt approach in Afghanistan it would signal a major policy shift. Such a shift would be indicative of three major factors that may have contributed to the decision making process.
1) Their efforts in Iraq have failed and they need a new proxy war, to continue their fight against the great Satan.
2) The weakness of the Afghan central government has become more pronounced as the idiot Karzi has made no progress at unifying the nation and it would be possible to pick up the pieces in the event of a US withdrawal despite a resurgent Taliban.
3) The American people, saddled with their perceived state of malaise and cultural decay, are far less willing to stomach an escalated fight than they have been and continue to grow restless for peace despite the utter lack of sacrifice on their part. The Iranians are no doubt seeing which way the wind is blowing and may feel that the proper application of moderate resources could push the US and NATO public over the edge and effect a withdrawal.
Iranian involvement in Afghanistan at this stage may actually be a low risk, high reward situation. US and NATO withdrawal from the Afghan theatre would increase Iran’s own standing in the region as well as signify a victory for the forces of Islam over the imperialist and decadent pigs from the Christian West. If the US and NATO were to leave in defeat it would be an unmitigated disaster for the civilized peoples of the world. The defeat of the Soviet Army in the 1980’s at the hands of Islamic fighters served to greatly embolden Jihadists around the world and was the definitive and formative event in the creation of groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. What would a victory over the Great Satan lead to?