Efforts are now underway to identify the dead following a U.S. and NATO strike in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan over the weekend, according to Afghan officials…
Eyewitnesses to the bombing and follow-up ground assault on the compound in Mandaghel, near the border with Pakistan, said two or three massive bombs were dropped on the compound. They described scenes of fierce hand-to-hand combat between the ANA (Afghan National Army) and enemy combatants holed up inside the compound.
Afghan officials, who did not want to be identified, said the strike targeted a mix of foreign and Afghan militants loyal to al Qaeda and Hizbi Islami, or HIG, the extremist group headed by former fundamentalist prime minister Gulbuddhin Hecmatyar.
Really? The U.S. military thought it might have Osama cornered — so they sent in Afghans with bayonets fixed to storm the compound? We made that mistake once before; I doubt we’d do it again.
Maybe they’re just saying that to put an Afghan face on the operation in case a big kill does turn up. I don’t know. I want to believe. And I’d be plenty happy if that big kill turns out to be Hekmatyar instead of someone from AQ.
Update: CSM wonders if the threat isn’t overblown (a little):
Still, Al Qaeda remains a loose network of like-minded individuals, instead of a tightly controlled terrorist hierarchy. Three-quarters of Al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 leaders were killed or captured, according to US estimates. Aside from Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, many of its leaders are relative rookies.
Nor has Al Qaeda’s new Pakistani infrastructure replaced the multiple camps it operated in Afghanistan, capable of training thousands of recruits at once. “The numbers are not the same, but there are volunteers who are attempting to reestablish [training grounds],” McConnell said.
Update: It’s probably not related to the attack in Kunar, but the Blotter says the CIA may have picked up a scent:
Armed with fresh intelligence, the CIA is moving additional man power and equipment into Pakistan in the effort to find Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, U.S. officials tell ABC News.
“Reports that the trail has gone stone cold are not correct,” said one U.S. official. “We are very much increasing our efforts there,” the official said.
People familiar with the CIA operation say undercover officers with paramilitary training have been ordered into Pakistan and the area across the border with Afghanistan as part of the ramp-up…
Past intelligence has indicated that bin Laden often changed locations in March, traveling to hiding places in the mountains once the snow cover begins to melt.
No mystery where the intel’s probably coming from.