Jihadists are quick to take heed of any strategic or policy changes taking place in the United States or any state with forces fighting terrorism. Recently, the resignation of the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, was seen as a victorious sign for the Afghan Taliban. Jihadis posted opinions on the resignation entitled, "The Dark Episodes of the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan” (muslm.net, June 24). Jihadi forum postings regarding General McChrystal’s resignation also renewed discussions of an earlier topic on U.S. strategic policy in Afghanistan entitled, "Obama’s Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Jihadi reading and a wakeup call" (muslm.net, June 18).
Reacting to the resignation of General McChrystal, a jihadi forum member nicknamed Mullah Talibani said the rising casualties of the Coalition forces are evidence of the dark series of NATO failures in Afghanistan that have raised tensions in the White House. The rift between the commander of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan and the White House coupled with the premature departure of Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, indicates the imminent collapse of the Coalition in Afghanistan. Cowper-Coles had clashed with U.S. and NATO officials over his insistence that talks with the Taliban should be prioritized over the military campaign (Guardian, June 21). Other forum members corroborated the deteriorating situation of the Coalition, evident from the assignment of David Petraeus, McChrystal’s superior officer, to a lower position as head of Coalition operations in Afghanistan. “That is normal because the Taliban lions headed by Mullah Omar drove the Coalition out of their norms [i.e. caused them to make mistakes in routine operations],” said another chatter. Above all, the forum members perceive the resignation of any Coalition commander as a sign of an impending military collapse followed by total withdrawal.
Another jihadi forum posted the Taliban reaction to the resignation of General McChrystal. Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said it is a logical conclusion of the war in Afghanistan and that the new commander will face the same fate (hanein.info, June 24). Ahmadi claims Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan has been defeated, adding “We don’t care who the commander is, be it McChrystal or Petraeus. Our position is clear. We will fight until the occupiers withdraw” (sunni-news.net, June 24).
Ahmadi’s criticism of President Obama’s strategy renewed jihadi forum discussions on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan (muslm.net, June 18). The discussion started with rude remarks about President Obama’s race. A forum member nicknamed Abu Muhammad al-Othmani enumerated five major points in Obama’s national security plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan:
• Disrupt terrorist networks in Afghanistan
• Sever terrorists’ supply routes from Pakistan to Afghanistan
• Strengthen the Afghan government’s management quality
• Develop security forces’ capabilities to enable them to counter terrorists and insurgency and support the civil authorities and the constitutional government of Pakistan
• Effectively engage the international community to help achieve these objectives.
To secure these goals, forum members believe the United States will implement a civilian-military strategy to fight insurgency, support Pakistan in the fight against fundamentalists, and strengthen Afghani-Pakistani cooperation. One forum member repeated an insult once used by al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri in suggesting there was little to distinguish the current president from his predecessor:
"We put before those who think the slave of the house – the White House – is different than his predecessor Obama’s new strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in which he said the terrorists that planned 9/11 are still plotting to kill as many as they can of our civilians… Brothers in faith, I write this, hoping believers would open their eyes and not be deceived by the Islamic greetings of our enemy nor by the Quranic verses they cite."
The strongest reaction and criticism of the replacement of General McChrystal was made during Friday prayer in London by Egyptian Salafi-Jihadi ideologue and director of the al-Maqreze Center for Historical Studies, Hani al-Siba’i. In the Friday sermon, al-Siba’i said the tyrant American administration is stumbling, evident from the criticism directed at it by one of its top generals. In the sermon, al-Siba’i said:
"McChrystal is not stupid as they describe him. He gave an interview to a major American newspaper [actually Rolling Stone magazine] fully aware of the consequences. McChrystal knew he would be sacked and held accountable for his actions. He simply wants to get ahead of events because he was struggling with the criminal ambassador of the U.S. in Kabul who runs networks like the security company Blackwater [Xe Services LLC], and other security entities that control and kill people in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. McChrystal had a new theory to approach the Afghan problem. He wanted a bigger budget to spend more money on the Afghan people in the south, bribe them and buy their loyalty. The U.S. ambassador refused McChrystal’s theory and insisted on military tactics, killing women that raise possible Taliban fighters and small children that would grow up to become Taliban. McChrystal tried to explain to the ambassador that in order to win the war the Coalition has to neutralize the public. The ambassador insisted on killing women and children in conformity with the policy of President Obama. The ambassador complained McChrystal should order more raids on Taliban regardless of civilian casualties. McChrystal is not better, but he is ahead of them. He knows the Coalition will eventually lose the war in Afghanistan and the leaders will be held accountable for war crimes and misconduct. When that time comes, McChrystal will be considered the wise man. He will tell everyone he tried to put sense into the current leaders."
Siba’i went on to claim that McChrystal knows much about American plans for Afghanistan that he has yet to reveal, such as a proposal to turn Kabul over to private security companies like Blackwater. According to Siba’i, such a proposal would result in private firms carrying out random killings and assassinations, with heavy repercussions for the United States (almaqreze.net, June 25).
Forum members also posted the biography of the new military commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus (muslm.net, June 25). Forum comments on the biography were largely of the opinion that Petraeus will not be able to pull the United States back from being engulfed in a quagmire and defeat in Afghanistan.