At Large

A Scold’s Lesson

It didn't work with Bill and it won't work with Islamic militants.

By 7.22.09

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You don't want to get Hillary Clinton riled up. Speaking this week to ABC News about the capture of a U.S. soldier by Islamic militants, the secretary of state took off her gloves: "It's just outrageous. It's a real sign of desperation and inappropriate criminal behavior on the parts of these terrorist groups."

I wouldn't be surprised if Mrs. Clinton said something comparable to her husband after word of his affair with a White House intern leaked out: "Bill, that's just outrageous. That's a real sign of disrespect and inappropriate sexual behavior on the part of the president."

Mrs. Clinton went on to say the State Department was going to do "everything we can to get him." Everything we can should entail getting rid of the kingpins responsible for this abduction and the recent kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde (after seven months in captivity Rohde escaped last June). I mean the Taliban's Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani faction, headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin. After all the Christian Science Monitor called the Haqqani faction "Afghanistan's most dangerous insurgent group."

The Haqqanis, like Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and Ratko Mladic, are prime examples of the kind of shadowy figures that have for years -- going on decades now -- eluded U.S. capture. They creep from hidey-hole to cubbyhole and cannot be found. Unless you are NBC news producer Mushtaq Yusufzai. Yusufzai has had no trouble finding Sirajuddin Haqqani. Twice (this April and last July) he sat down with Haqqani fils for a tête-à-tête. Incredibly the State Department doesn't even appear to have a photograph of Sirajuddin.

Here's what we know about the Haqqanis. Like all good organized crime families, the Haqqani faction is a family venture, based in Afghanistan's eastern border regions. Jalaluddin Haqqani was, for a time, one of "our sons of bitches," working with the CIA to help defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Once the Taliban were driven from Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai reportedly invited Haqqani to become Prime Minister. Congressman Charlie Wilson was so taken with Haqqani that he once referred to him as "goodness personified." In the mid-'90s, Haqqani threw his lot in with the Taliban, becoming a regional military commander, at which time he led a bloody ethnic cleansing campaign against the northern Tajik population. On the eve of the American invasion in October 2001, he was named supreme Taliban commander. Early and repeated attempts to kill Haqqani failed, though coalition forces did manage to irritate him by killing members of his family.

The Haqqanis are said to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan and Pakistan and are responsible for the more devastating bombing attacks over the past two years, and likely were behind Tuesday's deadly attack in Gardez  in which six Afghan security forces died.

Haqqani's faction now works independently of the Taliban while maintaining close ties with members of the Pakistani intelligence services. Imagine an entire wing of the CIA working to overthrow the Obama administration. And everyone knows it. That's Pakistan for you.

THE AMERICAN CAPTIVE, PVT. BOWE R. BERGDAHL, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho, went missing from his base in southeastern Paktika province on June 30. It was the first time militant Islamists have abducted a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan since the war began. However, it is unclear what the circumstances of the kidnapping or capture were. The Daily Telegraph notes that "[w]hen he first disappeared, a military official left open the possibility that [Bergdahl] was a deserter," saying that soldier had "just walked off" his base with three Afghans after his shift. The captors subsequently released a statement saying, "a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison" and was subsequently captured by militants. Independent journalist and blogger P.J. Tobia reported from Afghanistan that unnamed sources told him Bergdahl had left behind a note saying that he was "going to mountains to find himself." In a propaganda video posted online this week Bergdahl says that he was captured after trailing behind while on foot patrol. Fox News' Strategic Analyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters told anchor Julie Banderas that Bergdahl was lying about having been kidnapped while on foot patrol, and worse, he seems to be "collaborating with the enemy" and should not be portrayed as a hero. If he is a deserter, Peters said, the kidnappers could save the U.S. a lot of time and trouble. (I might add that Banderas seemed a bit flustered by Peters' bold statements. "Regardless of what the situation is we do not want to see any U.S. soldier in harm's way and we hope this guy he gets out of there," she said. "He's an American, he's one of ours." Gets out of there and what, faces a military firing squad? Apparently Ms. Banderas thinks soldiers shouldn't be put in harm's way, and it's okay if one of them deserts because, after all, "he's an American, he's one of us.")

A strange twist to this story, but it is still too soon to pass judgment. As for Mrs. Clinton and the Islamic militants who captured Bergdahl, let me just add that playing the scold didn't work very well with Bill, and it's unlikely to have much effect on the Haqqanis.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.