April 15th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

O'Hanlon: Don't fall prey to Taliban propaganda ploy

Editor's Note: Michael O’Hanlon is coauthor with Martin Indyk and Kenneth Lieberthal of the new book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy. You can read more from him on the Global Public Square.

Michael E. O'Hanlon

By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN

Today's attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan do offer proof of a still-resilient insurgency.  They do cause a certain amount of angst among Afghans. They entail human casualties, too, even if largely to the attackers themselves.

But we must think strategically and not fall prey to an obvious Taliban propaganda ploy. The attacks were on balance of only modest effectiveness (at most), and were suppressed almost entirely by Afghan forces.

They were the first of this type in Kabul in half a year. They would be hard to stop frankly in a Western city, requiring as they did only small arms for the most part, so we should hardly be surprised that they can't always be prevented. They are an attempt by the enemy to use limited means to maximize psychological shock value.

All this is not an argument for ignoring or trivializing today's violence, or for saying all is well with this difficult and too-long and too-costly war. It is, however, an argument for keeping things in perspective and for understanding the enemy's strategy so we don't get played by the enemy.

Two and a half more years of patience, during which we gradually downsize our troops, and Afghans will likely be ready to handle attacks like this nationwide rather than only in parts of the country. The country will still suffer from some violence even then, to be sure. And the problems of corruption and the challenges of political transition admittedly do still place mission success at a certain amount of risk. But on balance, today's sensational strikes, while tragic and disturbing, reveal as much about our strengths and the enemy's weaknesses as the opposite.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Michael O'Hanlon.

Topics: Uncategorized

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. lee

    maybe we did train them better than we have given ourselves credit for?

    April 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The Afghan intelligence was pointing fingers at the militants of the Haqqani network. They had been involved in a wave of insurgent attacks across the country in the past and the initial findings indicated their involvment in today's attacks as well, according to the Interior Ministry.

    April 15, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  3. pamalik

    I think there has been a communication battle throughout the day about minimizing the strenght of the attack at the white house and the praising the success of the attack for the haqani network and anoucing the beginning of the "offensive".
    But what we can all witness is that the taliban have been abble to put a mess in the capital city strategic points, forced the U.S embassy staff to lock themeselves in a bunker and force the afghan parliament representatives to take on kalash and defend themselves...
    After 12 years, things are getting worse. we should face the fact that the job won t be done in 2014 with a guy like kazai and his corrupt lads in power for christ sake. And francois hollande, the french presidential race favorite say that if elected, his first executive order was to sign the withdrawal of the french troops by the end of THIS YEAR.
    The job s not done yet guys

    April 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  4. Kuato Lives

    Don't fall prey to this North Vietnamese propaganda ploy! They may have surprised us with their little offensive during this Tet holiday, but don't be fooled! We handily defeated them on the battlefield; We have the NVA on the ropes! This little attack of theirs was out of desperation, and they are now powerless. The North's defeat is imminent! In another 2.5 years, we will be able to gradually withdraw our troops, and Saigon will rule over a united Vietnam!

    April 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • pamalik

      United vietnam,?saigon? dude sorry but we re not in 1955 but in 2012.

      April 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply
      • hseaman

        I think it was supposed to be a satire...

        April 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
      • patrick

        Satire? hehehe...

        April 16, 2012 at 5:56 am |
      • patrick

        patrick
        use your own name a ss wipe.
        What, you do not like Moohamed?
        I have spoken to the people at CNN and they are watching you very carefully.
        Keep talking.

        April 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  5. John Walsh

    For 12 years the Haqqani network has operated with impunity and with the complicity of the ISI. We place sanctions on Iran and give billion to lunatic facilitators in the home base of terrorism, This policy is insane. Stop the drone attacks divert to AQAP and they regroup and make us look foolish. PIcture an attack on Washington DC and then try to downplay the attack.It is a propaganda coup and they do it with regularityThis deserves the attention of the United Nations. They export nuclear technology. They orchestrate terrorist attacks in Mumbai, They send suicide bombers and terrorists from around the world into Afghanistan from training camps and safe havens in their country. They go through the motions but North and South Wasiristan are not bothered .Pakistan is the problem. They need international condemnation for their actions.With every attack like this a piece of North Wasitistan should be scorchedearth ,a training camp should be obliterated. Until they bring these people to the peace table and stop providing safe haven ans support. Not one penny , They need a BF Skinner approach.. Attacking your neighbors will come with a price.

    April 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  6. johnelia

    actually we dont want to see americans in our neighbourhood..They are invaders.They have occupied a land..So they have to pay the price in the form of money, blood whatever they like...cheers

    April 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
    • eric

      That's right, no American's.... lets just allow cowards like you to poison little girls at their school to keep them at home & without education. Perhaps you should show your discontent with American troops by strapping a bomb to your chest and blowing up innocent Afgans? That will make a much better Afganistan in your world.

      Why don't you try building rather than hiding behind innocents or convincing illiterates to become human bombs?
      Cheers!

      April 19, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
  7. Craig.H

    Right. OHanlon's butt is not being blown up in the comfort of Western capital so he can try to sell his rubbish. Ask the ones whose brains went up in smoke in Afganistan recently what they think of his dog's breakfast. They wouldn't unlike him because they are there on the spot where the Talibans are in action..

    April 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  8. George Patton

    Here goes this bozo O'Hanlon telling us how we're "winning the war" in Afghanistan today. The right-wing bozoes said pretty much the same thing about Vietnam back in the 1960's. Like Vietnam, we have no right to be in Afghanistan either!!!

    April 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  9. maz

    US and nato very powerfull army in afghanistan but afghani still sell billions billions dollars drugs and by wapens if usa and nato want to finish the terrorism they should finish the drugs first in afghanistan and then terrorism will be finished

    April 17, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  10. Kris Armour

    The questions we Americans have to ask ourselves are 'why are we NOW expending our national treasure in money and lives in Afghanistan,' and 'What damage is this war worth causing to our society, if any, and what is the value to OUR nation, of prosecuting this war until 2014?'

    April 22, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply

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