So ‘ere’s to you fuzzy-wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan; You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen, but a first class fightin’ man.
— Rudyard Kipling
Since a time before the centuries of failure of the British imperialists to subdue “the wily Pathan”, since the time of Hasan bin Sabah and before, a time stretching back to the second millenium BCE when the Pashtun people were forged in the fire of tribal conflicts and invasions, continuing through the present day, the tribesmen of the Hindu Kush have not made life easy for outsiders seeking to control them.
American and allied forces, mercenaries, and irregulars controlled or directed by clandestine services and armed with the latest high tech weapons are hard pressed to eke out the slightest progress in the campaign against the Taliban. The geography and the close knit cultural ties among the Pashtun people counterbalance the tools of modern warfare.
Mark Mazzetti in the lede to his New York Times story yesterday observed:
The deaths of seven Central Intelligence Agency operatives at a remote base in the mountains of Afghanistan are a pointed example of the civilian spy agencyâ€™s transformation in recent years into a paramilitary organization at the vanguard of Americaâ€™s far-flung wars.
Since the days of the OSS, America’s intelligence services have performed paramilitary operations. The news of CIA casualties in the south Asian conflict while tragic is certainly no surprise. What is perhaps surprising is the agency’s visibility and the public nature of this loss.