Sunday, February 03, 2008



Earlier in the week we looked at Afghanistan again, something most Americans have been unwilling to do. A growing crisis there will soon force our hands. The press in Canada, England and the rest of the NATO countries is alive with alarms of a situation growing steadily out of control. The U.S. media, too busy trying to gin up slights between presidential candidates, hasn't had time. Today's Seattle Times carries a story on how the influence of Islamic militants is spreading in the war-torn country.
Islamic insurgents are expanding their numbers and reach in Afghanistan and Pakistan, spreading violence and disarray over a vast cross-border zone where al-Qaida has rebuilt the sanctuary it lost when the United States invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.

There is little in the short term that the Bush administration or its allies can do to halt the bloodshed, which is spreading toward Pakistan's heartland and threatening to destabilize the U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan and [nuclear-armed] Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO forces are facing "a classic growing insurgency," Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday.

But the U.S. military, stretched thin by the Iraq war, is hard-pressed to send more than the 3,200 additional Marines the Bush administration is dispatching to Afghanistan. The growing insurgency there is fueling rifts within the NATO alliance as Germany and other nations refuse to allow their troops to participate in offensive operations in Afghanistan. The Afghan army is making progress but cannot operate independently.

"Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," an Atlantic Council of the United States report warned last week. The report was directed by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, the former top NATO commander. "What is happening in Afghanistan and beyond its borders can have even greater strategic long-term consequences than the struggle in Iraq."

The European public has been far more concerned and far more aware. Today's Independent hints at disarray among the NATO allies about how to go forward. There seems to be a dearth of credible leadership at the top. You think? Condoleeza scurries off to London to paper over the growing catastrophe.
A spate of reports in the past week has warned that Afghanistan risks becoming a "failed state" and that there will be a "humanitarian disaster" unless aid and military efforts are better co-ordinated.

Not only are there public disagreements in Nato over military strategy, but Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is ever more reluctant to co-operate with certain Western nations.

Britain is smarting after Mr Karzai vetoed Lord Ashdown's appointment and criticised the performance of UK troops in Helmand.

Remarks by the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, who said other Nato members were less skilled in counter-insurgency, caused fury in Britain and Canada, which is threatening to pull out its troops if reinforcements are not provided.

A demand by Mr Gates that Germany should move troops to the combat zone in southern Afghanistan was leaked last week, causing another furore.

Sir Simon Jenkins, a former editor of the Times of London, paints a far worse picture. His assessment sounds like an apt inscription for the tombstone of the failed Bush Regime:
The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, flies to Britain this week to meet a crisis entirely of London and Washington’s creation. They have no strategy for the continuing occupation of Afghanistan. They are hanging on for dear life and praying for something to turn up. Britain is repeating the experience of Gordon in Khartoum, of the Dardanelles, Singapore and Crete, of politicians who no longer read history expecting others to die for their dreams of glory.

NATO policy is Afghanistan is a shambles. Bush doesn't even seem aware he's supposed to be providing leadership, a quality no one has ever explained to him in a way he can understand. The military strategy is absolutely not working. "Most of the 37,000 soldiers wandering round Kabul," asserts Jenkins, "were sent on the understanding that they would do no fighting. No army was ever assembled on so daft a premise." The goal of guarding reconstruction sites and training the Afghan police never looked like a winning strategy but it was the only strategy a preoccupied Bush Regime was willing to come up with in a backwater like Afghanistan. One man's backwater is the center of the universe for someone else. Guess who's going to win that one.
Kabul is like Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war. It swarms with refugees and corruption while an upper crust of well-heeled contractors, consultants and NGO groupies careers from party to party in bullet-proof Land Cruisers. Spin doctors fighting a daily battle with the truth have resorted to enemy kill-rates to imply victory, General Westmoreland’s ploy in Vietnam.



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