HOW BUSH LOST AFGHANISTAN... AND WHY
After college I went abroad and lived overseas for over 6 years. Since then I've spent at least a month outside of the U.S. every year. In my spare time, I do a Travel Blog about my travels. And when people ask me to name my all-time favorite places I've been, I always include Afghanistan, which I visited twice-- in the 60s and 70s. It isn't a place I would recommend anyone visit these days.
Last month I was waiting on line at the New Delhi Airport when I heard an announcement about the arrival of a plane from Kabul. A few days later I found out that the pomegranate seeds I was having as part of my breakfast everyday were being flown in daily from Afghanistan, a new cash crop to replace opium. But while I was away Afghanistan wasn't in the news because of pomegranate seeds, but because of the disastrous turn of events there this year.
A bipartisan group of senators didn't have tourism or pomegranate seeds in mind this morning when they voiced "concern" about Afghanistan. Republican foreign affairs maven Richard Lugar summed up nicely: "The overall situation in Afghanistan remains grave."
Saul Landau would probably call Lugar a Pollyanna. His essay in today's Counterpunch doesn't pull any punches on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan-- The Next Disaster.
In mid January, Bush dispatched 3,200 additional marines to Afghanistan. Curiously, the uncurious media didn't ask why US and NATO forces continue to fight there. Nation Building? With little or no budget for reconstructing the country?
Junior partners, the British leaders, haven't learned lessons any better than their Yankee counterparts. Defense Minister Des Browne predicted British troops could stay there for "decades." Did he not learn that from 1839 to 1842 British troops fought in Afghanistan so they could take that sphere away from Russia? Now, NATO makes war there, says Browne, to insure that it would not again "become a training ground for terrorists threatening Great Britain."
In the 19th Century, the British Empire suffered disastrous losses when it invaded Afghanistan and erected a puppet regime in Kabul-- just as the United States did (Hamid Karzai) after Bush's 2001 invasion. The puppet fell quickly when the British could not quell resistance. By 1842, Afghan mobs attacked Englishmen who remained in Kabul. The British army retreated toward India, its officers believing they had negotiated safe passage. Afghan "insurgents" slaughtered some 16,000 English soldiers.
Actually the Afghans slaughtered every member of the retreating British Army but one person they allowed to escape so he could tell the story. The Afghans are like that-- and the U.S. and modern Britain aren't the only ones who didn't learn anything. There isn't a Soviet Union today, in large part, because they didn't learn the lessons either.
I've just started reading an advance copy of Russ Hoyle's powerful new book, Going To War: How Misinformation, Disinformation and Arrogance Led America Into Iraq. Hoyle lays the groundwork for his exhaustive investigation by pointing out that after 9/11 the entire weight of world public opinion-- nor to mention support-- was with the United States. Bush went after the 9/11 culprits, bin-Laden, al-Qaeda, and their Taliban hosts and protectors. It's pretty much the only thing Bush has done right in his entire presidency. But as we were closing in on bin-Laden and his beaten, remnant band in Tora Bora, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld out-sourced what should have been the last act to warlords who sell their services to the highest bidder. Bin-Laden bid highest while the Bush Regime was preoccupied with their Regime's fondest dream, the attack on Iraq and the seizure of that nation's oil reserves on behalf of the multinational energy companies they represent.
The Washington Post wasn't watching when Bush screwed up Afghanistan. In fact if the American media had been doing a decent job, perhaps Bush would never have gotten away with leading our country into a catastrophic situation. Today, however, the Post-- albeit buried on page 18-- bemoaned the state of affairs in that most unfortunate of countries.
NATO forces in Afghanistan are in a "strategic stalemate," as Taliban insurgents expand their control of sparsely populated areas and as the central government fails to carry out vital reforms and reconstruction, according to an independent assessment released yesterday by NATO's former commander.
"Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said the report by the Atlantic Council of the United States, chaired by retired Gen. James L. Jones, who until the summer of 2006 served as the supreme allied commander of NATO.
"Afghanistan remains a failing state. It could become a failed state," warned the report, which called for "urgent action" to overhaul NATO strategy in coming weeks before an anticipated new offensive by Taliban insurgents in the spring.
UPDATE: MISUSED AND ABUSED BY BUSH, MARINES SAY THEY CAN'T HELP IN AFGHANISTAN
According to the latest CongressDaily "Marine Corps Commandant James Conway warned today he would not have the manpower to boost the number of Marines in Afghanistan beyond the level announced recently by Defense Secretary Gates while continuing to maintain a significant presence in Iraq." He talked about stress on marines who have been shuttling back and forth between wars and who haven't spent time at home in years. "Our Corps is not big enough to do both. We cannot have one foot in Afghanistan and one foot in Iraq," Conway said. "If there is a determination to send more Marines into Afghanistan, I certainly would respectfully request that we reduce our presence in Iraq."