Saturday, August 29, 2009

Afghanistan Debate Always Seems To Take Place During The Weekends


Busy Saturday for Afghanistan policy today! Senator Russ Feingold published an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal calling for a "flexible" timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. He pointed to 8 years of having achieved basically nothing at all. Feingold, who voted for the initial post 9/11 attack on Afghanistan, was one of the first senators to criticize the incompetence and lack of vision with which the Bush Regime pursued America's national security objectives-- particularly when they simply abandoned the job to pick an unjustifiable fight with Iraq. Likewise, he's taking a leading role in warning Obama against "an open-ended commitment to an escalating war in Afghanistan when the al Qaeda operatives we sought have largely been captured or killed or crossed the border to Pakistan."
Ending al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan is a top national security priority. Yet our operations in Afghanistan will not do so, and they could actually contribute to further destabilization of Pakistan. Meanwhile, we've become embroiled in a nation-building experiment that may distract us from combating al Qaeda and its affiliates, not just in Pakistan, but in Yemen, the Horn of Africa and other terrorist sanctuaries... During hearings in May at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, whether our troop increases might worsen instability in Pakistan. Adm. Mullen candidly said he shared that concern.

Mr. Holbrooke went even further. "You're absolutely correct," he said, "that an additional amount of American troops, and particularly if they're successful in Helmand and Kandahar, could end up creating a pressure in Pakistan which would add to the instability."

Feingold goes on to point out-- in less hyperbolic terms-- that historically, Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires and that a military victory there is "elusive" enough to "give us reason to rethink an open-ended military presence." Polling shows that the U.S. presence, which is more and more frequently looked on as a brutal and destructive occupation by a foreign power, does not have the kind of support necessary to accomplish the mission the Obama Administration claims to be pursuing. Feingold concludes that by "announcing a flexible timetable for when our massive military presence will end [it] would be one of the best things we could do to advance our national security interests in Afghanistan. By doing so, we would undercut the misperception of the U.S. as an occupying force that has propped up a weak, corrupt and unpopular government, while at the same time removing a tremendous strain on our troops and our economy... Instead of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, we should start talking about a flexible timetable to begin drawing those levels down. It is time to ask the hard questions-- and accept the candid answers-- about how our military presence in Afghanistan may be undermining our national security."

Obama, however, doesn't seem to be thinking along the same lines as Feingold-- and if today's U.K. Independent is to be believed, we're probably about to get another counterproductive escalation. That assessment doesn't come as a surprise to anyone in Washington paying close attention to the tragic American role in Afghanistan.
The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan will ask for 20,000 more international troops as part of his new strategic plan for the alliance's war against a resurgent Taliban, The Independent has learned.

...General McChrystal, tasked with turning the tide in the battle against the insurgency on the ground, has given a presentation of his draft report to senior Afghan government figures in which he also proposes raising the size of the Afghan army and police force... Afghan troops would rise from 88,000 to 250,000, and the police force from 82,000 to 160,000 by 2012.

...As part of an initial troop surge overseen by General McChrystal, the US has already committed to boosting its forces from 31,000 to 68,000 this year. However Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan was told by commanders in Afghanistan last week that those numbers would not be enough for what is being viewed as defining months of fighting to come.

Today's Washington Post pointed out that this has been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the country since the war began eight years ago. The mention, well hidden and obscurely placed, is juxtaposed with a disturbing bit of news about a Pakistani court ordering the government to lift remaining restrictions on A.Q. Khan, the rogue scientist/businessman/spy who sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

And this morning's NY Times editorializes-- somewhat pathetically-- about the diminishing legitimacy of the Afghan central government just as the Pentagon is publicly facing up to the fact that our situation in Afghanistan is, in the words of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mike Mullen, “serious, and it is deteriorating.” A news story in the same edition talks about "darker currents that have undercut the American-led war in this country [that] have surfaced often over the past eight years, but rarely have so many come into view all at once. In the space of a single week, a string of disturbing military and political events revealed not just the extraordinary burdens that lie ahead for the Americans and Afghans toiling to create a stable nation, but the fragility of the very enterprise itself." Using the word "fragility" gives "the enterprise" far more hope than is due.

Want to understand what's going on in Afgahnistan? Watch Robert Greenwald's short film and you'll get a better understanding about why Obama's policies in Afghanistan are failing and will fail even worse if he doesn't change course and start winding this bullshit down:

UPDATE: We Know Failure When We See It

Good to know-- and, fortunately, many very smart people already recognize that, like, for example, Derrick Crowe, who wrote about it in relationship to the mess the Obama Administration is making of Afghanistan.
The ongoing use of the Pashtun homelands as the base for the insurgency and the Pashtuns’ rejection of the processes of the central government show that after eight years, 807 U.S. military casualties, $228 billion dollars (so far; the full cost will exceed half-a-trillion dollars) and more than 20,000 Afghan civilian deaths, we have utterly failed to convince the Pashtuns in Afghanistan to “consent to the government’s legitimacy and stop actively and passively supporting the insurgency.”

In fact, as Dexter Filkins’ article in the New York Times shows, the massive election fraud will make it impossible for even the United States to endorse the legitimacy of the Afghan national government until questions of election fraud are adequately addressed, putting the political element of counterinsurgency (referred to by the COIN field manual as the prime element of COIN) into indefinite limbo while more and more U.S. troops spill into the country.

In other words, the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan has been a total failure.
Reports indicate General McChrystal will soon ask for 20,000 more troops for this debacle. The President and Congress should say no and end our military involvement in Afghanistan as quickly as possible. Americans know failure when they see it.

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At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Obama put enormous pressure into getting that Afghan supplemental through Congress. I wish he'd found the energy to provide half as much arm-twisting to getting health care passed. As it is, his legacy would seem to be another useless war. Bush Lite.

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous reasonablecitizen said...

One can just imagine how tough Afghanistan must be. Not solved by the British Empire in decades, not solved by Russians in decades, and it has stymied Obama for....6 months....while he was doing other things..
Must be a challenge worth overcoming.

The solution is to have Iran take over Afghanistan but they are likely too savvy to do that.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush started the mistake and Obama is perpetuating it. There is no victory for the U.S. in Afghanistan and there never has been. All we can do is get more and more bogged down there. The Soviets learned this too late. So how about this for a new strategy (inasmuch as the last two have been failures): get out. No matter what we do, now matter how long we stay, eventually the "Taliban" is going to regain control. Only the Afghani people will ever defeat them and they don't seem ready to do that.


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