Monday, October 26, 2009

In Afghanistan Our Soldiers Are Strangers In A Strange Land


No Nobel Peace Prize voters here

Saturday afternoon we suggested that President Nobel Prize Winner start getting ready to see his effigies being burned, not just at teabagger rallies here in America, but around the world, where disappointment in policies that have little to do with either Hope or Change, are starting to turn people off to the Not-Bush the whole world cheered for less than a year ago. Little did I know that the first of those effigies would be burning just a few hours later.

The U.S. is occupying a part of the world-- Afghanistan-- that is almost un-grok-able for Americans. Traveling there overland in the late 60s, I felt that I had been transported across time (backwards) and much as I had though space. Rudyard Kipling's 1889 classic poem, "The Ballad of East and West," just happens to take place in... Pahtunistan, the homeland of the Pathan people-- much of what we call Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan.

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat

Yesterday hundreds of Kabul University students-- think of that: university students-- rampaged through the city protesting the U.S. occupation and burning an effigy of President Obama. There was a rumor that some American troops has burned a Koran in Wardak Province, a rural Pashtun area just west of Kabul.
On Sunday, a crowd estimated in the high hundreds marched through Kabul - chanting "Death to America"-- to protest at the alleged desecration of the Islamic holy book earlier this month.

There were some clashes with security forces, and Afghan police fired in the air to scatter the crowd.

But protesters said they would not give up.

"We are demonstrating because American soldiers burned our holy Koran in Wardak province," said one man. "We will keep going to embarrass the Americans for their actions."

In this very religious country, any allegation like this has an incendiary affect.

Four years ago, almost 20 people were killed after riots erupted in several Afghan cities following a US news magazine report that the Koran had been desecrated by American interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

In fact, yesterday's L.A. Times pointed out the obvious-- that the incident "pointed to a strong undercurrent of anti-American sentiment" and that "the protest-- reminiscent of similar demonstrations in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world in recent years-- showed how easily passions involving religious sensitivities can be stirred up even with a dearth of evidence." Even more telling was Steve Hynd's 2 post for Newshoggers this weekend, first a report on Paul McGeogh's breathtaking deconstruction of McChrystal's naive and hopeless strategy for "winning" in Afghanistan and Sunday's on Daniel Ellsberg's interview explaining why McChrystal's counter-insurgency cannot succeed in Afghanistan any more than the identical tactics could have succeeded in Vietnam-- or could have worked for the English in the 1770s in the 13 American colonies.

And grafting some alien version of American democracy onto Pashtunwali isn't going to make a Kabul government propped up by foreign troops in the least bit legitimate. This morning's Wall Street Journal covers the Taliban's intentions to make the election runoff itself completely illegitimate. Afghans are likely to stay away from a process they have little invested in to begin with if they think it likely the polling places could come under attack, something like what happened in the Pashtun areas in August where the turn out was extremely low.
Low turnout on Nov. 7 could deepen the crisis of credibility facing the Afghan government and its Western backers, who have been mired in a disputed, fraud-ridden election process for more than two months... The runoff comes at a critical time for Afghanistan and for President Barack Obama, who has been trying to decide how to respond to a request by the commander of U.S. forces there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for up to 40,000 more troops.

Some Democrats have suggested the administration should wait until the situation with the Afghan government became clearer before deciding whether to commit more troops. But Republican lawmakers on Sunday said Mr. Obama should act soon.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, ran a secret war game this month to evaluate the two primary military options that have been put forward by the Pentagon, one that centers on a major escalation (44,000 more troops) and one that calls for between 10-15,000 troops in an approach debbed "counterterrorism plus."
One of the exercise's key assumptions is that an increase of 10,000 to 15,000 troops would not in the near future give U.S. commanders the forces they need to take back havens from the Taliban commanders in southern and western Afghanistan, where shadow insurgent governors collect taxes and run court systems based on Islamic sharia law.

...McChrystal's analysis suggests that 44,000 troops would be needed to drive Taliban forces from populated areas and to hold them until Afghan troops and government officials can take the place of U.S. and NATO forces. The extra troops would allow U.S. commanders to essentially triple the size of the American forces in the southern part of the country, where the Taliban movement originated and where the insurgents have their strongest base of support.

McChrystal would also use the additional troops to bolster the effort in eastern Afghanistan, which has long been a focus of the U.S. military, and push additional troops into western Afghanistan, where the military has maintained a tiny presence and where the Taliban has made inroads, U.S. officials said. A surge of 44,000 soldiers and Marines would also allow McChrystal to designate a brigade of about 5,000 soldiers to train and advise the Afghan army and police forces, accelerating their growth.

The increase of 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers would give McChrystal one U.S. advisory brigade of about 5,000 troops to speed the development of Afghan forces and a large number of support forces to include engineers, route-clearance teams and helicopters. McChrystal's analysis also suggested the option of increasing the number of troops by 80,000, but that isn't drawing serious consideration.

There is only one answer for Afghanistan-- ending the occupation as fast as possible and leaving the country to work out its own unending problems. On June 16 the Obama Administration forced through a war supplemental budget to keep funding the occupation. Only 32 Democrats had the guts to say no. When Obama comes looking for more money for this folly he inherited, it's up to Congress to say no for real this time. Watch Ellsberg:

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At 7:30 AM, Anonymous L:ee said...

well maybe Americans could grok if they read more about the grave yard for empires. Did you read the interview the real Charlie Wilson recently give? I might have posted it here, I don't remeber. But here it is again...

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

I like the way Fafblog put it:

Peace Is At Hand
Obama Wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

At Least 80 Killed as US Drones Attack South Waziristan Funeral Procession

In other news, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to a man who set fire to a library and then promised to write a book about it.


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