Afghan Rabbit Hole

February 22, 2009

A lot of verbiage was tossed about last week on President Obama’s approval of 17,000 more US troops for Afghanistan, and even the country’s president declared “We have opened a new page” in the conflict.
One needs, however, to check that page against the book from which it comes.

(Illustration found here).

The problem is just not the resurgent, well-oiled Taliban, but the citizens of Afghanistan.
From the Washington Post this morning:

  • The additional 17,000 troops the Obama administration is preparing to send to Afghanistan will face both an aggressive, well-armed Taliban insurgency and an unarmed but equally daunting foe: public opinion.
    In more than a dozen interviews across the capital this week, Afghans said that instead of helping to defeat the insurgents and quell the violence that has engulfed their country, more foreign troops will exacerbate the problem.

    “Bringing in another foreign army is not going to help.
    They always come here for their own interests, and they always lose.
    Better to let everyone sit down with the elders and find a way for peace,” said Ibrahim Khan, 40, a cargo truck driver from Paktia province.
    “People are feeling hopeless and afraid, but nobody knows who the enemy is anymore.”

Yes, indeed — who is the enemy?

And the US doesn’t help matters — always in denial, deflecting the killing of unarmed civilians — as raids take out some insurgents:

  • But video footage and photographs obtained by Reuters from the site clearly showed at least one young boy had been killed in the bombing which struck an encampment of nomad tents.
    Little was left of the other bodies, except mounds of flesh.
    U.S. Brigadier General Michael Ryan travelled to the site of the bombing to lead an inquiry.
    Though weapons and ammunition were found, investigators concluded only three of the dead were militants and the other 13 were civilians.

What a horrible mess the US has become involved in and with no real way out.

According to one of the best, Gareth Porter, Obama was first asked by the US military for 30,000 more troops for the Afghan mission, but once he discovered there were no real plans for the GIs, nixed the bigger number.
And there’s an eerie resemblance to another bad-run US war effort — Vietnam.

  • What had changed in the nine days between those two statements, according to a White House source, was that Obama had called McKiernan directly and asked how he planned to use the 30,000 troops, but got no coherent answer to the question.
    It was after that conversation that Obama withdrew his support for the full request.
    The unsatisfactory response from McKiernan had been preceded by another military non-answer to an Obama question.
    At his meeting with Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon Jan. 28, Obama asked the Joint Chiefs, “What is the end game?” in Afghanistan, and was told, “Frankly, we don’t have one,” according to a Feb. 4 report by NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.

    Both Obama’s decision to agree to just over half of his field commander’s request for additional troops and the broader strategic situation offer striking parallels with the decision by President Lyndon B. Johnson in April 1965 to approve 36,000 out of a 49,000 troop request for Vietnam.
    Johnson’s decision, like Obama’s, was made against a background of rapid deterioration in the security situation, worry that the war would soon be lost if more U.S. troops were not deployed, and an unresolved debate over how the troops would be employed in South Vietnam.
    Some of Johnson’s advisers still favored a strategy of protecting the key population centers, whereas the field commander, Gen. William Westmoreland, was calling for a more aggressive strategy of seeking out enemy forces.

We all know what happened there!
Read Porter’s entire piece here.

Withdrawal is the only solution, but how long will that decision be put off — we hope it’s not like Johnson’s and there’s another five years of death and destruction ahead.
This rabbit hole has a graveyard waiting at the bottom.

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