Obama’s Dark-and-Dire Decision — Afghan Cataclysm?

September 10, 2009

(Illustration of Salvador Dali’s The Visages of War found here).

War is not pretty, funny or real clever.
War is Ambrose Bierce‘s ‘Chickamauga‘ revealed as “the dead body of a woman — the white face turned upward, the hands thrown out and clutched full of grass, the clothing deranged, the long dark hair in tangles and full of clotted blood. The greater part of the forehead was torn away, and from the jagged hole the brain protruded, overflowing the temple, a frothy mass of gray, crowned with clusters of crimson bubbles — the work of a shell.

The war in Afghanistan has become the US ‘jagged hole‘ in the brain.

Just as a way-crucial juncture in a US commitment to an Afghan campaign is most-quickly approaching, the war itself has churned into an even more nasty and deadly-stupid conflict — seemingly the only alternative is the obvious.
The war is conducted near-blind, in the shadows of friend or foe, and US boys and girls are being slaughtered for naught.
Two prime examples in just days — One an apparent product of an insurgent/occupation conflict, the other an example of an over-extended, incompetent US military leading the country into something akin to a scenario worse than Vietnam and Iraq combined.

On Tuesday, four US Marines were killed during an ambush in eastern Afghanistan, and a riveting first-person account by a McClatchy reporter, on the scene, has been spread across the Internet.
The first two graphs:

We walked into a trap, a killing zone of relentless gunfire and rocket barrages from Afghan insurgents hidden in the mountainsides and in a fortress-like village where women and children were replenishing their ammunition.
“We will do to you what we did to the Russians,” the insurgent’s leader boasted over the radio, referring to the failure of Soviet troops to capture Ganjgal during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation.

The telling bit, however, is contained here:

Several U.S. officers said they suspected that the insurgents had been tipped off by sympathizers in the local Afghan security forces or by the village elders, who announced over the weekend that they were accepting the authority of the local government.
“Whatever we do always leaks,” said Marine Lt. Ademola Fabayo, 28, a New Yorker who was born in Nigeria and is the operations officer for the trainers from the 3rd Marine Division.
“You can’t trust even some of their soldiers or officers.”

Securing intelligence on the Taliban is another matter.
The US-led NATO troops are foreigners, distrusted by a population spread over a huge canvas of a country, and after eight years of nothing but more death and destruction, just about all reliable information on Taliban movements is tainted at best.
And the best intelligence on the insurgency comes from far-distance via drones and satellite imagery, but getting the low-down, down on the ground about the Taliban is tricky at best.
Even General Stan McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, was recently “surprised” by the new-and-improved Taliban tactics this past summer — apparently Stan didn’t know they were that good at insurgent warfare — Duh!
In July, McChrystal issued his big, though ‘revised,’  Tactical Directive (pdf) that the core emphasis will now be to gain support of the civilian population through not slaughtering them, not driving around Kabul and other cities in a cowboy/”guns up” kind of way, causing chaos to all, “thus alienating the people.”
In other words: “The Taliban cannot militarily defeat us — but we can defeat ourselves.”
So coupled with the disaster in southern Afghanistan this summer — July and August were brutal for US and UK troops — and last month’s national elections a complete farce of a breakdown — Hamid Karzai’s little city-state government not only buggered-up the results, but also painted a worse-case scenario for any kind of central government — the entire Afghanistan mission is in deep shit.
In the ambush described above, where the four US GIs died, the commander on the ground called for air and artillery support, but didn’t get any for quite awhile — two reasons cited: both the vast distances (for helicopter gunships to arrive) and the new guidelines for less harm to civilians.
Of course, the entire ‘Tactical Directive’ went down in shit flames last Friday when between 90 and 125 people (most were civilians) were incinerated after NATO aircraft bombed some fuel-tanker trucks stolen by the Taliban, and although only Taliban fighters were targeted, and to avoid any real-stupid stuff: Later another spokesman, Brig Gen Eric Tremblay, was quoted by Reuters as saying: “It would appear that many civilian casualties are being evacuated and treated in the local hospitals.
“There is perhaps a direct link with the incident that has occurred around the two fuel trucks.”

No shit Sherlock.
The air strike on the tankers was called for by the Germans, as it occurred in their zone of Afghan hell, and the event has triggered more political backlash in Germany over that country’s operation in Afghanistan — the war is becoming increasingly unpopular in German as well as English.

McChrystal, however, would get snagged by another piece of shit off the tanker blast.
From Tuesday’s timesonline:

When he tried to contact his underlings to find out what had happened, however, he found, to his fury, that many of them were either drunk or too hungover to respond.
Complaining in his daily Commander’s Update that too many people had been “partying it up,” General McChrystal, head of International Forces in Afghanistan (Isaf), banned alcohol at his headquarters yesterday, admonishing staff for not having “their heads in the right place” on Friday morning — a few hours after the deadly attack.

Nato began an investigation later that morning but military sources said that General McChrystal was furious because he “couldn’t get hold of the people he needed to get hold of and he blamed it on all-night partying”.
Rear-Admiral Gregory Smith, the top US spokesman in Afghanistan, accused German troops of waiting too long after the blasts to investigate the scene.
When General McChrystal flew north, the local German commander, Colonel Georg Klein, told him that it was too dangerous to visit the blast site, four miles outside their camp, because they might get shot at.

In a vast country like Afghanistan, they couldn’t go four miles from camp ‘because they might get shot at‘?
As one can see, the mission has gone to shit in a wire basket.

Last March, President Obama unveiled his “new” Afghan policy, the now-famous alliterated “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida” spiel and dispatched an additional 4,000 US troops to the already previously-dispatched 17,000 new GIs earlier in the year.
This new stance, however, is extreme-similar to George Jr.’s belated attempts to turn the corner in that conflict.
One former Afghan envoy said Obama’s plan is “largely an extension of where the Bush Administration, in its last years, was heading, with some refinements and additions.”
However, despite the additional troops, despite all the new directives and what-not, the presence of the Taliban, driven out of sight and under cover more than eight years ago, has come back stronger and now control big chunks of the country.
According to Reuters:

The Taliban have a significant presence in almost every corner of Afghanistan, data from a policy think tank showed on Thursday, as the country lurches into political uncertainty after a disputed presidential election.

A security map by policy research group the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) however showed a deepening security crisis with substantial Taliban activity in at least 97 percent of the country.
The ICOS data, obtained by Reuters before its release on Thursday, painted an even darker picture than an Afghan government map last month that showed almost half of Afghanistan at either a high risk of attack or under “enemy control.”

Now McChrystal is coming back this month with yet another plan, and a request to Obama for more US troops.

Obama must face NATO, whose secretary-general, it was reported today, said “We must stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary, and we will stay as long as necessary. Let no one think that a run for the exits is an option. It is not.”
While US politics, especially from his fellow Democrats, there’s not much support for any more troops, with Sen. Russell Feingold even calling for a flexible timetable for withdrawal.
History points to the obvious: A most-quick departure.
(Illustration found here).

Similar to a lot of other nefarious shit nowadays, any kind of organized exit operation out of Afghanistan might be too late, at least for any kind of foreseeable future.
Although the Brits, French and Germans have called for a UN-mandated conference later this year to set up some semblance of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, based on “timelines” and “benchmarks,” which never, ever work in reality — and a most-excellent post on “success” via benchmarks and numbers in Afghanistan can be found at tomdispatch this week.

The ultimate problem for Afghanistan is Obama himself.
He campaigned the last couple of years and has constantly stated Afghanistan was/is the good war and a “war of necessity,” and will most-likely okay another 25,000 US troops to the conflict later this month, and push the US into a deep, near-bottomless well of historical horror.
Afghanistan has never had a strong central government (the brief Taliban, but they didn’t control the entire country) and it is one of the worse possible examples of a candidate for nation building — the attempt will naturally fail.
And the failure might be a slow strangulation, or a quick knife-slash to the throat, either way, the sight sure won’t be pretty.

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