Afghan Awful

September 28, 2009

“On the heights of the Kabul Gorge, they still find ancient belt buckles and corroded sword hilts. You can no longer read the insignia of the British regiments of the old East India Company but their bones — those of all 16,000 of them — still lie somewhere amid the dark earth and scree of the most forbidding mountains in Afghanistan. Like the British who came later, like the Russians who were to arrive more than a century afterwards, General William Elphinstone’s campaign was surrounded with rhetoric and high principles and ended in disaster. George Bush Junior and NATO, please note.”
— Robert Fisk, The Independent, Sept. 14, 2001

(Illustration found here).

Now it’s President Obama’s turn to take note.
And from the above-mentioned journalist, Robert Fisk, who has interviewed Osama bin Laden three times, the last in March 1997: “The next year, he told me he sought God’s help “to turn America into a shadow of itself.” I wrote ‘rhetoric’ in the margin of my notebook — a mistake.”
Is Obama poised to make a really, really bad mistake — not taking history serious enough?

Last week, establishment-stalwart, larger-than-life reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post ran an A1 story of Gen. Stan McChrystal’s supposedly secret assessment of the Afghanistan war, which accordingly bled out the bottom line that the whole shebang “will likely result in failure” if the US does not supply a shitload more boots on the ground there — reportedly McChrystal wants at least 40,000 fresh fodder to boost US presence in country upwards to 68,000 military personnel (combined with other NATO forces, there’s already more than 100,000 Western troops fighting the insurgency).
The hard-core, nutcase general then told “60 Minutes Sunday night the Afghan war has turned nasty: “They’re probably a little worse,” McChrystal tells CBS’ David Martin. “I think that in some areas that the breadth of the violence, the geographic spread of violence, is a little more than I would have gathered.”
Dumb-ass Duh!

One crucial item: McChrystal wants to beef up the Afghan security/army forces.
What forces?
The so-called Afghan army is fairly-near non-existent – Writer/photographer Ann Jones, the author of Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace In Afghanistan, describes an invisible army in a recent post at tomdispatch.
Key snippets:

American military planners and policymakers already proceed as if, with sufficient training, Afghans can be transformed into scale-model, wind-up American Marines.
That is not going to happen.
Not now.
Not ever.
No matter how many of our leaders concur that it must happen — and ever faster.

When 4,000 U.S. Marines were sent into Helmand Province in July to take on the Taliban in what is considered one of its strongholds, accompanying them were only about 600 Afghan security forces, some of whom were police.
Why, you might ask, didn’t the ANA, 90,000 strong after eight years of training and mentoring, handle Helmand on its own?
No explanation has been offered.
American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to “operate independently,” but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?

They’re lost in that vast-vapor of ‘victory’ and success.

Success in Kabul?
Hamid Karzai leads such a corrupt, slip/shod government it’s extreme-black-humor laughable and last month’s election is considered a three-dollar bill, so much fraud with near a quarter of the votes requiring a recount.
The depth of corruption amongst Karzai’s operation would never allow for any kind of substantial government, never — the Taliban will forever fight tooth-and-toenail any puppet authority the US props up and then leaves to fall.

Afghanistan has been a quagmire for centuries — even for its own people.
And worse for foreigners.
History has a way of circling back around and biting one on the ass.
Obama is supposedly facing such discord among his own advisers on how to proceed on this Afghan-awful mess, DOD honcho Bob Gates had to respond: “General McChrystal was very explicit in saying that he thinks this assessment, this review that’s going on right now is exactly the right thing to do,” Gates told ABC television’s “This Week” in an interview taped Friday and broadcast on Sunday. “He obviously doesn’t want it to be open-ended or be a protracted kind of thing.”
A decision not to be taken lightly.

Frank Rich had another good read Sunday in the New York Times with a post aptly titled, Obama at the Precipice, likening this president’s particular Afghan-awful moment to LBJ’s decision to ramp-up the US foray into Vietnam.
Check it out.

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