Afghanistan: Questions Turn into Concern and Doubts
Back in September of 2009, I started one of my several articles on the Afghanistan War as follows:
As the fighting in Afghanistan intensifies; as that war claims more and more casualties; and as critical decisions loom on national objectives, strategy and corresponding troop levels and deployments there, the debate also intensifies.
As the war has continued unabated and has indeed claimed more and more young American lives; as critical decisions still needed to be made and as the debate on that war continued to rage, I wrote additional pieces, some questioning the war.
Today — call me a flip-flopper if you wish — as our stay in Afghanistan exceeds a decade and has already surpassed the duration of the Soviet occupation of that country; as our goals become less clear, our strategy (and mission) more muddled, our politics (and policies) more befuddled and our casualties (and financial costs) more intolerable, those questions are turning into concern and doubts.
After taking out Osama Bin Laden, after virtually destroying the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and many Taliban leaders and after some disturbing developments in that country, I have concerns for our troops, concerns for our success there, and concerns for the economic distress our country finds itself in — in no small measure because of the enormous costs of our military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Most recently, I referred to some of those “developments,” including corruption and backstabbing at the highest levels in the Afghanistan government, incompetence of and disloyalty among its military and police and continuing human rights violations.
While examples of corruption among Afghan government officials are numerous, the most recent and most grievous example of backstabbing at the highest levels occurred only three months ago when Afghan President Hamid Karzai said: “God forbid, if ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan.”
“Afghanistan will never forget the welcome, the hospitality, the respect, and the brotherhood showed by the Pakistani people towards the Afghan people… Pakistan will never betray their brother.”
There are additional and more recent examples.
Two weeks ago, Karzai denounced alleged abuses at the main American prison in Afghanistan — a prison that, according to the New York Times, “plays a key role in the war effort, housing almost all the detainees that forces from the American-led coalition deem ‘high value,’ including Taliban operatives” — and demanded that Americans cede control of the site within a month. (“The prison, at Bagram Air Base, is one of the few in the country where Afghan and Western rights advocates say that conditions are relatively humane.”)
… the Afghan commission that documented the abuses appears to have focused mainly on the side of the prison run by Afghan authorities, not the American-run part, according to interviews with American and Afghan officials.
Mr. Karzai was, in essence, demanding that the Americans cede control of a prison to Afghan authorities to stop abuses being committed by Afghan authorities.
The $60 million prison was built and paid for by the United States to replace an older prison that was “the site of well-documented abuse cases.”
A recent Wall Street Journal article describes how the Afghan “Police Undermine [the] Fight Against [the] Taliban” with the lead-in, “In the American war against the Taliban, on whose side are the Afghan police? For many U.S. soldiers serving in the insurgent heartland, the answer is: both.”
They smile to our face when we’re here, giving them money and building them buildings,” says U.S. Army Capt. Cory Brown, a provost marshal officer helping to oversee Afghan security forces here in volatile Paktika province. “But they’ve given insurgents money, food and even rides in Afghan police cars.
Worse, he says, some policemen are also suspected of selling their U.S.-provided weapons to the Taliban.
More recently and even more insidious, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:
U.S. and other coalition forces [in Afghanistan] are being killed in increasing numbers by the very Afghan soldiers they fight alongside and train, in attacks motivated by deep-seated animosity between the supposedly allied forces, according to U.S. and Afghan officers and a classified coalition report obtained by The New York Times.
A decade into the war in Afghanistan, the report makes clear that these killings have become the most visible symptom of a far deeper ailment plaguing the war effort: the contempt each side holds for the other, never mind the Taliban. The ill will and mistrust run deep among civilians and militaries on both sides, raising questions about what future role the United States and its allies can expect to play in Afghanistan.
The Tribune continues:
The violence, and the failure by coalition commanders to address it, casts a harsh spotlight on the shortcomings of U.S. efforts to build a functional Afghan army, a pillar of the Obama administration’s strategy for extricating the United States from the war in Afghanistan, said the officers and experts who helped shape the strategy.
The above attests to the increasingly difficult and dangerous task our brave troops face in Afghanistan.
As a matter of fact, a recently released Marine Corps guidebook, “Afghanistan, Operational Culture for Deploying Personnel,” written for our troops serving or preparing to serve in Afghanistan warns them:
For centuries, this has been the paradox of warfare in Afghanistan: “The more enemies you kill, the faster you lose. Because of badal (revenge), the Pashtun have a saying: ‘Kill one enemy, make ten.’”
According to the Washington Post, “the 112-page, ‘for official use only’ manual gives a clear description of the complicated Taliban enemy against whom U.S. troops have been fighting and the Afghans who are fighting alongside U.S. forces,” and ominously warns “In neither case is the picture reassuring. Nor do the manual’s recollections of the U.S. experience in Vietnam ease current concerns of those who lived through that war, that history may be repeating itself …The Taliban insurgent is certain that it is God’s will that he fight to eliminate the Afghan infidels in Kabul and drive the foreign infidels (you) from Afghanistan.”
The manual also warns of corruption among officers and such being especially “endemic” in the police.
While questions and concerns about our policy and strategy in Afghanistan abound in my mind, there is absolutely no question about the bravery and dedication of our troops serving there — notwithstanding some much-publicized exceptions. More about these heroes, later.