U.S. Plan Envisions Path to Ending Afghan Combat
Police recruits during a weapons training session with Americans outside Kandahar. A plan’s success depends on building a strong Afghan Army and police force.
Probably the most ridiculous part of this image of “weapons” training is that there are no weapons. This looks like a staged image, given the grins on some of their faces. Both of these aspects seem telling of the situation in Afghanistan today. A hopeless situation, farcically buoyed by an American government refusing to admit defeat. According to the “non-embedded” journalists, that is, those who actually leave the comforts of the military base’s journalist quarters, and see what the “world outside” is actually made up of, these journalists all converge on one basic point: Afghanistan is a total disaster today.
As in Vietnam, the military and administration realizes it is losing, but is afraid to admit it. The only remaining questions are: how to spin things so that it doesn’t look like losing when we withdraw and hand things back over to the (now radicalized) Taliban; and which puppets hold the strings of power when we get out.
What are America’s objectives? How can it determine when it has “finished” in Afghanistan? What exactly is it waiting for in order to conclude its business there?
The US went into Afghanistan shortly after 9-11 in order to track and attack bin Laden and co. Well before our official invasion of the country, there were black-ops missions such as Tora Bora, whose main objectives were to track and kill as many top al-Qaeda people, especially bin Laden, as possible.
When bin Laden slipped through our fingers, we were stuck holding the reigns to a country we almost accidentally conquered. What were we going to do with these reigns? We went into a kind of default mode of nation-biulding, which was doomed from the start, since it really cannot be done as American leaders envision it. We would need to build up their infrastructure, not kill anything that moves, and certainly not empower thugs and drug lords to be our puppets, as we have done with Karzai and his brother, the biggest thug in the country.
We also broadened our targets, from just al-Qaeda to the local guerrillas the Taliban as well. The argument: well, we don’t want to give al-Qaeda a haven to come back to after we leave. We therefore have to fix all the problems here as well. And so our old buddies, the Taliban, became our new enemies. We had helped the mudjahideen (supplied, funded, trained) to oust the Soviets in the 80s (Hollywood’s version of this is captured in Charlie’s War, with Tom Hanks).
The Taliban were cast by Bush and co. as pretty much the same as al-Qaeda. But there is an ocean of difference, in fact. The two have nothing really to do with each other. Most notably, while alQaeda wants to destroy an entire global system, the Taliban only want to have local autonomy, to be left alone by the Soviets and the Americans to figure things out for themselves. Sure, they’re not very nice in the way the treat women or adulterers, but that is for them to work out, and it is a struggle for their people to wage internally. My point is simply that mistreating women or executing adulterers is no excuse for military intervention, as Bushco. and suggested.
So where are we now?
Well, pretty much snafu all the way. There’s really no way to “beat” the Taliban and the other clans and militias ruling everywhere outside of Kaboul. The US has mostly resorted to a last minute strategy to save as much face as possible: by day, we are buying off as many people as possible (we import cash there by the pallet), while by night the military black-ops people are on a witch-hunt rampage. If someone down the block pointed their finger at you to the right person, a kill-team will come in the night and you will not exist in the morning. And probably, your brothers and sisters will decide then and there that the Americans have nothing good in store for them, and will start aiding the Taliban in pushing out the US killers. Better to have to wear veils, the women might say, than to have our brothers and fathers killed randomly by night.
This documentary, entitle “Rethink Afghanistan,” is excellent (there are five parts, all excellent):