Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

Time to exit Afghanistan

October 8, 2008




     The March 2003 United States invasion and occupation of Iraq was a colossal mistake.  The October 2001 U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan was also a huge blunder.

     Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the next president of the United States will need to carefully consider the extent of troop buildup in the spring because the Afghan population does not readily welcome foreign occupiers.  (Up to three more combat brigades are being considered for deployment in Afghanistan this spring.)

     “I think we need to think about how heavy a military footprint the United States ought to have in Afghanistan,” Mr. Gates said.  He asked: “Are we better off channeling resources into building and expanding the size of the Afghan National Army as quickly as possible?”

     With about 151,000 United States troops in Iraq, the U.S. has not had the available troops to send to Afghanistan.

     In Afghanistan “we do what we can, in Iraq we do what we must,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

     Gen. David McKiernan, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, said recently that more troops and other aid are needed “as quickly as possible”

     During October 2001 — seven years ago — the United States led the invasion of Afghanistan.  Later during the year, the United States overthrew the Taliban.  The Taliban is making a comeback and has taken control of much of the Pashtun south.  The Taliban is involved in guerilla warfare against U.S. and NATO forces.  More than 130 American soldiers have been killed this year, which is more than in any previous year.

     U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a recent report that stated that attacks against aid workers have increased in 2008.  The report said that at least 30 aid workers have been killed and 92 abduced so far this year.  At least 59 schools and 22 World Food Program convoys have also been attacked.

     “Regardless of the progress made in certain areas, my overall impression is that the situation in the country has deteriorated over the past six months,” Mr. Ban said in the report. 

     In an article recently published in the New York Times, newly appointed CENTCOM Commander Gen. David H. Petraus said: “Obviously the trends in Afghanistan have been in the wrong direction, and I think everyone is rightly concerned about them. . . . Certainly in Afghanistan, wrestling control of certain areas from the Taliban will be difficult.”

     “It is generally accepted now across all [U.S.] agencies that the situation in Afghanistan has significantly worsened and has become quite dire,” said RAND analyst Seth Jones.

     British General Mark Carleton-Smith recently admitted: “We’re not going to win this war.”

     The “puppet presidency” of Hamid Karzai is losing support due to corruption and the lack of improvement in the safety and living standard of Afghan citizens.  It is said that Karzai’s authority hardly extends beyond the city limits of Kabul.  Meanwhile, the Taliban has considerable popular support.

     “The important point is that the people support the Taliban,” said Afghan Senator Abdul Wali Ahmadzal.  “This is the main problem: now the people do not like the government and they support the Taliban.”

     The support for the Taliban is in part due to “collateral damage” caused by air strikes.  The United Nations reported that 1,455 civilians were killed between January and August of this year.  This was an increase of nearly 40 percent from 2007.  Moreover, at least 577 of the 1,455 civilian deaths were due to the military action of pro-government forces.  During August an American air strike in Herat killed 90 Afghans, predominantly women and children.

     There are currently about 53,000 foreign forces (including 31,000 U.S. troops) in Afghanistan.  American troops have increased from 21,000 two years ago.   The Afghan National Army has about 76,000 well-equipped troops.  Still, the modern military units have been unable to defeat guerilla  warfare.

     The U.S. and NATO occupation and the Karzai regime have done little to make life better for Afghans.  In 2000, 58 percent of males and 87 percent of females were illiterate.  A 2005 report stated that 50 percent of males and 82 percent of females remained illiterate.  Opium production — banned under the Taliban — has increased to the point where 90 percent of the world’s illegal opinium is produced in Afghanistan.

     According to a CIA Factbook:

Despite the progress of the  past few years, Afghanistan is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid, agriculture, and trade with neighboring countries.  Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs.  Criminality, insecurity, and the Afghan Government’s inability to extend rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth.  It will probably take the remainder of the decade and continuing  donor aid and  attention to significantly raise Afghanistan’s living standards from its current level, among the lowest in the world.

     The Taliban was not the founder of al-Qaeda and the Taliban did not invite al-Qaeda to move into Afghanistan.  The United States’ primary goal for its invasion of Afghanistan was to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.  The overthrow of the Taliban was only a secondary goal.  Osama bin Laden has apparently  been able to escape.  And now the Taliban is making a comeback.  If life is not made better for Afghans then the Taliban will remain a political force in Afghanistan.  A military occupation is not the way to make life better for Afghans.