The debate over how the 2001 victory in Afghanistan turned into the current struggle is well under way.
“Destroying the Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan was an extraordinary strategic accomplishment,” said Robert D. Blackwill, who was in charge of both Afghanistan and Iraq policy at the National Security Council, “but where we find ourselves now may have been close to inevitable, whether the U.S. went into Iraq or not. We were going to face this long war in Afghanistan as long as we and the Afghan government couldn’t bring serious economic reconstruction to the countryside, and eliminate the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan.”
But Henry A. Crumpton, a former C.I.A. officer who played a key role in ousting the Taliban and became the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, said winning a war like the one in Afghanistan required American personnel to “get in at a local level and respond to people’s needs so that enemy forces cannot come in and take advantage.”
“These are the fundamentals of counterinsurgency, and somehow we forgot them or never learned them,” he added. He noted that “the United States has 11 carrier battle groups, but we still don’t have expeditionary nonmilitary forces of the kind you need to win this sort of war.”
“We’re living in the past,” he said.
Among many current and former officials, a consensus is emerging that a more consistent commitment by the United States may have improved the situation in Afghanistan.
Gen. James L. Jones, a retired American officer and a former NATO supreme commander, said Iraq caused the United States to “take its eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. He warned that the consequences of failure “are just as serious in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq.”
Just what is anybody doing anymore - U.S. troops, British and Canadian soldiers, other NATO forces - in George W. Bush's war (or whatever it is) in Afghanistan? Does anybody know what its aims and strategy once were or are now supposed to be? Does Bush himself know or, as he sets off on the month-long vacation his handlers have renamed, with their usual, Orwellian touch, a "recess," does he even care?
Rumblings from and about the war zone:
» Reports have surfaced indicating that at least one commander of British forces in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province would like to see "trigger-happy U.S. troops," as Britain's Daily Mail puts it, leave the region. The U.K. tabloid reports: "In a damning assessment, the officer, who has not been identified, blamed the Americans' behavior for locals turning against [British] troops. [He] claimed there was no longer a need for the U.S. forces in the area..., saying: 'There aren't large bodies of Taliban to fight anymore. We are dealing with small groups and we are trying to kick-start reconstruction and development.'"
Britain's Times notes: "Part of the problem for the mission in Afghanistan was that the experts had been wrong when they said that the Taliban would fight with 'asymmetric' tactics, such as roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Although both these tactics were being used, the Taliban had also conducted conventional attacks, relying on much larger fighting formations than had been envisaged when the NATO campaign began."
So American airstrikes are driving civilians into the arms of the Taliban. And what can the British forces on the ground use to make survivors forget their grief and not turn against the westerners? A few measly bucks.
Maj. Dominic Biddick, commander of a company of British soldiers in Sangin, is making a big effort to ease the anger and pain as his men patrol the villages. He has a $5,000 good-will fund and hands out cash to victims he comes across, like the farmer whose two sons were shot in the fields during a recent operation.
The magnitude of that insult is unimaginable. The dishonor and the disgust a father must feel when offered cash (in some amount under $5,000, no less) to compensate for the loss of two sons — that's truly brutal.
The total number of civilians dead in the region of Helmand this year has been estimated at 300, "the vast majority of them caused by foreign and Afghan forces, rather than the Taliban," according to the Times.
Ironic how AS brings up an article where the last paragraph says EXACTLY what I have been saying all along for well over a year:
“Symbolically, it’s more the epicenter of terrorism than Iraq,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in Afghanistan, you’re sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated.”
Do you still want to get out? Of course, you do because you're so blind as to the consequences that you will even quote from an article that reinforces my argument.
Nato is considering the use of smaller bombs in Afghanistan to try to curb the rising number of civilians killed during operations against the Taleban. Commanders have also ordered troops to hold off attacking militants in some situations where civilians are at risk.
It's interesting how you lament about accidental civilian casualties at the hands of NATO but you never mention anything about the Taliban deliberately targeting civilians:
These abductions of civilians by the Taliban are part of a long line of such cases, including the Taliban's brutal killing a few months ago of Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi, kidnapped in Helmand province, and driver Sayed Agha. Since the beginning of the year, the Taliban have kidnapped at least 41 Afghan civilians and killed at least 23 of them. Eighteen remain missing.
"The Taliban's abductions and murders show contempt for human life and disregard for the laws of war," said Joanne Mariner, Human Rights Watch's terrorism and counterterrorism director. "The taking of hostages is a war crime."
Health care under strain? Boohoo!!! Man! Talk about getting desperate when it comes to pointing out Afghanistan's problems. Look, why don't you come back when the West ends its polio vaccination program and the infant mortality rate skyrockets. Then, I can put a mirror in your face.
Results from assessments conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Indian Institute of Health Management Research show substantial improvements in the health status of the people of Afghanistan after decades of conflict. From 2004 to 2006, the health system has shown improvement for many key measures in a majority of provinces. These results demonstrate that improvements in health service delivery have been achieved across the country in a short period of time, according to the researchers. The results from the assessments were presented to the Ministry of Public Health in June.
If it wasn't for the West and its "occupation" do you think that there'd be such a thing as a healthcare system to be "under strain"? Laughable, really.
A long assessment from the Herald Tribune International
How a 'good war' in Afghanistan went bad
By David Rohde and David E. Sanger
Published: August 11, 2007
Two years after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.
With a senior American diplomat, Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a "spent force."
"Some of us were saying, 'Not so fast,' " Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. "While not a strategic threat, a number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear."
But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.
The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top CIA specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.
Maps: Terrorism on the Rise
Pakistan, Afghanistan mired in extremism, Pakistan president says
Today in Asia - Pacific
Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call "the good war" off course.
Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan.
They have scored some successes recently, and since the 2001 invasion, there have been improvements in health care, education and the economy, as well as the quality of life in the cities. But Afghanistan's embattled president, Hamid Karzai, said in Washington last week that security in his country had "definitely deteriorated." One former national security official called that "a very diplomatic understatement."