The Shame and Folly of Obama's Afghan War

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by David Lindorff:
Epicenter of Mendacity: Obama’sIllegal War AgainstAfghanistan

There are so
many things wrong with Obama’s “New and Improved”
Afghanistan War that it’s hard to know where to begin, but
I guess the place to start is with his premise.

If America
needs to be fighting in Afghanistan because Al Qaeda planned and
launched the 9-11 attacks from there back in 2001, as the president
claimed in his lackluster address to the cadets at West Point last
week, then we would have to assume either that Al Qaeda is still
there, or that if we were not there fighting, that Al Qaeda would
be back to plan more attacks.

Well, we know
Al Qaeda is not there, because US intelligence reports that there
are “fewer than 100” Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan
at most at this point, and probably a good deal fewer. Maybe even
zero. Al Qaeda has long since moved on to Pakistan and thence to
other countries far removed from Afghanistan (even Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, after speculating that Osama bin Laden “might
be” hopping back and forth across the border with Pakistan
like a kid doing a double-dare game, concedes that in truth no one
in the US has any idea where bin Laden is, or whether he is even
in South Asia). But would Al Qaeda come back if the Taliban, ousted
back in 2001 by US Special Forces, were to return to power in Kabul?
Not likely. As the New York Times reported in last Sunday’s
paper, the Afghan Taliban have convincingly broken with Al Qaeda,
because of the latter organization’s targeting of the Pakistani
government, which has long had a supportive relationship with the
Afghan Taliban. Besides, the Taliban in Afghanistan have a clear
goal of ruling Afghanistan, and the US has already demonstrated
both that it can live and work with a Taliban government, as it
was doing before the 9-11 attacks, and that it will punish the Taliban
if they allow Al Qaeda a free hand inside their country. So the
odds of a re-established Taliban regime in Afghanistan inviting
Al Qaeda to move back in and set up shop are somewhere around zero.

Ergo, whatever
he may say, the current Christmas ramp-up in the war announced by
Obama has nothing to do with 9-11, nothing to do with combating
terrorism, and nothing to do with protecting American security.

What about
the bogie-man of a so-called “failed state”? Obama said
a failed state in Afghanistan could mean a return of Al Qaeda or
other terrorist organizations.

The problem
with this second argument is that Afghanistan already is a failed
state, if the definition of a failed state is one in which there
is no effective central government. For that matter, Afghanistan
has been a failed state since the overthrow of Mohammed Najibullah,
the Communist leader who had the country largely unified and who
was instituting reforms like protecting the rights of women, building
roads, etc. (the very things the US says it wants to do), until
he was driven out of power and ultimately hung by forces, including
the Taliban, organized and armed by the CIA. Actually, the truth
is that Afghanistan has always been something less than a real nation,
with different ethic groups occupying different regions of the country
largely operating like autonomous little countries. To expect such
a situation to somehow coalesce into something resembling a European
nation-state is simply ludicrous. In fact, the only commonality
uniting the various ethnic groups within Afghanistan actually is
religion – they’re nearly all Islamic – which suggests
that the Taliban, for all their medieval fundamentalism, may have
a significant edge in the nation-building game.

Moving on to
strategy, Obama talks about effectively doubling the number of US
and NATO forces fighting in the country (the term “fighting”
is used loosely because many of the European forces are barred by
their governments from actually engaging in combat), with the goal
being, reportedly, to protect the cities from Taliban attacks (and
good luck with that!) and giving the current government in Kabul
time to build up a 400,000-man army that supposedly would take over
the job of security.

Hmmmm. If you
protect the cities, by definition you leave the countryside around
the cities unprotected, right? But you cannot do that in a country
that is largely rural, so the US will inevitably resort to search-and-destroy
run-outs into the countryside, and of course air attacks by bombers
and remote-controlled drones, in a doomed effort to keep the Taliban
at bay. But such actions, as America leaned when it tried the same
policy in Vietnam, inevitably mean massive and disproportionate
civilian casualties – the so-called “collateral damage”
of war. And civilian casualties are not the way an army wins “hearts
and minds.” In fact, a high rate of civilian casualties means
the destroying of hearts, minds, limbs, families, houses, etc.,
and the concomitant creation of blood enemies. So we start out by
making more enemies outside the city gates.

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the rest of the article

December
8, 2009

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