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Obama Should Read WikiLeaks on Afghanistan

By       Message Ray McGovern     Permalink
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Strategically situated as it is, Afghanistan is not only a key chessboard square from which to hunt down the few hundred surviving al-Qaeda operatives in the border area with Pakistan. Nor is it simply to be positioned to launch some future emergency mission to secure Pakistan's nukes if Islamic extremists take over. Afghanistan also happens to sit next to huge reserves of natural gas and oil.

Are we getting the picture? The Great Game has simply found new trappings with a rationale more attuned to the Western political realities (and sensibilities) of today -- and with a fresher title.

We now have the "Long War," which has many similarities to the old Great Game. It is still a competition for the region's resources and strategic bases, albeit with the United States and China joining the ranks of outside powers now elbowing for position.

The Grim Ground View

On Dec. 27 another Washington Post front-page article by Greg Jaffe highlighted how the misadventure in Afghanistan looks to the oft-praised but more often forgotten forces on the ground:

"Earlier this year, Lt. Col. Joseph Ryan concluded that his 800-soldier battalion was locked in an endless war for an irrelevant valley.

""There is nothing strategically important about this terrain,' said Ryan, 41, a blunt commander who has spent much of the past decade in combat. "We fight here because the enemy is here. The enemy fights here because we are here.'

"Ryan's challenge for the past several months has been to figure out a way to leave the Pech Valley"without handing the insurgents a victory. ""

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"Pech" means bad luck in German -- and maybe not only in German. The word seems to speak to the reality that the Lt. Col. Ryans and grunts of this world take the casualties while the Clintons, Mullens, and Flournoys of Washington plot high strategy, including packaging the costly conflict as necessary to protect the fearful American people from terrorism.

However, the documents released by WikiLeaks and the recent analysis by the U.S. intelligence community combine to make it clear that the stated objectives of the U.S. either are unachievable or are facades for other unstated goals.

It is not rocket science. Not only the WikiLeaks documents and U.S. intelligence analyses, but simple logic gives the lie to Obama's recent claim, after his perfunctory Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review, that "we are on track to achieve our goals."

Is President Obama impervious to documentary evidence, intelligence analysis and logic? That beggars belief. So why does the President insist on continuing the March of Folly begun by his predecessor?

WANTED: A Cogent Answer

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We owe it to those being killed and maimed every day to demand a cogent answer to this question. The alternative is to revert to the ethos of Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade," a classic poem commemorating a battle between British and Russian forces in the Crimean War in 1854, during the Great Game era:

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'

Was there a man dismay'd?

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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