"The Afghan people must know that our commitment to their future is enduring, because the security of Afghanistan and the United States is shared. " -Barack Obama, July 15, 2008
AMERICANS have been mostly silent about the anticipated 'surge' of troops into Afghanistan that the Obama administration has been signaling for weeks. There's not much dissent in the country against the prosecution of the 'good war' which most in the U.S. believe is a fight against perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks on our nation. It's not certain, though, that most Americans know what or troops are actually doing there.
Polls have predictably shown that the public has confidence in the new commander-in-chief in 'handling' the Afghanistan occupation. Overwhelming opinion against the Iraq occupation, though, has been regularly ignored over the terms of the dual-occupations by the policymakers and legislators as they've done little more than rubber-stamp the administration's unilateral exercise of the size and scope of the deployments by approving off-budget funding requests without any limiting exercise of their own dual responsibility in determining where our military goes and what they do.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that little more than a third (34 %) think the U.S. forces in Afghanistan should be increased. Twenty-nine percent would opt for a decrease. That opinion will undoubtedly shift with the new focus on the increase of force and the response to that 'surge' by the Afghans.
AP reported yesterday, that about 3,000 U.S. soldiers who recently arrived have been deployed to the south of Kabul in what they describe as 'violent' provinces where attacks have been somewhat diminished because of the winter snows, but are expected to increase partly in response to the addition activity of the incoming troops.
Further south, there are NATO forces defending wide swaths of mountainous terrain against militarized resistance forces crossing back and forth over the Afghan/Pakistan border. Those forces are spread out so thin and wide that their main mission, outside of aiding in offensive strikes on combatant positions, is just defending their own hides. If there is to be an 'enduring' mission in Afghanistan, it's these forces which need and deserve bolstering from any influx of troops.
Despite all of those issues and contradictions to action, Pres. Obama has reportedly just ordered the deployment of an additional 17,000 or more troops to Afghanistan without any new strategy attached, at all.
I don't pretend to know what the rationale from the Obama administration will be as they eventually justify this anticipated escalation of force in Afghanistan. The initial concern expressed by the Pentagon and the president is for securing the ground around the capital in anticipation of the upcoming 'elections'. That's a self-serving pursuit which will predictably ensure support in the outcome of that voting for the protected regime from the population which our escalated forces manage to protect.
Those communities outside of that decided influence of our military presence, those resistant provinces outside of the protective ring of NATO militarization which are considered 'enemy' territory and subject to reprisal attacks from our forces will, predictably, be disadvantaged in that election outcome. It's the south which will reportedly receive the bulk of the incoming forces, but it's not clear if they will be used in a defensive role or as an offensive contingent focused on combat across the border.
What we need to hear from the administration is a clear mission for our nation's defenders in Afghanistan which is directed toward fulfilling the original authorization to use military force which Congress approved for prosecution against "those responsible for the (9-11) attacks launched against the United States."
"That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
That resolution does not authorize any of the nation-building defense of Kabul that has become the focus of a substantial portion of our military commitment. It's clear that that the Karsai government probably wouldn't stand in its present form without the U.S. presence and the advantage we've given the Afghan military over those communities which would be in a decisive position to challenge that rule if given the protection and support that is now leveraged against their resistant communities.
In fact, you can see the same thing in Iraq where the protected communities naturally lead in the 'elections' and ensure the enabled regime in assumed authority.
If we are really serious about 'democracy' in Afghanistan we should be compelled to let the Afghans sort out those conflicts they have with resistant communities and provinces. Unfortunately, that means more armed conflict for our assisting troops, and, the reality is, democratic governance from the protected regime won't happen in any truly representative way while the Afghan military is operating behind our heavy-handed presence which carries with it our decidedly retaliatory and destabilizing agenda. We should let Karsai (or whoever manages to assume authority) prosecute those defenses without our compromising influence.
What we need in Afghanistan is an end-point to the occupation. That isn't likely to come in the President's anticipated announcement, but it's something which Congress should demand from the administration before they hand over another wad of borrowed cash. If they're not prepared to draft a more defining and relevant authorization for the use of our defensive forces in Afghanistan they should, at least, endeavor to compel the administration to adhere to the limited mandate in the original one.
The President and our legislators need to craft and direct policy in Afghanistan which is 'enduring' but, not merely an extension of this self-perpetuating flailing of our military forces at every expression of resistance to their self-serving presence. There will undoubtedly be diplomatic initiatives announced to compliment the escalation of force to Afghanistan, but there should be care taken to ensure that the military moves don't obscure or overshadow the benefits and effects of the non-military aid and assistance.
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