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The Ongoing Saga of Afghanistan

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 11/14/09

Due to recent reports, for those still clinging to the forlorn hope that America's military involvement in Afghanistan would end reasonably soon, such hope has turned to despair. Perhaps some Americans, those interested in literature at any rate, will recall the poetic words of an Englishman named Rudyard Kipling.

It is not wise for the Christian white
To hustle the Asian brown;
For the Christian riles
And the Asian smiles
And weareth the Christian down.

At the end of the fight
Lies a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased;

And the epitaph drear,
A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East.

One might think that Kipling was prescient; perhaps so, perhaps not. For over eighty years, from 1838 to 1919, Britain attempted to subdue Afghanistan.This effort resulted in abject failure. One particular engagement is telling. In Jan. 1842 at a place called Khurd Kabul, a mountain pass, a British army of 4,500 soldiers was slaughtered. There was one lone survivor who lived to tell the tale, a doctor named William Brydon. Several years later Kipling wrote his poem.

On Dec. 24, 1979, the Soviet Union tried to tame Afghanistan. Over eight years later, the Red Army withdrew in defeat. In 1991, a little over two years after the embarrassing withdrawal, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan has now lasted over eight years.


There are Americans who are concerned about this most recent past. There are Americans who are concerned about the continued killing and wounding of our treasured troops and ask why. There is virtually nothing in the dirt-poor, resourceless, and strategically impotent Afghanistan that has anything worth dying for, save for a mythical pipeline that no corporation in its right mind would build due to the volatility of the area, which has existed for centuries. Afghanistan is a tribal society with a culture that lives by the gun. That said, recent headlines fills one with despair.

Nick Turse of Tom Dispatch provided news you are not going to hear on the MSN. To many, it was revealing and disconcerting. It would appear that the infrastructure boom that many expected when Obama took office is happening. Unfortunately, it is not happening in the U.S. It is happening in Afghanistan, and the goal is military infrastructure. Turse states, "While the United States officially insists that it is not setting up permanent bases in Afghanistan, the scale and permanency of the construction underway at Bagram seems to suggest, at the least, a very long stay. According to published reports, in fact, the new terminal facilities for the complex aren't even slated to be operational until 2011."
He goes on to report that
Contrack International, an international engineering and construction firm, received more than $120 million in contracts in 2009 for work in Afghanistan. The defense giant, Fluor, is "simultaneously constructing and managing the expansion of eight Forward Operating Bases in Southern Afghanistan. This includes the construction of an FOB to accommodate 17,000 to 20,000 U.S. Military personnel." In July 2009, Fluor was awarded a $1.5 billion contract for services in Afghanistan. Also in July, DynCorp received a one year $643.5 million order to provide existing bases within the Afghanistan South AOR [area of responsibility] facilities management: electrical power, water, sewage and waste management, laundry operations, food services, and transportation motor pool operations. With an eye to the future, the Pentagon has included four one-year options in the contract which, if taken up, would be worth an estimated $5.8 billion. Kandahar Constructors signed a $25 million deal with the Pentagon for runway upgrades to be completed in 2011. Turse concludes, "The building and fortifying of bases in Afghanistan isn't the only sign that the U.S. military is digging in for an even longer haul. Another key indicator can be found in a Pentagon contract awarded in late September to SOS International, Ltd., a privately owned 'operations support company' that provides everything from 'cultural advisory services' to 'intelligence and counterintelligence analysis and training' to numerous federal agencies. That contract, primarily for linguistic services in support of military operations in Afghanistan, has an estimated completion date of September 2014."

Recently,former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski chaired RAND Corporation's Middle East Advisory Board, and he had some choice remarks that do not exactly exude optimism. He stated clearly, Withdrawal is not in the range of policy options. Brzezinski then noted that within three months the war in Afghanistan will be the "longest war in US history," and warned that the U.S. could be "bogged down there for another decade or so." At the same time, he argued, the world impact of an early US departure "would be utterly devastating." His comments beg a question. If the U.S. is "bogged down there for another decade or so" would that not itself "be utterly devastating?" Just asking.

Ray McGovern, former CIAanalyst, opines, "It is a forlorn hope that unwelcome occupation troops can train indigenous soldiers and police to fight against their own brothers and sisters."The recent deaths of five British soldiers at the hands of an Afghan policeman is recalled.

The news only gets worse. Gilles Dorronsoro, a specialist on Afghanistan for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace believes the administration's influence on Karzai's new government is going to be constrained by Karzai's dependence on provincial and sub-provincial warlords who control the actual levers of power outside Kabul. The U.S. pressure on Karzai "can only work on a few ministries and a few issues", he told IPS. In American parlance "provincial and sub-provincial warlords" means a tribal society, and the warlords are tribal chiefs. A tribal society is not conducive to a working central government and democracy is so far removed from reality in such a place it is virtually impossible. Democracy and tribal cultures are polar opposites.In addition, a democracy requires an educated populace. Afghans are nearly at the bottom when it comes to the world's educated regions. Questions arise. What are we doing there; what are our gallant troops fighting and dying for? Supposedly, maybe, by 2014, the Afghan army and police emboldened by occupiers of their landwill be capable of killing their own, the insurgent Taliban?

There is still another problem. Our infantry is strained to the breaking point. If Obama decides to send more troops, where will we get them? The Wall Street Journal recently reported, "At a White House meeting Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Barack Obama to send fresh troops to Afghanistan only if they have spent at least a year in the U.S. since their last overseas tour, according to people familiar with the matter. If Mr. Obama agreed to that condition, many potential Afghanistan reinforcements wouldn't be available until next summer at the earliest." That could be interpreted to mean the Joint Chiefs have evidently put the brakes on implementing the full-scale plan of Centcom Commander David Petraeus and Afghan War commander Stanley McChrystal to send a massive infusion of new troops to Afghanistan any time soon.

According to an Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center analysis, reported in the Denver Post in August 2008, more than "43,000 service members -- two-thirds of them in the Army or Army Reserve -- were classified as non-deployable for medical reasons." They were sent to Iraq anyway. Logically, that factor is even more precarious in Nov. 2009.

Coalition forces now include 67,000 U.S. and 42,000 troops from other countries. The Army's own counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan's population would require about 600,000 troops. Meanwhile, McClatchy newspapers reported, "... the administration privately is holding out little hope of persuading Canada or the Netherlands to abandon their plans to withdraw combat troops, much less getting additional allied troops. It wants to avoid creating the impression -- at home and abroad -- that the U.S. 'is going it alone' in Afghanistan, said one military official."

In an interview recently with The New York Times, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner showed his frustration with the Obama administration by asserting it is leaving its NATO allies in the dark about its new strategy. "What is the goal? What is the road? And in the name of what?" Kouchner asked, according to the Times. "Where are the Americans? It begins to be a problem . . . We need to talk to each other as allies." It is fair to assume Foreign Minister Kouchner speaks for a number of Americans as well.

McClatchy newspapers also reported recently, "President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to send more than 34,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year, but he may not announce it until after he consults with key allies and completes a trip to Asia later this month, administration and military officials have told McClatchy." McClatchy then added this epithet. The additional U.S. troops probably wouldn't be deployed until the end of next year.

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I am the author of two novels, "The Bode Testament" and "Impeachment." I am also a columnist who keeps a wary eye on other columnists and the failures of the MSM (mainstream media). I was born in Minnesota, and, to this day, I love the Vikings (more...)
 

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