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Afghanistan Is Another Afghanistan

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A political cartoon said it best. The cartoon depicted a man on the left bemoaning, "Afghanistan is another Vietnam." A bedraggled figure on the right, obviously characterizing an Afghan villager, proclaimed, "Afghanistan is another Afghanistan."
In its past Afghanistan has defeated Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, various Arab armies, the British Empire, a sundry of other major intruders, as well as the Soviet Union in the eight-year war during the 1980's. For over 2,500 years Afghanistan has defeated the best and the brightest of the world's empires, earning it the title, "The Graveyard of Empires." On January 13, 1842, a British army doctor reached the British sentry post at Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the lone survivor of a 16,000-strong Anglo-Indian expeditionary force that was massacred in its retreat from Kabul. In the most recent attempt to subdue Afghanistan prior to America's attempts to do so, the Red Army lost 15,000 soldiers. The last should give President Obama and his political and military leaders a moment of pause. Obama's attempts to subdue Afghanistan are very similar to the Soviet Union's measures ... only on a lesser scale.
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At the beginning of this year, America's focus was on Iraq. How we can possibly extricate ourselves? When will that happen? And, of course, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that was agreed to between the U.S. and the Iraqi government during the waning days of the Bush administration. When one looked at Afghanistan, clearly a secondary front, one thought, surely, matters there can't get any worse. We look at Afghanistan today. Sure enough, matters got worse.

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In prepping for this article, I read numerous reports. What I found rather remarkable is that none of them mentioned Al-Qa'ida, bin Laden, and the leadership of this terrorist organization. All of the reports dealt with the rising power of the Taliban, the increased front now called the Af/Pak Theater, which now involves Pakistan and its struggles against the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. Readers are reminded that the Taliban did not attack America on 9/11. Al-Qa'ida and bin Laden did. War is a very serious matter, extremely serious. Consequently, a nation should never, ever lose sight of why it went to war in the first place. America has made that grievous error. Of course, we lost sight of our objective a long time ago, November and December of 2001 to be exact, at a place called Tora Bora. How bin Laden got away | csmonitor.com

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." - President Bush, 3/13/02.

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Moreover, after studying these myriad reports, I sincerely wish I could impart to readers some good news. We sure could use it in war that is approaching its ninth year. Alas, there is only bad news. The July death toll for Americans was the highest since the war began. Unfortunately, August promises to exceed that heinous record. I understand as a Marine officer [ret.] that when one side takes the offensive, that will cause more casualties. But America expects results when we go on the offensive. There are none. If there were any positive results of this offensive after more than two months, the Pentagon's public relations branch would be grasping at such news like a drowning sailor reaching out for a lifeline. All we hear is silence. Well, that is not quite true. We are hearing of more dead and wounded American troops. The death of innocent civilians is also on an unprecedented scale.

Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA analyst, is completely unequivocal when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. He boldly proclaims that we are going to lose in Afghanistan. "One of our major strategic blunders in Afghanistan was not to have recognized that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union attempted to pacify Afghanistan using the same military methods as ours and failed disastrously. We seem to have learned nothing from Afghanistan's modern history - to the extent that we even know what it is. Between 1849 and 1947, Britain sent almost annual expeditions against the Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes living in what was then called the North-West Frontier Territories - the area along either side of the artificial border between Afghanistan and Pakistan called the Durand Line."

In addition, Johnson quotes Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, experienced Afghan analysts and coauthors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story (City Lights, 2009, p. 317). "If Washington's bureaucrats don't remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MiGs and the dreaded Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world's sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States."

Johnson adds, "Our military operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been plagued by inadequate and inaccurate intelligence about both countries, ideological preconceptions about which parties we should support and which ones we should oppose, and myopic understandings of what we could possibly hope to achieve."

Put a different way, this is not a gunfight. Afghanistan is like fighting in a huge room that contains mirrors within mirrors within mirrors, not unlike a macabre sideshow found at your local county fair. The only difference being the guy shooting at our troops knows where they are. His intelligence is flawless. This is, after all, Pashtun land.

Recently, somewhere along the line the war in Afghanistan became the Af/Pak war, "Pak" as in Pakistan. And it is not merely theoretical. In the past several months, dating back to the Bush administration and continuing on through the Obama administration, hundreds of missiles fired from drones, or UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) like the Predator or the larger Grim Reaper, have rained down on Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in western Pakistan. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent Pakistanis have been killed along with the targeted Taliban and its leaders. The UAV's are "piloted" by computer operators in Nevada and Arizona. This caused me to seek out Pakistani opinion on this matter. I do not claim the results are representative of Pakistani public opinion. I do claim that within the context of the issues, the opinions were logical.

Imtiaz Gul, president of the Center for Research & Security Studies (CRSS) in Islamabad, states, "Today, the Americans are talking about negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan, while they never stopped pushing the Pakistani army to eliminate them in Pakistan! Of course there's a contradiction there." Retired Gen. Talat Masood agrees. "When we hear Westerners assert that they're ready to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan, we can't prevent ourselves from reflecting that there's a contradiction there with what they require from Islamabad."

Depending upon your point of view, events seemingly are getting grimmer. General Stanley McChrystal, the newly appointed NATO commander in Afghanistan, is expected to inform President Obama that a further troop surge is needed. Currently, there are 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. He wants to increase that to 300,000. In addition to requesting some 45,000 additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the country's top American military commander will ask the Obama administration to double the number of U.S. government civilian workers who are in the country.

In the meantime, politicians in Washington are doing what they do best. In the absence of accomplishments, they issue rhetoric. President Obama next month will send Congress a new plan for measuring progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an effort to build confidence among wavering Democrats and to give sharper direction to a costly and increasingly bloody war, White House officials said. A senior administration official who requested anonymity stated, "There's an intense impatience here for results, and I think an absolutely understandable impatience among the American people for results. In the course of August, these plans will be complete." I sure hope that White House insider gets paid a lot of money. By issuing this ludicrous statement to inform Americans, he earned it. That took gall. No wonder the official requested anonymity.

It gets worse. The surreal fantasy world of Washington is readily apparent. Mike Allen reports, "Along with an array of dozens of numerical indicators, a system of red, yellow and green indicators will help White House and congressional policymakers spot which objectives are in trouble, which are unchanged since the last report and which are showing significant progress." Allen adds, "The matrix is referred to in the West Wing as 'the SIP' - Strategic Implementation Plan." No doubt, when the Taliban learn of the red, yellow, and green dots, they will be frightened out of their wits.
Can it get any worse? Yup. A senior administration official (perhaps the same fool as above) stated, "Because we believe the American people deserve clarity on our progress in Afghanistan, we have compiled a comprehensive set of metrics based on the objectives laid out by the president and informed by a stringent intelligence review. We have briefed members of Congress and their staffs over the past few weeks. Work has already started on the first quarterly round of measurements, and we expect to continue engaging Congress in the months ahead. "The Marine in me wants to say something. Unfortunately, the terminology would be unsuitable for this forum. At the very best, the statement is disingenuous. We need to find a way to get out of Afghanistan, not win the freaking war, the latter being an impossibility. The last eight years provide a remarkable statement, totally unlike the meaningless rhetoric shown above.

There are four concepts America's political and military leadership are not getting.
One, the Islamic extremist fighter is a fanatic. Does the term, "suicide bomber" mean anything to anyone? This fighter would rather die in combat for the glory of Islam than live his squalid life.
Two, the war in Afghanistan is regional, encompassing the entire Middle East, and beyond, notably involving Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and wherever else this fighter can kill Americans (Yemen, the Cole, Oct. 2000) or anyone that is sympathetic to the U.S. This would include Western tourists.
Three, Islamic extremists are not represented by any national entity. Defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan in the context of the war against terrorists is a mere myth.
Four, the Islamic extremist wants this regional war to go on and on. How better to kill Americans than in one's own back yard on terrain chosen by the enemy, a major ingredient to victory since the days of the robust Roman Empire.
Islamic extremists, funded by sources in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, etc., want additional troops sent to Afghanistan as U.S. troops in Iraq hunker down in their bases, making them difficult to attack. This plays right into the hands of Islamic extremist groups whose sole objective is to kill American troops sent out by the "Great Satan," Shaytan Al-Akbar in Arabic, referring to America. To these extremists, the Iraq war had its fling, killing over 4,300 Americans and wounding over 35,000. Now it is the turn of Afghanistan, the great "Graveyard of Empires."
As a nation, we have two choices. We either withdraw from the entire Middle East from a ground forces standpoint, or the nation as we known it will die.
Those are our only two choices. Perpetual war is not an option.


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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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