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
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.
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
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).
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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