This is reminiscent of the Vietnam War, the second longest war in our history. The war in Afghanistan recently became the longest war in our history, a dubious distinction at best, especially when one considers results.
In 1991, after seven decades, the Soviet Union suddenly disintegrated and disappeared. Columnist Tom Engelhardt writes, "Looking back, the most distinctive feature of the last years of the Soviet Union may have been the way it continued to pour money into its military -- and its military adventure in Afghanistan -- when it was already going bankrupt and the society it had built was beginning to collapse around it. In the end, its aging leaders made a devastating miscalculation. They mistook military power for power on this planet. Armed to the teeth and possessing a nuclear force capable of destroying the Earth many times over, the Soviets nonetheless remained the vastly poorer, weaker, and far less technologically innovative of the two superpowers [emphasis is mine]." He adds, "Gorbachev had dubbed Afghanistan' the bleeding wound,'and when the wounded Red Army finally limped home, it was to a country that would soon cease to exist. For the Soviet Union, Afghanistan had literally proven 'the graveyard of empires.' If, at the end, its military remained standing, the empire didn't." Is there a similarity to any superpower you know today?
Here is a hint. Caught off guard by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington's policymakers drew no meaningful lessons from it while equally ignoring valuable lessons from the Vietnam defeat 16 years earlier. Successive American administrations headed blindly down the very path that had led the Soviets to ruin. Following 9/11, Bush administration officials and military leaders adhered to the tenets of a disgraced theory called Pax Americana, sending our forces around the globe to obscure frontiers and building mega bases to support them. "In this way, far more than the Soviets, the top officials of the Bush administration mistook military power for power, a gargantuan misreading of the U.S. economic position in the world and of their moment," Engelhardt. In describing the theory of Pax Americana, one might want to remember the words of Thomas Henry Huxley. He defined tragedy as "the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."
And hope can be ethereal. Four months ago Gen. Stanley McChrystal stated, "We've got a government in a box, ready to roll [into Marja]." It took longer than expected to reach a more inconclusive outcome than expected in that town of about 80,000, which last month McChrystal called "a bleeding ulcer." Hence the delay from spring until autumn in tackling Kandahar, with its population of perhaps 800,000. He said, "[It is] more important we get it right than we get it fast." Getting it right might include what to name the operation in Kandahar as the military has suddenly grown reluctant to call the Kandahar offensive an "offensive." The military wants to call it something else, but they are not sure what yet. One suggestion from a savvy Marine corporal was clusterf**k.
At a high level, decisive meeting in the autumn of 2009 members of that meet included President BarackObama, Vice-President JoeBiden, Gen. David Petraeus (CentCom Commander) and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At that meeting Gen. Petraeus assured the President that the Afghan National Army (ANA) will know the drill and will be dialed in on Afghan national security objectives once NATO forces begin to leave in 18 months (July 2011). The 18 months was a direct Presidential order. Despite Petraeus's and Mullen's assurances, Time Magazine reported recently "... that NATO trainers say 90 percent of Afghan enlisted recruits cannot read a rifle instruction manual, ANA officers routinely steal enlistees' salaries, soldiers sell off their own American-supplied boots, blankets and guns at the bazaar - sometimes to the Taliban, and recruits tend to go AWOL after their first leave, while one-quarter of those who stay in service are blitzed on hashish or heroin," according to an ANA survey. That was only the beginning of the problems for Gen. Petraeus.
In the meantime casualties among the 130,000 U.S. and other NATO troops mount.June has become the deadliest month for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
None other than SecDef Robert Gates showed his frustration recently. "The one thing none of the (alliance's) publics...including the American public, will tolerate is the perception of stalemate in which we're losing young men," he said in London on the eve of a key NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels at which Afghanistan topped the agenda and Gates himself is expected to prod his interlocutors to fulfill pledges to provide more troops. He added desperately, "All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the track, making some headway."
Last November Obama set July 2011 as the date after which Washington would begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He recently has added a caveat.He said his administration will conduct a major review of U.S. strategy and whether it is working at the end of this year. "Begin" is a clever word, and readers have a right to be skeptical. If, in July 2011, Obama withdraws 500 troops, that is a beginning, is it not? Unlike Iraq, there is no date for the withdrawal of all combat troops from Afghanistan. Additionally, there is this little tidbit.Special Operations forces are slated to receive a brand spanking new headquarters in northern Afghanistan to the tune of $100M. It is scheduled to be completed in one year. Do the math. It is pretty simple.
Gareth Porter (IPS), writing on June 12th, reported, "Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal confronts the spectre of a collapse of U.S. political support for the war in Afghanistan in coming months comparable to the one that occurred in the Iraq War in late 2006." On Thursday, June 10th, McChrystal admitted that the planned offensive in Kandahar City and surrounding districts is being delayed until September at the earliest, because it does not have the support of the Kandahar population and leadership. Porter continues, "... it is now clear that McChrystal has understood for weeks that the most basic premise of the operation turned out to be false." In Brussels for a NATO conference, the general stated, "When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them." McChrystal did not have to spell out the corollary to that statement. The people of Kandahar do not want the protection of foreign troops.
As the reader knows, not unlike Petraeus,that was only the beginning of McChrystal's problems, or, as Ray McGovern suggests, McChrystal wanted to be fired, removed from an unenviable position.
On June 15th, while being grilled by the Senate Armed Services Committee General David Petraeus fainted.
Just when the reader begins to think matters could not get any worse, guess what, matters got worse. The U.S. Treasury is paying the Afghan Taliban. Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers, revealed an impossible-to-believe Congressional investigative report stating, "Private security contractors protecting the convoys that supply U.S. military bases in Afghanistan are paying millions of dollars a week in 'passage bribes' to the Taliban and other insurgent groups to travel along Afghan roads." Youssef continues with the stunning report, "The payments, which are reimbursed by the U.S. government, help fund the very enemy the U.S. is attempting to defeat and renew questions about the U.S. dependence on private contractors, who outnumber American troops in Afghanistan, 130,000 to 93,000 [emphasis is mine]."