For quite some time now I have been writing a
series of articles on Afghanistan; each article prompted by some new
development or developments. There is one prevailing theme in all these
articles. We seem to be going from bad to worse. Put a different way, the U.S.
was closer to victory in Nov. and Dec. 2001 than we are today, over nine years
later. That should give every reader a moment of pause.
This article was given impetus by Nick Turse's recent report as well as some other developments, none of them good.
It has been said that if one wants to go after terrorists, criminal organizations, or corrupt politicians, follow the money. In this episode involving an invasion that has gone very badly, however, follow the bases. Turse's report is both disturbing and mind-boggling as Americans are being led to believe that a drawdown of American and NATO forces will begin in July 2011.
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum, has just been published. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute. His research and sources are impeccable.
He begins benignly, " Some go by names steeped in military tradition like Leatherneck and Geronimo. Many sound fake-tough, like Ramrod, Lightning, Cobra, and Wolverine. Some display a local flavor, like Orgun-E, Howz-e-Madad, and Kunduz. All, however, have one thing in common: they are U.S. and allied forward operating bases, also known as FOBs. They are part of a base-building surge that has left the countryside of Afghanistan dotted with military posts, themselves expanding all the time, despite the draw down of forces promised by President Obama beginning in July 2011. "
He adds not benignly, but menacingly, " The U.S. military does not count the exact number of FOBs it has built in Afghanistan, but forward operating bases and other facilities of similar or smaller size make up the bulk of U.S. outposts there. " According to Gary Younger, a U.S. public affairs officer with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the "ISAF does not centrally track its base construction and up-grading work, nor the money spent on such projects."
Turse offers examples hidden from Americans. He states, "" a TomDispatch analysis of little-noticed U.S. government records and publications, including U.S. Army and Army Corps of Engineers contracting documents and construction-bid solicitations issued over the last five months, fills in the picture. The documents reveal plans for large-scale, expensive Afghan base expansions of every sort and a military that is expecting to pursue its building boom without letup well into the future. These facts-on-the-ground indicate that, whatever timelines for phased withdrawal may be issued in Washington, the U.S. military is focused on building up, not drawing down, in Afghanistan [emphasis is mine]."
FOB Salerno located near Khost not far from the border with Pakistan is slated to receive an upgrade of their fuel storage facilities at a cost upwards of $25M to be completed well into 2012. In June work was completed at FOB Shank, located just south of Kabul, on its runway to the tune of $12M. FOB Shank is now scheduled for a major boost in troop housing, which is already home to 4,500 military personnel. Also, an upgrade of its runway is planned. Cost to American taxpayers for the upgrades at Shank is between $20M to $30M. Improvements at FOB Dwyer are not expected to be completed until the latter half of 2011. These include enhanced helicopter ops infrastructure and a new, large-scale wastewater treatment facility. Taxpayers are being asked to shell out up to $25M for improvements at Dwyer. FOB's Frontenac and Tarin Kowt are also to receive new wastewater facilities. FOB Shindand in western Afghanistan, is to receive, among other things, new security fencing, new guard towers, and new underground electrical lines. And that's just to begin the list of enhancements at Shindand, including earthen berms for four 200,000-gallon "expeditionary fuel bladders and a concrete pad suitable for parking and operating fourteen R-11 refueling vehicles" -- tanker trucks with a 6,000-gallon capacity -- as well as new passenger processing and cargo handling facilities (an $18 million contract) and an expansion of helicopter facilities (another $25 million to $50 million).
Not surprisingly, Turse reveals that this building boom in Afghanistan "is now going on at a remarkably rapid pace all over the country." Gee, wouldn't it be nice to have a building boom going along those lines in our country? Turse moves on and his report can be seen here:
It is at this point that Turse begins to describe the improvements on our mega-bases, Bagram, Kandahar, Mazare-e-Sharif, and Camp Leatherneck. It is also at this point that I have decided not to be personally responsible for ruining anyone's dinner. Suffice to state the obvious, the improvements scheduled for our mega-bases are proportionately higher. If one is inclined, read Turse's report with a proviso, not before a heavy lunch or supper.
During a recent interview with ABC News Correspondent Martha Raddatz, Gen. David Petraeus affirmed the president's July 2011 timeline, but added a crucial caveat. "It will be a pace that is determined by conditions," he said. Almost a decade into the Afghan War, he claimed, the U.S. military had "finally gotten the inputs right in Afghanistan." Raddatz then asked if the "counterinsurgency clock" had just restarted -- if, that is, it could be another nine or ten years to achieve success. "Yeah," replied Petraeus, hastening to add that American soldiers killed there over the previous nine years had not simply died in vain. "But it is just at this point that we feel that we do have the organizations that we learned in Iraq and from history are necessary for the conduct for this kind of campaign."
Let me see if I have this straight. After nine years of war with an enemy that does not have the educational level to spell his own name we are finally getting it right and another nine years of war is in store for us. Is that what our commanding general is telling us? Incidentally, the real enemy, you know, the ones that attacked us, Al-Qa'ida, left Afghanistan years ago for other parts of the world.
Than there is talk about talks. This is a myth. Despite news reports of high-level talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, no significant peace negotiations are under way in Afghanistan, U.S. officials and Afghanistan experts said Thursday.
According to McClatchy newspapers, "This is a psychological operation, plain and simple," said a U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's outreach effort. "Exaggerating the significance of it (the contacts) is an effort to sow distrust within the insurgency, to make insurgents suspicious with each other and to send them on witch hunts looking for traitors who want to negotiate with the enemy," said the U.S. official. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.