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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/27/10

Afghanistan, America's Longest War, and the Perfect Arc of Failure

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Message Mark Karlin

When the invasion of Afghanistan occurred not long after 9/11, there were repeated stories -- if one looked deeply enough -- of both speculative and proven involvement of a pro-Taliban, pro-Al Qaeda wing of the notorious Pakistani ISI involvement in enabling the attack, or at a minimum not preventing it from happening. Even those members of ISI (who function virtually as an independent combination of the CIA and FBI for Pakistan, with little government oversight) who weren't "running" the Taliban and the terrorists saw the Taliban in Afghanistan as their proxy army, an investment in regional power building during the chronic near war-level friction between Pakistan and India.

India, a country of many religions but primarily Hindu, has shown little tolerance for Islamic terrorists who are active not only in Kashmir, but also throughtout India. Evidence linked the ISI with the training of the Islamic terrorist group involved in the Mumbai massacre, but India chose not to escalate the ISI connection to the level of war because both Pakistan and India have atomic bombs.

That gives some context to why some elements of the Pakistan ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) maintain a very tight and supportive relationship with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terrorists group, while other factions of the ISI, although in lesser numbers it appears, work with the "elected" government in placating the U.S. desire to have Pakistan appear to be doing something to stop terrorism in the tribal frontier zone and Eastern Afghanistan. But the ISI members who side with a regional alliance with the Taliban and the Islamic terrorists have had the upper hand since before 9/11, and according to a New York Times article this week have returned to the precipice of an Afghanistan that appears very much like the one that existed prior to 9/11, with the Taliban (including Mullah Omar who Rumsfeld let get away), Al Qaeda (including Osama bin Laden) and other terrorists forming a "power-sharing" agreement with the feckless and corrupt Karzai and the Afghan opium growing warlords.

According to the New York Times article -- from a paper that generally just prints Pentagon propaganda, so the revelations are even more significant:

Pakistan is exploiting the troubled United States military effort in Afghanistan to drive home a political settlement with Afghanistan that would give Pakistan important influence there but is likely to undermine United States interests, Pakistani and American officials said....

Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.

In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership...

The thaw [between Karzai and Pakistan] heightens the risk that the United States will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington's prime objective in the war: denying Al Qaeda a haven.

After the longest war in American history, according to the New York Times, it appears that a thousand American GI lives, tens of thousands Afghanistani civilian lives, and hundred of billions of dollars have brought the United States to the brink of utter and incomprehensible defeat. The errant policy followed by both the Bush and Obama administrations has led us into a situation where we will be just where we were before the invasion of Afghanistan began. This is a failure of such stunning proportion that it would be a farce were it not so deadly, costly, and harmful to the American nation and what is needed to move us forward domestically.

Shortly after the astonishingly candid NYT analysis appearded, the UK Independent delivered the second round of a 1-2 punch to any notion of anything but an utter U.S. failure.

The Independent revealed that before his sacking, General McChrystal had shared a devastatingly bleak outlook in regards to the outcome in Afghanistan. The following is only part of what the Independent called McChrystal's "grim assessment":

General McChrystal said progress in the next six months was unlikely. He raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration. Only five areas out of 116 assessed were classed as "secure" the rest suffering various degrees of insecurity and more than 40 described as "dangerous" or "unsecure".

Just five areas out of 122 were classed as being under the "full authority" of the government with governance rated as non-existent, dysfunctional or unproductive in 89 of the areas. Seven areas out of 120 rated for development were showing sustainable growth. In 48 areas, growth was either stalled or the population were at risk. Less than a third of the military and only 12 per cent of police forces were rated as "effective."

A strategic assessment referred to in the presentation revealed just how close the strategy in Afghanistan is to failing. It stated that the campaign was "on track temporarily" but this was defined as meaning that there was "a low level of confidence that positive trends will be sustained over the next six-month period". It also said the Afghan people "believe that development is too slow" and many "still generally mistrust Afghan police forces". Security was "unsatisfactory" and efforts to build up the Afghan security forces were "at risk", with "capability hampered by shortages in NCOs and officers, corruption and low literacy levels."

As John B Ellis, a commenter on the Independent article, wrote:

Hard to see this as anything but a confirmation that the whole venture - hasty and poorly conceived from the outset, as one might expect from the ignoramuses of the Bush administration - was always doomed to failure, and that this would probably have been the case even if they'd clearly decided from the start what the war was intended to achieve and stuck to that. Instead the whole thing has suffered, not so much from mission creep as mission skidpan swerve, as the objectives have been defined and redefined again and again.

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Mark Karlin is founder, editor and publisher of BuzzFlash.com, a website providing headlines, news and commentary to over five million people a month. He is a gun control activist with a focus on Illinois.
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