This is a righteous question to ask from a war-weary American public after ten years of war in Afghanistan. The issue becomes even more poignant when one realizes that current Pentagon planning, with the blessings of President Obama, has our combat troops in that forlorn land until 2014 and, perhaps, beyond.
What exactly has transpired the last two years in Afghanistan? This has been given piecemeal to Americans, if at all. This is a summary of those events in one concise article. Pay attention, the information will be presented in rapid-fire mode!
In late June, six suicide bombers attacked the Intercontinental Hotel, the favorite spot in the capital for Westerners to hold conferences. In August, the insurgents carried out a much more complex attack on the British Council, a semi-governmental agency involved in organizing cultural events. The attack, involving a suicide bombing at a key intersection in western Kabul, followed an attack on the police checkpoint guarding the British Council and a suicide car bomb that destroyed the wall around the Council and allowed the team of suicide attackers to enter the compound.
Attacks on the capital were supposed to have been made impossible by a "Ring of Steel" around the city. After the Taliban had carried out an attack in downtown Kabul in January 2010, the Afghan police, with funding and advice from the U.S. military, set up a system of 25 security checkpoints around the capital that is guarded by 800 officers of the Kabul City Police Command battalion. Yet, in September, the insurgents were able to smuggle weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers, through the cordon and sustained an all-day attack on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters. On Sept. 25, a building in Kabul used by the CIA came under attack. Taliban attacks on multiple targets in Kabul, including the U.S. Embassy, US-NATO headquarters, and a CIA command post are the latest and most spectacular of a long series of operations that have given the insurgents the upper hand in establishing their scenario of the war as perceived by the Afghan population, not to mention the American population -- meaning those few who were aware of this brazen attack by an enemy flourishing amidst American/NATO occupation of their land.
On Sept. 28, the Taliban killed eight Afghan policemen at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan. Also on that day, the U.N. stated that violent attacks in the country each month were up 39 percent over last year. The monthly average for such incidents is 2,108.
The most important element in building the Taliban strategy has been the constant attacks by Afghan soldiers and policemen on U.S. and NATO troops. According to official NATO figures, between March 2009 and June 2011, at least 57 foreign troops, including 32 Americans, were killed in at least 19 such attacks. U.S. military and intelligence officials reluctantly concluded that most, if not all, of the attacks had been the result of recruitment by the Taliban intelligence service of Afghan security personnel to kill U.S. and NATO troops. This has to be extremely demoralizing to American/NATO troops, along with dedicated Afghan policemen and soldiers, who wish only to restore order to their beleaguered country. They are supposed to be the good guys. Not unlike the Vietnam War, NATO troops are unable to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys. Put a different way, our political and military leaders haven't learned a goddamned thing in over 40 years.
Adding to the Taliban war op plan was the carefully planned breakout of nearly 500 prisoners from the security wing of Sarposa prison in Kandahar City after a few prisoners spent months digging a 1,000-foot tunnel. The breakout was possible only with the help of a Taliban underground agent or sympathizer who provided copies of keys to the cells with which Taliban prisoners involved in the plan could unlock the cells of their fellow prisoners so they could escape through the tunnel.
Two weeks later, the Taliban carried out a complex attack on key government targets in Kandahar city, including the governor's office, the Afghan intelligence agency and the police station. The offensive in Kandahar involved seven explosions across the city, six of which were the result of suicide bombers.
This was not supposed to happen in Kandahar. Canadian Brigadier Gen. Daniel Menard announced his "ring of stability" -- a security cordon that was supposed to keep Taliban fighters from getting into the city. In February 2010, Menard, who was commander of Task Force Kandahar for ISAF, had boasted that, with a total of nearly 6,000 U.S. and Canadian troops deployed against Taliban forces in Kandahar Province, "I can literally break their back." We know now the "ring of stability," not unlike the "ring of steel," is a myth.
Porter concludes, "The U.S. war strategy has been based at least in part on convincing Afghans that the United States would remain in Afghanistan indefinitely and that the Taliban would weaken. But the Taliban war narrative that it is able to penetrate even the tightest security and cannot be defeated appears to have far more credibility with Afghans [and Americans] of all political stripes than the narrative put forward by U.S. strategists."
A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that most Americans differ with the President when it comes to his idea of how the U.S. should be involved abroad. Seventy-five percent of voters, for example, agreed with this proposition in a recent poll: "The United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest." In addition, clear majorities of Americans are against defending Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and a host of other arc of instability countries, even if they are attacked by outside powers.
Perhaps the Soviet Union should have heeded Einstein's advice. They might have saved their empire. For a mere eight years, they waged war in Afghanistan in the 1980's -- bent on establishing superiority over this hapless country. They left with their tail between their legs, and months later, their vast empire collapsed. Does that send a message to anyone?
The Taliban will not surrender, nor will they submit to negotiations with their NATO occupiers or the beleaguered mayor of Kabul, who can't even supply security in his capitol. The Afghan people have not surrendered to occupiers in over 3,000 years.
Gareth Porter of the IPS news service contributed to this report.