Friday, June 18, 2010
The Afghanistan Quagmire
By Alan Caruba
The war in Afghanistan has been going on for more than eight years as of this writing. Over that period of time I have been against it, for it, against it, for it, and now I return to what my instincts and experience told me all along. It’s over.
That war is lost. Once the Taliban acquired surface-to-air missiles, the primarily advantage our military had was removed. In the past month, the Taliban have shot down two of our helicopters. Any low-flying aircraft will be vulnerable along with all our front-line forces.
This is a repeat of how the Soviets lost their war in Afghanistan. The Stinger missles the CIA began to provide the Afghan insurgents and the many Arabs that joined the battle---including Osama bin Laden---the war was over. Not many years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.
You cannot win a counterinsurgency with local forces if (1) you don’t have a significant portion of the population on your side and (2) those forces do not want to fight.
Afghans don’t like anyone who is not an Afghan and, in many cases, they do not like other Afghans from other tribes. They didn’t even like the Arabs that joined them in the fight against the Soviets. They want to be left alone to raise poppies and make money the only way they can, via the drug trade.
The other factor that is a key to the situation is our “ally”, Pakistan. The U.S. has poured billions into Pakistan and they have been supporting the Taliban the whole time; more specifically, the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.
Let it be said that George W. Bush was right to chase al Qaeda out of Afghanistan after 9/11. Failure to take military action would have been seen as weakness and made the U.S. vulnerable to more attacks on the homeland. For eight years while he was in the White House, there were no further attacks.
Then Barack Hussein Obama got elected. He did so in part by claiming that Afghanistan was the “real” war to be won and that our war in Iraq was a mistake. Then, when he had to decide what to do there, he spent three months making up his mind, agreed to send 40,000 more troops, and announced the date when we would leave. You don’t win wars by telling the enemy when you’re going to leave.
While he’s been in office there have been two unsuccessful attacks, the Christmas underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber. The Fort Hood murders were swept under the rug after Obama took three days to think of something to say about them. He said we should not “jump to conclusions” about Major Hassan who shouted “Allahu akbar” while murdering his fellow soldiers.
Debka File, an Israeli news agency is saying what the U.S. press is disinclined to say. “America’s longest war is about to end.” Drawing on its military and intelligence sources, it said the US-led NATO forces will have no victory and must settle “at best in a draw or at worst in a win for the Taliban, al Qaeda’s extremist partner.”
An article in the UK’s Times was picked up by the Washington Post on June 14. The Times article was headlined “Pakistan puppet masters guide the Taliban killers.” It reported that “Pakistan’s own intelligence agency, the ISI, is said to be represented on the Taliban’s war council, the Quetta shura. Up to seven of the 15-man shura are believed to be ISA agents.”
The former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, Amrullah Salah, recently resigned. He concluded that Afghan forces of the government under Hamid Karzai, the US hand-picked president of Afghanistan, would not and could not prevail. Afghanistan has never been a nation by any standard definition. It has always been a nation of tribes.
The Afghanistan conflict has cost the West billions and hundreds of lives. NATO, an institution put together during the long Cold War with the then-Soviet Union, has never had much support among its European members, none of whom have had much heart for a fight following World War Two.
The United Kingdom has been our most steadfast partner in NATO and in our two invasions of Iraq, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and in wake of the widespread belief he had weapons of mass destruction. Almost from the day he first stepped into the Oval Office, President Obama has engaged in every way possible to offend the British and his latest fulminations about the BP oil spill have only worsened relations.
When word leaked about Obama’s “rules of engagement” in Afghanistan that essentially put every one of our soldiers and marines at risk, the die was cast.
The combined US-UK force failed to loosen the Taliban’s grip on Marjah, the most recent military engagement. The Afghan forces refused to fight much of the time. The Taliban continue to control the whole of southern Afghanistan.
The Kandahar offensive has been postponed. It was to be waged by American, British, Canadian, and Afghan forces. If that doesn’t tell you that the war in Afghanistan is over, nothing will.
If there is no will to wage war vigorously to bring about victory, nothing can be done for now. This is not to say we will not have to return at some time, but as long as President Obama is in office, that is not an option.
© Alan Caruba, 2010