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


sykes.1 said...

How many armies have died in Afghanistan? We need to face the fact that the Taliban have defeated us. And once again, a Taliban regime will live by exporting heroin and terrorists.

We should not blame Obama entirely, although his artificial deadline did guarantee defeat. Afghanistan never has had a central governmental. It has always been a collection of warring tribes. All loyalties there are strictly local. Even the Taliban did not rule all of it. And they won't rule all of it when they return.

More importantly, this defeat will reinforce Obama's feckless, delusional foreign policy. Our emboldened enemies will soon try for a home run. Korea, Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine, Poland? Who knows.

LarryOldtimer said...

Some times, our State Department and military can be incredibly stupid. We lost the war in Afghanistan when we expanded the "war on drugs" and got the DEA involved.

For most Afghans, opium poppy growing and harvesting the sap is the only way they have of making a living at all. When we began trying to bomb the poppy fields out of existence, we alienated the tribesmen and tribal leaders. Not the way to make friends and influence the tribesmen and tribal leaders.

It would have been far cheaper to ship in some very large shredders, and pay cash on the barrel head for unsliced poppy buds. US 10 cents per unsliced poppy bud would have, to those Afghanis. seemed like great pay for a whole lot less work. The whole operation could have been organized by tribal leaders, with them being paid with a cut off the top. Moreover, the armed tribesmen would have protected the whole operation from the drug dealers. Our paymasters would have been untouchables.

So say that there were a billion buds per year. Total cost of payments in cash out of hand would be $100,000,000 per year. This would have gone directly to the farmers who grow and harvest the sap, and would be more income to the growers than the drug dealers pay. Bud counting machinery could be easily devised, taking the work out of the counting process. This would be cheap at 10 times the price, including paying for the administration of the program,and would have kept a whole lot of illegal opium based drugs off the market. We would have been looked at as friends of the Afghans by the Afghans themselves, the ones whose opinions really count.

Instead, we try to buy off the corrupt politic ans, who aren't in the least bit trustworthy, and who actually have no influence on the tribesmen.

When I was first in the USAF, back in 1954, each and every person in the US military got paid in cash each month, so I know it is feasible.

It has been said that "money talks". It is a long time past the time that we put it in the hands of those whom we need to have listen to us. Huge sums put in the pockets of corrupt politicians who have no influence with the tribal leaders in Afghanistan is completely wasted.

Ronbo said...

The lost war in Afghanistan brings to mind another lost American war - The one on drugs.

I say the time has come to declare "victory" in both conflict and bring the boys home.

Come to think of it, the legalization of drugs would be a victory in Afghanistan (and other countries like Columbia, because with all drugs legal and open to competition, the farmers and drug dealers would have lower profits.

In fact, profits may get so low that world wide chemists, farmers and drug dealers would turn to more profit making legal industries, such as raising wheat and corn.

Moondancer said...

It's hard to believe...this enemy does not have an air force, a navy or any honorable ground forces with heavy armor...tanks and the like...yet we have to fight with our hands tied behind our back and walk away in defeat because this enemy hides behind civilians and shouts god is great...what god?? Their god of hell!! They are the cancer of the Earth!!