Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Afghan countdown to spring

David Seaton's News Links
Given the attack on the Twin Towers, the invasion of Afghanistan was probably inevitable. NATO offered its full cooperation from the very first moment. It was ignored.

The Parisian newspaper Le Monde (not exactly "Stars and Stripes") headlined, "we are all Americans".

A historic opportunity to strengthen and deepen America's relationships with the rest of the world and especially its most traditional allies was lost.

If the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a body had charged into Afghanistan and had "strung up" Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora and then had headed for home, it would have sent a clear message of strength and purpose that could have help stabilize the entire planet. It was a mission that was doable, but wasn't done.

Employing America's full strength in Afghanistan and empowering America's traditional allies were obviously the last things that the leadership in Washington wanted. For them, 9-11 was only an excuse to carry out quite another agenda, one that had been waiting for years to be executed. Who, what, why and what for, have become clear with the passing years.

Back in Afghanistan, what was at first universally seen and understood by the entire world as taking revenge for an unforgivable massacre, has by now degenerated into some exercise of "taking up the white man's burden" and the day for that sort of thing is over. White men just ain't what they used to be...

The "west" has worn out its welcome in Afghanistan and "the natives are restless." Warmed up imperialism is no longer anybody's plat de jour. Turning NATO into a universal enforcer for wealthy, pale faced, interests is a grotesque, non-starter.

So in fact, the greatest casualty of the war in Iraq, as far as the United States and its staunchest allies are concerned, is the war in Afghanistan. a We are witnessing an unnecessary humiliation and indignant final curtain for the greatest military alliance in history.
The recriminations and search for the perpetrators of this viral disaster may shred the social fabric of America's elite for years to come. DS

Taliban offensive expected in spring - Los Angeles Times

Abstract: In coming weeks, winter will loosen its grip on Afghanistan. Senior NATO generals insist that their troops are well positioned to confront the Taliban offensive that is expected to follow. But some analysts, diplomats and other observers think the Western alliance, and the Afghan government it supports, has failed to use winter's relative lull in fighting to seize the initiative in advance of a new battle with the insurgents. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's forces in the south are being bolstered, but the influx of about 3,000 additional troops is privately described by field commanders as both tardy and considerably smaller than what they had hoped for. The reinforcements will come almost exclusively from the United States and Britain; troop commitments by other alliance members have failed to materialize. In some key districts, Taliban militants have reinfiltrated areas they were driven from months ago. Even before the start of any large-scale offensive, the insurgents are demonstrating an ability to capture territory, including their brazen seizure of the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province this month.(...) "They're hard-core — very determined, very disciplined. They know the ground and they know how to fight, and they know how to adapt to changing conditions," said Canadian army Capt. Piers Pappin, whose mud-walled, thatched-roof outpost in the desert west of Kandahar was repeatedly attacked by bands of insurgents, even during the supposed winter lull. Insurgent commandants have boasted that in coming months they will step up the use of crude yet lethal tactics such as suicide and roadside bombings, with which they can counter NATO troops' vastly superior firepower. Suicide attacks increased fivefold in 2006, and the use of remotely detonated devices nearly doubled from the previous year, according to U.S. military figures.(...) Heading into the next round of fighting, the dubious efficacy of the Afghan army is also a growing cause for concern. Coalition goals call for the force to expand to 80,000 troops by next year, but at this point, struggling with a high desertion rate, it is fielding about 20,000. Senior Western military officials put a positive face on the progress made in arming and training the force. But field-level allied officers who work closely with the Afghan troops privately predict that it will take many years to shape them into a professional army capable of confronting the insurgents on their own.(...) At least 100 Afghan civilians died last year at the hands of allied forces, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch, and Afghan rights groups put the figure many times higher. "Whenever they do something that is against our culture, people get angry, very angry," said Lt. Col. Sheehin Shah Kabandi, a regional Afghan army commander in Kandahar. "We remind them again and again: If you enter someone's house by breaking down his door, that man and all his relatives are your enemy forever." Local resentment is sometimes inflamed by what Western military officials see as an effort by Afghans to better their lot. In the Panjwayi district outside Kandahar, NATO troops for months have been bulldozing vineyards, arbors and orchards to build three wide roads radiating from their bases. (...) Civilian deaths have become a highly sensitive subject, particularly after Afghan President Hamid Karzai publicly broke into tears late last year while imploring allied troops to be more careful. READ IT ALL


Anonymous said...

David, you as an 'honorary European' might understand that the missed opportunity wasn't Afghanistan but Saddam '91.

Had the Anglos not insisted on letting him live (to get the current scheme to rip off the Arab oil into action), the whole world would have felt obliged to provide a real, functioning democracy to Iraq.

I guess the coming historians will analyse how this Bush double-dynasty of cowards and losers really was able to burn their country and the world like that.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Couldn't agree less, invading Iraq was always a bad idea.

Encouraging Saddam Hussein to invade Iran was a bad idea and encouraging him to use poison gas there was also a bad idea. Which is how he got the bad idea he could invade Kuwait.

Not very many good ideas.

Anonymous said...

So you really think it was good to let the Baath in power after their '91 defeat in Kuwait? Then 12 years of sanctions to destroy the population, rather than use the global concensus and really help them.

And all that really happened was made so that democracy would not come to the middle east and the Arab regimes would not shaken. I think it's crystal clear, since the Anglophone countries have always been anti-democratic.

Is a horrible ending not better than horror without end?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I was not and never have been in agreement with anything the US has ever done in respect to Iraq. When Iraq invaded Kuwait the status quo anti bellum had to be restored. The USA did that in 91 Would that there had been some power to restore the status quo anti bellum, after the USA invaded Iraq. Unfortunately, all the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

As to "democracy" in the Middle East, that is a problem for the respective "demos" to work out, certainly nothing Americans should meddle in. As how they govern themselves is none of our damn business.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. But the status ante 91 was also dictated by colonialist powers etc. No blank slate. And parlamentarism/democracy IS an admired success model. And the 91 coalition would have been 'obliged' to serve the Iraqi state in this manner.

Bush Sr.s fault was to pull back, because that opened the door to genocidal sanctions and the elimination of the Iraq state now. And don't take this position for neo-conservatism pls. It's quite the opposite.