Monday, October 5, 2009

Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires…

Afghan Mujahideen pose on top of a downed Soviet helicopter from the USSR's failed invasion/occupation.

Could it also become a burial ground for this administration?

(Note/disclaimer: I have never been to Afghanistan nor do I pretend to be an expert. There are numerous journalists and other experts who have done fine jobs through the years chronicling the stories that are this sad nation. I can recommend two, right off the bat: Michael Yon (mentioned below...perhaps the best combat reporter alive) and Ann Marlowe. Ms. Marlowe is someone I'm proud to call my friend but more than that she's a reporter with integrity and guts. To learn more about Afghanistan, I highly recommend you read her dispatches, posts, articles, etc.)

Let’s face facts:
  • Things are not going well there. It’s not a cakewalk. Yes, we’re fighting a group of people who are just this side of the Stone Age. But that’s part of the problem, too. We’ve got a military equipped with trillions of zillions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment; the best-trained warriors; and the support of our NATO allies. But that’s also the downside. We’re not facing an easily identifiable opposition. Heck, the country isn’t really all that identifiable. It’s really a collection of tribes connected by a religion, some geography and a general mistrust of outsiders.

  • The nation of Afghanistan, while a nice idea, is a false notion. Once upon a time, there was a semblance of a country there, but for the most part it’s a bunch of provinces (tribal lands) inside a boundary drawn-up by outsiders. What’s more, the people we pick to side-up with in putting Afghanistan together as some sort of country aren’t exactly the good guys.

  • The strategy of fighting from afar – using just aerial reconnaissance vehicles (ARVs or “drones”) to find and kill insurgents – isn’t enough. As “surgical” as it sounds, it’s far from perfect. Yes, we want to protect our service people from harm at all costs, but no war has been won without putting “boots on the ground,” bayonets in the guts of the enemy or new rules into the structure of a defeated opposition.

  • It really is an “all or nothing” proposition.
What are our options in Afghanistan? It would be nice if someone in charge – in the White House – told us.

Michael Yon, perhaps the one person who has been covering the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts longer, more deeply and better than any other journalist, has his newest up on Afghanistan: “Two Firefights, One Video.” As Yon so succinctly writes: “We need more gear and more forces now. We can outfight these enemies and we can win the war, but at this rate a favorable outcome is difficult to imagine. This war shows signs that it will become more intense than Iraq at its peak. As with my twelve dispatches from 2006 warning that we were losing this war, the warnings over the past couple of years seem to be falling on incredulous ears. We will lose the war unless we get more troops and more gear soon. This weekend we lost eight more soldiers in a firefight. I learned about it while they were still fighting, but did not report it until just before the media broke the story the next day. Still unreported, to my knowledge, sources tell me that FOB Keating was destroyed and that troops were under siege for up to 24 hours before Air Force Para-rescue got them out. (Subject to confirmation.) The fighting will only intensify. We can beat these guys, but not under current conditions.”

Then you get a “journalist” like Al Hunt...who only knows what he thinks he might have read...once upon a time. As David Satter points out at National Review Online’s The Corner: “the Soviets were fighting the entire nation. They entered the country to support an Afghan Communist government that had seized power. The Afghan Communists, however, were few in number, totally alienated from the traditional culture, and completely reliant on internal terror — carried out by the Khad (their secret police) — and foreign support. At the same time, the Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan did not believe in their cause. They were told that they were intervening to protect the country from a foreign invasion when, as they quickly found out, they were the foreign invasion. The result was that the fighters in Afghanistan were principally dedicated to saving their own lives. Stealing was universal, nearly everyone smoked hashish, and, according to some reports, 20 per cent of the soldiers were using heroin. Finally, and most important, the Soviets waged a war of annihilation. If shots were fired from an Afghan village, the village was razed. The issue of civilian casualties was of no interest to anyone in Moscow or the Soviet army. If Soviet soldiers arrived in a village from which shots had been fired and found that all men of military age had disappeared, it was common practice to force the women and children into a single room and throw in hand grenades. Practices like these led nearly three million Afghans to seek refuge in Pakistan. As we face a critical decision over Afghanistan, we need to keep the Soviet experience in mind. But the lesson is not that we cannot win. The lesson is that we can win — but we need the people on our side.”

Are you telling me that you’ve publicly identified Afghanistan as one of your most pressing issues – in fact, made it a campaign plank (“a war of necessity”) – and you’ve only spoken to the person heading up our efforts a grand total of...once? (Now, if you include a 25-minute meeting in Copenhagen during the president’s Olympic lobbying trip there.) In the meantime, it looks like the Obama administration has begun “the process of getting rid of their troublesome General who dares to think winning in Afghanistan is possible.” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs weighed-in on it…sorta. Tom Ricks, who has never been called a "right-winger," takes the president to task for his 25-minute chat. "I see where Obama met with Gen. McChrystal for 25 minutes today in Denmark. I do no find this reassuring. That's what you do with an obstreperous cabinet secretary like James Watt who is causing more trouble than he is worth. If Obama were serious about Afghanistan -- or even if he wants to look serious -- he would have asked McChrystal to fly home with him on Air Force One, and sit and talk for a few hours."

Michael Barone reminds us that President Barack Obama – not Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or any of their friends in the media – staked-out this territory: "This is not a war of choice," Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 17. "This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9-11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people."

In closing: I read that the First Lady said her trip to Copenhagen to chat up the International Olympic Committee was something of a “sacrifice.” Sorry, Mrs. Obama. This is what constitutes sacrifice…and bravery.

No comments: