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Current Affairs (05 May 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Afghanistan Riddle

By Eugene Robinson

 May 4, 2012

Show of hands: Does anybody really understand the U.S. policy in Afghanistan? Can anyone figure out how we’re supposed to stay the course and bring home the troops at the same time?

I’m at a loss, even after President Obama’s surprise trip to the war zone. The president’s televised address from Bagram air base raised more questions than it answered. Let’s start with the big one: Why?

According to Obama, “the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al-Qaida could never use this country to launch attacks against us.” I would argue that U.S. and NATO forces have already done all that is humanly possible toward that end.

The Taliban government was deposed and routed. Al-Qaida was first dislodged and then decimated, with “over 20 of their top 30 leaders” killed, according to the president. Osama bin Laden was tracked to his lair in Pakistan, shot dead and buried at sea. To the extent that al-Qaida still poses a threat, it comes from affiliate organizations in places such as Yemen and from the spread of poisonous jihadist ideology. Al-Qaida’s once-extensive training camps in Afghanistan have long been obliterated and the group’s presence in the country is minimal.

That smells like victory to me. Yet 94 American troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan so far in 2012, U.S. forces will still be engaged in combat until the end of 2014, and we are committed to an extraordinary—and expensive—level of involvement there until 2024. Why?

Of the U.S. troops who died this year as a result of hostile fire—as opposed to accidents, illnesses or suicide—at least one of every seven was killed not by the Taliban but by ostensibly friendly Afghan security forces.

A report, now classified, commissioned by the Pentagon last year concluded that what it called “the rapidly growing fratricide-murder trend” of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police against U.S. and allied troops reflects “the ineffectiveness in our efforts in stabilizing Afghanistan, developing a legitimate and effective government, battling the insurgency (and) gaining the loyalty, respect and friendship of the Afghans.”

Policies such as nighttime raids, in which civilians have been killed, and incidents such as the burning of Qurans by allied soldiers have generated increasing resentment in a country that has never taken kindly to foreign occupation.

These friendly-fire killings are not just isolated incidents, the report says, but a “continuing pattern” that is leading to a “crisis of trust” between allied and Afghan forces. Unless there is reform of “profoundly dysfunctional Afghan governmental systems and key leaders,” the report predicts, “any efforts in developing a legitimate, functional and trustworthy Afghan army and police force will continue to be futile.”

It should be noted that U.S. commanders in Afghanistan strongly disagree. They express confidence that the Afghan army is becoming a much more competent and professional fighting force. But they acknowledge that the process requires time and a continuing commitment of troops and funding.

As Obama knows, however, polls indicate that Americans are weary of this war. He told the nation Tuesday night that 23,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of the summer. This will reduce troop levels to about 65,000—still far above what Obama inherited in 2009. By the end of 2014, Obama said, “the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.” But how many Americans will remain? And, again, why?

At that point, Obama said, we will leave behind just enough personnel to support the Afghan government in counterterrorism operations and provide continued training for Afghan forces. At present, however, we’re in the midst of a counterinsurgency campaign of the kind that takes decades, at best, to succeed. If we’re going to switch to counterterrorism in a couple of years, why not just make the switch now?

Another question: Obama said we will establish no permanent bases in Afghanistan. But the agreement he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai gives the United States continuing use of bases that we built and intend to transfer nominally to Afghan control. What’s the difference?

The United States has agreed to support Afghanistan’s social and economic development and its security institutions through 2024. Does this sound like nation-building to you? Because that’s what it sounds like to me.

“Tonight, I’d like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan,” Obama said Tuesday. We’re still waiting.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.

Source: Truthdig

URL: http://newageislam.com/current-affairs/eugene-robinson/the-afghanistan-riddle/d/7239




  • Drones are not accurate; They may kill two enemies but end up creating 10. Please read on: Drone Victims’ Defender Speaks The deaths of innocent Pakistani civilians turned Shahzad Akbar from a U.S. friend to full-time critic by Jefferson Morley Monday, April 30, 2012 Jefferson Morley is a staff writer for Salon in Washington, DC. He is author of the forthcoming book, "Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835" (Nan Talese/Doubleday). This commentary can be found on the Web at: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/30/drone_victims_defender_speaks/singleton Copyright © 2011 Salon.com. All rights reserved. If you want to see how President Obama’s drone war efficiently turns America’s friends into adversaries, meet Pakistani attorney Shahzad Akbar. After getting his legal education in the United Kingdom, Akbar returned to his native Islamabad to practice the kind of corporate and public accountability law that the U.S. says its hopes to encourage in Pakistan. He worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development on trade issues. While prosecuting a Pakistan consular officer who was selling visas, he coordinated his case with the FBI. Then came the Obama administration’s escalation of the drone war. Now Akbar is a full-time critic of the U.S. government who was repeatedly denied a visa to visit Washington. After a spate of news articles, Akbar was granted permission to travel to Washington this weekend, where he warned Americans about the consequences of a remote control war where no U.S. lives are lost and Pakistani civilian casualties are routinely downplayed. In his remarks Saturday to the “Drone Summit,” sponsored by Code Pink and the Center for Constitutional Rights, Akbar traced his transformation to a conversation he had three years ago with Karim Khan, the brother of a schoolteacher who died in 2009 in one of the 300 drone attacks along the Afghanistan border that have killed more than 3,000 people since 2004. “He convinced me we had to do something because there are so many civilians being targeted and being thrown into militancy and extremism because the rest of the country and world are not listening to them,” Akbar told the conference attended by 150 people. In a region where schools are rare, he said the U.S. attack devastated a “progressive family” that promoted education. While continuing to practice law, Akbar helped organize a demonstration in 2009 publicly identifying the chief of the CIA station in Islamabad, who plays a central role in the missile strikes against suspected anti-U.S. terrorists. By 2010, he was representing “dozens of families” who have lost relatives in the strikes and he put aside his corporate law practice in favor of working full time against U.S. drone war. Now Akbar is preparing a lawsuit against the Pakistan foreign minister demanding the expulsion of U.S. ambassador Cameron Munter who is believed to play a a consultative role in the drone strikes launched by the CIA. His clients, he says, are the the “voiceless” people of Waziristan, the region targeted by U.S. policymakers. “No one cares to give them names or identities just the label of ‘militants’ and that is enough to kill them and then justify that killing,” he said. Akbar rejected Obama administration officials claims that civilians are not being killed in the strikes. “They are lying to their own people,” he said. As proof he showed a picture of 16-year-old Tariq Azziz, who traveled eight hours to Islamabad to attend a conference on drone strikes last October, sponsored by Akbar’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights and the British humanitarian group Reprieve. Azziz and other attendees from Waziristan were given cameras and training so that they could document the effects of drone strikes. Three days later, Azziz and his 12-year-old cousin were killed by a Hellfire missile. Akbar told the story of a college student named Khairullah whose twin brother was killed in a drone strike in November 2010. After the death of his brother, he has never stepped back to school since,” Akbar said. “I really fear if we are not able to do anything for him to get justice, he might just shift to the other side. He is at the age when he is full of energy and wants to see justice done.” Akbar said many children have been killed. (The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism which monitors news reports of the attacks, says 174 children have been killed since 2004.) Akbar showed a photo of a 10-year-old boy killed by missile shrapnel from an August 2010 strike in north Waziristan against houses said to be inhabited by members of the anti-American Haqqani network. The boy is survived by three brothers and sisters. “What will they do when they grow up?” he asked. “What will they think of us Pakistanis and the Americans? How are we making U.S. and other countries safer by leaving these children without justice?” Akbar showed a picture of child killed in an attack on Valentine’s Day 2009 when he said, “I’m sure some remote pilot somewhere in U.S. was planning what he would buy for his girlfriend or his wife before he pushed the button,” he said. The strike destroyed a house next door that the U.S. said was occupied by a militant. “People in the United States need to understand your polices have far reaching impact,” Akbar said. “You need to ask what are the rules and procedures for the strikes? What is the definition and the threshold of a militant? These people are being killed in your name. This is not making America safer… The strikes are just creating more enemies for you. They are not making you safer. They are just putting a target sign on you,” he said. A few hours after later Reuters reported that the U.S drones had struck again. It was said four “suspected militants” were killed while hiding inside a high school. In Washington, a senior official told the New York Times described the building as as a “staging and planning area for Al Qaeda, the Haqqanis and other terrorists.” No civilian casualties were reported.
    By Mubashir - 5/7/2012 8:59:18 AM

  • “Does anybody really understand the U.S. policy in Afghanistan?”
    This must be the myopic question of the year. As if it applies only to Afghanistan!
    The question should be – does anybody really understand the US policy in the WORLD?
    The answer would be far simpler then. It is simply that “we do it because we can” a very ‘clever Dick’ is supposed to have said. With this sort of statement coming from the very top there is nothing to understand. “If it feels good do it” said a very popular tee-shirt slogan for teens, some time ago—so they just do as they want, because it feels good; even destroy nations and countries! Afghanistan is just one of them. It feels good being able to do it.

    By Rashid - 5/6/2012 7:59:35 AM

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