A Little Girl in Kabul
George Will -- Time to Get Out of Afghanistan
What Americans wage war for and what the people living where we do that wage war for are two very different goals. We trim, blend, and append three 2009 articles from: (1) the Wall St Journal, Sept 2, on a warlord's defection by Yaroslav Trofimov; (2) uruknet.info, Sept 1, on a refugee camp by Norman Solomon; and (3) the Washington Post, Sept 1, on withdrawal by George F. Will, syndicated columnist.
by Yaroslav Trofimov, by Norman Solomon, and by George F. Will
Warlord's Defection Shows Afghan Risk
Under the US, the new provincial authorities proved deeply unpopular. Criminal gangs, some allied with newly arrived police officials, went on a kidnapping spree. Because of these abductions for ransom, business owners were afraid to move in the city. Most of the factories had to be closed, stifling the post-Taliban economic boom.
The endemic corruption, slow rebuilding, and civilian casualties have led some militants to switch sides. One launched lucrative kidnapping operations, holding anyone associated with foreign reconstruction efforts for ransom. He levies taxes on peasants and forbids them from paying land rent to the government or absentee landlords. Local youths are conscripted into his force. Some people who disparage him in public are killed.
The escalating violence in the north and the west -- occupied by soldiers from Germany, Italy, and Spain -- challenges the 60,000 US troops already stretched thin in the south and east.
JJS: That was from the businessman’s bible. For a personal story from inside a refugee camp, read on.
A Little Girl in Kabul
Basics like food arrive at the camp only sporadically. Donations come from Afghan businessmen. The government of Afghanistan does very little. The United Nations doesn’t help. Neither does the US government.
Refugee, father of maimed a maimed child, and representative for 100 families in the government refugee camp, Wakil Tawos Khan emphasized his eagerness to work. We have the skills, he said -- give us some land and just dig a well, and we’ll do the rest.
JJS: The whole story is posted on several sites, including one with information from within Iraq click here. Its author, Norman Solomon, is author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Whether motivated by the suffering of civilians or the improbability of doing what everyone from the Soviets to Alexander the Great failed to do (subdue the Afghan militants), even some prominent conservatives want to give rationality a try.
Time to Get Out of Afghanistan
The Dutch commander of coalition forces in a southern province says walking through the region is "like walking through the Old Testament."
The Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government -- his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker -- as so "inept, corrupt, and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords.
Afghan elections came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against US "success," whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one.
Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.'”
The US strategy is "clear, hold, and build." Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that US forces will forever be too few to hold gains.
Nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.
Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more.
That is inconceivable. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined US involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.
Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, “when” means now.
Washington should keep faith with the deployed in Afghanistan by rapidly reversing the trajectory of US involvement, before more American militancy is squandered, such as the infantryman willing to die "so that each of you may grow old."
JJS: Like many soldiers, he is willing to not just die but also kill, indifferent to people of other nations having the same chance to grow old. Such sentiment is prevalent on both sides. What could make young guys think twice?
Perhaps less TV and more travel? Perhaps the same opportunities for medical care, higher education, and home loans that veterans get being extended to all citizens via a Citizens Dividend? Maybe geonomic policy could foster a more tolerant world.
Life could be so much better if we made up our minds for it to be so.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40% in 2008
Why Are We Still at War?
If the generals can be a bit rational, can politicians?
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