Afghan Riots Aren't Just About Burned Holy Books

Afghanistan is a medieval country that we can barely begin to understand.

Afghans are rioting, American soldiers are regularly murdered by their allies, the Taliban are hanging in, and civilian casualties in Afghanistan set a record last year. But a Pentagon spokesman assures us that "the fundamentals of our strategy remain sound."

He had to tell us because we wouldn't know it otherwise. In almost every respect, our venture in Afghanistan looks like a dismal, irredeemable failure. Year after year, we've been told that things are getting better. But lately, it's hard to take that claim seriously.

When Afghans erupted in rage over the careless burning of Korans at Bagram Airbase, the upheaval was not just about Muslim holy books. It was also about the grossly dysfunctional relationship between us and them—a product of the huge cultural gulf, our outsized ambitions and the irritant of our presence.

Afghanistan is a medieval country that we can barely begin to understand. Yet we presume that with all our money, technology, weaponry and wisdom, we can mold it like soft clay.

Things don't work so well in practice. Only one out of every 10 Afghans who sign up to join the army or national police can read and write. The military's desertion rate, an American general acknowledged last year, approaches a staggering 30 percent.

Many if not most Afghans have never heard of the 9/11 attacks. Even the deputy chairman of the government's High Peace Council told The Wall Street Journal he doesn't believe al-Qaida destroyed the World Trade Center.

So what can we expect ordinary people to think when they see the country overrun with armed foreigners who sometimes kill and injure innocent civilians? Or when they hear that those infidels are burning Korans?

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in American history, and if hawks have their way, we'll be there for years to come. Alas, we have demonstrated the force of two things we already knew: Some mistakes can't be undone no matter how you try, and every guest eventually wears out his welcome.

In Afghanistan, we originally failed to make the needed commitment to destroy the enemy, because President George W. Bush was distracted by his eagerness to invade Iraq. As a result, the Taliban survived and eventually mounted a major comeback. Barack Obama decided to pour in troops and funds, but by that time, Afghan patience was nearing exhaustion.

So results keep falling miserably short of what's needed to produce lasting success. Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, who spent last year in a combat deployment touring Afghanistan, writes in the February issue of the Armed Forces Journal, "What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground."

Instead, he was told that the Taliban "controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot" of coalition military bases. "I observed Afghan security forces collude with the insurgency." He found American officers "who had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area."

The mutual ill will has become deadly. Two American officers were shot to death last week at the Afghan Interior Ministry, which is supposed to be one of the safest places in Kabul. But for U.S. military personnel, there are no longer any safe places.

Even official assessments of the war are discouraging. In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper predicted the Afghan government will make "incremental, fragile progress" this year, while noting the persistence of "corruption as well as poor leadership and management" in the police and army.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess Jr., director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the committee that "the Afghan government will continue to struggle to fill the vacuum" left by coalition troops. The Afghan defense minister predicts "catastrophe" if the U.S. proceeds with plans to reduce the size of the Afghan force after 2014.

That leaves us in a catch-22: We can't bring peace and good governance to Afghanistan unless we stay a lot longer, but the longer we stay the more resentment and resistance we provoke. At this point, a U.S. officer who works on Afghanistan told McClatchy Newspapers, "Afghans hate us, and we don't trust them."

Americans who lived through Vietnam recall the image of helicopters evacuating our embassy personnel from Saigon as the enemy closed in. We may get to do the same thing in Kabul—but this time under fire from our friends.

 Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman

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  • WTF||

    "It was also about...the irritant of our presence"

    Good -let's leave and let them sort their own shit out. As long as they don't aid anyone in fucking with us again, no reason to return.

  • Suki||

    Just wait a little bit. Their embrace of Obama is just around the corner. Just look how peaceful Iraq got right after the election.

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  • Afghan Goat||

    Can I join?

  • Loki||

    It's not a bestiality site, sorry. Although there's plenty of those around the interwebs too.

  • ||

    OK so why are we still wasting time and resources in a place we have no business in the first place?

    www.Went-Anon.tk

  • Dekedin||

    What an insightful comment, anonbot.

  • John Jackson||

    I say your three cent titanium tax doesn't go too far enough!

  • affenkopf||

  • BakedPenguin||

    Whatever his flaws, Greenwald is a very good writer. It's great to know there are still people out there who don't just follow TEAMS!

  • affenkopf||

    He's horrible on economics and great on war & civil liberties. Fortunately he mainly writes about war & civil liberties.

  • ||

    I'm not convinced the burning of the Koran wasn't the primary factor behind the violence. Radical Muslims have a history of targeting blasphemers of Mohammad and the Koran. I'm guessing that the Afgans were provoked more by the koran burning than marines pissing on their "War dead", but they bring up the latter to provide cover for their act. Just like the Arab Spring cloaked their true intent under the cloak of a revolution.

    They're killing our marines for actions that harmed no one. We don't condone vigilante justice in our own society even IF the establishment intended to hurt the victim or violate his religious custom. Our soldiers inadvertently kill innocent people in pursuit of terrorists. They make an effort honor muslim traditions. Afghanistan isn't like occupying London, their government once harbored terrorists. They try to do the right thing stuck in a no win situation.

  • Almanian||

    I thought they HATED US FOR OUR FREEDUMZ!?

    No?

  • ||

    no no, those are the Evil Dewars

  • Almanian||

    Damn them and their shitty whiskey

  • BakedPenguin||

  • Suki||

    An African American named Barack Hussein Obama

  • Mr. FIFY||

    That's "hAlfrican-American".

  • invisible furry hand||

    "You've tried the best, now try the rest!"

  • WTF||

    Well, maybe he meant the fourth best African American President.

  • Suki||

    Some writer said Jefferson was called the "Negro President" and William Jefferson Clinton called himself the first Black President, LBJ said "nigger" a lot without a mention in the MSM. Okay, fourth Black president works.

  • WTF||

    I just pictured LBJ starting off a state of the union speech with "What up, my niggas!"

  • Suki||

    +1

  • cowardly commenter some guy||

    I chortled. Thanks.

  • Loki||

    I just nearly spewed soda on my keyboard, thanks.

  • ||

    It seems to me that that sort of megalomania is pretty danged newsworthy. I guess at least they didn't delete it entirely (looks like it's available on-line), but I can't think of a good reason for not broadcasting it (I can, of course, think of some bad ones).

    If the Democrats were worth a shit, they'd jettison this guy.

  • Loki||

    I'm sure they'll pull the online version soon. The sad part is, in Obama's world claiming to be only the 4th best president is probably considered humility.

  • Amakudari||

    I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history.

    This isn't really that megalomaniacal, is it? Besides, he says "our," he mentioned the first two years instead of the last one, and he focused on legislation. They did pass a lot of that stuff.

  • ||

    A lot of crappy stuff, but in any case, the royal we doesn't save him from coming off like an asshole. Also, what has he done that's proven to be of historic merit? Anything?

  • Amakudari||

    Nothing, sure. But this just sounds like typical campaign fluffery. If he'd actually said he was the best aside from the Holy Trinity that would be another thing entirely.

  • ||

    His list doesn't impress me, either.

  • ||

    But I concede the point--what he actually said isn't nearly as bad as "I am the fourth greatest president, ever. Bitches."

  • Black Mexican||

    What an idiot! Lincoln sucked! If he would have let the south secede, the North was free for blacks anyway and we never would have had Johnson and FDR.

    I might put Obama down as the 4th WORST president behind FDR, Johnson, and Lincoln.

  • ||

    I think Woodrow Wilson is probably worse than Obama too.

  • Old Man With Candy||

    You have to put Wilson ahead of Obama on that scale.

  • ||

    "In Afghanistan, we originally failed to make the needed commitment to destroy the enemy, because President George W. Bush was distracted by his eagerness to invade Iraq. As a result, the Taliban survived and eventually mounted a major comeback. Barack Obama decided to pour in troops and funds, but by that time, Afghan patience was nearing exhaustion."

    Chapman is such an Obama apologist. If only TEAM BLUE had handled things from the beginning it would've all been hunky-dory.

  • Suki||

    +100

  • ChrisO||

    Yeah, that one made me laugh, too.

    The fourth paragraph of his article explains succinctly why our little nation-building exercise was doomed to fail, no matter how many troops we committed or how focused the administration was.

    Obama's act of sending in more troops and funds was simply a waste of precious blood and treasure.

  • ||

    If only we had committed more troops...
    then what genius?

  • Do the math||

    When has more troops solved anything? Even Normandy is questionable.

    WWII ended because we sent 2 bombs instead of more troops.

  • ||

    More troops have decided many battles. But this campaign isn't one of them.

  • kbolino||

    Everyone forgets the atomic bombing of Germany.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Read this article carefully.

    There was no law passed. A state regulatory agency, the Division of Consumer Affairs, was able to, not only ban the sale of this product, but grant the Attorney General's office the power to criminally charge people with a 3rd degree felony, punishable with prison time, for simply possessing the product.

    You think you live in a Democracy?

    http://www.thedailyjournal.com.....-marijuana

  • Mr Whipple||

    O/T ^^

  • Almanian||

    You think you live in a Democracy?

    Nope. And I'd be satisfied with....ohhhh....some sort of constitutionally-limited republic. Something like that would be fine for me.

  • Barack Obama||

    Fascinating idea, tell me more of this "consituionally limited republic" idea of yours. I've never heard of such a thing.

  • Richard Cohen||

    Nor is there any reason for you to have heard of it. All of those "rights" are really just privileges, except for those that I like.

  • Suki||

    I read Chapman's article and did not see any of that in there.

  • cowardly commenter some guy||

    Mr Whipple couldn't wait for morning links, I guess.

  • DJF||

    One of the problems is that they have built a western styled Afghan military and security force without anyway for the Afghans to pay for it once NATO and the US leaves. It will collapse as soon as the money runs out.

  • Almanian||

    It will collapse as soon as the money runs out.

    Based on the US model, it can go on living for some decades after the money runs out...

  • ||

    In Afghanistan - Army shoots at NATO!
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....ml?hpid=z4

  • ||

    It will collapse long before the money runs out.

  • ||

    We should tell them that it's okay to grow poppies again. They'll make plenty of money, then.

  • Loki||

    If we really wanted to help them we would legalize heroine (and all other drugs of course) and then they'd at least have a viable cash crop that's not an entirely black market commodity.

    Hell, maybe the US government could purchase the bulk of the heroine they produce and use that to pay our congress-critters in lue of cash. At the very least C-SPAN would quickly become the most entertaining network on TV.

  • Metazoan||

    Besides, killing the price of drugs would kill the drug cartels, no?

  • UCrawford||

    The problem isn't just outsized ambitions, it's that nobody in charge (Bush and Obama) has ever clearly stated what it is that we're trying to achieve or defined what a victory would look like so it could be critically assessed. And this was intentional...Bush wouldn't do it because he knew that once you set a goal, you're held accountable if you fail to achieve it. Obama hasn't done it for almost the same reason...he inherited these wars and isn't willing to take the blame for "losing" the conflict like Nixon did with Vietnam. So we continue to pour money into a hole with no idea of why we're really there except to "stabilize" a country that would take about fifty years to show results. And the Afghans don't buy it anymore because every Afghan has seen ten rotations of units go through their country, each one with a different promise that they have no realistic chance of fulfilling.

  • UCrawford||

    Basically, our government is so caught up in spinning the right IO message that they've lost sight of the fact that 1) wars, even counterinsurgencies, still have to be won on results, and 2) if you don't have a goal or conditions for what constitutes victory, any results you achieve don't matter.

  • Almanian||

    "We have nothing but peaceful intentions in Kamchatka..."

  • MNG||

    I think it is plain that the Karzai government is corrupt and sucks. And we prop that government up, that can't not be noticed by the Afghan people. They experience this corrupt, awful goverment every day and see our guns backing it up.

    Notice that this problem would be here even if we were to, say, remove most of our troops and just support the government with special forces and air support.

    I'm not sure what to do. But I do think I know something that should HAVE been done, and that is when Karzai had that last disupted election we should have made them do it over.

  • UCrawford||

    The thing to do is leave. That's pretty much our only semi-good option on the table. That's why we're negotating with the Taliban now...we have no expectation they'll be any different than they were before, it's just so we can save face with some sort of agreement. There's no victory to be won there, just more cost.

    Once we leave Afghanistan, though, I fully expect our back and forth with Iran to die down a bit. Our proximity to them in Iraq and Afghanistan drove a lot of their frustrations with us. And it gave our Presidents enough false bravado to bang the war drums.

  • The Western World||

    Once we leave Afghanistan, though, I fully expect our back and forth with Iran to die down a bit.

    BUT TEH NOOKZ!!

  • MNG||

    "Once we leave Afghanistan, though, I fully expect our back and forth with Iran to die down a bit. Our proximity to them in Iraq and Afghanistan drove a lot of their frustrations with us."

    That's an excellent, insightful point, thanks.

  • UCrawford||

    Much appreciated. The Iranians really became an irritant while I was stationed over there once we squeezed Ismail Khan out of Herat, in the western areas. Previously, Khan had a good working relationship with the Iranians and did a lot of trade with them, but he tended to cause problems for the central government so he got removed. Khan had also kept our forces out of his area, Herat, so after he left we opened operations there and suddenly we started seeing an increase in reports of Iranians stirring up trouble. It made sense...if the Chinese suddenly got involved in the troubles in Ciudad Juarez and stationed several thousand troops on our southern border, we'd probably have something to say about it as well.

  • k2000k||

    It certainly will reduce our tensions with the Iranians, but tensions between Pakistan and Iran will rise. Few people remember that both those nations were fighting a covert war with one side baking the Northern Alliance, Iran, and Pakistan baking the Taliban.

  • UCrawford||

    You're right, of course...part of the reason Pakistan backed the Taliban was that they were simply following the strategy Britain and Russia started during the Great Game of turning Afghanistan into a ungovernable buffer between their territories. Personally, though, I don't really care if they go after each other. They're both dictatorships run by people who aren't friendly for us. Hell, given the choice between Pakistan and Iran, I'd rather be friends with the Iranians. They actually helped us after 9/11 by sharing real intelligence information, rather than simply hiding al-Qaeda in their country and feeding us a continual line of bullshit. They only became an adversary after Bush started his whole "Axis of Evil" bullshit, which was just about winning votes.

  • ||

    It won't reduce your tensions with the Iranians, because you back the Sauds who run a puritanically Sunni state and have been prime backers for the Taliban for 30 years.

  • UCrawford||

    We've been doing that for years and the Iranians moved towards a form of detente with us until Bush invoked the "Axis of Evil". Tensions really went up once we parked our forces on their eastern AND western borders...as did Iran's pursuit of a nuclear program. Without the fear of immediate ground invasion, there's less driving Iranian insecurity and less leverage for us to act belligerent.

  • UCrawford||

    Much appreciated. The Iranians really became an irritant while I was stationed over there once we squeezed Ismail Khan out of Herat, in the western areas. Previously, Khan had a good working relationship with the Iranians and did a lot of trade with them, but he tended to cause problems for the central government so he got removed. Khan had also kept our forces out of his area, Herat, so after he left we opened operations there and suddenly we started seeing an increase in reports of Iranians stirring up trouble. It made sense...if the Chinese suddenly got involved in the troubles in Ciudad Juarez and stationed several thousand troops on our southern border, we'd probably have something to say about it as well.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I think it is plain that the Karzai government is corrupt and sucks

    Yes, but a corrupt government alone is no guarantee of ultimate failure. South Korea's government was corrupt and autocratic for decades after the war.

  • Ghost of Choi Hong-Hi||

    Tell me about it.

  • UCrawford||

    Their government will ultimately fail once we leave. There's no popular support for it outside of Kabul. Even the Afghans in the rural areas who think Karzai is okay also think he's ineffectual and a weak leader. Karzai will be lucky if he avoids the fate of Najibullah once the Soviets left.

  • UCrawford||

    The difference between Afghanistan and Korea is this:

    1) Afghanistan's government can't provide stability. People will accept a government they don't particularly like if that government can keep things stable and quiet. Afghanistan's military is so inept at this point that there's no chance of that happening.

    2) There needs to be either an economy that will support eventual growth and prosperity (which South Korea had) or the country needs to be a client state of a bigger, more powerful country that can bail their economy out (like North Korea has with China). Once we leave Afghanistan, they don't have either the economy or the external support to win the population over. If India moved in once we left, I could see that changing, and Karzai has made friendly with them, but that's a longshot.

  • ||

    If India moved in once we left, I could see that changing,

    Given their history with Pakistan, I suspect the last thing the Indians want is to get tangled up with even crazier Muslims.

  • UCrawford||

    A lot of India is Muslim. Don't underestimate the nationalist antagonism between India and Pakistan. That actually trumps the Hindu v. Muslim factor.

  • Luke||

    I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the a certain segment of the population will happily justify any war conducted by the U.S, consequences be damned.

  • Fluffy||

    If the US was occupied by a Muslim power, on a day-to-day basis most people would keep their heads down and just try not to get shot.

    But if one day the soldiers of that Muslim power decided to burn a huge pile of American flags while taking shits on communion wafers, on that day there would probably be a riot.

    Strictly speaking, that would be stupid. Who cares about some pieces of cloth and some flour and water? And the press in the Muslim power would probably write a bunch of articles about how American "savages" valued meaningless symbols more than human life, because they were stuck in the mindset of a previous century.

    But that's how it works when you're the imperial power. You can keep people in line with force or the threat of force most of the time. But sometimes something trivial and symbolic will add just enough anger on the margin that people will riot.

  • Suki||

    So it takes a Muslim in the White House for Americans to riot over American flag burning? You set a high bar.

  • MNG||

    fluffy, or anyone, not asking this for any smartass reason, just actually curious: but how popular is the idea among Afghans that we are an occupier in the sense you are talking about?

  • Fluffy||

    I have to be honest and say that I don't know.

    But it's impossible to keep up endemic levels of violence without huge support numbers in the populace.

    Look at the Basques. Or the IRA. We know from historical analysis that support for the goals of these groups was very high in their target populations. But the level of violence they managed to achieve was much lower than what we're seeing in Afghanistan.

    That to me strongly implies that we're less popular in Afghanistan than the British were in Ireland prior to the Easter rebellion.

  • MNG||

    Noted.
    It's interesting because, as occupations go, it seems like ours is relatively (and I stress that word) benign. But it might go to show that to the occupied a benign occupation still is intolerable...

    It's a big mess.

  • WTF||

    Reg: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

  • UCrawford||

    It's not that our occupation is benign. It's that outside of the cities, the population is so dispersed that news travels slowly. We had villages who thought we were the Russians because they didn't know the war with the Soviets had ended.

  • Then ...||

    ... give every village a hand-cranked radio and GTFO.

  • UCrawford||

    We actually do that. :) It's part of the IO campaign...radios pre-tuned to government stations to control the message. But then you still have the problem where you still have to produce results that the people can actually benefit from for the message to stick.

  • N8||

    Most people I run into in Afghanistan are ambivalent. Granted, I'm not patrolling the countryside, but what I gather from those I know that do is that they're mostly just trying to keep their heads down. They are, however, a fairly easily influenced people, prone to switch allegiances. I would argue that in a a country with a different ruler every decade or so, being able to switch sides is basically a national survival trait...

  • UCrawford||

    Yup. They've seen so many rulers in their lifetime that they realize it's a bad idea to wholeheartedly buy into what any of them say. Most of the Afghans I met were pretty much the same as what you said...they try to stay out of it and try to live their lives. When they do pick sides, it's generally for whoever helps them the most in the short-term because Afghanistan hasn't had a long-term in decades.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    So imperialism explains why these retards go batshit crazy over cartoons of Mohammed?

    I think the simpler explanation is that they are just batshit crazy when it comes to their sky daddy.

  • MNG||

    I think fluffy's entire point that were we in a similar position we would go backshit crazy over what might seem like little things to.

    That's kind of how symbolism works...

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The entire point depends on imperialism as the cause. You think they wig out over cartoons of Mohammed because of imperialism?

  • ||

    We should para-drop issues of Playboy around the Afghan countryside -- their cartoons are pretty funny.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Symbols are for the symbol-minded" - George Carlin

    Remember:

    Draw a cartoon of Jesus, and Christians might write scathing letters to the local newspapers, or - the horror! - start a boycott or a picket-carrying campaign.

    Draw a cartoon of Mohammed, and Muslims start burning shit down and possibly killing people.

    BTW... why did Theo van Gogh "deserve" to die? I'm still puzzled over that.

  • ||

    Theo van Gogh? That fucking imperialist scum provoked the righteous ire of Islam! Why else?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Like I said... why did he deserve to die?

  • ||

    No kidding. I had something like the following conversation with a smart friend who thinks Americans are Islamophobic, when the Danish cartoon thing blew up:

    IA: I can't believe this primitive stuff.

    SF: Well, it's a basic tenet of their faith that images of Mohammed are temptations to idolatry.

    IA: Even satirical images?

    SF: Doesn't matter.

    IA: So, people have the right to first, invent a diety and a human spokesperson for it, and then tell ME I'm not allowed to render an image and call it by the name Mohammed?

    SF: Look! Zionists!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If the US was occupied by a Muslim power, on a day-to-day basis most people would keep their heads down and just try not to get shot.

    But if one day the soldiers of that Muslim power decided to burn a huge pile of American flags while taking shits on communion wafers, on that day there would probably be a riot.

    I don't think there's a scenario you can paint with the situations reversed like that and have Americans identify with it. I don't think most of us can wrap our heads around the first part. (And I think the kind of people in the U.S. that would uprise at the flag burning would already be going apeshit over the occupation.)

  • ||

    Duh.
    And if I was passing secret notes on flags, or Bibles, Constitutions, whatever - I wouldn't be terribly offended by those getting burnt.

  • UCrawford||

    Their views are a little different when it comes to the Koran versus ours and the Bible. To them, the physical book is holy and to desecrate it was an abomination. Similar to how the Jews viewed the Ark of the Covenant. You can certainly argue the wisdom of that view, but still it's what they believe. No more ridiculous than people who consider cows holy.

  • ||

    Their Korans weren't too holy for them to write notes in and pass to each other.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    +1 for Old Soldier.

  • UCrawford||

    You're right...but then I also never claimed there wasn't a double standard when it came to infidels. :)

  • Get real||

    But if one day the soldiers of that Muslim power decided to burn a huge pile of American flags while taking shits on communion wafers, on that day there would probably be a riot.

    Simply stupid.

    The riots start when they stop passing out money.

  • ||

    But if one day the soldiers of that Muslim power decided to burn a huge pile of American flags while taking shits on communion wafers, on that day there would probably be a riot.

    Maybe.

    But I think we have a long way to go as a society before we are so debased that we have riots continuously over weeks, with plenty of actual fatalities.

  • ||

    What a retarded hypothetical.

    If the US was occupied by a Muslim power that went out of its way to avoid any impact on our religious rights, burned Korans instead of allowing them to be distributed, tried to keep our roads open and our children in school while they trained Americans to help them fight a faction usually involved in throwing acid on little girls... most people would keep their heads down.

    And ONE DAY when the soldiers of that Muslim power irresponsibly disposed of a handful of American flags that had been used by the violent faction to pass messages while in prison...

    NO ONE WOULD DO A DAMN THING.

  • MNG||

    I'm generally opposed to the kind of massive military interventions that makes groups like John T. and his imaginary friends so excited, but I think Afghanistan is a bit more complicated than some of the sentiment expressed here. They certainly did stage, or allow to be staged, direct attacks on the US. There's a fair amount of evidence that the same faction could come back into power once we leave. It therefore seems at least plausible it would once again be used a staging ground...So what do we do? I grant what we are doing and have done seems, in true DC euphemism bs speak, to be "very problematic", but what is the alternative?

  • WTF||

    Good question. I think the only reasonable option is a punitive expedition: invade their country, destroy all their shit, kill all their leaders, and then get the fuck out with the warning if they or anyone else fucks with us again we will return with more of the same. The nation-building, 'let's turn them into a democracy' shit is where we get in trouble.

  • MNG||

    I see your point, but we kind of did that. We went in and dropped bunker busters on the Taliban and scatterd them into the wind in the Biblical sense...And yet, here they are knocking at the door again...I'm not sure a series of invasions is that much better than this crappy prolonged occupation...But I honestly don't know.

  • ||

    We didn't do the "get the fuck out" part. If we had left, the civil war we jumped into would have continued. If the Taliban started winning, we bomb or drop an Airborne Brigade to level it out. Then leave again.

    Instead we are building roads and schools for fucking savages.

  • UCrawford||

    The roads and infrastructure are a solid strategy for COIN operations so long as you're willing to spend 30-40 years fighting a war in the country and the accompanying resources to building civil institutions, which we aren't. Absent that dedication of time, building schools is just window dressing.

    I'll take issue with calling them savages. I met enough Afghans to know that most aren't really much different from us. They look out for their best interests the same as we do. They just don't see what we're doing over there as serving their best interests...and they aren't wrong.

  • UCrawford||

    The roads, though, are a good idea even in a short COIN conflict. It allows quicker access to remote areas for our forces and increases the ability of local forces to respond to threats. It also helps bolster internal and external trade within the country, not to mention that it gives us the chance to put locals to work (which cuts into the time they'd otherwise spend shooting at us). We tend to overlook the importance of roads in the U.S. because we've gotten so used to them that we take them for granted...they're quite a big deal over there. One of the few things we've done that actually helps both them and us.

  • UCrawford||

    As for how we prevent going back in, I don't think we need to now that bin Laden is gone. He was the cause of 9/11, not the Taliban. And the reason al-Qaeda had so much success was largely because of his personal charisma and resources, which his successors lack. Absent bin Laden, I don't see the Taliban as much of a threat to the U.S. And any agreement we make with the Taliban will probably include conditions or understandings about harboring international terrorists. The Taliban don't want us coming back any more than we want to come back.

  • ||

    Get the fuck out with the warning if they or anyone else fucks with us again we will return with more of the same.

    I'm not sure there will be another invasion. Maybe just a lot of stuff dropped from high altitude next time.

    We did the invasion to be nice. We've taken the easy route in the past, just ask the people of Tokyo and Dresden.

    Even for the neo-cons in the heady days of the Bush Administration, democracy was only a means to end, not an end itself.

    The end result where they don't harbor and support people who perpetrate terrorist attacks against the U.S. is the end itself.

    The Taliban was in a much better position--in charge of their own country--before September 11. They lost power because of what Osama bin Laden did--what they helped him do.

    If they learned a lesson from that, then Afghanistan wasn't a complete waste.

  • k2000k||

    I doubt relations between the Taliban and Al-Qaida are good considering that the US would've continued to ignore the Taliban if it were not for 9/11. That is what I really garner that we want from the talks. It has become all too obvious that the Afghans as a whole, for lack of a better word, want to live in a shit hole. If we can't stop them from being brutal to each other we can at least ensure, through promise of more violence, that they won't let their shit spill onto our soil.

  • ||

    I was recently talking to people from Montana about how much they resent people from Southern California moving up there en mass and telling them how to live their lives. I suspect the people of Afghanistan resent us telling them how to live even more than the people of Montana resent Southern Californians!

    I think you're right about the Taliban being pissed off at Al Qaeda. At least, if I were Sheik Omar, the first phone call I made to Osama bin Laden after the invasion, would have said, "Got any more bright ideas?!"

    They had control of the government and the country, and they gave it all up becasue of OBL's attack. I think OBL thought 9/11 would at best get US troops out of Saudi Arabia and retreat from the Middle East, or, at worst, he thought the mujahideen would win against the U.S. much like they won against the USSR.

    I think he thought we wouldn't dare invade Afghanistan.

  • UCrawford||

    He knew we'd invade Afghanistan. That's why he had Ahmad Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance assassinated the day before 9/11...he was the best local commander with the widest following and he didn't want us to have him as a resource when we went in.

    As for the point about resentment of outsiders moving in, David Kilcullen (who created a lot of the foundation for our COIN strategy) discusses that in his book "The Accidental Guerrilla". A lot of the people we fight over there are not fighting us because of Islam vs. Christianity, but because we've wandered into their space. Remove ourselves from the equation and a lot of that goes away. Too bad that our presidents tend to pick and choose what they hear and follow from that strategy.

  • ||

    That's why he had Ahmad Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance assassinated the day before 9/11...he was the best local commander with the widest following and he didn't want us to have him as a resource when we went in.

    I think that made it less likely we'd invade. Fewer assets and no obvious replacement for the Taliban's leadership could make it less likely...

    Regardless, it was a miscalculation on Osama bin Laden's part either way.

    We did leave Saudi Arabia though. And I think that's what he really wanted--to be the new leader of Saudi Arabia. We had our troops there to protect Saudi Arabia's oil, first from the Iranian Revolution and then from a belligerent Iraq.

    OBL thought we were there to protect the Saudi royalty from the Saudi people.

  • UCrawford||

    Agreed...definitely a miscalculation on bin Laden's part. Although as far as AQ's goals went, Saudi Arabia was only a stepping stone to a much more ambitious agenda. He did want to take the war to us and to conquer us for Islam. Of course he had about as much chance of that as I do of becoming Supreme Executive Overlord of the Universe.

  • ||

    He was wrong, and the Taliban knows that. If they get their power back, I suspect they'll do more to avoid provoking the United States.

    They won't be the first bunch to get smart about that!

    Elements that coalesced into Hezbollah got a whole lot smarter about attacking the U.S. after the Marine barracks bombing. When's the last time Hamas purposely hit a U.S. target? You can get away with a whole lot of shit if you just make a point of not targeting the U.S. specifically.

    We Americans already have an exaggerated definition of self-defense anyway. Actually attack us, and we'll all but destroy our giant economy to make the enemy wish they'd never been born--and half of us are convinced you're gonna thank us for invading you once it's over too!

  • ||

    A lot of people seem to think that if the Afghans don't end up eternally grateful to us for having invaded and occupied their country for ten years? Then somehow Afghanistan was a failure.

    But that's a really weird way to look at things. It's hard to imagine a former adversary being more amicably disposed towards the United States than Japan. But is it reasonable to expect the Japan to actually thank us for firebombing Tokyo? Is it reasonable--even as friendly with them as we are--to expect them to thank us for dropping nuclear bombs on them?

    It has to be possible to be successful in something like this--without the people we invaded and occupied being grateful for all the bombings and the bloodshed of an occupation.

  • ||

    Just because we came to imagine we were doing the best thing for the people of Afghanistan in the run up to the war--doesn't make it so. We shouldn't be running foreign policy on behalf of the people of Iraq or Afghanistan anyway.

    We should be working in our own best interests. No need to expect the victims to thank us in the end.

  • UCrawford||

    Most of the successful COIN operations our country has entered into in our history actually didn't end with gratitude from the locals or even an enduring stable government being built...because those aren't the point. We go into countries, mostly, because doing so serves a national security objective. The primary reason we intervened in Latin America during the Gunboat Diplomacy era was not so Haiti or the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua would have a good government, but because we didn't want the instability in those regions to create an excuse for the British, Germans or Russians to stick their noses in. That's what the Monroe Doctrine was all about...protecting our sphere of influence from potential existential threats. Whether it worked out for the locals was beside the point.

  • GILMORE||

    UCrawford|3.1.12 @ 10:55AM|#
    Most of the successful COIN operations our country has entered into ...

    uhm, what?

    Your example of Central American "gunboat diplomacy" / Haitian occupation, etc. were not 'Counter Insurgencies'

    Maybe the moro rebellion in the Philippenes could be considered... but in general, we're *never* fought a successful counter-insurgency.

  • UCrawford||

    Hate to break it to you, but yes they were. We fought insurgent groups...they were just local insurgencies, not trans-nationals.

    And, again, "success" depends on what you're trying to achieve. Our goal in those wars was never to set up stable governments and free oppressed people and spread democracy. It was to stabilize the area and deny (mainly) European powers the excuse to get involved and park their forces close to our shores. Which we did. You can certainly argue over whether that was the most efficient strategy we could have followed, but that was the strategy nonetheless. If you define success only in terms of "did it work out well for the locals" then you would be correct that we've never fought a successful counterinsurgency, but then you're also attacking a proposition that was never the policymakers' goal.

  • BakedPenguin||

    This is where I think conservatives are absolute idiots. If you don't think the government does a good job nation building domestically, how can you possibly believe that it can do so abroad?

  • MNG||

    I've always thought it was strange that they opposed government infrastructure programs...unless they were in another country.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I was thinking more about the "social engineering" aspect. A scumbag who thinks it's right to chop off the nose of a 13 year old rape victim isn't going to care for the finer points of civil society as we define it.

  • ||

    I've always thought it was strange that they opposed government infrastructure programs...unless they were in another country.

    I always thought it strange that the left opposed the Iraq War, but seemed to favor more or less the same thing at home.

    Forcing Iraqis to be free at the point of a gun = wrong, but forcing Americans to be free at the point of a gun = Barack Obama.

  • ChrisO||

    Telling them how to run their country is doomed to fail in the long run. I agree that there are no easy answers, and having to go in and bomb the shit out of the place every few years to "make a point" would be unfortunate.

    The reality is that the Pashtun tribal belt of Afghanistan and Pakistan is going to be a trouble spot for years to come.

  • ||

    Well, I won't go into the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi's... But if an Italian "Mafia" guy whacks somebody, we don't invade New Jersey

    Sure, Afghanistan could attack us with there intercontinential nuclear missiles, their transoceanic fleets of aircraft carriers with destroyer and submarine escorts, and their Marine apmpibious attack craft, their drones and B1 bombers, but we have..Wha!!?? They don't have any of that stuff!?
    Well, how are they gonna attack us?
    They apply for a visa. They buy a transoceanic airline ticket. They arrive in America. They buy another airline ticket. They craftily hide their box cutters, jump up, try and hijack the aircraft, and immediately get verylargeobjects shoved up their as*.
    Plan II - same as plan 1, but use guns. Few airline passensgers get shot dead, gun gets shoved up as* of hijacker....
    I just don't the need for war to deal with the problem...

  • ||

    "But if an Italian "Mafia" guy whacks somebody, we don't invade New Jersey..."

    If an Italian Mafia guy whacks more than 4000 people, we might.

  • MNG||

    "Telling them how to run their country is doomed to fail in the long run."

    Indeed, I think it has created a double problem though.

    We structured an election for them and they seemed to reject our favored candidate, but through fraud he took the election, and by our backing him we now own that. We should have made him re-do the election. It's like how you have no duty to a car crash victim that you pass on the road, but if you do stop and move him into a worse position then you do have a duty to him now...

  • UCrawford||

    If we'd done that, all that would have happened is Karzai's people would have turned on us and we still wouldn't have gotten credit for running a clean election. It would basically have been an admission (in the eyes of the locals) that the guy we've been backing for a decade is a crook, which would have called into question all of our other actions. Redoing the election was ethically the correct choice, but pragmatically unwise.

  • Allahu Akbar||

    This is like the worst chat room ever.

  • romulus augustus||

    No answers to Afghanistan? But Donderoooo has the answer! He just won't tell us what it is.

  • Sean Mack||

    "In Afghanistan, we originally failed to make the needed commitment to destroy the enemy, because President George W. Bush was distracted by his eagerness to invade Iraq. As a result, the Taliban survived and eventually mounted a major comeback."

    Journalists are fond of using language that describes institutions as individuals - it is such a loose and cheesy cliche.

    An individual can get "distracted" while looking for his keys and, say, forget to turn the stove on. The executive brach of government can't get "distracted" while planning to invade one country and forget it has a war going in another.

    Yet the author just springs from that lazy little formula right onto his preferred conclusion.

    So in case you'd been wondering folks: the Taliban came back because Bush was distracted. Call the case solved.

  • Fluffy||

    I think we have a basic labeling problem.

    We define anyone who takes any action against the occupation as a member of the Taliban.

    Is there institutional continuity between the Taliban that was governing Afghanistan (after a fashion) in 2001 and every last person who shoots at an American in Afghanistan in 2012? I really doubt it.

    So I agree that "the Taliban" didn't come back because "Bush was distracted".

    I think we utterly smashed the Taliban, but then hung around long enough for Afghanistan to do what Afghanistan does - get pissed at occupiers and shoot at them.

  • k2000k||

    At this point Taliban could simply mean the same thing as Mujahadeen. There is no guarantee that different 'taliban' groups wont fragment and start fighting each other once we leave.

  • GILMORE||

    (contd)

    ...and to this point = There is no guarantee that different 'taliban' groups wont fragment and start fighting each other once we leave

    To the contrary -- I'd say its pretty much guaranteed. Its what they were doing before we showed up!

  • GILMORE||

    Is there institutional continuity between the Taliban that was governing Afghanistan (after a fashion) in 2001 and every last person who shoots at an American in Afghanistan in 2012?

    Well, actually yes - there is some.

    you're broadly right that the guys who 'ran the country' (The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) 10+ years ago aren't 100% running the 'opposition'...but they do still exist, vis a vis the 'Quetta Sura'

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetta_Shura

    The distinction made about these fellas is that they are in fact ethnically afghan Pashtun, mostly from the kandahar area... while the other main 'Talban-ish bad guy' factions are from Pakistani Waziristan, Baluchistan, NWFP... specifically, the "Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan"/"Mehsudis", Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's crew, and 'The Haqqani network'. Its been claimed all 4 receive support from the ISI... but its unclear on some

  • UCrawford||

    Hekmatyar was on the outs with the Taliban prior to 9/11...he's just a political opportunist (even by Afghani standards) capitalizing on the lack of governance. The main guys in charge pre-9/11 were from Kandahar. The movement has changed quite a bit over the last 10 years. Some of them are fighting because they want to put the old guys back in charge, others are doing so because they want new guys in charge, some just because they don't want us or the people we like in charge.

  • GILMORE||

    (contd)

    So you've got 4 flavors of Afghan jihadi right there - but wait! There's more!

    You have leftovers from the Islamic Movement of Usbekistan up north... plus an assortment of regional Warlords who have essentially private armies... then you have an array of dope-smuggling power-brokers... then you have the seasonal independent Foreign Fighters from Central Asia, Chechnya, Pakistan, Arab countries... then you have the native afghans who will simply take potshots at americans or plant an IED if offered $20

    Another key distinction is that the Afghans considered themselves the legitimate exiled government; Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was competing for the same; the TTP could give a fuck about political rule, and just wants to jihad themselves some infidels.

  • UCrawford||

    Missed this second post of yours before I posted mine. Good breakdown.

  • Loki||

    You know what they say, "when religion ruled the world it was called the dark ages." Usually that phrase is used to bash Christianity, but in most of the middle east, religion still rules and they're still in the dark ages. Although we're probably not supposed to point that out since the religion in question is Islam, "the religion of peace" instead of Christianity.

  • ||

    Actually, religion ruled Europe during the Middle Ages. Nothing really ruled the Europe for long during the Dark Ages and there were a variety of religions practiced.

  • ||

    Afghanistan is a medieval country that we can barely begin to understand.

    No. Afghanistan is a medieval county in which barely they can fucking understand. These are some stupid backwards fucking people. Any group that would stone its own daughters over honor is likely very low on the IQ scale. The west has its pathologies, of which I've bemoaned, ad nausuem, on these pages. But it there is an equivalent for societies self acutualizing, these fucks are still fighting over shit like food and shelter. Today, in America, I stocked 6 different fucking brands of white rice. Not to mention pre-cooked rice, Rice-a-Roni, brown rice, products with lots of rice in them..... you get my point. We killed that cocksucker who caused those people to leap out of the twin towers to their deaths.

  • ||

    Let's just the fuck out of this backward place and let them have their fucking shithole of an existence to themselve.

  • ||

    And I will promise to try to get my posts out before the 4th shot of jager.

  • ||

    Why do you hate my Freedumb??

  • ||

    Oh, And thanks WI for this fucking character limit. I hope you get the most painful cancer there is that can be easily treated by modern science so I can keep it from from and dangle it in front of your fucking piehole.

  • k2000k||

    Wait, you just gave me an idea? Since there is no real government throughout most of Afghanistan wouldn't WI be free to gambol to his hearts content?

  • ||

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  • NeonCat||

    Cool story, sis.

  • Christina||

    My BFF is half-Afghan. Her dad came over in the early 70s with a few dollars in his pocket and built up a fortune though real estate and restaurants. (He opened the first Afghan restaurant in the DC area. Yum!) He is not some tribal goon. His father worked for the king who was deposed. He speaks Farsi, not Pashtun. And he is decidedly NOT religious.

    When we were 18 my friend started dating a boy whose parents also came from Afghanistan, but were members of the Uzbek ethnic group. Her father, who had never given a rip about her boyfriends before, told my friend that she had to stop dating that boy or she would be disowned by her grandmother. Apparently Uzbeks are considered backwards by other Afghans. They are so primitive that they only recently started writing their language. God, can you imagine being so medieval that Afghans think you're a hillbilly?

  • Marian Kechlibar||

    It is not just the Afghans. Even the glorious people of Kazakhstan think that Uzbeks are assholes!

  • Realist||

    Americans must die for the freedom of goat fuckers.

  • ||

    Sir, I may object to the fat ugley goat you picked to f*ck, but I will defend to the death your right ot f*ck it...

  • ||

    So why are we still there again?

    www.Went-Anon.tk

  • ||

    When was the last time anyone saw riots and bloodshed over a Bible-burning?

  • ||

    1566?

  • ||

    Has anyone mentioned that the act of burning books, PERIOD, is an egregiously barbaric and tyrranical act? If you do not like certain ideas, the civilised and rational thing to do is develop a beeter argument for your ideas. Burning the repository of those ideas can only be followed by burning the originators of those ideas. It's been done before (see: Nazi Germany).

  • GILMORE||

    a beeter argument

    Is that the kind where you put nails through the end of a 2x4 and whack people with it? I also find it a compelling debate-resolver.

  • cynical||

    I know. Now, thanks to the evil American empire, no one can get a copy of the Quran in Afghanistan. I suppose Islam will die out there soon.

  • UCrawford||

    They weren't fighting the ideas in the books, they were simply disposing of defaced books that had been provided to prisoners. The main sticking point is that our soldiers did so in an impolitic manner. It's got nothing to do with the Nazis.

  • ||

    I never quite get why people who despise the religious at home as ignorant, anachronistic stooges suddenly swell with such empathy for the religious abroad, who are actually perpetrating violence. If I have to hear one more time the litany of reasons why Islam and the mindless fanaticism of its followers is not the cause of Islamic violence, I'm going to shoot the person making the argument in the face and justify it with my deep reverence for J.R. Dobbs.

    Is it really so inconceivable that these primitive troglodytes get pissed off enough about religious books that they will kill? Blame it on the "occupation" if you want, but they would do the exact same thing to their children if they committed the same violation of their religion.

  • ||

    A-stan is a miserable pile of rocks peopled by primitives. Let's get out.
    If we ever feel the urge to come back, let's do it in B-52s.

  • ||

    The same strategy that we should have applied in Vietnam should be applied here. Kill them all and let Allah sort them out. We could bomb them back to the stone age but that is only two weeks ago.

  • ||

    As expected, the politicians (who get money from the military industrial complex) say our military actions are making us safe and are making progress. In the meantime, our soldiers on the ground tell us the people there don't like us, they are corrupt (as is Karzai our supposed "puppet") and our presence there is fueling the insurgency and anti-American hatred.

    In other words, our military spending (supported by our politicians) is endangering our national security. After all, 9/11 was blowback from our previous military and political meddling in the middle east.

    It's no wonder our troops overwhelmingly support Ron Paul for president.

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