Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Hillary Stirs Canadian Pot

It was not the most productive political trip for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who wandered up north to Canada where she proceeded to inform its government and people about her ideas on a variety of topics ranging from abortion to Afghanistan. The Canadian government recently made clear it was withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan by 2011 and Clinton proceeded to urge the government to retain its soldiers in the mountains of that far off land. But, Hillary was not finished. At a meeting to deal with topics of maternal healthcare, she told the assembled leaders, “you cannot have reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions.” A wise diplomat knows better than to publicly ask a question that will only produce an answer not desired. This is not effective diplomacy.

The reality is more and more world leaders are tired of Afghanistan. How do they support an Afghan government which recently invited Iran President Ahmadinejad to their capital for extended discussions when this goon is assaulting innocent Iranian students in his own streets? Until President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton can control President Karzai, why should anyone remain in Afghanistan?

Obama In Kabul–To Shoot The Bull Or Take It By Horns?

President Obama made a surprise visit to Kabul and the jury is still open as to whether he is engaging in another bull session with President Karzai in which the Afghan leader makes vague promises which are shortly forgotten or whether Afghans are told what must be done–or else! General Jim Jones, a military adviser to the president told the media things were now different from the Bush era in which no pressure was ever exerted on Afghans. He assured one and all the president was going to make clear about new action such as a “merit based system of key government officials, battling corruption, taking the fight to the narco-traffickers which fuel the economic energy of the insurgents” and dramatic evidence the era of “talk and promises” was over.

We wish Obama luck on this approach, but we trust he understands that one more meeting about things which will never happen in the future is simply one more wasted opportunity for success.

Gee-Do They Grow Opium In Afghanistan?

During the past several years this blog has been urging an end to destroying opium crops in Afghanistan in order to win support of farmers. Apparently the unofficial word in the American military is to end the “eradication” program of destroying opium which has only resulted in gaining new support for the Taliban. General Stanley McChyrstal made it clear to everyone by emphasizing, “U.S. forces no longer eradicate.” At a time when drug lords kill American citizens in border areas, it is unusual to find pictures of American soldiers in Afghanistan walking past fields flush with the latest opium crop. Ironically, the government of Afghanistan is not thrilled with the new policy, but, they rarely receive enthusiastic support from their own people.

The basic argument of those who want to eradicate fields of opium is that the Taliban intimidate farmers and thus gain money to support their military activities. A simple solution is having the United States purchase the entire opium crop. Of course, an even better idea would be to legalize drugs in America and have the government handle selling of drugs. But, that is too logical for modern America.

McChrystal Campaign Strategy In Afghanistan

After nearly nine years of war and the introduction of numerous “winning strategies,” it is difficult to evaluate if the latest one will actually work-for longer than a few months. General Stanley McChrystal explained the strategy to be employed in the coming offense in Khandahar. It will be a combination of both military and political strategies which will slowly unfold. Among the key components of the approach will be “working with political leaders to tyy to get san outcome that makes sense.” He does expect a closer working relationship with the Afghan National Police in order to ensure continuity after conclusion of the military campaign.

The strategy to be employed is interesting, but hardly a new one. Variations of ideas put forth by the general have previously been used and the end result was invariably a return to what was rather than introducing what will become. We will wait to see what becomes or doesn’t become.

Khandahar Is Not Far Away For Fighting

The fight for Marjah is now completed and Taliban forces have been driven from the city limits after a few weeks of intensive fighting. General McChrystal was not pleased the battle took so long, but was glad that civilian casualties were low compared to initial fears of massive deaths. About 19 civilians died during the struggle, some from Allied forces and some from Taliban fire. In one sense, Marjah was the opening shots in the real battle which will occur when Allied troops challenge the Taliban in their spiritual capital of Khandahar. The fight for that city will require time and there will be more deaths on all sides.

President Obama promised more troops for Afghanistan and they will all be in place this summer for the fight in Khandahar. The real issue is whether such fights and “victories” resolve the problem of violence in Afghanistan or do they simply delay issues. In the end, all such wars must be resolved at the bargaining table, not in the field of war.

Laundryman In Charge Of Helmand Province?

American Marines, British soldiers and members of the Afghan army just fought their way into the city of Marjah in Helmand province in order to drive out the Taliban and secure the area for civilian life. Abdul Zahir has been appointed governor of the province as part of a plan to assure those who were under Taliban authority and are now free that a competent government was in place that would ensure restoration of facilities. It turns out that Mr. Zahir has a criminal record stemming from his fifteen years in Germany during which time he stabbed his own son. Of course, Mr. Zahir proclaims, “I was not a killer. I didn’t commit a crime.” Of course not, he was simply imposing discipline on a boy, what else does one do, but stick a knife into him?

However, having spent time in jail is not the worst of crimes, just examine members of the US Congress. But, we assume Mr. Zahir’s years of experience working in a laundry room does justify placing him in an important government position. At least he has clean hands which is more than some members of Congress can say. The good news concerning this appointment is a comment from Waheed Omar, who speaking for the president, said he was not familiar with the background of a guy who now will play a key government role in his country. Oh well, at least Zahir can wash out the dirty spots in Helmand province.

Is Europe Losing Patience With Afghanistan?

The divide between American policy in Afghanistan and nations of Europe apparently is growing wider as witness the collapse of the Netherlands government over this issue. Durch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende declared the end of his coalition government over the issue of whether 2,000 Dutch troops should be evacuated from Afghanistan. Twenty one Dutch soldiers have died in the Afghan war, but the entire process of war and conflict has made most people tired and seeking an end to the conflict. The Dutch withdrawal has simply added fuel to the issue in nations like Germany where the Afghanistan war simply lacks popularity. The Suddellutsche Zeitung wrote: “The alliance no longer seems able to muster and preserve unity without which the war will scarcely be winnable…This shows that the public and politicians are losing patience with the Afghanistan mission.”

Ironically, the war in the United States, aside from such institutions as Fox News and right wing pundits, is not very popular. Obama fears ending the mission for fear of being lambasted by Fox News. Fortunately, in Germany there is no such TV station.

Dutch Dodge Dutch Treat In Afghanistan

The price of George Bush’s inaction in Afghanistan continues to plague the current situation and impacts those nations which seek to restore some semblance of stability to the divided nation. The Dutch government has collapsed over the issue as to whether their troops should remain in Afghanistan past the original 2010 deadline. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the Labor Party which is part of his coalition has refused to serve in a government which allows their troops to remain in Afghanistan past the original deadline. There are only 2,000 Dutch troops in the country and they mainly focus on economic development, but they are part of the promised 10,000 additional troops promised to the Americans.

Reality is the difficulty to secure an extra 10,000 NATO troops from nations which have waited for a decade to witness the establishment of a stable government in Afghanistan. Reality is President Karzai will never be the one to accomplish that goal and sending troops to fight for a corrupt, inefficient leader is no guarantee of success. Perhaps, it is time to cut the string and allow Karzai to handle the situation, or in failing to do so, step aside and allow a Cabinet of honest technocrats to deal with problems.

Fighting The Right War–Slowly

The war in Afghanistan is proceeding at a much slower pace than most previous wars because of caution on the part of American soldiers to avoid killing innocent civilians. Some soldiers complain the rules of engagement require the enemy to initially fire before they can retaliate. Some soldiers claim a Taliban militant can fire at them, put down his weapon and walk away into a crowd of civilians without being shot. Cpl. Travis Anderson told a reporter, “I understand the reasons behind it, but it’s so hard to fight a war like this. They’re using our rules of engagement against us.” Military officials argue killing civilians or destroying property only results in greater anger and recruitment for the Taliban of disgruntled civilians. It was public anger in Afghanistan which led General McChrystalto tighten the rules of warfare.

The new rules require soldiers to post some questions such as: even if someone shot in my direction, am I still in danger, will I make more enemies if I destroy property or are there alternatives to dealing with the problem other than shooting weapons?

As is so often said, war is hell, but in Afghanistan, war is peace.

A New Offense In Afghanistan

President Obama went along with recommendations from General McChyrstal about the need for 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan in order to complete the job of wiping out the Taliban. American soldiers, along with Afghan troops, are presently conducting a large operation near the town of Lashkar Gah which is held by the Taliban. The Taliban is preventing any of the 80,000 people from fleeing, and undoubtedly many will die when American and Afghan soldiers open fire on the town. The town is noted as a center of opium trading, and within hours or days the population will be subject to artillery fire and soldiers entering the town in order to kill the Taliban. The message to the Afghan people is to keep your heads down and stay inside.

The issue is not whether US and Afghan troops will be able to gain control of the town. That is a certainty. The issue is whether dozens of innocent civilians will die. This may well be one of those “victories” which gains the town and strengthens the power of the Taliban.

Oh, by the way, where is Rush and Glenn and when will they blast Obama for not supporting our troops? On the other hand, does “support our troops” mean get them out of harm’s way and send them home?