A heavily armored truck in Afghanistan has stenciled on its windshield, “hallelujah, lock and load” and next to it is stenciled, “Never going home.” Such is the life of American fighting men and women in Afghanistan, trying their best to find the ever elusive Taliban who know enough to avoid fighting with Americans. They slink away into darkness, they make certain it is not American soldiers they are engaged in a fire fight with, and they prefer planting bombs on roads when no one is around. Actually, it is an effective strategy for guerrilla forces, don’t engage in direct action and wear the energy down of your opponents. Eventually, they will get tired and go home. The New York based 10th Mountain Division is stationed near Kabul, but has difficulty even getting into any fights with Taliban forces. “It’s more like playing dodge ball,” says Captain McCuney.
The main activity of platoons is checking out villages. As they enter children run to them, sent by parents to check out strangers, and then fathers follow to engage in conversations. Few villagers hide the fact the Taliban is nearby. Most villagers tell the Americans the Taliban goes on patrols just like their opponents.
All too frequently, American soldiers encounter villagers who most probably prefer the Taliban and their strict Sharia law. Oh well, it is 2025, and the daily check of villagers goes on and on.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged military leaders to focus on current needs rather than speculating about possible future scenarios. “I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called Next-War-itis– the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in future conflict.” He wants expensive futuristic weapons put on the shelf in order to focus on wars in Iraq and Afghansitan. He was particularly concerned about comments regarding over-extending American armed forces to such an extent the nation would not be able to handle future conflicts. “The risk of overextending the army is real. But I believe the risk is far greater–to that institution as well as to our country– if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.”
In a sense, Secretary Gates raises important issues, but he continues the mistake of discussing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of “winning” and “losing” as though the United States is involved in a war with a recognized government. At present, the Bush administration does not have any concept as to what would constitute “victory.” These wars will not be “won” by military action, they will resolved through political and diplomatic actions. Gates discussed problems stemming from Iran supplying weapons to militants even though Iran has excellent relations with the current Iraq government. Engaging Iran on a diplomatic level is part of the solution, not the problem.
Demonstrators calling for U.S. troops to withdraw from the Philippines protested th start of joint militay operations in which thousands of Ameican troops work with Filipino soldiers in the southern region of the country in order to deal with Muslim insurgent groups. The two week drills — shoulder to shoulder” bring together 6,000 American and 2,000 Filipino troops who are battling militants from the Abu Sayyaf and its allies. Rallies against the Americans were held all over the Philippines but they constituted only a few hundred people engaged in protests. It is against Philippine law for troops from foreign nations to participate in military action on their soil. The American troops are restricted to humanitarian efforts such as medical activities or working on construction of schools. Some villagers claim they witnessed Americans engaged in military action, but this is strongly denied by both US and Filipino sources.
America most probably employs a “soft approach” in the Philippines in dealing with militants but there mere presence is used to stir up anger. One can only wonder why the United States does not have civilians engage in these peaceful acitivities and remove the entire issue of military engagement.
Posted in Asia, Human Rights, Military, Multicultural, Peace, Politics, United States, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged mlitants, Philippines, US Army
The ongoing strain of constant deployments, re-deployments takes a toll on many brave members of the military. All told, there were 4,698 soldiers who were classified as deserters, a 42.3 percent increase over the previous year when 4,399 deserted. In a rather surprising aspect of the desertion rate, about 63.6% of this year’s desertions occurred from April through September. Marine desertions rates fell but it is the United States Army which has borne the greatest burden in fighting the Iraq war. Soldiers must spend a fifteen month tour in Iraq, return home for 12 months, and then are sent back for an additional 15 months. Lawrence Korb, a former member of the Pentagon during the Reagan administration notes, “It’s a combination of not enough dwell time, and having to go back to the war as well as the type of people you’re taking in.” In an effort to boost recruiting, the Army has given waivers to 11.6 percent of new recruits.
War is not pretty and war creates tensions ordinary humans do not like to confront. There have been desertions in all wars and as long as people fight one another, some will opt out of the conflict. There is o question the strain of returning over and over is simply too much for many members of the military, particularly those with families who have been compelled to witness their civilian careers get torn to pieces.
Posted in George Bush, Human Rights, Iraq, Iraq War, Military, Peace, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged Iraq War, Military desertion, US Army