No end in sight 88

“Three months after 9/11, every major Taliban city in Afghanistan had fallen – first Mazar-i-Sharif, then Kabul, finally Kandahar. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were on the run. It looked as if the war was over, and the Americans and their Afghan allies had won,”  ABC news reminded America on May 31, 2010. The war was then in its 104th month, and had become America’s longest, if the Cold War isn’t counted. (Vietnam, the next longest, lasted 103 months.)

ABC did not add that that was when America should have got out; which it should have, with a warning that if any American or American interest were attacked again by terrorists based in Afghanistan, all hell would be loosed on it – a threat that should of course have been carried out if the warning had not been heeded.

The war is now in its 110th month. It’s been dragging on for more than 9 years.

Yesterday, December 14, 2010, the New York Times reported, under the headline Intelligence Reports Offer Dim Views of Afghan War:

The findings in the reports [one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan], called National Intelligence Estimates, represent the consensus view of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies, as opposed to the military, and were provided last week to some members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

They were described to the NYT “by a number of American officials who read the reports’ executive summaries”.

The military objects to the findings.

Pentagon and military officials …  say the reports were written by desk-bound Washington analysts who have spent limited time, if any, in Afghanistan and have no feel for the war. …

The dispute “reflects the longstanding cultural differences between intelligence analysts, whose job is to warn of potential bad news, and military commanders, who are trained to promote ‘can do’ optimism”, and it also “reflects how much the debate in Washington over the war is now centered on whether the United States can succeed in Afghanistan without the cooperation of Pakistan”.

After years and billions spent trying to win the support of the Pakistanis, [military commanders] are now proceeding on the assumption that there will be limited help from them. The American commanders and officials readily describe the havens for [Taliban] insurgents in Pakistan as a major impediment to military operations. … American officials say Pakistan supports the insurgents as a proxy force in Afghanistan, preparing for the day the Americans leave.

But the US continues to send Pakistan about $2 billion in military and civilian aid each year.

You’re not going to get to the point where the Taliban are gone and the border is perfectly controlled,” said Representative Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat who serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in an interview on Tuesday.

Mr. Smith … predicted that Democrats in Congress would resist continuing to spend $100 billion annually on Afghanistan.

“We’re not going to be hanging out over there fighting these guys like we’re fighting them now for 20 years,” Mr. Smith said.

Fifteen years? Ten? Five? One? Why even one more day?