Whac-A-Mole war 1

Knock ’em down here, they pop up there! There is no way the ‘coalition forces’ – ie the US and Britain – can win the war in Afghanistan, or make the Afghans peaceful and democratic, or bring relief to their appallingly maltreated women and girls.

The war long since ceased to be for the cause of revenge and punishment. Those aims were accomplished early on. It has become a war of philanthropy. But it is not the business of nations to make other nations happy and good.

Having to accept that others ‘do it all wrong’ and there’s nothing you can do to put them right may be hard, but it’s an essential lesson that the well-meaning have to learn.

Christopher Booker writes in the Telegraph:

As both Britain and America are plunged into an orgy of tortured introspection over what we are doing in Afghanistan, a further very important factor needs to be fed into the discussion, because it helps to explain not only why we have got into such a tragic mess but also why our armed intervention in that unhappy country is doomed.

What we are hardly ever told about Afghanistan is that it has been for 300 years the scene of a bitter civil war, between two tribal groups of Pashtuns (formerly known as Pathans). On one side are the Durranis – most of the settled population, farmers, traders, the professional middle class. On the other are the Ghilzai, traditionally nomadic, fiercely fundamentalist in religion, whose tribal homelands stretch across into Pakistan as far as Kashmir.

Ever since Afghanistan emerged as an independent nation in 1709, when the Ghilzai kicked out the Persians, its history has been written in the ancient hatred between these two groups. During most of that time, the country has been ruled by Durrani, who in 1775 moved its capital from the Ghilzai stronghold of Kandahar up to Kabul in the north. Nothing has more fired Ghilzai enmity than the many occasions when the Durrani have attempted to impose their rule from Kabul with the aid of “foreigners”, either Tajiks from the north or outsiders such as the British, who invaded Afghanistan three times between 1838 and 1919 in a bid to secure the North-west Frontier of their Indian empire against the rebellious Ghilzai.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, after years of Durrani rule, it was to support a revolutionary Ghilzai government. But this new foreign presence inspired general Afghan resistance which was why, by the late 1980s, the Americans were supporting the almost entirely Ghilzai-run Taleban and their ally Osama bin Laden. In 1996 the Taleban-Ghilzai got their revenge, imposing their theocratic rule over almost the whole country. In 2001, we invaded to topple the Taleban, again imposing Durrani rule, now under the Durrani President Karzai.

As so often before, the Ghilzai have seen their country hijacked by a Durrani regime, supported by a largely Tajik army and by hated outsiders from the West. One reason why we find it so hard to win “hearts and minds” in Helmand is that we are up against a sullenly resentful population, fired by a timeless hatred and able to call on unlimited support, in men and materiel, from their Ghilzai brothers across the border in Pakistan.

Only in towns such as Sanguin and Garmsir are there islands of Durrani, willing to support the Durrani government in distant Kabul. No sooner have our forces “secured” a village from the Taleban, than their fighters re-emerge from the surrounding countryside to reclaim it for the Ghilzai cause. Without recognising this, and that what the Ghilzai really want is an independent “Pashtunistan” stretching across the border, we shall never properly understand why, like so many foreigners who have become embroiled in Afghanistan before, we have stumbled into a war we can never hope to win.

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Islam, United Kingdom, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Sunday, November 15, 2009

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While Obama dithers 0

Obama’s effect as Commander-in-Chief is the profound – and ultimately incapacitating? –  demoralization of the troops in Afghanistan.

He doesn’t know what they’re fighting for, so neither do they.  Some (including General McChrystal) think that their mission is ‘to help Afghanistan’. But the people of Aghanistan didn’t ask for their help and don’t seem to want it.

From The Times (London):

American soldiers serving in Afghanistan are depressed and deeply disillusioned, according to the chaplains of two US battalions that have spent nine months on the front line in the war against the Taleban. Many feel that they are risking their lives — and that colleagues have died — for a futile mission and an Afghan population that does nothing to help them, the chaplains told The Times in their makeshift chapel on this fortress-like base in a dusty, brown valley southwest of Kabul.

“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families,” said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion. “They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern,” said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion. “They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through.” The chaplains said that they were speaking out because the men could not. …

Several men approached by The Times, however, readily admitted that their morale had slumped. “We’re lost — that’s how I feel. I’m not exactly sure why we’re here,” said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, whose closest friend was shot dead by a renegade Afghan policeman last Friday. “I need a clear-cut purpose if I’m going to get hurt out here or if I’m going to die.”

Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: “If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don’t.” The only soldiers who thought it was going well “work in an office, not on the ground”. In his opinion “the whole country is going to s***”.

The battalion’s 1,500 soldiers are nine months in to a year-long deployment that has proved extraordinarily tough. Their goal was to secure the mountainous Wardak province and then to win the people’s allegiance through development and good governance. They have, instead, found themselves locked in an increasingly vicious battle with the Taleban.

They have been targeted by at least 300 roadside bombs, about 180 of which have exploded. Nineteen men have been killed in action, with another committing suicide. About a hundred have been flown home with amputations, severe burns and other injuries likely to cause permanent disability, and many of those have not been replaced. More than two dozen mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been knocked out of action. …

Most of the men are on their second, third or fourth tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, with barely a year between each. Staff Sergeant Erika Cheney, Airborne’s mental health specialist, expressed concern about their mental state — especially those in scattered outposts … “They’re tired, frustrated, scared. A lot of them are afraid to go out but will still go,” she said. …

The men are frustrated by the lack of obvious purpose or progress. “The soldiers’ biggest question is: what can we do to make this war stop. Catch one person? Assault one objective? Soldiers want definite answers, other than to stop the Taleban, because that almost seems impossible. It’s hard to catch someone you can’t see,” said Specialist Mercer.

It’s a very frustrating mission,” said Lieutenant Hjelmstad. “The average soldier sees a friend blown up and his instinct is to retaliate or believe it’s for something [worthwhile], but it’s not like other wars where your buddy died but they took the hill. There’s no tangible reward for the sacrifice. It’s hard to say Wardak is better than when we got here.”

Captain Masengale, a soldier for 12 years before he became a chaplain, said: “We want to believe in a cause but we don’t know what that cause is.”

The soldiers are angry that colleagues are losing their lives while trying to help a population that will not help them. “You give them all the humanitarian assistance that they want and they’re still going to lie to you. They’ll tell you there’s no Taleban anywhere in the area and as soon as you roll away, ten feet from their house, you get shot at again,” said Specialist Eric Petty, from Georgia.

Captain Rico told of the disgust of a medic who was asked to treat an insurgent shortly after pulling a colleague’s charred corpse from a bombed vehicle.

The soldiers complain that rules of engagement designed to minimise civilian casualties mean that they fight with one arm tied behind their backs. “They’re a joke,” said one. “You get shot at but can do nothing about it. You have to see the person with the weapon. It’s not enough to know which house the shooting’s coming from.”

The soldiers joke that their Isaf arm badges stand not for International Security Assistance Force but “I Suck At Fighting” or “I Support Afghan Farmers”.

To compound matters, soldiers are mainly being killed not in combat but on routine journeys, by roadside bombs planted by an invisible enemy. “That’s very demoralising,” said Captain Masengale. …

The chaplains said that many soldiers had lost their desire to help Afghanistan. …

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Defense, Islam, jihad, Muslims, News, Terrorism, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Monday, October 26, 2009

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