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Obama’s Afghanistan Review: A Whitewash of a Disastrous Occupation

According to the Obama administration, nothing can happen in the U.S. war in Afghanistan that doesn’t mean good news.
 
 
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Apparently nothing can happen in the U.S. war in Afghanistan that doesn’t mean good news. If violence rises, it’s because “we’re taking the fight to the enemy.”  The Pentagon must be taking a lot of fighting to whoever they’re calling the enemy – this year alone the war has killed over 2500 Afghan civilians, and almost 500 U.S. troops and more than 200 other NATO forces have died too.  Of course in those isolated areas where violence may have dropped, it’s because “our strategy is winning.” 

President Obama’s most recent Afghanistan review process resulted – surprise! – in the announcement that the U.S./NATO occupation will continue at least until 2014.  Another four years of war, death, and devastation for the people of Afghanistan, as well as for the young U.S. soldiers drafted by poverty and lack of opportunity and sent to kill and die there in escalating numbers.   

That earlier promise of July 2011 as the pull-out date?  That one was always at least partially a sham – designed to pacify Obama’s powerfully anti-war base.  The language even when first announced was a carefully ambiguous version that sounded like “July 2011 will start a process to determine whether conditions might allow preparation for beginning consideration of when the partial transfer of some control to Afghan forces might allow for a partial withdrawal of a few U.S. troops…” 

As is recognized by the 60% of people in the U.S. who understand that the war in Afghanistan is “not worth fighting,” this is a war we cannot win and cannot afford. There is no military solution – we’ve heard that for years now, from the very leaders orchestrating the war, in the Pentagon, in Congress, in the White House.  And yet, the military battle goes on, despite its inevitable failure. 

And the cost continues to rise, exacting a huge price from U.S. taxpayers.  The 2010 military budget plus the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled over one TRILLION dollars – an amount so huge we can’t even comprehend it.  Here’s one slightly smaller, that maybe we can grasp. Just the cost of President Obama’s escalation this last year, those additional 30,000 troops, was over $33 billion.  That money could instead have been used to create 600,000 new green middle-class jobs here at home – and still had $3 billion left over to help with the rebuilding of post-occupation Afghanistan.  Wouldn’t those 60% of Americans who think the war is not worth fighting have preferred to use the money for jobs instead of war? 

President Obama told us the military is succeeding in its mission to “disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy” al Qaeda.  And yet the CIA and other intelligence agencies acknowledge there are somewhere between 50 and 100 al Qaeda operatives even in Afghanistan.  So we’ve sent 100,000 troops to wage war against the insurgents in Afghanistan who aren’t al Qaeda. Do they really believe that al Qaeda-style terrorism really requires large swathes of territory?  They’re not training up battalions of soldiers who need to practice. All they really need are a few garage-sized labs and an Internet café with a fast connection. 

As is true in any guerrilla war, the insurgents will fade before massed conventional forces, only to reappear when those forces move on.  “Clearing” an area of the Taliban or other Afghan opposition forces is relatively easy; “holding” the area, not so much. And “building” – that’s pretty much off the agenda altogether. Why?  It has a lot to do with the Afghan government, as well as the Afghan National Army and National Police.  We hear a lot about how we’re making improvements in their recruitment and training, how they’re gaining skills and capacity every day.  That’s probably all true.  (Recruitment is fairly easy in a country with such pervasive unemployment.)   

 
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