Friday, August 1, 2008

Why is Afghanistan suddenly in the news again?

Don't Panic! ... Your war questions answered

by ANDISHEH NOURAEE



I try not to watch TV news, but sometimes it's on in stores or other people's houses and I get sucked in. Whether it's Fox or CNN, it inevitably pisses me off.

More than anything, the thing that gets my goat is that there are still people getting paid to sound smart on TV who insist Bush's leadership of the War On Terror™ has been a great success.

In recent weeks, these people keep crediting Bush for reducing violence in Iraq via the so-called troop surge in Iraq. They play up the U.S. Army's tactical successes while ignoring other important factors like Sunni Arab Iraqis turning against al-Qaeda, or the cease-fire by Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite militia leader.

Believing the surge has been successful does not make someone a hack, a rube or a liar. Honest people can debate the relative importance of the numerous factors that have led to the reduction of violence in Iraq.

There are two traits, however, that set Bush Or Bust fantasists apart from respectable humans:

1) The failure to acknowledge the magnitude of the horror that preceded the recent reduction in violence.

Bush's act-first, think-later invasion of Iraq unleashed a civil war that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and wounded while triggering a sectarian cleansing campaign that forced millions more out of their homes and into slums around Iraq, as well as neighboring Syria and Jordan. Violence is down in Iraq in large part because the sectarian cleansing campaign was successful. That's not victory. It's criminal negligence.

2) The failure to acknowledge that the growing disaster in Afghanistan is largely the result of Bush's foolish invasion of Iraq.

The War On Terror™ was supposed to be a battle against the people and the political conditions responsible for 9/11.

That attack happened the way it did because al-Qaeda terrorists were able to operate largely unmolested in the Pashtun tribal areas straddling the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda was given critical assistance by the Taliban – a militant, fundamentalist movement that ruled Afghanistan with the help of the government in Pakistan.

In late 2001, the U.S. military helped Afghan rebels sweep the Taliban from power. Instead of following up the initial military gains in Afghanistan and consolidating our victory, we turned our backs.

The bulk of the United States' military and intelligence resources were devoted to Iraq while the United States relied on regional warlords, backed by a threadbare international force, to keep the peace in Afghanistan.

Our neglect allowed the Taliban and al-Qaeda to regroup. Funded by the heroin trade (Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world's opium) the number and the deadliness of Taliban attacks have increased every year since 2002.

Meanwhile, nearly seven years since we put him in power, Afghan President Hamid Karzai still has little real authority outside the country's capital, Kabul.

The Bush administration has been unwilling to acknowledge this, and frankly, unable to do anything about it. With the bulk of our military capability tied down in Iraq, the United States is stuck begging NATO countries to send their troops. Not surprisingly, they don't want to any more than they absolutely have to.

Bush's cowboy diplomacy, combined with his ineptitude as commander-in-chief, have made it politically difficult for NATO countries to step in. Jumping off cliffs with arrogant losers is no one's idea of a good time. Few leaders of advanced democracies want to risk political suicide to help Bush.

This spring, the war in Afghanistan passed a grim milestone. For the first time, the number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan exceeded the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq. Egged on by the Democratic nominee, the president and the Republican candidate trying to succeed him are finally acknowledging that Afghanistan needs more U.S. troops if the Taliban is to be redefeated.

But neither Republican acknowledges that the U.S. invasion of Iraq turned the War On Terror™ into a game of whack-a-mole. By overextending U.S. forces in Iraq, Bush has allowed the Taliban to keep popping up in Afghanistan.