Where Empires Go To Die
In the decade plus since United States Forces effectively invaded and toppled the outlaw Taliban Regime in Afghanistan nothing has been accomplished and the toll continues to rise. With NATO scheduled to leave in 2014 pretty much one way or another the elephant in the room is-“Why Wait?”
—A decade wasted
Now into a second decade of strife the roots of the conflict; namely the degeneration of Afghanistan into a veritable perpetual state of civil war, are still pushing fruit from the rocky soil. The Taliban seem to be everywhere and
nowhere. They remain a threat and hard numbers on their membership are simply unavailable. These vicious goons will do anything for money, place no value on lives of themselves or any others and live off and outdated and widely disavowed interpretation of Islam. Only in a dystopia like Afghanistan could such a movement thrive.
Where do these fanatics come from? Doubtless the lack of education, in particular for girls, plays a role. In 2002 it was estimated that less than half of all males and more than 3/4ths of all female Afghani’s had any education at all. It sports the ignominious distinction of having the highest illiteracy rate in Asia. Illiteracy makes it impossible for anyone to research anything first hand. Analytical skills are never formally developed by professional educators. The end result would inevitably a person whose world view was dependent on those who can read having an enormously disproportionate amount of influence. In Afghanistan an Islamic version of the Westboro Baptist Church would be considered relatively moderate, at least in its actions. Imagine a nation where outside the capital almost no one can read looking to a few mullahs, who roughly equate to radical Apocalypse Preachers, for all their information, especially religious matters. A nonstop highly localized but unified anti American philosophy is constantly being espoused. Unlike Apocalypse Preachers elsewhere, they have some ‘proof’ of their visions. This proof is what the United States Military has termed “Collateral Damage” mixed regularly breaking atrocity stories and a stark cultural difference which leaves both sides in perpetual shock. Mutual understanding and acceptance still appear to be out of reach and qualify as mere wishful thinking. The Occupation in and of itself engenders a hateful attitude towards NATO. The populace at large, whatever their education level or analytical abilities, will not risk defying the Taliban. The Taliban have burnished their reputation as murderous thugs who can terrorize effectively even if their numbers are small.
–Green on Blue and the overt failure of Nation Building
The Kabul Government installed by George W Bush in 2002 has a reputation for ineffective corrupt actions second to none in the world. Good billions are thrown after bad into a roaring furnace of pointlessness.
The entire approach of Nation Building for Afghanistan proceeds from a false assumption- That anyone in Afghanistan WANTS a nation. Afghanistan is a nation that can be viewed as a collection of fiefdoms run by an overlord of sorts. This the core weakness of the Nation Building approach and the greatest ally of the insurgency.
The gains of the NATO Coalition have been limited and may be of no benefit to NATO’s mission. Literacy rates have surely risen, but the kind of dent this has made in the Afghani world view is not quantifiable. It is a fair assertion to imagine a slowly dwindling but still unbelievably high rate of illiteracy may take a generation or more to have any impact. While admirable, educating the Afghani’s has apparently yielded very little fruit. A generation that was of kindergarten age to the age where a American would be graduating High School has apparently not resulted in the hoped for sudden and acute emergence of Common Sense and aversion to violence. Attacks on Afghan girls by Taliban aligned extremists are a sustained and heartbreaking thread of tragedy running through the entire American War.
The biggest failure of the Occupation is undoubtedly the Afghan Army and Security Forces. These entities simply can NOT be trusted. They are easily corruptible and their porous ranks seem easily penetrated by operatives of the Taliban and al Qaeda. The insurgency has grown and mutated to take advantage of this.
Green on Blue Attacks, where Afghani security forces turn their weapons on their
American counterparts became an almost daily reality before NATO Forces ended joint patrol and training operations with the Afghan Army this past summer.
Green on Blue is such a potent weapon, and so impossible to guard against that they have changed the way the Occupation is implemented and perceived. The Afghan Army and Security Forces are the very definition of failure. They are a dangerous and random element. One can only imagine illiteracy amongst it ranks is prevalent. This is a key aspect why the Iraqi Occupation was a comparative success. Iraq had a high level of education and an abundance of college educated members of their society. Despite regional differences which may one day result in a fragmenting of the current Iraq, there was a sense, spread by state run media, that Iraq had a National Identity. A degree of cohesiveness made it one country, at least to the point where perception and reality overlapped. Brutal oppression was embodied in one man, a hated and reviled dictator. Sadaam Hussein’s execution was a unifying moment of the sort the Afghani’s never had.
In Afghanistan fiefdom was and is the norm. No one evil dictator was available to embody the nation’s frustration. While surely oppressed, Afghan’s never had a modern frame of reference to show them a better life. TV, electricity, air
conditioning and other modern conveniences taken for granted just don’t exist.
Enter NATO. Killing off one warlord after another seemed to be producing results. One valley at a time was occupied and a concerted attempt to bring the 21st century to that fiefdom would be undertaken. This did little more than create targets. Power Stations can be blown up faster than they are built. A few brutal acts of terrorism can intimidate an entire village if not the nation at large into shunning education for reasons that are readily apparent. Being an illiterate live person still beats being a well-read corpse or being doused in kerosene and set afire. No amount of Baywatch re-runs, if they are even available, will change this simple fact of life- In Afghanistan seeking an education is an impediment, especially for girls, to staying alive.
–Two minutes and 22 months to Midnight-
NATO’s mission is set to wrap up by the end of 2014. For America, our military and the Afghani’s this can’t come soon enough.
The looming question- what will these next 2 years produce to legitimize America’s longest war? Education has been a failure and has played into the hands of the terrorists we were originally there to fight. The Nation Building experiment is a failure of monumental proportions. The Kabul Government is a front for corruption led by an unqualified bi-polar madman. The mullah’s still hold sway over the majority of public opinion. The Afghan Army is a dangerous and uncontrollable rogue element that can NOT be trusted in any way. Cultural change never materialized, one Koran burned by mistake or a culturally insensitive act or remark regularly result in mass civil unrest that gets NATO troops killed and injured.
Staying will not change any of this. Osama bin Laden is dead. Killed by roughly 60 highly trained commandos in a raid that could have taken place in 2002 and spared the United States all the Blood and Treasure that is still being wasted trying to force the 21st Century onto a rural and agrarian society still dependent on Opium as its biggest
cash crop. Opium is a renewable resource. Stability and legitimacy are not.
Kabul is doomed. Afghanistan should be effectively quarantined. It has little to offer the outside world. Westerners, even armed, trained masses of soldiers, simply aren’t safe and clearly not accepted. It’s a medieval society barely past the Dark Age that they could fall back into at any time. Anger is a renewable resource easily harvested by the influential radicals who hold sway outside the capital.
The obvious comparisons are the American War for Independence and Vietnam. A far off Imperial power fights an unpopular, endless low intensity war where casualties mount despite success in the few real battles fought. Lone wolf operations are infinitely possible, sniping and IED’s are not preventable. So far it seems by simply refusing to give up the insurgents have taken control of the conflict.
There’s no reason to stay. Comparative figures for how much tax money per capita is spent by the United States per Afghani versus US Citizen are unavailable but would surely be eye opening and may well show that average American has benefitted less from the taxes they pay than the Afghani’s we pay to protect and force democracy on. It’s a safe bet the Afghani’s have seen more. America’s economy is tanking, the entire world is spinning plates to avoid Financial Apocalypse. Afghanistan has been a blood soaked money pit. The solution- we should leave tomorrow. No transition, no draw down. Leave.
No case can be made for staying. Everything that needed to be done, killing and capturing the Murderer’s behind 9-11, is complete. Osama bin Laden swims with the fishes. Every single motive to stay beyond that has failed. This is textbook Mission Creep.
There is no dishonor in immediate withdrawal. The wasted years must come to an end. The Dystopia cannot be fixed. In Afghanistan things will be upside down until
they themselves decide otherwise. This is the time to leave, lest the final images from our longest war be like those of the Vietnam fiasco. That war was summed up in one picture. The images of a heavily overburdened Huey helicopter struggling into the air from the roof of the United States Embassy. It’s an image of failure. Staying any longer serves no purpose beyond stoking the furnaces of the War Pig Corporations with more blood money.
We should run like Hell.
–The Brutalization of our soldiers and loss of our Military Professionalism
Fighting a 15 year war has not been easy on the military. This is the sort of thing that can turn even the most even keeled person into a homicidal maniac. The obvious cases, like the attack on Afghan civilians by SSgt Robert Bales are so horrible they numb the mind. How a man who grew up in the midlands of Ohio
could one day find himself building a funeral pyre of woman and children he had murdered shows how far the military has been stretched.
Consider as well murdering coward Major Nidal Hasan. Hasan showed open contempt for the country whose uniform he was somehow allowed to wear. Apparently too incompetent to be a surgeon he was apparently re-tasked as a shrink. Rather than showing compassion and using his medical training to help
them with PTSD and other pitfalls of return to a nation that only realized we were at war when CIA Director and ex-General David Petraeus’ affair went viral. Despite this, and other bizarre incidents where Hasan seemed like a malevolent version of Klinger, desperately trying to avoid doing his military duty by dressing in drag, or in this case hardcore Muslim religious garb; not much was done in the way of checking this guy out. While within his rights to dress however he wants, this is not exactly the kind of thing your average soldier wears to pick up groceries at the base PX. Add to that the breakdown in screening and the massive labor gap the military deals with every day bridging the gap between the do-able and the necessary. There were no shortage of complaints regarding Hassan’s dishonorable and outright weird behavior, the fact he was a self-radicalized Muslim extremist was just barely popping onto the radar when Hasan went operational and betrayed his medical oath, military oath and the Pledge of Allegiance in a trifecta of treacherous
Consider lastly Private Bradley Manning. Manning is perhaps the most intriguing and polarizing figure in all of America’s 21st century wars. History will likely judge him more kindly than he can expect at his imminent court martial. Was manning ever a good candidate for high security work where he would see things that would shock the mind and perhaps even poison the soul? Now that we know the results the answer screams back “NO!” The idea that a 20 years old private, the lowest rank in the military, could have access to top secret databases and be allowed to bring CD’s capable of re-recording video and downloading a great deal of damaging information is mind blowing. Where’s Psy-Ops when you need them? Manning was not prepared for his job and those who assigned him to it share some of the blame.
It doesn’t seem like it would have taken a Blade Runner level personality scan to know this kid could have done a better job in another MOS or maybe even wasn’t the best fit for the military in the first place.
It is an open question whether Manning can make a credible assertion that he simply refused to comply with what amounted to an Unconstitutional Order. It seems a long shot. Manning will likely do considerable jail time. The information he provided, perhaps naively, to Julian Assaange and the Wikileaks people (who no longer seem all that crazy about Assange), was devastating and is akin to the Pentagon papers and the Uncounted Enemy Scandal of these wars.
It is a military filled with competent soldiers who are dedicated professionals, this goes without saying. However the sheer weight of numbers needed to prosecute war a half a world away has resulted in a rift between the ideal or even acceptable soldier what passes for acceptable in the face of the need to accomplish vital tasks, even support tasks, in a situation that has been apparently being done on an ad hoc basis for a decade and change.
Afghanistan may not be able to solve its own problems, but 13 years of American help hasn’t changed much. The Karzai regime is a disgraceful corrupt sham and the continual shameful waste of our blood and treasure there needs to end before the scheduled withdrawal in 2014.