Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Afghan mission has become incoherent.

The U.S. is now trying to make things appear more coherent by covering up all the cracks and disagreements in Obama's meeting with Karzai. The Marjah offensive has left US marines in control because there are not enough Afghans willing or able to take over. They probably realize that trying to rule the area will make them targets for assassination. Let the NATO troops die not them.
Even the Kandahar offensive seems in doubt and it is not clear exactly how it is supposed to take place. If there is house to house fighting that would be a disaster. The locals have made it clear they do not want an offensive. These are the locals that NATO is there to protect. It is all an expensive farce paid for by US and allies taxpayer dollars and lives. Even Harper seems to have changed his tune and no longer wants further commitment at least to a military role. This is from the Toronto Star.


Siddiqui: Afghan mission has become incoherent




By Haroon Siddiqui
Editorial Page
You may disagree with Stephen Harper’s warfare with Parliament to keep Afghan detainee documents secret. But there’s some logic to it.

The papers may implicate our army, diplomats and/or allies. Or blow holes in the Conservative defence that it did not preside over any actions in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which make it a war crime to knowingly hand detainees over for torture.

You may also disagree with Harper’s refusal to hold a parliamentary debate on what Canada should do in Afghanistan after our July 2011 deadline for military withdrawal. But there’s logic to that as well.

Harper does not want MPs reminding Canadians that he has changed his Afghan policy. After famously posing for the cameras in a military vest in 2006 and pledging that Canada would never cut and run, that’s precisely what he plans to do next year. He wants Canada to undertake only civilian and humanitarian duties. He won’t countenance any role for the military except training Afghan troops and police, even though said training cannot be done without leading the trainees into combat. He just does not want to go into an election this year or next with Afghanistan as a campaign issue, especially with his own caucus divided on it.

That makes perfect sense from his partisan perspective.

However, there’s little logic left in Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. That’s because the NATO mission itself has become incoherent.

Initially it went awry under George W. Bush. But Barack Obama was not going to become the first president to admit defeat in war, so he opted for the contradictory goals of a military surge and a military withdrawal.

“We must win in Afghanistan.” Yet “America has no interest in fighting an endless war.” But how do you win by telling the enemy to just wait you out?

You settle for a limited goal: “We must deny Al Qaeda safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government in Kabul.”

Your aim is not to win but rather not to lose.

Even that becomes problematic when your declared goal is to prevent the collapse of a government you are publicly quarrelling with because it is corrupt, inefficient and in cahoots with military and drug warlords. Hamid Karzai is also disliked by a majority of Afghans for those very reasons.

Left with no credible partner in Kabul, you court others at the provincial and local levels. You go native, hold mini-loya jirgas and throw cash around. You look foolish.

Meanwhile, despite pledges to avoid civilian deaths, the carnage continues, and also the lying that often accompanies such incidents:

U.S. military admits role in killings of women (an April 5 headline). Two men and three women, two of them pregnant, are killed in night raids. It is said the women were already dead when the soldiers arrived, “tied up, gagged and killed” by relatives. The Times of London says the soldiers had dug bullets out of the bodies and washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to superiors. NATO recants.

Civilians killed as U.S. troops hit Afghan bus (April 13). Five are killed and 18 wounded.

NATO apologizes for killing unarmed Afghans in car (April 22). Four are shot dead, including a boy. It is said that two were “known insurgents.” NATO later recants.

Afghan death sparks protests (April 30). A prominent civilian is killed in a night raid in which troops blindfold 15 people, including women and children, and send in sniffer dogs. Outraged residents say: “They disgraced our pride and our religion by letting their dogs sniff the holy Quran, our food and the kitchen.” Hundreds protest, chanting, “Death to America,” “Long live Islam.” (A perfect example of how people get “radicalized” and “Islamized.”)


We are in Afghanistan to save Afghans from the Taliban but the Afghans are now as afraid or more afraid of NATO bombs and convoys and checkpoints as they are of Taliban attacks.

That’s why an overwhelming majority want an end to the war through negotiations with the insurgents. Hence Karzai’s $160 million package to buy the “good Taliban.” Hence, in theory, the American onslaught on Kandahar, not so much to vanquish them but to force them to the negotiating table. But Obama and Karzai come across as playing on different teams.

Meanwhile, the Taliban are going from strength to strength, even according to a Pentagon report. They are assassinating officials who cooperate with NATO, which is not able to protect them or international civilian workers. The United Nations announces a pullout of its 200 staff.

As for NATO members, they all vouch for the American mission but refuse to supply any more troops. Even Canada, which has done more than its share of the fighting, lets it be known on the eve of the Kandahar offensive that it will “strive to avoid large-scale fighting with the Taliban this summer,” according to a Canadian Press report.

This is a mission operating on a wing and a prayer.

hsiddiqui@thestar.ca