Out of control in Afghanistan
The waterfall of leaks on Afghanistan underlines the awful truth: We’re not in control. Not since Theseus fought the Minotaur in his maze has a fight been so confounding.
The more we try to do for our foreign protectorates, the more angry they get about what we try to do. As Congress passed $59 billion in additional war funding this week, not only are our wards not grateful, they’re disdainful.
Washington gave the Wall Street banks billions, and, in return, they stabbed us in the back, handing out a fortune in bonuses to the grifters who almost wrecked our economy.
Washington gave the Pakistanis billions, and, in return, they stabbed us in the back, pledging to fight the militants even as they secretly help the militants.
We keep getting played by people who are playing both sides.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs recalled that President Barack Obama said last year that “we will not and cannot provide a blank check” to Pakistan.
But only last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan to hand over a juicy check: $500 million in aid to the country that’s been getting a billion a year for most of this decade and in 2009 was pledged another $7.5 billion for the next five. She vowed to banish the “legacy of suspicion” and show that “there is so much we can accomplish together as partners joined in common cause.”
Gibbs argued that the deluge of depressing war documents from WikiLeaks was old. But it reflected one chilling fact: The Taliban has been getting better every year of the insurgency. So why will 30,000 more troops help?
We invaded two countries, and allied with a third — all renowned as masters at double-dealing. And, now lured into their mazes, we still don’t have the foggiest idea, shrouded in the fog of wars, how these cultures work. Before we went into Iraq and Afghanistan, both places were famous for warrior cultures. And, indeed, their insurgents are world class.
But whenever America tries to train security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan so that we can leave behind a somewhat stable country, it’s positively Sisyphean. It takes eons longer than our officials predict. The forces we train turn against us or go over to the other side or cut and run. If we give them a maximum security prison, as we recently did in Iraq, making a big show of handing over the key, the imprisoned al Qaeda militants are suddenly allowed to escape.
The British Empire prided itself on discovering warrior races in places it conquered — Gurkhas, Sikhs, Pathans, as the Brits called Pashtuns. But why are they warrior cultures only until we need them to be warriors on our side? Then they’re untrainable, even when we spend $25 billion on building up the Afghan military and the National Police Force, dubbed “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” by Newsweek.
Maybe we just can’t train them to fight against each other. But why can’t countries that produce fierce insurgencies produce good-standing armies in a reasonable amount of time? Is it just that insurgencies can be more indiscriminate?
Things are so bad that Robert Blackwill, who was on W.’s national security team, wrote in Politico that the Obama administration should just admit failure and turn over the Pashtun South to the Taliban since it will inevitably control it anyway
We keep hearing that the past decade of war, where we pour in gazillions to build up Iraq and Afghanistan even as our own economy sputters, has weakened al Qaeda.
But at his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. James Mattis, who is slated to replace Gen. David Petraus, warned that al Qaeda and its demon spawn represent a stark danger all over the Middle East and Central Asia.
While we’re anchored in Afghanistan, the al Qaeda network could roil Yemen “to the breaking point,” as Mattis put it.
Pakistan’s tribal areas “remain the greatest danger as these are strategic footholds for al Qaeda and its senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri,” the blunt four-star general wrote, adding that they “remain key to extremists’ efforts to rally Muslim resistance worldwide.”
Mattis told John McCain that we’re not leaving Afghanistan; we’re starting “a process of transition to the Afghan forces.”
During the debate over war funds, Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., warned that we are in a monstrous maze without the ball of string to find our way out.
“All of the puzzle has been put together, and it is not a pretty picture,” he said. “Things are really ugly over there.”