Sunday :: Aug 23, 2009

Afghanistan Deteriorating: Tell Me How This Ends!

by Turkana

I've been asking it for months, and I have still yet to hear a good answer. And no good answer appears to be forthcoming. Because there isn't one.

The election turmoil wouldn't be that big a deal if it didn't come at a time when Afghan President Hamid Karzai is increasingly at odds with the Obama Administration, if July hadn't seen a record number of U.S. and allied military deaths, and if the Taliban weren't resurgent. But it gets worse. As the New York Times is reporting:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Sunday that conditions in Afghanistan were “deteriorating,” even as Afghans awaited results of their presidential election last week and as the new American commander in the region worked to complete a major progress assessment and perhaps to propose a further troop increase.

“I think it is serious and it is deteriorating,” Adm. Mike Mullen said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “and I’ve said that over the past couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics.” Top American commanders have been making similar grim pronouncements for months, but Admiral Mullen’s remark came amid the election, the strategy review by General Stanley McChrystal and a steady decline in American public support for the war. Recent polls show those opposing the war now slightly outnumber those favoring it.

Admiral Mullen, who as chairman is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, said that General McChrystal was still completing his review and had not yet requested additional troops on top of the 17,000 decided on earlier by President Obama. “His guidance from me and from the secretary of defense was to assess where you are and tell us what you need, and we’ll get to that point,” the admiral said.

Escalating the escalation? To what end? That sounds like the kind of tripe idea we expect to hear from a John McCain. And as a concurrent New York Times article explains:

In a region the Taliban have lorded over for six years, and where they remain a menacing presence, American officers say their troops alone are not enough to reassure Afghans. Something is missing that has left even the recently appointed district governor feeling dismayed. “I don’t get any support from the government,” said the governor, Massoud Ahmad Rassouli Balouch.

Governor Massoud has no body of advisers to help run the area, no doctors to provide health care, no teachers, no professionals to do much of anything. About all he says he does have are police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for “vacation.”

It all raises serious questions about what the American mission is in southern Afghanistan — to secure the area, or to administer it — and about how long Afghans will tolerate foreign troops if they do not begin to see real benefits from their own government soon. American commanders say there is a narrow window to win over local people from the guerrillas.

No help from the Afghan government? And we're sacrificing our troops for what, again? I wrote over a year ago that the Bush Administration already had blown whatever chance there once might have been for a military solution in Afghanistan. At the time, tristero offered what I thought was a reasonable alternative strategy- bomb Afghanistan with humanitarian aid. Because nothing else seems to be working. And yet our military leaders are considering escalating the escalation. The first Times article quotes Admiral Mullen:

“I don’t see this as a mission of endless drift,” he said. “We learned a lot of lessons from Iraq.”

What lessons? Violence in Iraq is increasing, human rights are deteriorating, and the future bodes nothing but more ill. Our troops in Iraq are finally seeing strewn flowers- celebrating their withdrawal. Seems to me that Admiral Mullen is learning the wrong lesson.

Will someone please tell me how this ends!

Turkana :: 1:22 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!