Monday :: Nov 2, 2009

Afghanistan: With Democracy Dead, It's Time To Leave

by Turkana

The myth of Afghan democracy is now officially over. Think Iran under Ahmadinejad. Think Russia under Putin Medvedev Putin. As explained by The Guardian:

Afghanistan's western backers are pushing for a rapid coronation of Hamid Karzai as president without going through with a second round of voting after the Afghan president's closest rival pulled out of the race today.

Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the runoff vote after the rejection of nearly all of his demands for changes to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the suspension of government ministers, which he said would have reduced the risk of massive fraud in the next round of voting. The announcement threw the election into disarray, with some analysts labelling the fiasco "a shocking failure" of efforts by the west and other international communities to build a democracy in Afghanistan. A legitimate Afghan leader is seen as essential to western war aims, and has prevented Barack Obama from being able to make a decision on whether to send up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.

But there will be no legitimate Afghan leader. So, what again were the war aims? As previously noted, October already is the deadliest month, for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Which broke the record set in August. Which broke the record set in July. Anyone notice a pattern, here? I mean, anyone else? The horrors of August had already made this the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and things have only gotten worse, since. And now there is no legitimate government for U.S. troops to be working with and defending.

David Sanger, of the New York Times:

As the evidence mounted in late summer that Mr. Karzai’s forces had sought to win re-election through widespread fraud to defeat his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, administration officials made no secret of their disgust. How do you consider sending tens of thousands of additional American troops, they asked in meetings in the White House, to prop up an Afghan government regarded as illegitimate by many of its own people?

The answer was supposed to be a runoff election. Now, administration officials argue that Mr. Karzai will have to regain that legitimacy by changing the way he governs, at a moment when he is politically weaker than at any time since 2001.

“We’re going to know in the next three to six months whether he’s doing anything differently — whether he can seriously address the corruption, whether he can raise an army that ultimately can take over from us and that doesn’t lose troops as fast as we train them,” one of Mr. Obama’s senior aides said. He insisted on anonymity because of the confidentiality surrounding the Obama administration’s own debate on a new strategy, and the request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American military commander in Afghanistan, for upward of 44,000 more troops.

Three to six months? Does that sound eerily familiar? When even Thomas Friedman, himself, is calling for a drawdown of this particular war, it's time to pay attention. It's time to draw down the war! And as for that particular general who is calling for the president to escalate this lost cause? Sam Stein quotes from Jon Krakauer's appearance on Meet The Press:

MR. KRAKAUER: After Tillman died, the most important thing to know is that within--instantly, within 24 hours certainly, everybody on the ground, everyone intimately involved knew it was friendly fire. There's never any doubt it was friendly fire. McChrystal was told within 24 hours it was friendly fire. Also, immediately they started this paperwork to give Tillman a Silver Star. And the Silver Star ended up being at the center of the cover-up. So McChrystal--Tillman faced this devastating fire from his own guys, and he tried to protect a young private by exposing himself to this, this fire. That's why he was killed and the private wasn't. Without friendly fire there's no valor, there's no Silver Star. There was no enemy fire, yet McChrystal authored, he closely supervised over a number of days this fraudulent medal recommendation that talked about devastating enemy fire.

GREGORY: And that's the important piece of it. And, and he actually testified earlier this year before the Senate, and this is what he said about it.

(Videotape, June 2, 2009)

LT. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: Now, what happens, in retrospect, is--and I would do this differently if I had the chance again--in retrospect they look contradictory, because we sent a Silver Star that was not well-written. And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture--or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: Even those who were critical of him and the Army say they don't think he willfully deceived anyone.

MR. KRAKAUER: That's correct. He, he just said now he didn't read this hugely important document about the most famous soldier in the military. He didn't read it carefully enough to notice that it talked about enemy fire instead of friendly fire? That's preposterous. That, that's not believable.

The general calling for more troops cannot be trusted. The Afghan government has no credibility. The Taliban are resurgent, and they are based in Pakistan, anyway. The only thing going well in Afghanistan is the opium trade. Which is going very well, indeed.

There is no explicable military path forward, and there is no end in sight. We have no Afghan partner. We have no end game. Bush's supreme failure cannot be fixed. As Nicholas Kristof just wrote:

When I travel in Pakistan, I see evidence that one group — Islamic extremists — believes in the transformative power of education. They pay for madrassas that provide free schooling and often free meals for students. They then offer scholarships for the best pupils to study abroad in Wahhabi madrassas before returning to become leaders of their communities. What I don’t see on my trips is similar numbers of American-backed schools. It breaks my heart that we don’t invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.

For roughly the same cost as stationing 40,000 troops in Afghanistan for one year, we could educate the great majority of the 75 million children worldwide who, according to Unicef, are not getting even a primary education. We won’t turn them into graduate students, but we can help them achieve literacy. Such a vast global education campaign would reduce poverty, cut birth rates, improve America’s image in the world, promote stability and chip away at extremism.

Education isn’t a panacea, and no policy in Afghanistan is a sure bet. But all in all, the evidence suggests that education can help foster a virtuous cycle that promotes stability and moderation. So instead of sending 40,000 troops more to Afghanistan, how about opening 40,000 schools?

Good question.

Turkana :: 3:16 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!