The Telegraph, February 18, 2009
Afghanistan is Barack Obama's Iraq - or Vietnam
In 2005 opinion polls showed 83 per cent of Afghans favourably disposed towards America; today it is 47 per cent
Barack Obama has taken the fatal step: he has made himself a war president, like George W Bush before him. Farewell, Prince of Peace. He has been even more injudicious than Dubya in the fight he has picked, choosing Afghanistan, the unwinnable war that will destroy his reputation. Trying to occupy Afghanistan - like invading Russia - is one of those bad career moves that politicians should regard as strictly off-limits if they have any survival instinct.
At the same time, ratings of U.S. forces have declined precipitously; 32 percent said U.S. and coalition forces are performing well, down from 68 percent in 2005. And fewer than half of the respondents, 42 percent, have confidence in coalition forces to provide security in their areas.
The Washington Post, Feb. 10, 2009
Obama has ordered a further 17,000 US troops into Afghanistan, to bring the American presence there up to 50,000. The ultimate objective is said to be a deployment of 60,000 - enough to provide the Taliban with lots of targets, but hopelessly inadequate to garrison that inhospitable country. To put these figures in perspective it is worth recalling that the Soviet Union, in the decade 1979-89, lost 469,685 men in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is still winnable," claims Obama (even the language sounds suspiciously defensive), "in the sense of our ability to ensure that it is not a launching pad for attacks against North America." At least his objective "to stamp out al-Qaeda to make sure that extremism is not expanding but rather is contracting" sounds a tad more modest than all that heady stuff about building a model democracy that was common currency immediately after the "fall" of Kabul. Heaven knows how many suicide bombers that spawned.
America and its allies, like the Soviets before them, are being defeated in Afghanistan. The countryside is completely in the hands either of the Taliban or of warlords. Even the cities are now beleaguered: within the past 10 days suicide bombers have killed 27 people in Kabul and insurgents temporarily occupied the Ministry of Justice. The government of Hamid Karzai, whose younger brother Ahmed Wali is accused by Western security agencies of being a major drug baron, is corrupt and impotent. In 2005 opinion polls showed 83 per cent of Afghans favourably disposed towards America; today it is 47 per cent.
Why are the allies in Afghanistan? To stamp out the drugs trade, we are told, and to prevent the country becoming a base for attacks on the West. But the Taliban extinguished the heroin industry: only since the allied occupation has the trade flourished again. And what kind of terrorist attack can be planned against New York or London in Helmand Province that cannot as effectively be plotted in Waziristan, just over the border, which the Taliban now rules? Or in mainstream Pakistan?
Barack Obama has not commented on the recent surrender by the Pakistani government to Taliban allies in the Swat Valley, allowing the imposition of Sharia law there. The Taliban is winning. If it encounters superior US forces it will retire, then resume the offensive when suitable. It can play this game for years or decades, ratcheting up the American body count. Obama is committed to this futile conflict because he made a campaigning point during the election of offsetting his opposition to the Iraq war with his support for the Afghan debacle. Now Afghanistan is Obama's Iraq - and threatens to become his Vietnam.
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