Arab News, October 13, 2009
Afghanistan a lost cause
US National Security Adviser James Jones recently claimed that there are less than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan without either bases or the capability of launching attacks on Western cities
Cartoon by Makhmud Eshonkulov
The designation “Graveyard of Empires” may be somewhat of an exaggeration when applied to Afghanistan but as long as NATO troops remain the death count rises. There is no accurate record of Afghan civilian casualties from 2001 to date, but, according to a report issued by the Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), published last July, the civilian death toll is soaring year upon year.
During the six months from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2009 there were 1,013 innocent Afghan fatalities that is almost double the figure for the same period in 2007. Figures released earlier this month by the US Defense Department show that 792 members of the American military have lost their lives since the 2001 invasion along with 481 coalition soldiers.
The pressing question is this: Has the sacrifice of so many innocents been in vain or has the coalition managed to move its objectives forward for the good of all concerned? Let’s analyze those purported objectives one by one.
First of all, the invasion was a response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on US soil when Washington’s main targets were a bearded billionaire troglodyte, who was believed to have orchestrated them, along with a one-eyed Taleban mullah who proffered the terrorists safe harbor. Until now, Osama Bin Laden has evaded capture while Mullah Omar still leads the insurgency. The coalition gets no brownie points on that score. Moreover, the FBI has since revealed that there is no hard evidence that Bin Laden had anything to do with 9/11.
The second objective was to bring freedom and democracy to a long-suffering population. A worthy ideal, no doubt, but how is this working out? It’s not. A people who live under foreign occupation and in constant fear of their lives are not “free” in any sense. And for the Afghans, more than most, the loss of their sovereignty is tantamount to humiliation.
As for “democracy”, the country is democratic in name only. During recent elections, voter turnout was ridiculously low in some regions while there are allegations of massive vote rigging. According to EU election monitors, up to 1.5 million votes were suspect, including a third of those cast in favor of President Hamid Karzai.
Today, every 30 minutes an Afghan woman dies during childbirth; 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate; only 30 percent of girls have access to education; one in every three women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence and 70-80 percent of young Afghan women are forced into marriage. Women can, indeed, listen to music but their life expectancy is a shocking 44 years.
Arab News, Oct. 13, 2009
Many potential voters were intimidated with threats of violence not to cast their ballot. In rural areas, far from the capital where illiteracy is rife and television sets are scarce, the voters were uninformed concerning the merits of candidates and generally voted according to the diktats of tribal leaders. This sorry state of affairs supports the theory that democracy should evolve naturally rather than be imposed and cannot be one size fits all.
A third objective was the country’s reconstruction. While it is true that funds for civilian governance and development programs have doubled under President Barack Obama’s watch to $200 million a month, most of the billions that are poured into Afghanistan are spent on military requirements and security. The Washington Post recently quoted a Senate staffer as saying, “We’ve spent a lot of money there, not to great effect. We need to have a much clearer idea of what our goals are and what we can realistically achieve.” Last March, the Washington Times revealed that the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction was of the view that the $32 billion spent on reconstruction since 2001 has been ineffective due to instability compounded by “dubious contracts” and a lack of US oversight. There have also been extensive reports of mismanagement, fraud and corruption. Not very encouraging so far is it!
Remember the plight of Afghan women under the rule of the Taleban? For a brief moment in time their perceived aspirations were embraced by America’s former first lady Laura Bush and Tony Blair’s wife Cherie. In a radio address to the nation just weeks after the bombing of Kabul, Mrs. Bush told the American people how life for Afghan women had been hard and oppressive.
“Women have been denied access to doctors when they are sick...even small displays of joy are outlawed — children aren’t allowed to fly kites; their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud. Women cannot work outside the home, or even leave the homes by themselves.” Her punch line was this. “Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment.”
Clearly, Mrs. Bush jumped the gun. Today, every 30 minutes an Afghan woman dies during childbirth; 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate; only 30 percent of girls have access to education; one in every three women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence and 70-80 percent of young Afghan women are forced into marriage. Women can, indeed, listen to music but their life expectancy is a shocking 44 years.
In light of the above catalogue of failures, what on earth is NATO still doing there? Word is the coalition can’t afford to walk away because as long as “terrorists” are battling in Afghanistan, they are unable to take the fight to the streets of America and Europe. But wait! US National Security Adviser James Jones recently claimed that there are less than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan without either bases or the capability of launching attacks on Western cities. So the Al-Qaeda argument repeated by dozens of coalition diplomats in an attempt to get the public’s blessing for this seemingly endless war has been officially shot down!
In the meantime, President Barack Obama’s senior military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal has controversially requested a further 40,000 troops, which has prompted a congressional partisan divide. Some of those opposed believe the US would be better served by training Afghan forces.
The more gung-ho camp fears that America’s commander in chief might be wavering. It appears that harsh reality might, at last, be hitting home. The Taleban are going nowhere and are so numerous and influential that they cannot be wiped out. There is some talk that Obama is even considering paying members of the lower Taleban echelons to switch sides or holding talks with so-called “moderate” Taleban.
There is little appetite for this war among Western public and America’s allies are itching to shut the door on the fight. It’s surely time for the US president to face an unpalatable truth. Even the mighty superpower with the most sophisticated weapons in the world can’t win them all. Sometimes victory entails knowing when to quit.
Characters Count: 7993