THE END OF HEARTACHE |
December 02, 2009
Posting date: 12/2/09
Returned from: Afghanistan
My unit came off orders to Iraq recently. This frees us up to go to Afghanistan. Below are a list of reasons, in no particular order, why it would be a good idea for me to spend 12 of the next 15 months of my life back in that blasted land.
1) We made a commitment to the people of Afghanistan when we invaded their country and toppled the Taliban regime. Unless we feel comfortable allowing adulterous women to be stoned to death, or women in general to receive no education, or whatever non-Muslim culture remaining in the country to be savaged and destroyed; unless we feel comfortable going back on a promise we made to a country filled with poverty, devoid of natural resources, mired in hopelessness and ignorance; unless we are comfortable with an idea of ourselves as individuals who are not capable of making promises as a nation -- we must stay for a little while longer and give these people the legitimate shot at development that we offered them when we first put boots on the ground in 2002.
2) If we abandon Afghanistan, it will fall to the Taliban, which will give the insurgency that is building in Pakistan a safehaven from which to stage attacks. A vulnerable Pakistan--a country that boasts nuclear capabilities--is not in our interest. By remaining in Afghanistan, we allow Pakistan some breathing room in its struggle against extremist Muslims in their country.
3) The Afghan people like us. We may be perceived as invaders or occupiers by some of the Afghans -- which should not come as a surprise, unless one has the political naivete of a six-year-old (many people in our own country felt as though the Bush administration was essentially a foreign occupation) -- but my experience was that the big gripe from the villages on the border was that we didn't have enough soldiers to offer them protection.
Everyone wanted roads, everyone wanted wells, everyone wanted their lives to improve, and recognized that the Taliban and the criminal networks operating from inside Pakistan were robbing them of vital economic opportunities. Americans were welcomed by children and village elders alike -- everywhere we went, we were handing out HA* and making friends.There was absolutely no confusion as to what our motivations were; we built schoolhouses and mosques, and gave out oil, food, fuel, and clothes, asking for nothing in return. Nobody I talked with confused us with the Russians.
Those people who seem concerned that we may be perceived as an imperial power must have some sort of personal issue that causes them to see the world in those terms; it was not the reality that I experienced during the time I lived there. The biggest impediments to progress, when I was in Afghanistan last, were institutional on our side, and corruption on the side of Afghans. Which brings me to my next rambling point.4) Recognition on the part of Afghans that their government is corrupt, and that there should be a different result than the one they got in the recent election, is a mark of political progress. Corruption has been the norm in Afghanistan for as long as anyone can remember. Tribal chieftains, Taliban, Communists, Monarchists -- all this country knows is corrupt governmental models. Here, for the first time in recorded history, we see the people of Afghanistan legitimately outraged that their political will is being thwarted. This is not a moment for hand-wringing on our part, but rather celebration -- we have measurable proof that Afghanistan is beginning a true political, democratic / republican awakening. Good job, us! Let's stick with it a bit longer and see what else develops. Rather than throwing our hands up in disgust and walking away, leaving these people to the depredations of the savage, murderous Taliban.
5) The administration's tactical alternative -- "counter-terrorism" versus "counter-insurgency" -- was last experienced strategically during the Clinton Administration. Its failure led to an incident we remember every 11th of September. The bottom line is that firing missiles from Naval vessels and targeting specific terrorist cells with Delta operatives is the smallest, least effective type of band-aid, besides ignoring two crucial factors:
-- The Taliban and Al Queda are friends. They are separate entities, but should not be treated as such. If the Taliban (a grass-roots organization capable of being fought only by counterinsurgent tactics) retakes Afghanistan, Al Queda will have a safe haven there for as long as it takes for the Taliban to be toppled, or to topple Pakistan.-- Our intelligence gathering assets are impressive to us, and our allies, and that's about it. Unless they are employed in direct support of tactical operations, they're pretty shitty. That's a fact. Many's the time when those unmanned drones totally suck. And we're supposed to believe that pulling eyes off the ground, and putting Delta / SOF* A teams on standby on airfields up to an hour away is going to be adequate for defeating a mountain-based enemy with robust and politically invulnerable safehavens? Our administration is seriously considering this -- throwing missiles and bombs through UAVs and specifically targeting individuals / camps with squads of highly-trained soldiers. If you think this sounds like a good plan, please watch Blackhawk Down, then get back to me.
6) General McChrystal is a f***ing genius. If he feels that we can do the job with the resources he requested, let's get them to him, stat, and let him go. He's got the right idea, and is a just man. What more could you ask for. Our allies -- the British, no less! -- think this is worth fighting for. Sweet Jesus, let our great country and this noble purpose not be unmanned by the British of all nations.
Bottom line: we can do right by ourselves, by the Afghans. Let's do it. And be out five years from now.
HA: Humanitarian Assistance
SOF: Special Operations Forces