... Afghanistan is about the same as the distance between you and me, the voters, and the "E" ring of the Pentagon. The defense industry hopes it will stay that way.
Yes, the shiniest, mostly highly-paid brass have a view of America from their outer-ring windows, but America doesn't get to see in, to see much of what they know. They have put as much distance between themselves and the democratic process as you can get in the US. We are allowed to know what they want us to know.
But they're being questioned now.
What they want us to "know" about these sad, dangerous days in Afghanistan is that the increase in deaths of American personnel in Afghanistan at the hands of Afghan "allies" is all about "personal grudges and grievances against American soldiers by Afghans." Except for, in some cases, the effects of Ramadan, according to the US commander, General Allen.
Ramadan came in the summer, during the fighting season. The fasting involved in that, the high number of combat operations, may have caused some of these Afghan soldiers and police to snap somehow and lash out at American forces. ...Tom Bowman, NPR News
That comes from a discussed led by Neal Conan on "Talk of the Nation." There's more.
CONAN: Did [Allen] have any evidence that Ramadan was somehow responsible?
BOWMAN: You know, he did not. And another general I know over there told me the same thing about a week ago without any evidence. I think they're just trying to look for some reasons why they've seen a spike in these recently.
People I talk with in Washington, though, say that in the intelligence community, they're starting to see an increase in Taliban attacks as part of this insider attacks. They think the Taliban is doing much more of this. Taliban leader Mullah Omar is pressing his fighters to infiltrate the Afghan police and army. So they're pointing to that as part of the reason we're seeing the recent increase in attacks.... NPR
The "intelligence community" and the Afghan government say it's the Taliban. But wait! There's more!
CONAN: General Allen was briefed yesterday in Kabul by some of President Karzai's advisors, who've come to conclusions of their own - they've looked into it as well - and they blame, yes, anger at U.S. troops for inhumane acts, as they're described, the burning of the Koran, the desecration of bodies. But they also say not Taliban infiltration quite so much as infiltration by foreign intelligence services, the Pakistanis and the Iranians.
BOWMAN: That's right, and General Allen was asked about that today at the news conference, and he said he hasn't seen the intelligence on that yet. He would like to see it from the Afghans, but he said until he sees that, he really can't make any statement on that.
CONAN: The Afghans said - again, we haven't seen it, either, but the evidence is voluminous. ...NPR
Poor General Allen! Caught between the official truths of the Pentagon and what everyone else seems to know. It's damn awkward, of course, that the Pakistanis are involved. The Iranian involvement also seems inevitable once you think about it. And it all leaves our troops going to bed fully armed because they can't trust anybody but themselves.
Dexter Filkins is a well-known independent reporter on Afghanistan. He writes for the New Yorker. He agrees that the Pakistani's ISI has a tight hold on much of what takes place in Afghanistan. And that, in turn, has an effect on Afghan politics as Afghanis get closer to running their own nation.
... The ISI - that's the Pakistani intelligence agency - the Inter-Services Intelligence in the Taliban. Look, they're a malevolent force in Afghanistan. There's no question about it. They do a lot of bad stuff that hurts the American and the NATO effort there, and they're not good people.
But right - I mean the question is - and I think - the question I tried to address in my piece and what I tried to show is what happens when the Americans are gone, and that day is coming very quickly. We're due to stop fighting there at the end of 2014, all combat troops out. So some number will remain that hasn't been decided yet, you know, probably for many, many years after, maybe 10,000 Americans, maybe 15, maybe more.
But what's happening now, and I think this is what - you know, whether it was infiltration or the militias or anything, the Afghans are getting ready for that day, and they're kind of making the calculations in their minds, and they're kind of lining up, and it's changing the politics, and you can see that.
They are getting ready for the day when we are no longer there. ...Dexter Filkins, NPR
Our position, with regard to Afghanistan now -- as we begin to withdraw -- is hardly different from the situation in which the Soviets found themselves by 1989.
... Everything starts in 1979. It's a long time ago, but it's very, very relevant. It's kind of an unbroken chain.
The Soviet Union, then intact, invaded Afghanistan. They were there for 10 years. They lost tens of thousands of men. They failed. They left in 1989. And they had built an army of their own. They were essentially - they tried to do essentially what we are trying to do right now, which is to get out but to leave a functioning state, an Afghan state that can stand on its own.
And basically what happened - it's fascinating when you look at this period - the Soviet Union built a pretty good Afghan army. It was very tough and very resilient, and they fought very well, and they held their own. But what happened was the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
And so the Afghan army collapsed. They stopped getting paid, the ammunition stopped coming in. The Afghan army collapsed right after that. You had a long and terrible Afghan civil war which really lasted, remarkably - it brings us to the present day - the civil war really lasted until 9/11. That's basically what happened.
The Taliban were one of the factions in the civil war. They controlled about 90 percent of the country. And - but the situation in the country, I mean I was there then, was so anarchic and so chaotic, and there was no functioning state, that basically al-Qaeda was able to kind of enter that space and plan the attacks.
And so I think what everybody - nobody wants a civil war. Everybody wants to get out of Afghanistan, of course, and - but no one wants to leave a situation that might start to look like 2001 again. And so that's the worry. ...Filkins, NPR
In other words: back to square one. Here's part of Filkins' latest report on Afghanistan. It's as good a summary of the situation as anything.
After 11 years, nearly 2,000 Americans killed, 16,000 Americans wounded, nearly $400 billion spent and more than 12,000 Afghan civilians dead since 2007, the war in Afghanistan has come to this. The United States is leaving, mission not accomplished.
Objectives once deemed indispensible, such as nation-building and counterinsurgency, has been abandoned or downgraded, either because they haven't worked or because there's no longer enough time to achieve them. Even the education of girls, a signal achievement of the NATO presence in Afghanistan, is at risk.
By the end of 2014, when the last Americans are due to stop fighting, the Taliban will not be defeated. A Western-style democracy will not be in place. The economy will not be self-sustaining. No senior Afghan official will likely be imprisoned for any crime, no matter how egregious. And it's a good bet that in some remote valley, even al-Qaida, which brought the United States to Afghanistan in the first place, will be carrying on. ...Filkins, New Yorker
And so the people of the US are left, once again, with the costs of the war-to-nowhere. A caller to the show -- "Jack" -- gets it right. Jack introduces himself as "a political adviser to the NATO operational commander from 2002 to 2010, and visited Afghanistan 40 times."
JACK: I think what [Dexter Filkins] just said is the critical point, that the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras are not going to live under an Afghan - a Pashtun-led, Taliban-dominated government. So they have to settle that, and that has nothing to do with U.S. troops. The U.S. troops cannot settle that problem.
And so what I would say we've begun a process through our Special Forces of training Afghan local police. It is not respected by some people because it is, in fact, creating local militias again, or strengthening local militias that are already there. The idea of a national army dominated by non-Pashtuns is simply a nonstarter in Afghanistan. It always has been, always will be. And it's not something that U.S. Marines and soldiers, sailors and airmen can solve.
So I would say we should drastically cut back our patrolling in Afghanistan, let the Afghans do more of the patrolling. I would say almost all the patrolling should be done by Afghans. Secondly, we can pull back to our bases and focus on this idea of training local policemen or giving them the equipment they need, and we should set a time limit much sooner than the end of 2014, because I just don't see the point of having a couple of hundred more U.S. soldiers killed and tens of thousands wounded and otherwise harmed simply to perpetuate this whole really unworkable plan. You know, we tried to build an Afghan national security force in our own image, and it is not working. And it will not work by the end of 2014. ...NPR
JACK: ...I met Governor Atta in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2004, and he ran the militia there then, and he still runs the militia there now. And we are there at his whim. I don't think - you know, we have to sort of stop dreaming about an Afghanistan that will not come about by the end of 2014.
The problem that I see is that, you know, what is the logic in perpetuating this struggle for the U.S. forces? Because, as you said, there may be a partition by - a de facto partition after we leave, anyway. Well, maybe we could help organize that and accelerate it. And if the Afghans want to cooperate with each other, they will. And if they won't, there's nothing we can do to change that.
And to me, therefore, the lives that are going to be wasted in the next two-and-a-half years, that's almost the length of the Korean War. And we now have General Allen saying, oh, I'm looking at what the mission will be after 2014. Well, I got a mission plan: get out, and get out now. ...
FILKINS: Yeah. I think, I mean, you know, again, that's incredibly compelling. I mean - and there may be no answer except to leave. But I think what worries me is that how do we prevent - you know, how do we prevent a replay of 2001 all over again if the country disintegrates into anarchy? ...NPR
We don't. We couldn't figure it out then. But we went in anyway just so Bush could have his first war, like getting his first second-hand car as a teenager. Oh boy, the damage he did!
As with the Soviet Union, the best place for us is outta there and deciding, once and for all, not to allow our Pentagon, Congress, or the president to throw lives and deficit dollars at any more playgrounds for the military-industrial complex, no matter how much that corporate monster invests in political campaigns here at home.