Topic: War on Terror
As we all sit down to watch "the Path to 9/11" on ABC this Sunday and ruminate about the last five years of W.'s misrule, we might want to think about how things are going today in the first war that W. started. If we'll harken back to those dark days, we'll remember that Afghanistan was the country that gave OBL and al-Qaeda a free pass to train and plan the 9/11 attacks. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was the place where we had the best chance of really rolling up al-Qaeda and getting after OBL. If the administration had actually put any real effort into finishing off the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan, perhaps we wouldn't be in the situation we find ourselves in today. Back in 2001, the US still had enormous international support and sympathy for our invasion of Afghanistan because we had been attacked and we were defending ourselves. If we had left a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and rid the world of a then not so popular al-Qaeda, we'd still be in the position of being the leading light of freedom and stability throughout the world. And, perhaps more crucially, our military would still command the fear and respect of our enemies.
Thanks to Rummy's bungling in the initial phases of the Iraq war, the Sunnis there and now the Taliban in Afghanistan have been given time and space to figure out how to counter our tactics and prove to the world that we're vulnerable. The Taliban have compared notes with the insurgents in Iraq and now IEDs and suicide bombings are commonplace events, where they were unheard of before this year. In Kabul yesterday a suicide bomber crashed his Toyota into a US Army humvee, 50-yards from the US embassy building, killing 14 civilians and 2 US soldiers. [AP] This was the first major attack of its kind in relatively stable Kabul since the war began five years ago. It probably isn't the last.
At the same time this news was hitting the wires, NATO member countries were meeting in Brussels to decide on how many reinforcements to send to the south of the country, where the Taliban is running rampant. Since W. & Co. made the decisions to find more suitable targets to bomb in Iraq, a few months after invading Afghanistan, and allowed the Taliban to escape over the border into Pakistan they've regrouped and are now back, stronger than ever. This apparently is news to NATO officials who say they have been surprised by the level of combat they've faced in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. In the past 38 days they've lost 35 troops. Brig. Ed Butler, the commander of British forces in the south says, "The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis." As for our troops fighting in the east of the country, the NYT reported on Tuesday that, "statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq."
If NATO's original the plan was to go into these provinces in the south and finally get around to expanding the writ of Hamid Karzai's government outside the city limits of Kabul and gets reconstruction going again, I would say they've got a long way to go. Former NPR correspondent Sarah Chays, who now lives in Kandahar, was on the NEWSHOUR last night and she said the people in the area don't exactly have a great love for the Taliban, but there is a certain nostalgia for the law and order they brought to the country, which is now in total chaos. She says the insecurity in the south has finally caused most Afghanis, who were unusually patient in giving Karai's government a chance to provide security and stability, to turn toward the Taliban again out of utter desperation.
No matter how many troops NATO or we send in there, it is becoming very clear that the insurgency isn't going to end any time soon unless the problem of Pakistan and its support for the Taliban is addressed. Perves Musharrif was in Kabul this week to reassure Karzai that he's doing all he can to go after the Taliban in his country, but I doubt anyone believes him. Just before he landed in Kabul he made a deal with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in North Waziristan that he'd leave them alone if they didn't attack his military forces. In the agreement also was included a stipulation that Musharrif wouldn't go after OBL or any number of other wanted terrorists.
How the administration is going to reconcile Musharrif's peace deal with our sworn enemies while at the same time acting like he's our good buddy in South Asia is the real question. Musharrif and Karzai are going to be W.'s guests in Washington very soon, so it'll be interesting to see how W. & Co. spin this one. Musharrif will doubtless claim, as he did in Kabul this week, that neither he nor the ISI is "behind anything that is happening in Afghanistan," because "the coalition would become an enemy of Pakistan and start attacking Pakistan," but I think he's making the calculation that the US doesn't have the resources to go after him now. He's probably right about that because, besides Iraq, we've now got Iran on our plate. Hell, we can't even really cut off his government financially because if his regime were to be destabilized, we'd be looking at a potential take over by some very nasty people who wouldn't hesitate to nuke India with Pakistan's arsenal of "Islamic bombs."
Musharrif is in a tough position, between the rock of the US and the hard place of his radical Islamic domestic enemies. He's probably thinking he'd rather risk the wrath of the US than tangle with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially in light of these supposed democratic election he's going to be holding next year. He'll need the support of the only moderately radical elements of the electorate to get re-elected. Since he's done away with the likes of Narwaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and their moderate democratic parties, all he's got left is the whacko parties. Yes, this is quite a mess W. has gotten us into. In another five years we could have the Taliban in full control of their own statelet in the south of Afghanistan; a radical Islamic government in Pakistan with their hands on a bunch of nukes -- which they would give to al-Qaeda to bomb us; a full scale regional war in the Middle East pitting Turkey against the Kurds in the north of Iraq, the Iranians and the Syrians against us and Israel in Iraq and Lebanon; and just for good measure, the Russians and the Chinese swooping in to get their hands on all the oil when there's no one left standing.