- Levees Not War - https://www.leveesnotwar.org -

Afghanistan: More Insane Than a Quagmire

[1]

*

“. . . the reality, secretly guarded until now, is . . . [that] . . . it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. . . . That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap. . . . The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter; interview [2] with Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris), January 15–21, 1998

“Notwithstanding the damage al Qaeda and the Taliban have suffered . . . bin Laden’s forces now have the United States where they have wanted it, on the ground in Afghanistan where Islamist insurgents can seek to reprise their 1980s’ victory over the Red Army [of the Soviet Union]. Al Qaeda now has the chance to prove bin Laden’s thesis that the United States cannot maintain long-term, casualty-producing military engagements . . .”

Michael Scheuer, former head of CIA’s bin Laden unit, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America [3] (2002)

“. . . as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. . . . It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan. . . . our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended—because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”

President Barack Obama [4], United States Military Academy at West Point, Dec. 1, 2009

*

Runaway General, Runaway War

Everyone has heard at least a few choice snippets of the trash-talk by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff (“Bite me,” etc.) reported by Michael Hastings in “The Runaway General [5]” in the July 8–22, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone. While we urge everyone to read the whole article (better yet, buy a copy like we did), we thought it would be productive to present some revealing excerpts about the war itself—the substance we wish the Beltway media would focus on to serve the public interest, rather than rehashing the gossip and backbiting. There were many passages we could have quoted, but here are a few. You’ll see that the general’s insults, while careless and insubordinate, are not the most disturbing material.

More Insane Than a Quagmire

“The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it’s precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn’t want.” (93)

“On December 1st, in a speech at West Point [4], the president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea: It’s expensive; we’re in an economic crisis; a decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted its base of operations to Pakistan. Then, without ever using the words ‘victory’ or ‘win,’ Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.” (93)

“The prospects for any kind of success look bleak. In June, the death toll for U.S. troops passed, 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. . . . In June, Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history—and Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing U.S. troops in July of next year. (93)

“COIN [counterinsurgency] calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation’s government—a process that even its staunchest advocates admire requires years, if not decades, to achieve. . . . Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. (93)

“This is one of the central flaws with McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy: The need to build a credible government puts us at the mercy of whatever tin-pot leader we’ve backed.” (95)

A Doctrine Inspired by Algeria, Vietnam

“The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France’s nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). . . . But even if [McChrystal] somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock.” (120)

Backlash among the Troops

“. . . however strategic they may be, McChrystal’s new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. ‘Bottom line?’ says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.’ ” (97)

“We’re Fucking Losing This Thing”

[Says one soldier who has served three tours of duty in Afghanistan] “ ‘When I heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on. . . . I get COIN. I get all that. McChrystal comes here, explains it, it makes sense. but then he goes away on his bird, and by the time his directives get passed down to us through Big Army, they’re all fucked up—eitehr because somebody is trying to cover their ass, or because they just don’t understand it themselves. But we’re fucking losing this thing.’” (120)

“We Could Ask for Another Surge”

“The facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. ‘If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,’ a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. ‘There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,’ a senior military official in Kabul tells me.” (121)

*

Read our comment on Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, “Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation [6].”

*

We highly recommend the new movie Restrepo [7], directed by award-winning photographer Tim Hetherington and Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger, as well as Hetherington’s book of photographs, Infidel [8], and Junger’s new book War [9]. Click here [10] for Junger’s Vanity Fair dispatches from Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley and here [11] for an interview with Junger and Hetherington in the Wall Street Journal. The photo above was taken by Hetherington in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, and published in Vanity Fair.

Share on Facebook [12]Share on Twitter [13]Share on Tumblr [14]+1 [15]Digg This [16]Submit to reddit [17]Pin it on Pinterest [18]Share via email [19] Share