Afghanistan: What's Gone Wrong?

On the eve of President Bush's Wednesday summit with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the U.S. effort in Afghanistan appears more troubled than at any time in the past five years.

Among the latest developments:

• In a fresh round of violence, a suicide bomber today struck in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 18 people. Yesterday, a prominent women's rights advocate was shot dead outside her home in Kandahar; she was wearing a burqa when she died, reported The Times. And last week, NATO forces reportedly killed 23 Taliban insurgents.

• Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, endorsed the recent controversial truce between Pakistan and pro-Taliban militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, according to the Daily Telegraph in Britain. The Pakistani government has since denied Omar had any role in the agreement, according to the Daily Times.

• Dissension has erupted in the ranks of the British military with the leaking of an e-mail in which the commander of a parachute regiment described British Air Force support of ground troops fighting the Taliban as "useless, useless, useless."

As headlines of violence and political strife mount, many in the international online seem to be arriving at similar conclusions: that the Taliban now enjoys greater political support than ever and the West's war against radical Islam in Afghanistan is foundering.

What has caused the Bush administration's one-time success story to go so wrong? Online commentators analysts both in Europe and throughout the troubled region offer some insight.

Trust and Tactics

Western military operations are not winning popular support.

Soldiers on the ground around Kandahar face huge obstacles in winning over the local people, reports Canadian correspondent Renata D'Aliesio in the National Post.

"It's not about pictures of soldiers handing out candies," American Gunnery Sgt. Rilon Reall told the newspaper. "It's about shifting a society, and that's going to take generations." Many people "have a disdain for the coalition forces because they have been let down in the past," Reall said. "When the coalition leaves, if they leave too early or don't follow through on their promises, then the people left here will look to see who can help them."

The Independent reports that British forces in Afghanistan "are restructuring their operations after months of fierce combat which have taken a mounting toll on the battlefield and caused rising concern at home."

"The Islamist fighters have been strengthened by the controversial opium poppy eradication programme which has seen farmers, with crops destroyed without compensation, become a recruiting pool for the Taliban," said the London daily.

"The British military have tried to distance themselves from the crop destruction, but they acknowledge that many Afghans do not differentiate between them and the private contractors from the US company DynCorp, charged with the task. As an elder at a village shura in Helmand pointed out: "The Westerners cannot tell the difference between our tribes, how should we be able to tell the difference between theirs?"

The Al-Qaeda Factor

Al-Qaeda is stronger than ever, said Britain's top counterterrorism official last week.

Peter Clarke, deputy assistant commissioner for Scotland Yard, told a conference in Australia that "that authorities overestimated the damage done to al-Qaeda by the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"What we have seen is that al-Qaeda is incredibly resilient and we are seeing that there is a degree of direction and control coming from what we call core al-Qaeda," he said.

According to "senior diplomatic sources," cited by SMH, Afghanistan "has reached a 'tipping point' where it stands to descend further into chaos."

Al-Qaeda's allies in the Taliban have also gotten stronger, says Vikram Sood of India's Hindustan Times.

"Today's Taliban fighter is far more radicalised and sophisticated than the one who was pushed out by the Americans into Pakistan in 2001 While the Afghan army pays its soldiers the equivalent of $ 4 a day, the Taliban pay as much as $ 8 a day. The Taliban fighter is prone to resort to slaughter and beheading and seems to revel in watching DVDs that depict anti-American violence," Sood wrote.

"Musharraf has realised that the Taliban cannot be militarily defeated," he says. "It is, therefore, better to strike a deal with them as the next force in Afghanistan. In Musharraf's own army are officers and men reluctant to fight the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, on grounds of conscience. ... Pakistan is now much more Islamicised and concessions to mullahs are inevitable for political survival in the country, especially with elections due next year."

Islam vs. the West?

In the West, many see the U.S. strategy in the war on terror as deeply flawed. In the Muslim world it is seen as malevolent. Either way, Afghanistan's ordeal illustrates the inability of America to win allies.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who wrote about the tactics of Islamic extremists for The Washington Post on the 9/11 anniversary, writes in EurasiaNet.org that "the recent turn of events in Afghanistan underscores the United States' and Great Britain's failure in the war of ideas."

Karzai's "political support is dwindling because the massive Western assistance needed to turn the war-ravaged country around has not been forthcoming, and he thus has little to show his people. Afghanistan's catastrophic increase in opium production, which is fueling the Taliban war effort, is a direct consequence of the West's failure to revive the Afghan economy."

The Guardian's Max Hasting says, "a dismaying number of people cherish such bitterness towards Bush and Blair for Iraq, Afghanistan and now Lebanon that they want US and British forces abroad to be seen to be defeated. This seems sorely mistaken. Whatever the follies of the past, it cannot be in the interests of the Iraqi or Afghan peoples, or of the world, for Islamic extremists to prevail."

In Iran, which supported the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban five years ago, the Iran Daily says U.S. policy has failed because of arrogance.

"First by creating the hardline Taliban and then in wake of the 9/11 attacks, the US set the stage for controlling the strategic region as its policeman and banker. Despite all its military adventures and political machinations, the US has been forced to witness its reckless Afghan policy go down the drain. Westerners, in particular the arrogant regime in America, aware of the fighting spirit of the Afghans and humiliation of the former Soviet Union in this troubled country not very long ago, would be naive to have expected a better deal."

Ansar Abbasi, Islamabad bureau chief for The News, a leading Pakistan daily says "the question that needs to be pondered particularly by the Bush-Blair duo and their stooges is as to how the Muslims should react to the massive killings of their brothers/sisters in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine and Lebanon. Violent reactions are unavoidable unless the root cause of the problem is identified and addressed."

The most dire note was sounded by former Russian general Ruslan Aushev, who was injured while leading Soviet forces in fighting against mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"You will flee from there," he told the Telegraph.

He added: "Many have fought in Afghanistan; first and foremost, the British fought there in the 19th century. The astonishing thing today is that Nato and the coalition seem to have learnt nothing, neither from their own experience nor from our experience."

Despite such predictions, it doesn't appear that the U.S. will be leaving anytime soon, as Ronald Neumann, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, told Spiegel Online: "We are not going to evacuate. We are not going anywhere."

By Jefferson Morley |  September 26, 2006; 10:33 AM ET  | Category:  Asia
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Comments

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The Western World will never be able to be susessful in Afghanistan or Iraq by brutt force or imposing our style of government onto them. When we invade and hold handfulls of dollars as bait to attract. These people have a history of corruption and it is part of their culture. When the dollars stop and we retreat,they know they will have to deal with who is left there to run the countries, the people we are fighting. Pressure and support from our people at home will make the coalition to retreat and we will be back to square one. The whole effort so far has been a waste of billions of dollars. We might as well bring our troops home and save their wasted lives and let them sort it out between themselves. Then try to win over the sussessful winner with our dollars and not our troops dead bodies.

Posted by: Peter Kell | September 26, 2006 12:05 PM

bring our troops home and save their wasted lives

How can you make a statement like that to men and women who are fighting for our freedom. you have know knowledge and have been getting false information slammed into your lil head. horrible

Posted by: | September 26, 2006 12:49 PM

US approaches to changing governments around the world have always been based on brute strength and arrogance, with disregard for the wishes and feelings of locals. Particularly the Bush/Cheney approach to Afghanistan may have started out ok, but was totally undermined by the decision to go into Iraq. - Failure to plan and combine the "liberation" of the country with connecting with the people and being realistic about the war-lord system led to failure. As mentioned, the Bushies have never paid attention to history of events in either Afghanistan or Iraq, which would have predicted the problems encountered. - On top of it all, it has left a narco-state which supplies 90% of the world's heroin, while still running a war on drugs at home. - In sum, the effort is a total misadventure with scant chance of success, because of poor planning, understanding, and execution of ad hoc efforts.

Posted by: Gunther Steinberg | September 26, 2006 01:01 PM

Dear Sir:


As a transplanted Brit who has lived in the US for a quarter century, but who was once nourished on schoolboy stories of the Empire, and Kipling's Imperial verse, I think the main thing that's "gone wrong" in Afghanistan derives from America's unique sense of history, and the passage of time.

As distinct from the view elsewhere, the "past" in the US is deemed too long ago to matter, particularly if it concerns the experience of foreigners. By the same token, the "future" is thought to be but a few years ahead.

Based on bitter experience, the rest of us think the idea of "winning" purely militarily in Afghanistan goes against all the lessons learned over a century and a half. And by the same token, that the notion of being able to impose "democracy" and "modernity" on such a quintessentially traditional tribal society within the short time horizons of Western political life, is naive and foolish.

It is this notion, widely held abroad, that people in the US seem afflicted by a kind of temporal myopia -- undersestimating the relevance of the past as well as the time and effort it may take to affect the future -- that goes some way to explain the rising tide of anti-Americanism around the world today.

A great power should know better.

Yours sincerely,

Peter H. Foges
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by: Peter Foges | September 26, 2006 01:03 PM

The US twisted 'facts' to get into an illegal war in Iraq and knew Bin Laden was not the real threat. The danger now is that Congress will continue to acquiese to those enemies of the Constitution that are domestic (and in office).

Posted by: Mikey | September 26, 2006 01:36 PM

The US twisted 'facts' to get into an illegal war in Iraq and knew Bin Laden was not the real threat. The danger now is that Congress will continue to acquiese to those enemies of the Constitution that are domestic (and in office).

Posted by: Mikey | September 26, 2006 01:41 PM

The situation in Afganhistan is hardly a "failure." It is not necessary to root the Taliban out of every cave or gully. All that is necessary is to keep them penned up and confined to small scale unit action for a few decades. They may mount some raids here and there, but fundamentally they are of little strategic value. Any force can mount raids and cause small-scale damage. Die-hard bands of US Confederates, South African War Boers and Japanese soldiers during WWII did such things, but their efforts in long term perspective were meaningless. Corralling and pacifying recalcitrant bands of native banditti is the sort of thing the British specialized in on the Northwest Frontier during colonial times. America as new hegemon in the area has to relearn these lesson, something not easily grasped by a culture impatient for quickie "shake and bake" results.

Success will come at cost, but if properly handled by relatively small, specialized regular Western forces, backed by native levies, it is quite manageable-- and an acceptable "cost of doing business" against assorted jihadists and seekers after Allah. What is needed on the part of the US and West is hard-nosed determination and long-term patience, not the all too common hand-wringing. Hysterics about "failure" only reveal a severe lack of historical perspective on the side of the perenially frantic.

Posted by: Enrique Cardova | September 26, 2006 01:43 PM

Both the US and the British (my lot) would be very well advised, as Peter Foges says, to remember their Kipling and the history. Afghanistan and the Afghans have not changed since the tribes wiped out Elphinstone's mixed army in the 19th century. Sadly,Enrique Cardova's comments above sound like those of an armchair strategist - the British entirely and disastrously failed in "corralling and pacifying recalcitrant bands of native banditti" in Afghanistan and were taught a bloody and terrible lesson about underestimating the opposition. From Arithmetic on the Frontier by Kipling (a jezail is a cheap musket, just like today's 10 buck AK47s):

A scrimmage in a Border Station--
A canter down some dark defile--
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail--
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow
Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The "captives of our bow and spear"
Are cheap--alas! as we are dear.

Posted by: Richard Price | September 26, 2006 02:27 PM

Sean Naylor's book "Not A Good day To Die" gives you a good snap shot of Afghanistan on the military side with Operation Anaconda. No unity of Command, Micromanagement from the Pentagon, diversion of assets to Iraq, and nickel and dime support of the war generally are the major problems on the military side. Nickel and dime support for Iraq was also a problem there. One advantage they have in Afghanistan is logistical support is not provided by private contractors such as Halliburton. As fars I know, Local troops controlled their own logistics. Since no oil was yet an issue, It was of less interest to private contrators.
Politically, Afghanistan is still tribal, and Unity may be a problem for some time. It would be helpful if we could work directly with all of the surrounding countries in dealing with al-Qaida and the Taliban. The same thing could be said about Iraq. As in Iraq, we don't want to be there forever, and if we had them, come to some agreement on support for the Afghanistan and Iraq, we might be able to fashion a graceful exit.
As to the British problems with close air support, they might want to train with the Marines. They have been doing it since the 1920s. The Marines use the Harrier. The Harrier and the A10 are good aircraft, and they seem to do a good job.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | September 26, 2006 02:36 PM

Maybe I'm not getting something here. If I read the current situation correctly, Bin Laden is in Pakistan, as are the leaders of the Taliban. We cannot touch them, because we are not allowed to enter the country militarily.

Furthermore, Pakistani leaders have made a pact with the Taliban Friendly tribes in Pakistan that harbor Bin Laden, other Al Qaeda leaders and the leaders of the Taliban which ensure that they are left alone in exchange for stability in Pakistan.

Even Pakistani military and intel would not work hard to capture any Al qaeda or Taliban leader, because they sympathize with their cause.

At the same time, the Pakistani scientist responsible for giving Nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran also is untouchable by us, because he is a national hero and to capture him and bring him to justice would cause all hell to break loose in Pakistan. It is also highly likely that he received government assistance in his endeavors, because it seems virtually impossible that a mission of that magnitude could go unnoticed by the governemt, especially by the man who led it's successful Nuclear Program. It is also surmized by some that military planes were involved in the transport of centrifuges.

Now heres the part I don't get. This country, Pakistan, is our ally, and Iran, who does not support either Al Qaeda or the Taliban and has not shared it's nuclear technology wiht anyone and may not even be trying to make a bomb, is our mortal enemy.

Now in terms of "world trade center destroying" and "USS Cole sinkng" type of terrorist support, I suppose Pakistan must be the current world leader. They also have actually engaged in the USA's greatest nightmare scenario: they exported nuclear technology to our potenital enemies.

Conversely, Iran sponsors Hezbolah, who's entire mission is to keep Israel out of Lebabnon, to get back the Hezbollah soldiers Israel captured and to secure the return of the Shabba Farms. They pose no direct threat to Israel as long as Israel stays the hell out of Lebanon.

Iran is not a sponsor of Hamas, although they are on friendly terms.

Many countries in the world do not consider Hamas or Hezbollah to be terrorst organisations, but rather freedom fighters. In any case, neither of them pose any threat whatsoever to the US, and would pose little or no threat to Israel if Israel gave up the settlements, quit the occupation and stopped periodically attacking and occupying Lebanon.

However, almost every country in the world consider Al Qaeda to be a terrorist group and most countries condemn the Taliban as brutal and repressive.

So it seems our Government appears to be obsessed with nations which even only appear to threaten Israel (by insisting that they end occupations and return stolen land) while they seem utterly complacent about nations which are currently supporting groups and people who have made attacks on US soil and spread nuclear technology to our our enemies. They even go so far as to call such govenments our "allies".

Honest question: whats wrong with this picture? Why are we talking tough with Iran when Pakistan threatens the entire Afgahnistan operation by harboring the Taliban and threatens the Iraqi operation , the US and even much of the world by harboring AQ Kahn and Bin Laden?

It seems we are working very hard to safe guard the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while ignoring our own security and that of the rest of the world.

Please, Someone explain the rationale behind this to me.

J

Posted by: J | September 26, 2006 02:51 PM

As with IRAQ the mission was not accomplished. It was a short sighted military planning and execution without an understanding of history or culture. Error upon error going back 3 previous administrations and Soviet rule. We learned mothing. Opium now pays and they have sanctuary to rest and return at will.
Bib laden & Omar are alive and corruption feeds the long term. Another 60,000 troops with their going into the Pakistan mountains might do it, maybe. We missed the real mission while the CIA was give a "dead horse"to ride. Remember Tora Bora? Too many errors and counting.

Posted by: German Alvarado | September 26, 2006 02:52 PM

As with IRAQ the mission was not accomplished. It was a short sighted military planning and execution without an understanding of history or culture. Error upon error going back 3 previous administrations and Soviet rule. We learned nothing. Opium now pays and they have sanctuary to rest and return at will.
Bib laden & Omar are alive and corruption feeds the long term. Another 60,000 troops with their going into the Pakistan mountains might do it, maybe. We missed the real mission while the CIA was give a "dead horse"to ride. Remember Tora Bora? Too many errors and counting.

Posted by: German Alvarado | September 26, 2006 02:54 PM

Has it gone wrong in Afghanistan for the US ?

Goal nr. 1 : Get the Taliban out of government power, because they do not cooperate in the pursuit of el qae'da. Goal achieved.
Goal nr 2: have military access to this strategic part of Asia. Goal achieved.
Goal nr 3 : show that the administration is doing something after the twin towers crash. Goal achieved.

The taliban may once rule the countryside, but they can be kept out of the capital, which is enough for the goals above.

Also, the el qaeda thing has become a more diffuse phenomenon, for which it is not of any use to go after a group in the bush with planes and tanks; this makes goal 1 less important anyway.

What is going terribly wrong for the world, of course, apart from ethical questions, is that the whole thing is contributing to enemy thinking between the Northern countries and the islamic countries in this new cold war (hot at the moment). For afghanistan, this may also result in our non-acceptance of any sort of government of islamic signature , which really seems to be the preferred solution to afghans at this moment.

New goals we do not seem to have. The news is about so-and-so-many taliban killed. Is that what we are after ??

Posted by: Bowen | September 26, 2006 03:30 PM

Has it gone wrong in Afghanistan for the US?

Goal nr. 1 : Get the Taliban out of government power, because they do not cooperate in the pursuit of el qae'da. Goal achieved.
Goal nr 2: have military access to this strategic part of Asia. Goal achieved.
Goal nr 3 : show that the administration is doing something after the twin towers crash. Goal achieved.

The taliban may once rule the countryside, but they can be kept out of the capital, which is enough for the goals above.

Also, the el qaeda thing has become a more diffuse phenomenon, for which it is not of any use to go after a group in the bush with planes and tanks; this makes goal 1 less important anyway.

What is going terribly wrong for the world, of course, apart from ethical questions, is that the whole thing is contributing to enemy thinking between the Northern countries and the islamic countries in this new cold war (hot at the moment). For afghanistan, this may also result in our non-acceptance of any sort of government of islamic signature , which really seems to be the preferred solution to afghans at this moment.

New goals we do not seem to have. The news is about so-and-so-many taliban killed. Is that what we are after ??

Posted by: Bowen | September 26, 2006 03:32 PM

Nothing has gone wrong in Afghanistan. The problem lies in a militarily untouchable haven in Pakistan for them to retreat to, recover, and rebuild strength. Regrettably, that border is never going to be closed effectively. At the same time, it doesn't imply that what Afghanistan has become in the meantime is ultimately a failure either.

Yeah, its a pisser about opium, but if there weren't so many lame asses craving their next needle of heroin, it wouldn't be such an issue, wouldn't it? That will take time, as much time as it will take to make something other than marijuana California's cash crop, or coca leaves into half of South America's. The key thing to remember it, Karzai's making the non-combat side of Afghanistan work. Nothing like we'd hoped, maybe, but it is starting to coalesce. It needs time to mature, time that's going to be bought with a lotta lives. This isn't about ruling Afghanistan, its about helping the Afghans rule themselves, its about protecting lives from a psychoreligious movement hellbent on domination. Whether the Afghans choose a traditional life, or something more western, IS THEIR CHOICE! We cannot make it for them, but that doesn't imply that we will not be able to relate to what emerges.

Iraq was started on a lie, but Afghanistan is worth every life we pay to help them find their own way, out from under the oppression of foreign rule, and religious psychoticism.

Posted by: James Buchanan | September 26, 2006 03:35 PM

That National Post article is rubbish. It's clear that the reporter barely left her APC.

Here's a quite brilliant article on Afghanistan, from a reporter who stuck around Panjwai after Operation Medusa was over and the Canadians had left.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060922.wmedusa0923/BNStory/Afghanistan/

Posted by: OD | September 26, 2006 03:54 PM

An old saying goes: 'If you don't know where you are going, all roads will lead you there....' If the U.S. government were to have a coherent hierarchy of goals and an overarching goal, backed by specific programs engineered to acheive these in a sequential order, one might see some direction to all the activity... Instead, the approach is all ad hoc. It's no wonder some say the U.S. government has been successful in Afghanistan and others say it has not. No one really knows what is trying to be acheived, and no one seems able to agree on benchmarks to measure failure/success. It's all smoke, mirrors, confusion, self-promotion, and ultimately the creation of a fantasy world in which everyone sees things through separate rose-tinted glasses...

Posted by: | September 26, 2006 03:55 PM

Several people, I see , mention long and short run here.
The logic is that afghani's, like anyone else, like to have food first, next a house, next some security, and in the end democracy. We started at the wrong end by imposing the latter.

However, starting at the beginning would take several, or many, years for the whole process to finish. I have not heard of any idea how to get through an election with such a commitment.

Posted by: Ari Verveer | September 26, 2006 03:57 PM

Something has gone wrong in Afghanistan, of course. Five years after the US kicked out the Taliban and AlQaeda, the situation should be more stable not only in the capital but also the outlying areas. Some good infrastructure, i.e. many roads and bridges should already have been built, not just some shiny modern hotel where Karzai reside. NATO forces must really gotten a surprise of their lives when they got to Afghanistan, that is if they believed all the PR from the Bush administration. We could have done more in Afghanistan if only we didn't get sidetracked in Iraq. That's a fact.

Posted by: M. Stratas | September 26, 2006 03:58 PM

An Afghan soldier's basic pay is $40 a month. The Taliban pays fighters $70 a month, one reason why it's doing so well.

The current cost of the war in Iraq is $7 billion a month (not including equipment wear, new bonuses to fix recruitment, oil price hikes, future VA medical bills etc).

With that you could pay a $240 monthly stipend to every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan.

Posted by: OD | September 26, 2006 04:44 PM

The most sickening thing about Bush is that he is actually losing the war on terror, and yet to save his political skin keeps scamming his base, mostly honest, patriotic people, into believing that his losing ideas are "winning." We're losing Afghanistan, and there was never anythying to "win" in Iraq in the first place. By facts, his inept, bumbling, stupid record in the war on terror should be his greatest weakness. It's one thing to trick people into voting against their economic self-interest, quite another to trick them into voting against their security, tossing in getting them to vote against their American civil rights in the bargain. And they love him for it. The perversity of the neo-cons is staggering.

Posted by: Nomo Stew | September 26, 2006 05:27 PM

question
1. If the russians could not control afghan with 100,000 men, why do we think we can with less than half that?
Problem on sustaining this operation:
The british Army is not in a position to sustain this operation, nor Iraq, it has got big manpower problems, and its units are having to do back to back tours less than six month turn around, in the long term they will start loosing men through retention because they are under paid and over worked,and recruiting will plumit, because of this, they need to take a step back and think, long term, and what effects this will have on the military. if i can see it so can they!so lets see some leadership

Posted by: A | September 26, 2006 06:31 PM

If we dial back to the post-9/11 US air war on the Taliban, and check the news reports at that time, we will see that Bush refused to allow the deployment of any peacekeeping forces outside the city limits of Kabul. This was despite strenuous arguments from people who knew the place much better than he, that Afghanistan would never be secure from a resurgent Taliban unless there was a broad peacekeeping operation throughout the country. Bush also refused to let NATO initially play a role in Afghanistan after the routing of the Taliban. Nothing that is happening now should be a surprise to anyone who has been following events the past five years. Bush made a series of willful, uninformed arrogant decisions that have destabilized the world and caused unspeakable tragedy for hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Even now he's in a state of complete denial over the results of his own stubborn behavior.

Posted by: Nancy Kaplan | September 26, 2006 07:26 PM

I agree with J.we are so hypocritical that i bet people around the world laugh at us.the taliban existed in afghanistan from 1996-2001,and was recognized by 3 countries.those were saudi arabia,united arab emrates,pakistan.all three are our allies.now many of those hijackers on 9/11 were saudi or egyptian,all allies of the u.s.those who tries to blow up planes from uk to u.s were pakistani,all allies.bin laden is saudi,his number 2 man al-zawhiri is egyptian.al--zarqawi who was killed in iraq in june was from jordan,another ally.all these terrorists come from u.s allies.how come? how come?not one terrorist from iran!mullahs certainly are not breeding terrorists.iran has full rights to support hamas and hezbollah,they are freedom fighters.just like those thugs in nicaragua were freedom fighters to ronald reagan who is burning in hell as we speak!iran is not responsible for none of these terrorist incidents are not linked to iran,so iran is not an international state sponsor of terrorism.the groups it supports only target israel,and little artificial israel is not the international world. plus pakistan is unstable,and many consider it a failed state.so this pervez mussahraf guy could be out the door in coup any day!not the mullahs though.they have been intact since 1979,and they remain there.now what if an al-qeada guy toppled parvez and pakistan's nuclear weapons ended up in the hands of a terrorist.no one in the u.s administration or the media talk about that,but only focus on iran and iran "might " have bombs,even thought the republicans lied and in their report saying that iran enriched high uranium and iaea quickly stopped those lying right wing thugs in their tracks.america purposely lured the soviets to invade afghansitan so that the soviets could have thier own"vietnam".u.s supported and funded the jihadists in afghanistan,and now they have come back to haunt america,because america was stupid and careless in abandoning afghanistan,and said screw them?now america will have hell to pay for neglecting afghanistan,and will pay for not dealing with saudi arabia,arab gulf states,egypt,and jordan,dictators whom america thinks will stay in power forever.but they will go down sooner or later,just like the that thug shah muhammed reza pahlavi went down in 1979 in iran,and america watched in disgrace as what it did in 1953 cam back to bite it in the ass.america should know that stupidity and arrogance are never rewarded.never!america will suffer for its friendship with these terrorist regimes in saudi arabia,gulf arab states,egypt,and jordan,and for supporting the the terrorist state of israel,which brutalizes the palestinians all day and attacked lebanon,three times,with all times being failure.until palestinians are not free,there will be terrorism and they will attack israel and those that support them,like u.s.so put this "god is on america's side" nonsense behind you.i remember how much god helped us in vietnam,58,000 killed,god is with us.right.i hope peace prosperity,democracy,and stability for iraq,and afghanistan.i hope u.s suffers for abusing and neglecting these nations.

Posted by: CALVIN | September 26, 2006 07:42 PM

AMERICA AND ISRAEL ARE FAILING,WHILE IRAN IS PREVAILING! GOD BLESS IRAN!

Posted by: CALVIN | September 26, 2006 08:13 PM

America can easily win wars but winning the peace is something the Bush administration has no interest in doing. Its not that it cannot be done. The problem is that this administration sees no need for it.

A previous poster is correct in saying that we do not have to kill every Taliban soldier. The Taliban are not well liked in Afganistan. The Taliban pay twice as much to their soldiers as is noted in the story. Why? Because they have to pay more to get people to fight for them. The Taliban are as popular as Saddam is in Iraq. The problem in both places is that Bush has put into place policies that make American forces as equally dispised as the former rulers. Unless our policies change and the US launches efforts to win the peace, no amount of military power will work. Bush is the wrong person to lead this effort since he has no clue nor interest in winning the peace. We will see the problem mount over the next two years until, hopefully, someone with a brain is elected who can change our policies and salvage the peace that Bush is so intent on ignoring.

Posted by: Sully | September 27, 2006 08:03 AM

J wrote:
--Honest question: whats wrong with this picture? Why are we talking tough with Iran when Pakistan threatens the entire Afgahnistan operation by harboring the Taliban and threatens the Iraqi operation , the US and even much of the world by harboring AQ Kahn and Bin Laden?--

The answer is simple, it is better to have Pakistan as an ally than as an enemy. They appear ready to be either. So which do we choose?

The real solution to this region was to overthrow the taliban in Afganistan and put in place an elected government that would over time be a counterweight to Pakistan. This pressure on Pakistan would help to keep it from harboring and exporting terrorism. But Bush never had a plan for the peace, just the overthrow. He had no plan to build Afganistan as he said he would. He never had a plan to stay with Afganistan and not leave as America did in the past. Like his entire life, Bush impliments a policy and walks away, never learning, never listening to contrary advice, assured that he is right because God is guiding him.

Vote democratic this fall, let the democrats bring impeachment charges against Bush and criminal charges against Cheney, and when Palosi becomes president you will see our policies in that region of the world change for the better. It can all happen by voting the republicans out this fall. If Palosi scares you as president, consider what we have in that position now. Can you handle another two years of Bush? Can our economy? Can Afganistan? Can Iraq?

Posted by: Sully | September 27, 2006 08:27 AM

Please do not present the National Post as a credible news outlet. It is widely viewed here in Canada as a rightwing propaganda sheet that is completely out of step with mainstream thinking in this country. Especially on matters concerning the Middle East, it consistently skews coverage and commentary to suit the prejudices and biases of the Asper family, its owners. This is well known in Canada. The National Post is not a credible news outlet.

Posted by: John Robertson | September 27, 2006 09:58 AM

Sully

I like that expression "put in place an elected government" .

Posted by: Ari | September 27, 2006 02:26 PM

What has gone wrong in Afghanistan (or Iraq for that matter) is that we continue to impose a western approach on militairy and government management in an Arab country. We should have learned from our failures in the Middle East since 1947 (yes, creation of Israel under UN, et all, support) - constant fighting between Western and Arab Civilization. Same tensions are popping up in Iraq and now Afganistan. How to solve it is tricky but for starters acknowledge it.

Posted by: Bruce - Netherlands | September 28, 2006 07:36 AM

Sully,

Nancy Pelosi is as cowed and beholden to AIPAC as anyone in the current administration. She would take us to war with Iran in a heartbeat if given half a chance, and then claim she was mislead after we are hopelessly tied up in another conflict to make the world safer for the Ultra right wing Israeli Settler movement.

Hillary Clinton is similarly inclined. We need to identify politicians who specifically talk about forcing the Israelis to withdraw from the settlements, and actively pursuing a two state solution. IE, like Senator Lincoln Chafee from RI.

Simply Turning the Government over to Democrat control will do nothing in and of itself to reduce terrorism or lessen the probability of WWIII. Rather, we must elect politicians who are committed to changing our policies regarding Israel dramatically. End the settlemts and other Israeli occupations, and you put a huge dent in terrorist recruitment and funding.

The US, Israel, and the entire world will be a safer place when The Israeli settelments are finally razed to the Ground and replaced with a free Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel.

Below is an excellent article from the Nation which sums the situation up very well. Please read it, and take note of Pelosi's servile attitude towards the far right Israeli settlers and AIPAC, and also take note of how AIPAC is literally able to dictate legislation to our government with impugnity which puts US security second to Israeli security.


"In early March, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its forty-seventh annual conference in Washington. AIPAC's executive director spent twenty-seven minutes reading the "roll call" of dignitaries present at the gala dinner, which included a majority of the Senate and a quarter of the House, along with dozens of Administration officials.

As this event illustrates, it's impossible to talk about Congress's relationship to Israel without highlighting AIPAC, the American Jewish community's most important voice on the Hill. The Congressional reaction to Hezbollah's attack on Israel and Israel's retaliatory bombing of Lebanon provide the latest example of why.

On July 18, the Senate unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution "condemning Hamas and Hezbollah and their state sponsors and supporting Israel's exercise of its right to self-defense." After House majority leader John Boehner removed language from the bill urging "all sides to protect innocent civilian life and infrastructure," the House version passed by a landslide, 410 to 8.





AIPAC not only lobbied for the resolution; it had written it. "They [Congress] were given a resolution by AIPAC," said former Carter Administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who addressed the House Democratic Caucus on July 19. "They didn't prepare one."

AIPAC is the leading player in what is sometimes referred to as "The Israel Lobby"--a coalition that includes major Jewish groups, neoconservative intellectuals and Christian Zionists. With its impressive contacts among Hill staffers, influential grassroots supporters and deep connections to wealthy donors, AIPAC is the lobby's key emissary to Congress. But in many ways, AIPAC has become greater than just another lobby; its work has made unconditional support for Israel an accepted cost of doing business inside the halls of Congress. AIPAC's interest, Israel's interest and America's interest are today perceived by most elected leaders to be one and the same. Christian conservatives increasingly aligned with AIPAC demand unwavering support for Israel from their Republican leaders. (In mid-July, 3,000-plus evangelicals came to town for the first annual "Christian United for Israel" summit.) And Democrats are equally concerned about alienating Jewish voters and Jewish donors--long a cornerstone of their party. Some in Congress are deeply uncomfortable with AIPAC's militant worldview and heavyhanded tactics, but most dare not say so publicly.


"The Bush Administration is bad enough in tolerating measures they would not accept anywhere else but Israel," says Henry Siegman, the former head of the American Jewish Congress and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "But the Congress, if anything, is urging the Administration on and criticizing them even at their most accommodating. When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups, like AIPAC, that to be critical of Israel is to deny oneself the ability to succeed in American politics."

There are a few internationalist Republicans in the Senate and progressive Democrats in the House who occasionally dissent. Representative Dennis Kucinich and twenty-three co-sponsors have offered a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and a return to multiparty diplomacy between the United States and regional powers, with no preconditions. But even the resolution's supporters admit it isn't likely to go anywhere. Another bill introduced by several Arab-American lawmakers that stressed the need to minimize civilian casualties on both sides was "politically swept under the rug," according to Representative Nick Rahall, a Lebanese-American Democrat from West Virginia who voted against the House resolution. Dovish American-Israeli groups, such as Americans for Peace Now, have largely stayed out of the fight.

The latest hawkish Congressional activity is primarily intended to show voters and potential donors that elected officials are unwavering friends of Israel and enemies of terrorism. "It's just for home consumption," said Representative Charlie Rangel, a powerful New York Democrat who signed on to Kucinich's resolution. "We don't have the support of countries that support us! What the hell are we going to do, bomb Iran? Bomb Syria?" His colleagues, said Rahall, "were trying to out-AIPAC AIPAC."

Discussion in Congress quickly widened beyond Israel to include a broader policy of confrontation toward the entire Middle East. Congressmen sent a flurry of "dear colleague" letters to one another, hoping to pressure the Administration into tightening sanctions on Syria and Iran, Hezbollah's two main state sponsors. Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross addressed a packed AIPAC-sponsored luncheon on the Hill, where, according to one aide present, Ross told the room: "This is all about Syria and Iran...we shouldn't be condemning Israel now." Said Representative Robert Andrews, a Democrat from New Jersey and co-chair of the Iran Working Group, which this week hosted an official from the Israeli embassy: "I concur completely with that approach."

Democrats, as they did during the Dubai ports scandal, used the crisis to score a few cheap, easy political points against the Bush Administration. The new prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, found himself engulfed in a Congressional firestorm after he denounced Israel's attacks on Lebanon as an act of "aggression." Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, who volunteered in Israel during the first Gulf War, called on Maliki to cancel his planned address before Congress. Asked Senator Chuck Schumer, who skipped Maliki's July 26 speech: "Which side is he on when it comes to the war on terror?" Howard Dean one upped his colleagues, labeling Maliki an "anti-Semite" during a speech in Palm Beach, Florida.

Ironically, during the 2004 campaign Dean called on the United States to be an "evenhanded" broker in the Middle East. That position enraged party leaders such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who signed a letter attacking his remarks. "It was designed to send a message: No one ever does this again," says M.J. Rosenberg of the center-left Israel Policy Forum. "And no one has. The only safe thing to say is: I support Israel." In April a representative from AIPAC called Congresswoman Betty McCollum's vote against a draconian bill severely curtailing aid to the Palestinian Authority "support for terrorists."

Not surprisingly, most in Congress see far more harm than reward in getting in the Israeli lobby's way. "There remains a perception of power and fear that AIPAC can undo you," says James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. He points to the defeats of Representative Paul Findley and Senator Charles Percy in the 1980s and Representatives Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard in 2002, when AIPAC steered large donors to their opponents. Even if AIPAC's make-you-or-break-you reputation is largely a myth, in an election year that perception is potent. Thirty-six pro-Israel PACs gave $3.14 million to candidates in the 2004 election cycle. Rahall said his opponent for re-election issued his first press release of the campaign after Rahall voted against the House resolution. "Everybody knew what would happen if they didn't vote yes," he says.

AIPAC continues to enjoy deep bipartisan backing inside Congress even after two top AIPAC officials were indicted a year ago for allegedly accepting and passing on confidential national security secrets from a Defense Department analyst. "The US and Israel share a lot of basic common values. The vast majority of the American people not only support Israel's actions against Hezbollah but also the fundamental US-Israel relationship, and the bipartisan support in Congress reflects that," says AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. Rosenberg, himself a former AIPAC staffer, puts it another way: "This is the one issue on which liberals are permitted, even expected, by donors to be mindless hawks."

By blindly following AIPAC, Congress reinforces a hard-line consensus: Criticizing Israeli actions, even in the best of faith, is anti-Israel and possibly anti-Semitic; enthusiastically backing whatever military action Israel undertakes is the only acceptable stance.

Recent Gallup polls show that half of Americans support Israel's military campaign, yet 65 percent believe the United States should not take sides in the conflict. But it's hard to imagine any Congress, or subsequent Administration, returning to the role of honest broker. What the region needs now, according to Brzezinski, is an American leader brave enough to say: "Either I make policy on the Middle East or AIPAC makes policy on the Middle East." One can always dream."


J

Posted by: J | September 28, 2006 02:27 PM

Correction: I said the US was spending $7 billion a month in Iraq. In fact it's now reached nearly $9 billion a month. Enough to spend $300 a month on every single person in Afghanistan.

An Afghan Army soldier earns $40 a month, and the Taliban pays fighters $70 a month.

Posted by: OD | September 29, 2006 02:21 AM

Dear Sir,
The Afgan and Iraq Us and the British occupation is a failure because the Afgans
and Iraqes see the US and the British as
Christains dominating Islam.

Posted by: mr.Dara E. Patel | October 5, 2006 09:56 AM

Ok,
Let me climb upon my soapbox.
I see comments like "bring our troops home" and "we do not need to worry about all cave hiding terrorists", "it's all bush's fault" etc.
the problem is/was that when we liberated quate, we basicly ran sadam across the state line and we then turned out back on the situation. we should have kept chassing until all was in proper control. we held off for a few years and allowed the taliban to form stronger brigades, we allowed the upper echelon find better hiding placed and gain regional support, and we allowed them to enter our soil with one of the most outragious offenses immaginable.
now, we have re-entered the junk yard with a stick, beat the guard dog couple of times. now it is expected that we should walk away from the yard? uh,no! if you walk away from it, do you honestly think there will be no reprocussions? walk away, and you invite trouble to re-enter your own back yard.
if we were to pull out all at once, it would be the best interest of national defense to close our borderes and begin a deportation process of all suspected terrorist sympathisers/supporters.
so, where did it all go wrong? not with bush, or clinton. i say it went wrong with their advisors, and the influencial peope looking for favors in echange for government attention. the extreme uppre class...

Posted by: Don | October 12, 2006 10:33 PM

Pick pick pick, that all everyone does. We are now in a fight that the Muslims said they will fight for 1000yrs. They think long term. We dont. So if they want a war then give them a war. Make it so costly and bloody for them that they loose all taste for it. Then help them re-build. But we have to show are enemies and the world at the samr time, that we are not to messed with. This country has become to Libral. If we had the same values in WWII we would have lost. In Sept. 1942, Know as Back Sept, In just one mission we lost 1000 airmen. If that happened today, the Left would be outraged. And im sure If we were as whimpy then as we are now. the Left would have said, Why are we even in Europe? They didnt attack us, just the Japanees did. Come on people we have been engaged in a war of atrition. I am sad to say that we are not up to it.

Posted by: Bob | November 9, 2006 09:21 AM

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