category

Tag Archives | Karzai

Forget the Generals, Americans are committed to Ending War

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

General Petraeus began his rogue propaganda tour earlier this week, and it’s caused quite a stir among policy wonks about the crisis in civilian-military relations. Bernard Finel and Jason Fritz, in particular, have had a fascinating discussion on the origins of the civ-mil crisis. I admit the crisis is deeply troubling, certainly for a President struggling against a reputation for weakness. But I took a slightly more stubborn line to the renegade Petraeus:

We’ve heard this propaganda from Petraeus before, it’s nothing new. They’ve been shoveling this garbage on us for years. Now the majority of Americans are pushing for an exit, and no matter what any rogue general says, we’re ending the war in Afghanistan.

In other words, bring it on. Well, Petraeus did bring it, and now we have our first public poll conducted (partially) after his campaigning began. As expected, he’s failing.

A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan – a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.

Even a heavy media push by Petraeus can’t deter the movement to end the war. When they sell us war, we push back. We’re done listening to this nonsense about “oil spots” or progress or breaking Taliban momentum or whatever it is they’re hocking this week. We’re ending the war, period. Continue Reading →

Mujahideen Victory Day: Afghans still voiceless decades later

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Happy Mujahideen Victory Day! This is the national holiday when Afghans celebrate their victory over the communists in the 1980’s. We remember the Mujahideen of course, they’re the folks we gave all that CIA training and Stinger missiles to kill Soviets with. We all at least saw the film version of Charlie Wilson’s War, right?

Basically the historical narrative is that the Soviet superpower (who incidentally invaded in the name of democracy and development), the bad guys, are defeated by the heroic Americans, the good guys, who saved the hapless, incoherent hillbillies, the Afghans, by giving them lots of weapons to kill each other with. Yay for freedom fighters! The danger, our story warns, is that we abandoned Afghanistan after Mujahideen Victory Day, causing America to become the victims. Blowback! Poor, foolish America should have interfered more with Afghanistan I suppose. But we’re ignoring the Afghan version of history, and completely missing the point of Mujahideen Victory Day. Continue Reading →

Rethinking Afghanistan’s Sticky Icky Quagmire

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

It’s April 20th, the unofficial holiday of 420. It’s that special day of the year when stoners around the world decide that discretion is not the better part of valor and liberally advertise their use of marijuana. Accordingly, we’ll try to rethink Afghanistan from that angle, and be completely honest about its marijuana use. Today is the perfect day after all, when you have reports like this in the Asia Times:

In addition to being the world’s leading producer of opium, Afghanistan has now become the largest producer of hashish, according to the first-ever cannabis survey released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) this month. Again, the US invasion is behind the new record.

The 2009 Afghanistan Cannabis Survey revealed that there is large-scale cannabis cultivation in half (17 out of 34) of Afghanistan’s provinces, covering a total area of 10,000 to 24,000 hectares every year (lower than opium cultivation, which covers 125,000 hectares). Afghanistan’s crop yield is so high at 145 kilograms of resin per hectare that it overtakes other leading producers like Morocco, where cannabis covers a larger land area but whose yield is lower, at 40 kg/ha.

It is estimated that Afghanistan produces 1,500-3,500 tons of hashish annually, an industry involving 40,000 households. The total export value of Afghan hashish is still unknown, but its farm-gate value – the income paid to farmers – is estimated at about US$40-$95 million, roughly 15% that of opium ($438 million in 2009).

Now because of all the COINdinista mythology that’s been beaten into your head, you probably think I’m going to rant about the drug trade supporting the insurgency and the international criminal-terrorism nexus and all that scary sounding stuff. Not true. The Taliban get their funding from a myriad of sources; Ransoms, charities, and even a formalized taxation system on the local economies. That is, if they’re not running the local businesses themselves. We could incinerate every last iota of opium and cannabis in the entire country and all we’d do is bankrupt and starve the farmers. The insurgency wouldn’t even blink, they’d be too busy recruiting those farmers. No, if we want to talk about drugs and Afghanistan, we’ve got to look at our allies in the war. Continue Reading →

Afghanistan: Death and the high cost of living

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Stephen Walt has an interesting piece up at Foreign Policy talking about the recent Wikileaks release. He touches on the idea that massacres like the one in the Wikileaks video are to be expected as part of the price of our interventionist policies:

Notice that I am not suggesting that the personnel involved failed to observe the proper “rules of engagement,” or did not genuinely think that the individuals they were attacking were in fact armed. Rather, what bothers me is that they were clearly trying to operate within the rules, and still made a tragic error. It reminds us that this sort of mistake is inevitable in this sort of war, especially when we rely on overwhelming firepower to wage it. When we intervene in other countries, this is what we should expect.

It’s an excellent point, but unfortunately it’s too easily dismissed with the old “war is hell” cliche, as we see in this piece from Bouhammer:

Soldiers cannot get wrapped around every single life they are forced to take by virtue of being in combat. Soldiers (and I use soldiers generally describing all service-members), use dark humor and take it all in stride when they have to take lives. They can’t be effective by getting wrapped around the axle over taking human lives. So what you hear in this video is soldiers being soldiers. Nobody likes killing innocents, especially children and that is evident when the soldiers on the ground immediately start calling for a MEDEVAC to come get the wounded children.

Clearly not everyone sees killing people as an unacceptable price of war, particularly when it’s soldiers doing it. Bouhammer simply took Walt’s advice, and expected the horrible deaths as a natural result of the policy. But there is a bit more to the price of war than just the loss of lives. So let’s get a little cold-hearted for a moment and just accept that we need to murder these people as part of our strategy. Even if we’re OK with that, the price of this strategy is still astronomically expensive. Continue Reading →

Size doesn’t matter: Missing the point of ISAF’s failure in Marja

Marja, Helmand, Afghanistan


Gareth Porter has an excellent piece up on IPS, “Fiction of Marja as City Was U.S. Information War,” in which he breaks down the media disinformation campaign on the size of Marja:

Marja is not a city or even a real town, but either a few clusters of farmers’ homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River Valley.

“It’s not urban at all,” an official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), who asked not to be identified, admitted to IPS Sunday. He called Marja a “rural community”.

“It’s a collection of village farms, with typical family compounds,” said the official, adding that the homes are reasonably prosperous by Afghan standards.

Porter is right on, and you should read the whole thing for an idea on exactly how these disinfo campaigns are spread, but I’m afraid in the case of Marja, we might be missing the point. We’re complaining that Marja is only an excuse for a propaganda victory while at the same time complaining that the victory won’t be worth anything because it’s not a city. This food is terrible, and such small portions!

Continue Reading →