Sunday, September 24, 2006

Turning "Victory" into Defeat in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized American efforts in Afghanistan in a Meet The Press interview with Tim Russert:

“After the initial success in throwing out terrorism, the Taliban and their international sponsors in less than a month and a half in 2001, ... expectations went very high, in Afghanistan especially,” he said.

But that “made us forget one thing: While we had thrown terrorism away from Afghanistan, we had really not gone after their sources, their training grounds. ... And we are now paying for that.”

“The international community must take a much tougher action,” he added. “The international community must go to the sources of terrorism.”

Karzai suggested that the United States had taken its eye off Afghanistan, distracted by its fighting in Iraq, where it has spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s infrastructure remains in shambles and its new democratic institutions are under assault, fueling discontent among ordinary Afghans, he said.

finds an Afghanistan teetering on the brink of disaster:

Not long after NEWSWEEK's visit, U.S. and Afghan National Army forces launched a major attack to dislodge the Taliban from Ghazni and four neighboring provinces. But when NEWSWEEK returned in mid-September, Sabir's fighters were back, performing their afternoon prayers. It is an all too familiar story. Ridge by ridge and valley by valley, the religious zealots who harbored Osama bin Laden before 9/11—and who suffered devastating losses in the U.S. invasion that began five years ago next week—are surging back into the country's center. In the countryside over the past year Taliban guerrillas have filled a power vacuum that had been created by the relatively light NATO and U.S. military footprint of some 40,000 soldiers, and by the weakness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration.

In Ghazni and in six provinces to the south, and in other hot spots to the east, Karzai's government barely exists outside district towns. Hard-core Taliban forces have filled the void by infiltrating from the relatively lawless tribal areas of Pakistan where they had fled at the end of 2001. Once back inside Afghanistan these committed jihadist commanders and fighters, aided by key sympathizers who had remained behind, have raised hundreds, if not thousands, of new, local recruits, many for pay. They feed on the people's disillusion with the lack of economic progress, equity and stability that Karzai's government, NATO, Washington and the international community had promised.

NATO officials say the Taliban seems to be flush with cash, thanks to the guerrillas' alliance with prosperous opium traffickers. The fighters are paid more than $5 a day—good money in Afghanistan, and at least twice what the new Afghan National Army's 30,000 soldiers receive. It's a bad sign, too, that a shortage of local police has led Karzai to approve a plan allowing local warlords—often traffickers themselves—to rebuild their private armies. U.N. officials have spent the past three years trying to disband Afghanistan's irregular militias, which are accused of widespread human-rights abuses. Now the warlords can rearm with the government's blessing. Afghanistan is "unfortunately well on its way" to becoming a "narco-state," NATO's supreme commander, Marine Gen. Jim Jones, said before Congress last week.

And what does the administration think about all this? Here's Dick Cheney talking to Russert on Meet The Press just two weeks ago about Afghanistan:

Afghanistan was governed by the Taliban, one of the worst regimes in modern times, terribly dictatorial, terribly discriminatory towards women. There were training camps in Afghanistan training thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists. All of those training camps today are shut down. The Taliban are no longer in power. There’s a democratically elected president, a democratically elected parliament and a new constitution and American-trained Afghan security forces and NATO now actively in the fight against the remnants of the Taliban. We are much better off today because Afghanistan is not the safe haven for terror that it was on 9/11.

When Russert tries to get Cheney to acknowledge that NATO forces and the American troops in country do not have enough resources to secure the entire nation and that the Taliban has mounted a comeback, Cheney refuses to agree, saying instead that NATO is "heavily engaged" and taking it to the Taliban forces in battle after battle.

No wonder things are going so badly in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the main architects of policy is delusional. There's no acknowledgement that the situation has worsened over the past few years. It's as if Cheney lives forever in the aftermath of the Afghan "victory" and the initial fall of Baghdad. It's all beautiful, it's all roses, it's all victory. And any news/facts/government reports to the contrary never break through the bubble of delusion.

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