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Afghanistan: On the Brink
June 1, 2006 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Afghanistan: On the Brink - Ahmed Rashid on Afghanistan's precarious situation. Around three thousand of the 23,000 US troops now deployed in Afghanistan are scheduled to return home this summer and Western intelligence officials say several thousand more may depart before November. The start of an American withdrawal in the midst of a vicious Taliban resurgence naturally infuriates Karzai and his government; it is particularly disillusioning for millions of Afghans who, unlike their Iraqi counterparts, still equate a sizable US military presence with security, continued international funding, and reconstruction. In Iraq practically the entire population wants the Americans to leave, however pleased they are about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But the survival of the new Afghan government has depended upon the leadership of the US and its ability to convince the rest of the world to rebuild the country. The US needs to contribute money to carry out its promises and show it is willing to stay the course. It is doing neither. Barnett Rubin. International Crisis Group.
posted by russilwvong (31 comments total)

 
Afghaniwhere? Taliwho?
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on June 1, 2006


Not surprising in any regard. The US government has become increasingly greedy due to ordinary Americans incompetence and ignorance. Of course the hypocrisy of the situation will be ignored by the state (mainstream) media.
posted by j-urb at 11:51 AM on June 1, 2006


It's springtime for Hit- I mean- the Taliban again.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 11:56 AM on June 1, 2006


Of course the hypocrisy of the situation will be ignored by the state (mainstream) media.

Who has time to cover something like this when there are Hurricanes On Teh Loose!!!11!
posted by NationalKato at 11:58 AM on June 1, 2006


If we stay, we're imperialist running dogs, and if we leave we're greedy, incompetent, ignorant hypocrites. I'm confused. What are we supposed to do, then?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:01 PM on June 1, 2006


I really don't see why we can't be imperialist, greedy, incompetent, ignorant, hypocrital running dogs.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:07 PM on June 1, 2006


Not throw our big military dick in people's faces in the first place?
posted by papakwanz at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2006


What are we supposed to do, then?

Make decisions based on the national interest, not popularity.

In Afghanistan, that probably means staying.

In Iraq, I have no idea.
posted by russilwvong at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2006


And lactose intolerant, too.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2006


The current mode for managing Afganistan is "containment". If you can't solve the problems of an unstable country you at least seek to contain it.
posted by StarForce5 at 12:09 PM on June 1, 2006


The logic is undermined by the recent riots and accusations against American troops in Afghanistan. There's a good chance that the "slow burn" opposition is going to become a lot hotter in the coming months; if an increased US presence = another Iraq, well, what can you do? Sometimes, imperialism means that you've got no good options.
posted by graymouser at 12:13 PM on June 1, 2006


Not invade in the first place, but given that it's too late for common sense to take hold, how's about we work with aid agencies and other neutral NGOs to raise the standard of living whilst simultaneously we work to reduce the work of fundamentalist Pakistani clerics to turn the youth into a new generation of Islamic warriors baying for western blood. We might also try curbing the sale of opium and punish the warlords involved in this rather than turning a blind eye whilst they help us ferret out the last remaining Taliban sympathisers (those that didn't escape through the porous borders due to lack of planning/foresight/understanding of the situation viz Pakistan).

Could have told you that before the invasion too.
posted by longbaugh at 12:14 PM on June 1, 2006


Hey look people, you can't go into another country and set up a government and expect it to function unless you're willing to fight a perpetual war to keep it in power.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 12:14 PM on June 1, 2006


Now somehow, if we secretly support a vicious tyrant with arms and $, that seems to work well.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 12:17 PM on June 1, 2006


And in the past two weeks, Taliban fighters have appeared in battle in groups of up to 300 men, more than triple the size of the largest groups seen before. The militants draw not only from hardened fighters spirited in from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but from impoverished farmers who are paid $4 for every rocket they launch at allied troops.

I would say it's going the way of Iraq.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 12:19 PM on June 1, 2006


If we stay, we're imperialist running dogs, and if we leave we're greedy, incompetent, ignorant hypocrites. I'm confused. What are we supposed to do, then?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste


It's not about whether we stay or go, but about COMPETENCE or, in this case (like every other BushCo case), the lack of it. But then, you probably knew that.
posted by nofundy at 12:20 PM on June 1, 2006


When our representatives act in bad faith (i.e. lie like dogs), things eventually blow up.
posted by nofundy at 12:24 PM on June 1, 2006


I'll make this easy -

Number of Nations that have invaded Afghanistan - Lots.

Number of Nations that have successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan - 0.

There you go. Kind of brings that into perspective I hope.
posted by longbaugh at 12:37 PM on June 1, 2006


Hey look people, you can't go into another country and set up a government and expect it to function unless you're willing to fight a perpetual war to keep it in power.

Depends on the situation (see West Germany and Japan after World War II). The key question is whether the new government is able to establish consent.
posted by russilwvong at 12:45 PM on June 1, 2006


By the way, the situation in Afghanistan is of particular interest to Canadians, since Canadian troops are there under NATO command.
posted by russilwvong at 12:46 PM on June 1, 2006


"My government reaffirms its iron-clad commitment to help Afghanistan succeed and prosper." -- President Bush

He should have finished the job in Afghanistan instead of getting distracted by Iraq and letting Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora. Instead, he's fucked up both and has a great shot at being the first American president to lose two wars at the same time. (Helpful hint: the war isn't over when you say it's over; it's over when the other guy says it's over.)

BBC graph of Afghanistan's opium poppy production from 1986 to 2004. The Taliban banned production in 2000.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:53 PM on June 1, 2006


Another factor for Canada is how the Harper government is really pusing for a continued and strengthened presence, and we have now been asked to eventually take command of the whole mission.

Frankly, Harper needs to get tough with the US and demand adequate resources for an occupation that they started. We were there to help the Americans, not to take responsibility for the place when things began to fall apart due to their having other priorities.

Unfortunately, our chubby Neocon fanboy in chief is unlikely to say anything that can be construed as criticism of the Bush Admin's foreign policy.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:11 PM on June 1, 2006


Number of Nations that have successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan - 0.
The Greeks/Seleucids and the Arabs would probably disagree with you. They both invaded and controlled Afghanistan for about 300 years apiece. Genghis Khan invaded and the Mongols held it for 100 years, followed by the Timurids (Tamerlane) who occupied it for another 150 years. They in turn were driven out by Babur; the Moghuls of India and the Persians split the land for 200 years. That's over a millenium of foreign rule for those 5 dynasties alone.
posted by forrest at 1:47 PM on June 1, 2006


How'd that work out for them?
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on June 1, 2006


The Greeks/Seleucids and the Arabs would probably disagree with you. They both invaded and controlled Afghanistan for about 300 years apiece.

[ancient history geek]
The first part of this isn't exactly true. Alexander conquered Bactria (more or less northern Afghanistan) about 330 BC and basically marooned a bunch of his veterans there to form a strong province on his eastern border. Bactria passed to the Seleucid Greeks, but around 255 BC its satrap asserted his independence and revolted against Seleucid rule, founding an independent kingdom that survived until maybe 125 BC in Bactria (and 100 years longer in the Punjab). So Alexander and the Seleucids held Afghanistan for only 80 years or so. The Bactrian Greeks didn't "hold" what is now Afghanistan as much as they simply made up its ruling class. The Greeks ruling and governing there were native-born and didn't really have anywhere else to go. Sort of like how the South African Dutch became Boers.
[/ancient history geek]

Another note is that my impression of Afghan history is that it's really broken up. I know, for example, that the Mughals never really ruled all of it, but ruled the eastern parts while the Persians had the west, and sometimes Uzbeks had the north, and then there were a lot of important locals who really ruled the place and just sent some tax money east or west to keep things quiet. Words like "rule" and "control" are relative terms.
posted by nflorin at 2:25 PM on June 1, 2006


Nations in that area need ruthless dictators.
posted by HTuttle at 2:26 PM on June 1, 2006


What if Gore had been allowed to assume the presidency in 2001.
9/11 happens.
Gore is really pissed and sends a strongly worded letter to OBL
Then Gore goes and spends ten billion dollars on beefing up national security.
Just how much trouble would we be in now?
It would be pretty bad wouldn't it?
Thank God that didn't happen. Whewww!
posted by notreally at 3:58 PM on June 1, 2006


Does Tuttle ever say anything worthwhile ever?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:24 PM on June 1, 2006


Had BushCo intended to show a sane face to the Muslim world after the invasion of Afghanistan, a concerted effort would have been made to pacify, disarm, and rebuild the country. If even a fraction of the money squandered in Iraq had actualy been spent in Afghanistan to make and keep peace for people whose country had been devastated by the last proxy battle of the Cold War, the example would have been an inspiration to progressive Muslims.
posted by rdone at 6:50 PM on June 1, 2006


kirkaracha makes a valid point: the US could lose both 'wars'. I believe strongly that in order to have a successful occupation, you need to have a heavy presence of forces and the stomach for casualties and deaths. If not, your armed forces will be more concerned with protecting their own safety and will act in a heavy-handed (and sometimes barbaric) way with the local civilian population (b/c the resistance will try and blend in with the civilian population), which will make the occupation unpopular and recruitment into the resistance will increase.

Insurgencies rarely end. They may wax and wane but rarely have they completely ebbed in the last or this centure. With the US not demonstrating much commitment in terms of armed forces and not showing the tolerance for the loss of its soldiers' lives only serves to embolden insurgents who are trying to bring death to the occupier(s) by a thousand paper cuts.
posted by Azaadistani at 10:29 PM on June 1, 2006


typo: in the last or this centurY ... sorry!
posted by Azaadistani at 10:30 PM on June 1, 2006


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