Wednesday, August 8, 2007

They Call This Success?

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 — On the eve of his Camp David meeting with President Bush, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan painted a bleak picture of life in his country, saying that security had worsened and that the United States and its allies were no closer to catching Osama bin Laden than they were a few years ago.

“The security situation in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated,” Mr. Karzai said on the CNN program “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” in an interview that was taped Saturday in Kabul. It was broadcast Sunday while Mr. Karzai was en route to Camp David for a two-day meeting with President Bush.

“The Afghan people have suffered,” Mr. Karzai said. “Terrorists have killed our schoolchildren. They have burned our schools. They have killed international helpers.”[1]

Since 9/11 this administration and its apologists have held up Afghanistan as a success in the “war on terror.” While I and others have considered there definition of success dubious at best, it seems that even the President of Afghanistan can no longer continue the charade. Afghanistan has not been a success. It may have had the potential to be successfully prosecuted, but as we all know there were bigger fish to fry.

You see while Afghanistan was the base of operations for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, it really didn’t provide any strategic value. The country is rural and mountainous and other than bumper opium crops really has no industry to speak of. The majority of people are poor, uneducated and have been in the throes of war since the Soviet invasion of 1979. Their white market economy is crap and so the rural farmers harvest opium to make money on the black market.

The President of Afghanistan is actually just the mayor of Kabul, this is about how far his influence extends. The countryside is still being ruled by chieftains and war lords as it has been since the days of Genghis Khan, who have an uneasy relationship with the central government. In what has become the norm for this administration the reconstruction efforts have been underfunded and misdirected. The central government does not have the means to expand poverty services to help the average Afghani; as a result the government of Mr. Karzai is having a difficult time engaging the people in building the nation. Mr. Karzai has made numerous trips to Washington to beg for more support for the rebuilding process and each time he has been given a pat on the head and placated with photo ops.

Add to this, the continual buildup of civilian casualties not by the Taliban, but by the US military and the situation in Afghanistan can hardly be termed a success. The Taliban and Bin Laden continue to play cat and mouse on the Afghan/Pakistani border with each side claiming that he is not on their side.

If this is how the neo-cons do nation building, what hope do we have for Iraq? It is time we either concentrate on the original job at hand or expect a resurgence of the people this whole war was suppose to be about. Despite their thinking to the contrary this administration must realize that the people of the world who are struggling have little use for rhetoric and photo-ops, they need and expect real solutions to the problems they are confronting. I believe that if this administration had completed the mission in Afghanistan not only would the Taliban be just a memory, but also Al Qaeda as we knew it at the time.

Once again, Mr. Karzai is forced to come to Washington with hat in hand to beg for more support for his war ravaged people and again he will be presented with little more than lip service and a chance for the President to get more photo-ops for his “war on terror” portfolio. As with all of their misadventures the architects of neo-conservatism have failed to know or understand the history of Afghanistan and how that history plays out today. The Afghani people are fiercely independent and do not have a history of a centralized form of government. They have been a confederation of tribal leaders and war lords who through the use of the loya jirgah[2]pledged loyalty to one ruler in an amalgamation of semi-autonomous kingdoms. Their loyalty to the central government is loose at best and is dependent on that leader being able to deliver what he promises; Mr. Karzai has been long on promises and short on delivery. This lose amalgamation could unravel at anytime, leaving Afghanistan once again open to the Taliban or some other group of similar ilk.

If this is success, what does failure look like? Do we really want to know?



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