Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HOT PURSUIT....Border incidents in Afghanistan are up 300%. This is largely a result of the peace deal that the Pakistani government reached with tribal leaders in Waziristan last September, but as I recall there was some talk that we accepted this deal because it also gave U.S. troops the right of hot pursuit during firefights in the area. If that's true, we've paid a pretty high price. I wonder how it's working out?

Kevin Drum 12:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Hot pursuit is not being invoked because GWB does not want to see USAmerican deaths in the Afganistan theatre rival those in the Iraqi theatre.

Posted by: Disputo on January 19, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan is and always was the central front of the War on Terror. Despite this, the necessary war that needs to be fought there, the war to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda, has never been fought because our leaders were too obsessed with their own ideological crusades.

When Clinton should have been destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda, he was too busy bombing Kosovo in a war where the U.S. had not vital national interest at stake. After 9/11, it should have been obvious that the only way to secure the U.S. would be to destroy our enemy, but Bush, like Clinton, was more interested in fighting other, more unnecessary wars. Bush sent a meager 10,000 troops to Afghanistan and let 80% of the Taliban and Al Qaeda escape to safety.

Now, the Taliban is regaining territory, Afghani civilians are losing the will to resist the Taliban, and our allies are refusing to engage the enemy. The necessary war against Al Qaeda has been undermined by unnecessary wars, from Kosovo to the far bloodier and strategically self-destructive Iraq War.

Bush is too blinded by hubris to believe that Iraq may not become the unified, secular, feminist, Westernized utopia he thought it would be. So now, the fate of the country is in the Democrats' hands.

The Democrats have a choice. Nothing can be done about a civil war in Iraq, but something can be done about the continued existence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. The Democrats must decide what is more important: their politics, or their country.

It would be politically safe for the Democrats to let Afghanistan self-destruct and ride the wave of anti-Bush sentiment to future electoral victories. It would be far more dangerous for them if they demanded escalation in Afghanistan, as they would be held accountable for higher American casualties there.

Al Qaeda, however, will never be appeased. They didn't stop after the Kenya and Tanzania bombings. They didn't stop after the Cole. And they didn't stop after 9/11. The Democrats must demand what should have happened after the 1998 embassy bombings, which is a war in Afghanistan powerful enough in scale to destroy the enemy.

If the Democrats do not do this, it will be easier to win upcoming elections. If they demand escalation, however, they will be doing their duty. Which is more important to the Democrats' leaders? Over the next two years, we will see.

Posted by: brian on January 19, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary came back from Iraq advocating for more troops in Afghanistan, where they would make a difference.

I've been screaming the same thing on various blogs for ages.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 19, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

You and a lot of others, BGRS.

But if Hillary can get most of the Democratic Party singing that song, then maybe people would start realizing that there are tradeoffs - that more resources for Iraq inevitably means fewer for Afghanistan.

Posted by: RT on January 19, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

It was one of Claire McCaskill's talking points during her campaign. Jim Talent swallowed his tongue when she said it in the debate on Bob Schieffer's Sunday show during the campaign.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 19, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

That last post reads like I was raised by wolves. Apologies.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 19, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Despite this, the necessary war that needs to be fought there, the war to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda, has never been fought...

Because Bush needs Osama!

Al Qaeda, however, will never be appeased.

Probably not. But the Cheney junta sure tried hard enough. bin Laden's program was to remove the infidel troops from the holy soil of Saudi Arabia, so we proceeded to
1) cakewalk into Iraq
2) establish permanent bases in the pacified Iraqi countryside
3) remove our troops from the HSOSA.
too bad about 2 not working working out, but they did try.

Posted by: thersites on January 19, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Being extremly facetious when I say "too bad..." in a snarky way. It's a crime

Posted by: thersites on January 19, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

When the US announced that it supported the agreement between Islamabad and the Waziri separatists, it was mostly as a face-saving measure: as I wrote (unfortunately rather snidely) at the time, only at the most superficial level can Waziristan autonomy been seen as a good development in campaign to finally extinguish the Taliban.

The rise in cross-border incidents is only to be expected: now that they don't have to worry about constant incursions by the Pakistani military, the Taliban is free to again turn all its attentions west.

Posted by: the idiot on January 19, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

We tried to give her the best education possible. Tracking, attacking predators of the environment.

But, climate change brought deep snows to the canyons - could not get her to "civilized schools" in the valley.

Posted by: Father Lupus on January 19, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

as I recall there was some talk that we accepted this deal because it also gave U.S. troops the right of hot pursuit during firefights in the area.

Finally, a military strategy that Bush can completely understand -- the Roscoe P. Coltrane Doctrine.

One of these days, he's gonna git you, Farook Boys!

Posted by: Otto Man on January 19, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Otto man wins.

Posted by: Tyro on January 19, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

we've paid a pretty high price.

Although Afghanistan was invaded to destroy the al-Qeada camps in that country as a response to 9/11, our invasion has turned into an occupation that the people there do not support. I do not like being included in the 'we' part of Mr. Drum's post because I do not support our occupation. If the people of Afghanistan want the Taliban to govern their country, it is not the US government's or Americans' business to determine whether that ought to be allowed.

The US occupation of Afghanistan will work out the same way it did for the Soviets, badly for everyone.

Posted by: Brojo on January 19, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

"...an occupation that the people there do not support"

Not true. See here, or here.

In the fact-based world, Afghans as a whole are still very much in favour of a continued U.S. presence.

Posted by: BruceR on January 19, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

actually, I think the Soviet-backed government was the one that DIDN"T execute women for reading, or showing their faces, wasn't it? Nice job, Reagan!

Posted by: thersites on January 19, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan also provided universal healthcare and education. If the US had not backed the Mujahideen war lords, 9/11 may never have happened.

BruceR, I will match your two hyperlinks and raise it one.

Air war costs NATO Afghan supporters

Taliban support grows in rural Afghanistan

Many Afghans Have Lost Hope that the U.S. Can Make Things Better

Posted by: Brojo on January 19, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Many years ago, in the Eighties, before the internet was known, a friend was very excited to show me the new hyperlink software. My friend thought that was just about the coolest thing he had ever seen. I was not impressed. I didn't know what it meant.

Praise the hyperlink.

Posted by: Brojo on January 19, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, try reading your own links. From the third:

"In Afghanistan, there is not widespread support for the Taliban coming back."

Your other two citations, about discontent among Pashtuns in the Kandahar vicinity, elide over the fact that the 60% of the population that is non-Pashtun is dead-set opposed to a Taliban return.

Re health care and education, I recommend this link, specifically the line, "Prior to 1979 and the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan, the health status of the Afghan people was among the worst in the world. The health infrastructure was grossly inadequate and mostly limited to urban centers. During the course of the war, the situation worsened..."

Re education, the same article correctly states that universal education was mandated in Afghanistan in 1969. If in your post above you mean the Soviet-backed post-1978 regime, it did nothing to improve Afghan education, what with the immediate nation-wide insurgency it was fighting and all. And if you mean the pre-1978 coup Daoud regime, calling that government "Soviet-backed" is somewhat simplistic.

In any case, you've got U.S. culpability in this exactly backwards. Supporting the Mujahideen after their country had been invaded and their religion and culture brutally repressed was the *right* thing to do. The wrong thing to do was to then abandon the country to deep poverty and a new civil war after the Soviets had pulled out.

Posted by: BruceR on January 19, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, BruceR. I do not look forward to the return of the Taliban, but the people are tired of having their boys conscripted by war lords and their daughters raped by them. I expect the Taliban to regain power whenever that 'donor fatigue' allows the Westerners to leave.

Posted by: Brojo on January 19, 2007 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps this is little told because it isn't important, but there are other troubled provinces in Pakistan (without going into the whole Kashmir problem), like energy rich Balochistan, where President* Musharraf has used some of our military aid to suppress his political opponents (who happen to have no love for the Taliban) which forces him, to the degree that he shares the administration's professed love of spreading democracy, to ally himself with the very Islamist parties which seem to be a large part of his inability to fulfill his part as our big partner in the GWOT.

Posted by: jhm on January 19, 2007 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary came back from Iraq advocating for more troops in Afghanistan, where they would make a difference.

a small point: Hillary came back from Afghanistan advocating more troops for Afghanistan. she (and my congresscritter, and Evan Bayh) went to Iraq, then they went to Afghanistan. only you'd never konw it, because the MSM is complicit in pretending that nothing is happening over there. an almost daily account of casualities in OIF? check. a daily (or even just on the days they occur) tally of casualties from OEF? not unless it's 5 or more GIs in one day, or they're British {someone explain that to me. 2 Brits die in OEF and it shows up on the news, 2 US GIs die in OEF two days later and no mention}, even the Canucks are gettin' the short shrift.

Posted by: e1 on January 20, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

The January/February edition of Foreign Affairs published by the Council on Foreign Relations has an extensive article on this topic by written by Barnett R Rubin at foreignaffairs.org

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 20, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

A surge of about 21,500 troops into the border regions would be entirely appropriate here.

Posted by: bob h on January 20, 2007 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

Another article on Baluchistan, and why we should be paying more attention.

Posted by: jhm on January 20, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

al-Qaeda is a convenient bogeyman for Bush/Cheney/Blair to keep their ignorant subjects enslaved and willing to give up their civil liberties and their tax dollars to war profiteers like the Carlyle Group, that both Blair and Poppy Bush belong to.

Air pollution kills 3 million people per year. al-Qaeda a few hundred. The U.S. has pissed away hundreds of billions on a mythical war on terror since 9-11 and has let the two leaders of al-Qaeda escape while we chase ghosts in Iraq. And we spend a pittance of our national treasure on preventing and cleaning up air pollution, while Bush lets his corporate buddies dump mercury into the air which causes stillborn deaths and babies to be born acephalic (that means without a brain). And conservatives claim to promote a "culture of life"??? Seems to me that conservatives have their priorities and their values all fucked up!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 20, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan is and always was the central front of the War on Terror.

That faux-moderate concern trolls like "brian" floats this argument now -- when the talking point used to be Iraq being the "central front" -- shows just how desperate they are to distance themselves from the war they cheerled.

Sorry, "brian," but you hitched your credibility to Bush, and it's below sea level -- always has been, really, but nice to see even you tacitly admit it.

Posted by: Gregory on January 20, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Strange hubris by everyone here, thinking that deploying non-Arabic American kids to a remote Muslim region, operating behind scattered air support, where the Taliban live inconspicuously among the local folk (at least to US eyes), in a population that hates Americans, where every US move is telegraphed by cell phone(s), so much that Osama was safely spirited away before Tora Bora.

How exactly would you define "Success"? "Victory"?

Permanent US bases in Helmand, Kandahar and Kabul?
Oh, that would be nice. Sitting in tent camps in 120 degrees, going on night raids, shooting any thermal images that move: men, women, children, clerics, then back to camp for a hot and a cot?
If someone shoots back, some poor goat herd scared of the dark, then here come F-18's and Blackhawks, incinderizing everything, like My Lai on acid.

Sure, everyone in Afghanistan wishes America had never created the Taliban, and expects that we should pay retribution for having done so. How?
Escort every school kid to a bunker for classes?
Round up and hang anyone with a beard and tunic?
Have you any idea how shattered the country is?

Bush might as well claim a war on crack addicts, and shoot them down on the streets at night, then promise he's going to destroy every clandestine lab in America, if Congress just gives funding.

Get real. This is a ponzi-flag game. You buy in. They "pay" you back-interest with war propaganda and body counts. You buy some more. Pretty soon health and human services are gutted, and elites are living behind compound walls, tax free, and the streets of America are a running drive-by,
anything not nailed down, jacked.

Wake up. Afghanistan R US. You paid for it.

Posted by: Peris Troika on January 22, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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