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Tilting at Windmills

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July 14, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

AFGHANISTAN....I've been noodling and reading about Afghanistan lately. I don't really have anything new and interesting to say about it yet — I'm still just thinking — but Juan Cole writes today that he's uneasy with the standard liberal view (shared by Barack Obama) that we should get out of Iraq in order to free up troops for the "real" fight in Afghanistan:

If the Afghanistan gambit is sincere, I don't think it is good geostrategy. Afghanistan is far more unwinnable even than Iraq. If playing it up is politics, then it is dangerous politics. Presidents can become captive of their own record and end up having to commit to things because they made strong representations about them to the public.

....Afghan tribes are fractious. They feud. Their territory is vast and rugged, and they know it like the back of their hands. Afghans are Jeffersonians in the sense that they want a light touch from the central government, and heavy handedness drives them into rebellion. Stand up Karzai's army and air force and give him some billions to bribe the tribal chiefs, and let him apply carrot and stick himself. We need to get out of there. "Al-Qaeda" was always Bin Laden's hype. He wanted to get us on the ground there so that the Mujahideen could bleed us the way they did the Soviets. It is a trap.

Beware.

The main argument for beefing up our presence in Afghanistan is obvious: It's the home of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and these are the groups we really ought to be fighting. But what's left of al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, and Cole argues that this is largely where the remnants of the Taliban are too. (See, for example, today's New York Times piece about the Taliban taking control of a famous and highly profitable marble quarry in Pakistan's tribal areas.) So if we're not going to invade Pakistan (and we're not) and the supposed Taliban rebels in Afghanistan are really just "disgruntled Pushtun villagers" (Cole's guess), then what are we doing there?

Now, I'm not sure I buy this. At least some of those Taliban rebels really are Taliban rebels, and in any case, if we left Afghanistan we'd certainly be giving both the Taliban and al-Qaeda far more freedom of movement than they currently have. On the other hand, it's true that right now most Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are in Pakistan, and we don't have much of a strategy for going after them there — regardless of how many troops we have available. So we're stuck: we can't go forward and we can't go back. We've been slowly but continually increasing our presence in Afghanistan for the past five years, and all it's gotten us is steadily less control of the country and a steadily higher body count.

So what's the strategy going forward? Is there one? More later.

Kevin Drum 3:41 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (69)

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Comments

Yes, let's get deeply involved in fighting in Afghanistan. After all, it worked out so wonderfully well for the Soviet Union.

Posted by: Seriously on July 14, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Strategy is to VOTE FOR ANYONE BUT OBAMA

Make the democRATS earn support - they sold us out and obama thinks he can pander and lie his way to the White House.

He is a corporate shill and a sell-out. He had a 15 point lead in polls and now it is a dead-heat.

He isn't getting any more of my money, I will not volunteer for the democratic party or vote for obama.

Expecting any change from the gang that capitulated to the most unpopular president in modern US history is insane.

obama is just another lying liar that does not deserve our support..

Posted by: on July 14, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Why is there a John McCain advertisement on Washington Monthly?

Posted by: Boscoe21 on July 14, 2008 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Cole is essentially correct in regards to continuing the effort in Afghanistan- it is less likely, than the effort in Iraq, to produce anything that can be called a long-term victory when the goal is nation building. In addition, success or failure of nation building in Afghanistan is unlikely to make one whit of difference to anyone other than Afghanis themselves- something that cannot be said for Iraq.

If the Iraq invasion had never occurred, the situation in Afghanistan would likely be the same as today, and possibly worse since our Iraq gambit has drawn a lot of the United States' enemies to that more important theater.

Anti-Iraq war Democrats need an internally consistent argument against military operations outside the US borders. Right now, they don't have one.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on July 14, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Its a trap.

Ironic, in a tragic sort of way, given that in 1979, when the US baited the USSR into the "Afghan Trap", it was popularly understood that such a war was unwinnable and would more than likely bankrupt the Soviets.

Posted by: scudbucket on July 14, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"He wanted to get us on the ground there so that the Mujahideen could bleed us the way they did the Soviets. It is a trap."

This of course is completely wrong. Based mainly on his Mogadishu observations Bin Laden expected a modest US reaction. The last thing he expected or wanted was to have his base knocked over and to lose a core Arab state.

Honestly, Cole is a complete bonehead. Not just an ideological bigot. Not just misinformed. But actively, positively a stupid person. Not a person who should be used as a source for anything.

Posted by: xx on July 14, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
Should you admit to noodling while reading? That sounds more like something Thersites would do while reading his girlie magazines.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 14, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

The British fought (and basically lost) 3 wars in Afghanistan. The place is a sandtrap.

Posted by: Speed on July 14, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie,

I see your research program on Afghan agricultural exports is progressing well.

Posted by: thersites on July 14, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

If the Iraq invasion had never occurred, the situation in Afghanistan would likely be the same as today, and possibly worse since our Iraq gambit has drawn a lot of the United States' enemies to that more important theater.

A pity that our Iraq gambit didn't draw in the people who actually attacked us.

Posted by: JM on July 14, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Why thank you Thersites, the all natural, no growth hormone yak milk is selling quite well here.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 14, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Based mainly on his Mogadishu observations Bin Laden expected a modest US reaction.

I dearly hope that you're advising the US gov't on Bin Laden's strategic and tactical plans, as it's clear that you fully understand how the man thinks...

Posted by: JM on July 14, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

McCain wants to stay in Afghanistan for his son, who wants to manage the orphanages, and for his wife, who wants to take over the heroin operations.

Posted by: on July 14, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Juan Cole is right, and Obama's position is mostly politics. It is tough enough to say, "I really am going to get out of Iraq". He feels he needs all the cover he can get, strarting with, "I will stay in Irag for 10 years . . . why not 50?" I would rather have Obama than Bush deciding the real future policy, but the concern about him getting trapped is real.

Posted by: Ken D. on July 14, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

We have no earthly business in a land war in Asia. As indicated above, ask the Brits and Rooskies.

Posted by: Hedley on July 14, 2008 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what the right answer is, but Juan Cole has been right far more than he's been wrong about both Afghanistan and Iraq, so I'm not going to doubt him.

OBL knew he could bait the Soviets into the Afghan mountains; he did, and he won. Why would we want to repeat the Soviets' mistakes?

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on July 14, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Continuing the occupation of Afghanistan will result in more deaths of people who would never be able to harm the US even if they wanted to. The lives of these future victims will be saved by a withdrawal from Afganistan, while not risking American lives or national security in any way.

Posted by: Brojo on July 14, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

This seems completely wrong-headed to me. This is not like Iraq in the sense that:

1. it was not pre-emptive
2. it was sanctioned by the international community
3. it remains an international effort
4. Afghans, even Pashtuns, don't seem nearly as furious about foreign presence as some elements in Iraq have been
5. it is not an obvious oil client - it is far more possible for the US and other countries to participate in security operations without entering an ideological firestorm--cf. Kosova.
6. the light-touch central govt carrot and stick Cole suggests seems right, but it very obviously and absolutely requires an international troop presence to work.
7. if anything, the Taliban response has been tepid compared to Iraq and certainly compared to what was expected before going in. There's hardly a strong argument against trying to extend basic security out beyond Kabul. The only reason we haven't done it is because Rumsfeld was criminally stupid and because we committed all our troops to Iraq where we're not even wanted.
8. the Taliban and Al Qaeda are in Pakistan because the invasion in Afghanistan worked. The tribal regions will be a problem whether we're in Afghanistan or not; and if we're there, very obviously they have that much less territory at their disposal. And we are not just fighting them based on lies and neo-con theories: these are actually the people who have been repeatedly mounting attacks against us (not just 9/11 but Kenya, etc.)

Posted by: q on July 14, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Much as I rail on Brad DeLong for his support of free trade, I've long thought that the best strategy for Afghanistan was to establish free trade zones and encourage maquiladoras and get Nike and WalMart to win over the country for us.

They have fields of poppies -- that looks an awful lot like fields of cotton to me. Get IBM and WalMart and FedEx and Big Brown and Nike to bring jobs and money into the area. Use the military to keep the Taliban away from the factories and the supply lines and the warehouses.

I think this would have been much more plausible when I first suggested it in late 2001. Boy, those were the days. We just didn't realize how good we had it back then.

Posted by: jerry on July 14, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Please.

If we're stupid enough to try and conquer Afghanistan militarily, we deserve what we get.

But what should be in our favor is that we're not the Soviets! We don't want this territory. We don't want them to swear fealty to us. They don't even have resources we particularly want to steal. All we want is for them to not blow up US civilians, and to not provide cover for the folks who do.

This is not exactly a heavy lift.

Odds are, we start spending money there--a little fair (or close enough to fair) trade, some help with schools, medicine so kids don't die--well, they're gonna figure they're better off being friendly with the Americans than being friendly with the people who are killing Americans.

Yeah, it's not easy. But it's certainly not the kind of lift that winning a land war in Asia is.

Posted by: anonymous on July 14, 2008 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

let me explain it to you 'blinded by the glory that is The Obama' types: he has to look like he's not shy when it comes to using the military in order to placate independents who doubt him, with good cause, on this issue. Can't do it re Iraq since would piss off code pink base and, besides, events there have conspired against him. Therefore: get all hardass over Afghanistan, which allows him to talk tough for free since there's not much the States can do there at the moment. Sure, we can pull out of Iraq and occupy Afghanistan, but that's a cutting of nose to spite face silliness. Better to talk bullshit, which Obama is very good at. After all, you suckers will eat up, no?

Posted by: orso on July 14, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Stand up Karzai's army and air force and give him some billions to bribe the tribal chiefs, and let him apply carrot and stick himself.

Bribery can be good tactics, but its not much of a strategy. It could also be very counterproductive if the funds go through Kabul without very careful oversight; extremely difficult at best, and corruption is already a very serious problem. Moreover, there are other bidders (e.g., ISI and al-Qaeda) who could likely maintain control in selected areas.

So yes, by all means spend money, but do it smartly, with a long term plan and recognition that force isn't likely to eradicate the Taliban/al-Qaeda (or get us out) any time soon.

Posted by: has407 on July 14, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Who attacked us?

The Taliban? No.

Why mess with 'em now?

Al Qaeda? Seems to be.

Note: A new 9/11 commission investigation might help clarify that.

Where are they? Pakistan probably. Baluchistan maybe (on the borders of Iran, Iraq and Pakistan).

What reason is there to be in Afghanistan except for access to where Al Qaeda is? So, being there is more of a technical military issue rather than being related to our past activities there or some long-term strategic positioning (as our presence in Iraq has sometimes been claimed to be).

Our next president will have to have an overview of what we are into and where we should be headed, but there are always going to be some details to be learned upon arrival in the Oval office.

Posted by: MarkH on July 14, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

This of course is completely wrong. Based mainly on his Mogadishu observations Bin Laden expected a modest US reaction. The last thing he expected or wanted was to have his base knocked over and to lose a core Arab state.

Wow, great insight. So OBL sends four planes, one of them crashing into the Pentagon, another destined for the White House, and two at towers filled with thousands of civilians. And he was doing all this merely to have a few cruise missiles lobbed at him? What OBL pulled off was nothing sort of an Act of War and no self-respecting nation would have done less than what the US did in terms of retaliation. After the initial retaliation, competent leaders would have stayed on the case but ours, as you all know, had more interesting ideas that took their eyes off the ball. US should have maintained immense pressure on Taliban/Al Qaeda, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tragedy is how Pakistan managed to siphon off billions of dollars from Uncle Bush without being held accountable for their support for Taliban/Al Qaeda as well as their nuclear proliferation activities. Bush managed to put himself in a rather disadvantageous position with Pakistan. He looked deep into Musharraf's eyes and misread him, much as he did Putin. Someone has a high opinion of his ability to read people and that incompetence has huge consequences for us.

Posted by: rational on July 14, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."
--George Washington - "Farewell Address"

Posted by: Quotation Man on July 14, 2008 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

The only alternative is to negotiate for the best terms available. One way or another the Afghans will have their country back and they are welcome to that lovely place. At present, good terms look like a ceasefire to cover withdrawal, a period of UN Protectorate status and possibly some token handover of 911 felons who are non-Afghan. Even the latter provision would only be a political figleaf to fulfill the exagerated expectations raised by the initial aggression. Longer term there will have to be war crimes trials for the Western prisoner abuse and the indiscriminant bombing of civilians.

The allied western countries with fighters in the fray would be delighted to leave tomorrow having recognized the futility of staying. All it would take would be the political will to negotiate with the Taliban reps. Apparently, this was already attempted by some Brit spooks who were subsequently slapped down for the attempt. Success will require a high level admission of bungling helped along by a public apology to all those harmless civilians killed along the way and their survivors.

Failing negotiations, the strategic hamlet outposts will be overrun, one by one, the convoys will continue to be blown up and the casualties on both sides will mount. The present course is war without end until the foreigners leave. Lets cut to the chase and do a deal please. Afgone and as soon as possible. Let a thousand poppies bloom in peace.

Posted by: Anon on July 14, 2008 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Who attacked us?

The Taliban? No.

Why mess with 'em now?

Al Qaeda? Seems to be.

You forget that the Taliban worked hand-in-glove with Al Qaeda at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban, as rulers of Afghanistan, were asked to surrender Al Qaeda leaders or face war. They gladly chose the latter. Their ideologies are practically identical and they shared a common cause and common enemies (ruskies in the 80s and the Amrikans in the last few years).

Posted by: rational on July 14, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't we (Democrats) getting trapped by our previous rhetoric. Bush attacked the wrong country (Iraq), has the consequence of needed to increase commitment to Afghanistan -or appear to be inconsistent. Similarly we don't want to be seen to not want to fight "terrorists" in Iraq, so we are forced to pretend we can leave a terrorist fighting miniforce behind. Sometimes even the best rhetoric can have unforeseen future consequences.

Posted by: bigTom on July 14, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

From 1930 to 1947, there was a significant nonviolent movement among the Pashtun people of what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan led by Badshah Khan, a close associate of Gandhi. This was the Khudai Khitmatgar, the Red Shirts, and they were the "first" nonviolent army. I would suggest that studying this movement and reminding Afghanis of it would be a good tactical move to promote nation-building.

Before the invasion, the US distributed thousands of solar/dynamo am/fm/sw radios throughout Afghanistan. NATO and the US have continued to do so and there are now hundreds of thousands if not over a million of these solar/dynamo devices in the country. There is one drawback to these devices however, they can charge only the internal hardwired batteries inside the case. They cannot charge AA batteries in the battery bay. If they could, they would be able to provide low voltage DC power day and night by sunlight or muscle power and allow Afghanis to operate other battery-powered technology thus raising the standard of living in a country which doesn't have a reliable and universal source of electricity.

Here is a video of how these devices can be modified to become battery chargers
http://www.combatreform2.com/grundigradiobatterychargesolution.wmv

I talked with the staff of my Representative last week about this program and have been researching it for over a year. Again, I believe that this would be another good nation-building tactic that could help defuse some of the present violence.

Posted by: gmoke on July 14, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

About Democrats being trapped by previous rhetoric...

Bush changed the facts on the ground in Iraq. There was no need to intervene in Iraq in 2003 with Saddam at the helm because Saddam wasn't harboring any "terrorists" plotting against the US. Bush changed the facts on the ground and under his occupation Iraq. Any rhetoric/plans about Iraq from Dems have to change to account for this fact. Obama obviously doesn't have access to the facts on the ground in Iraq in the same way Bush does, so if Obama wins the election he can gain a better understanding of the situation and come up with solid ideas on how to deal with the new reality.

It is unreasonable to expect Obama to offer detailed plans of what he will do with Iraq because he doesn't have access to all the facts and even if he did, those in control can change the facts on the ground in the remaining six months (now - Jan '09). Imagine what happens in Iraq even if there is a small scale attack on Iran. Or imagine what would happen if some of the influential figures in Iraq is assassinated or change their mind about the US occupation. For e.g. if something were to happen to Al Sistani or if he decides he finally had enough of the occupation -- how can Obama provide enough details to deal with a volatile region when a lot could happen between now and then? The best and only approach is to articulate general principles and translate that into details if and when he becomes the President.

That said, I'm less enamored of Obama now than a month ago because of his flip-flop on FISA. His actions didn't live up to his words and if this becomes a pattern, it won't be long before his base abandons him.

Posted by: rational on July 14, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK
"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

With statements like these, it's not wonder it is so hard for the PUMA's to decide between McCain and staying home. After all, the empty suit would never have this clarity of vision on foreign policy. Of course Obama's and idiot who is just like Bush because he wants to get us into another war in Afghanistan. But of course the "Messiah" will probably go back on his promise and NOT invade, which we all know makes him a flip-flopper and a lying Affirmative-Action beneficiary. Plus he never called me back after i let him get to third base that night and then he ignored me in the hallway that prick! I can't believe I told you your ears were cute cause they totally are not!

Posted by: enozinho on July 14, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

OSAMA BIN LADEN DOES NOT LIVE IN AFGHANISTAN, he's just not there any more. I've heard and read many reasons why, some I believe some I don't but ALL, each and every one mention that, "HE'S JUST NOT THERE.". Ancient History says, WE INVADED AFGHANISTAN TO CAPTURE OSAMA BIN LADEN. But alas, he's just not there. Why should WE?

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 14, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Cole is spot-on. We're not going into Pakistan, and if we're not, we're not going to win the war.

Will Obama tell the truth about this one? Not very likely.

"Anonymous," do you really expect the Taliban to believe we don't want A-stan?

For that matter, do you expect ME to believe we don't want A-stan, if we can get a "military footprint" there for less than in Uzbekistan, Tajikstan or whatever?

And, since I'm not a registered Democrat, I'm not trapped in anybody's rhetoric.

That said, if I had a socialist or social democratic party to vote for, I'd probably do that ahead of the Greens

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 14, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan divides the Democratic party between those who essentially object to the any use of military force (not me) and those who don't (me). Even for someone entirely willing to wage war to advance US interests, the case for war in Iraq was always weak to non-existent. But the case for war in Afghanistan was always strong -- here is where the group that attacked on 9/11 live(d) and plot(ted). Unlike Iraq, here is where the Pearl Harbor analogy fits. The difficulties of fighting in Afghanistan strike me as being very serious, but no greater than the horribly bloody difficulty of defeating Japan. The Pakistan part is trickier, but I don't think anyone claims that Al Queda has no presence or interests left in Afghanistan. Being in Afghanistan probably increases our intelligence about Queda in Pakistan and increases our ability to pressure Pakistan to do at least a little about Al Queda in their country. In the end, if the Iraq fiasco means that we no longer have the stomach for any armed conflict, even directly against Al Queda, then Iraq is an even bigger disaster than it otherwise appears.
RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on July 14, 2008 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's daunting arguing against Mr. Cole, but two things seem like opportunities: 1) a lot of the unrest with Pakistan tribes is from foreigners (tajiks, uzbeks, et cetera) moving in on native tribal leaders. They can't be psyched about this state of affairs. 2) The titular Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, is in danger of being deposed by more competent (and literate) individuals who might be inclined to be more pragmatic.

Posted by: jhm on July 14, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK
Afghanistan is ... the home of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and these are the groups we really ought to be fighting. But what's left of al-Qaeda is in Pakistan,

I don't believe that's true. Osama bin Laden and a few other well-known al Qaeda members are probably hiding in NW Pakistan; but that doesn't make NW Pakistan the home of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is not an army. They are not garrisoned somewhere. They are mainly in houses and apartments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and Germany. If you don't believe me, listen to the European intelligence agencies who were right about Iraq and are right about Afghanistan too.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on July 14, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Cole is right. Historically, the government in Kabul, and there have been many different kinds, has not controlled much more than the territory around Kabul. The US did not really conquer Afghanistan, we only tipped the balance in favor of those factions which already opposed the Taliban.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 14, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

rational: Their ideologies are practically identical and they shared a common cause and common enemies (ruskies in the 80s and the Amrikans in the last few years).

Agree that individuals shared a common cause at points, and a common ideology. However, Russia withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989--well, before the Taliban (circa 1995) and likely al-Qaeda (1988-1990, accounts differ) were established in any meaningful form.

Specifically, al-Qaeda formed to continue the fight against the Najibullah's regime following the Russian withdrawal (or when it became obvious that Russia's support was waning). The Taliban formed to pick up the pieces following the disintegration of the government and the chaos of 1992-1996.

Moreover, the marriage between the Taliban and al-Qaeda was one of convenience more than anything, each with distinctly different goals. Historically, the Tabliban's goals have been focused on Afghanistan, with little interest elsewhere; al-Qaeda's goals have been much broader and strategic in scope.

In short, while the Taliban and al-Qaeda had an incestuous relationships, we shouldn't summarily treat them as a single entity. Whether their differences are meaningful or exploitable today is a question still worth exploring.

Posted by: has407 on July 14, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think there's any magic key but 200 years of history says we lose if we make this a fight.

Bush's strategy of preference has, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to, first, install a straw man and keep control, second, have some type of vote, keep as much control as possible, and hope and believe that the country will magically develop a US type democracy solving all problems and bring sweetness and plenty to all.

Sadly, fantasy strategy games have little effect in the real world.

In Afghanistan the clan leaders need to see the benefit in security, income, power of allying with tribal chiefs, and the tribes to the central government of Kabul over being co-opted piecemeal into a revitalized Taliban.

As Brojo reminds us, the heavy hand of the military has not been the best in winning hearts and minds, from lightly applied rules of engagement, the lack (or not) of proper oversight in detainment centers, and casual use of heavy weapons.

We have rarely taken local custom or culture into account and adapted to it to achieve our purpose. We have expected these peoples to obviously prefer our way, the US way.

Time has slipped away; the audience no longer believes we can pull something out of the hat. Time to leave the stage.

Obama's calculation is for November.

Posted by: notthere on July 14, 2008 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Cole is right and Kevin is wrong because he's conflating the Taliban (who never had any enmity toward the USA or any other foreign country) and Al-Qa'ida (which certainly did have enmity toward the USA). One can't understand anything about the situation in the country if you can't understand that. And, some of you may remember, the Taliban volunteered to hand over Osama bin Laden to any country (or international institution) other than the USA for trial. Of course Bush quickly trashed that notion because he really wasn't the slightest bit interested in a peaceful solution to anything.

Sure, the Taliban are a pretty backward set of religious extremists, but they never had any interest in controlling or waging war against any other country. Osama & pals were political first and religion is, for the most part, their excuse.

Posted by: Khuloud on July 14, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Agree that individuals shared a common cause at points, and a common ideology. However, Russia withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989--well, before the Taliban (circa 1995) and likely al-Qaeda (1988-1990, accounts differ) were established in any meaningful form.

has407, you are right on the facts. My point was that the people who later formed Taliban and Al Qaeda worked together and shared common goals since the 80s. They go a long way back in time (20+ years). Al Qaeda provided financial aid for Taliban and the Taliban helped Al Qaeda have a base in Afghanistan.

My point is simple. Taliban is an enemy of the US because they sheltered Al Qaeda before and there is no indication that they have changed.

Posted by: on July 14, 2008 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

he's conflating the Taliban (who never had any enmity toward the USA or any other foreign country)

This statement is 100% wrong.

Posted by: enozinho on July 14, 2008 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Agree that individuals shared a common cause at points, and a common ideology. However, Russia withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989--well, before the Taliban (circa 1995) and likely al-Qaeda (1988-1990, accounts differ) were established in any meaningful form.

has407, your facts are accurate. That said, the people that eventually formed Taliban and Al Qaeda worked together for years before these groups were formed. Taliban harbored Al Qaeda before 9/11 and continues to support them. If Taliban manages to regain power/influence in Afghanistan, there is every indication that they will support Al Qaeda and other groups/people with similar goals and interests. That makes the Taliban an enemy worth fighting.

Posted by: rational on July 14, 2008 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

There is one and only one way to so called WIN in Iraq,Afghanistan or wherever else we go,that is to commit total or almost total Genocide on the subject peoples.Probably 1/2 or more of the US would go for this.Hard to live with this for some,but there it is.

Posted by: R.L. on July 14, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

That said, the people that eventually formed Taliban and Al Qaeda worked together for years before these groups were formed.

And let's not forget the first victim of 9/11, Ahmed Shah Masoud, the Taliban's enemy number one. I seriously hope there aren't people who think that Mullah Omar woke up on 9/11, ate a bowl of Mutten Puffs and found out like the rest of us that Al-Qaeda was attacking the U.S. "Osama! You got some splaining to do!"

Posted by: enozinho on July 14, 2008 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

And, some of you may remember, the Taliban volunteered to hand over Osama bin Laden to any country (or international institution) other than the USA for trial.

If you seriously believe that the Taliban made this offer with the intent of following up on that, I have three bridges for sale in Baghdad. They are yours for a million dollars each. You can set up toll booths and rake in dough like you never imagined. I would have kept them myself but I wish to spend more time with my family, so am a reluctant seller.

Seriously though, if bin Laden attacked the US in such a vicious way on 9/11, why did the Taliban believe that the US would accept such a "generous" offer. Anybody can see that it was saying NO without directly using that word.

Posted by: rational on July 14, 2008 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

wow! how long and how deeply does the plague of ignorance infect blogs such as this one?

my appraisal... the black death of ignorance proceeds to infect an ever enlarging population.

firstly, no fundamentalist islamic jihadis hijacked any aircraft on 11/09/01. you can look it up. no proof has ever been proffered.

the invasion of afghanistan was in its totality a grotesque war crime. afghanistan had done nothing, as a nation state, to the usa.

why did the usa decide to defenestrate the taliban, an entity that the usa[and its surrogate - the pakistani isi]created, armed, supported for decades?

i think you have to understand the russell trust[creating document of the skull&bones lodge].

the russell trust was financed by the opium trade. and the imperative of the trust is that interest be preserved, advanced. after all, revenues from that traffic accrue to all living[and surviving] members of that trust.

the trust really didn't like the taliban. good muslims, they had virtually terminated opium poppy cultivation.

so, george walker bush, devout boner, used the false flag op that was 11/09/01 to try and oust the taliban and restore opium production.

he has been very successful at restoring opium production. restoring the gangsters known as the warlords. establishing karzai, who has been given a task by the bushits to see to it that opium production is increased.

it is important to note that the military missions that we have committed to afghanistan have all been instructed not to interfere with opium production,hashish production.

perhaps you will recall how george walker bush'es father[george herbert walker bush] was known as "poppy". i suppose most thought that this was in recognition of his procreative history..his fathering 5-6 children.

nothing could be further from the truth. ghwbush earned the sobriquet "poppy" because he introduced the idea to the outfit of financing its "black" ops by becoming involved in the opium/heroin traffic.

and that is what afghanistan has been about recently, the restoration of the "outfit's"/skull&bones'es opium river.

Posted by: albertchampion on July 14, 2008 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Interestingly, Albert, here is a link that says Bush and Cheney planned to invade Afghanistan before 9-11!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 14, 2008 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Getting our enemy, bin Laden, makes sense.

PC fantasies that the Afghan and Iraqi peoples are "just like us" and yearn to be "liberated" from their "backward" culture are naive.

Posted by: Luther on July 14, 2008 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

albertchampion: it is important to note that the military missions that we have committed to afghanistan have all been instructed not to interfere with opium production,hashish production.

False. ISAF and US forces have been interfering with opium production. That has been one of the consistent complaints from forces on the ground. They get tagged as bad guys when they go out and destroy poppy crops, and it interferes with their attempts to build rapport with the locals.

Yes, some forces may be instructed to not interfere with poppy farming as a tactical necessity. While that may be unfortunate, and I'm sure there's anecdotal evidence to support such charges (evidence please?), that is a far cry from condoning it, or adopting it as a strategy.

You want to develop indigenous agriculture that can provide a reasonable standard of living without the need for poppy production--which takes time and money--or do you want to simply destroy their means of living and drive them to the enemy?

Of course we might be able to achieve both. The Taliban managed to. And by adopting their tactics we could undoubtedly do the same. Pick your poison.

Posted by: has407 on July 14, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should have just laughed this off and ignored it. The people who won't vote for him either don't read the New Yorker and thus won't have a clue, or they are like Bill Kristol and would never ever vote for him. This is making something out of nothing and only a so-so nothing at that.

Posted by: hollywood on July 14, 2008 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

WHY IS LUTHER SO IGNORANT? tell us luther, why are you so ignorant?

ubl died years before 11/09/01. and every intell service in the world knows that.

in fact, most of the world knows that the events of 11/09/01 are notional.

the first appointed secretary of the treasury in this bushit regime was the ceo of alcoa. a real businessman. i know. i had an occasion to deal with him.

he related his recollections of his adventure in the bushit regime. he told the story of how the invasions of afghanistan, iraq were established within hours after the inauguration of george walker bush. that was long before the events of september 2001.

so, o'neill has told us that the events of 11/09/01 had to have been a usg false flag op so as to energize that pre-planned invasion.

odd, isn't it how no zionist-controlled newspaper or broadcast network cared to explore this in greater detail with o'neill.

his memoir is as if a koan. a tree falling in the wilderness with no one listening. no noise is created. all is silent.

the most interesting aspect of these last 7 years has been how assiduously the media has avoided daniel hopsicker's research into atta, hanjour, et alia in western florida.

why would the zionist press avoid that history? could it be because that history reveals the prevarications of the usg/zionist state concerning the events of that false flag operation?

Posted by: albertchampion on July 14, 2008 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Instead of looking at it necessarily from the perspective of the Taliban or terrorists being more aggressive in coming after NATO or U.S. forces or Afghan forces, in this particular case it was an example of NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces being aggressive in combating cross-border infiltration," McCormack said.

Uh oh, now the Bushies are calling the Afghan rebels "desperate" much the same way Cheney/Runmsfeld painted the Iraqi insurgents in a similar fashion in 2004. Now I am worried. Bushies are as clueless as ever before and probably not going to do what it takes to contain the Taliban in Afghanistan before it is too late.

Here is the full article with the excerpt quoted above: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25678644/

Posted by: rational on July 15, 2008 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Why the opium profits could pay for the reconstruction no problem, they are swimming in the stuff.

Posted by: Jet on July 15, 2008 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, how soon we forget. In this case, our relationship with pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Afghanistan, like Iraq, is all about oil.

The Afghan Pipeline You Don't Know About, Tom Englehardt, Dissent Magazine, 7/7/08

Posted by: nepeta on July 15, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

please, there has been virtually no interdiction of opium/hashish production.

you are a silly twit.

since the amerikan invasion of afghanistan the opium crop has increased 1000%, i think.

so, let us think about opium cultivation. pretty obvious where and when it exists.

and i think the usa and its "allies" control the air. controlling the air in afghanistan means that opium cultivation is observed routinely.

if there was a desire to eradicate that crop, napalm could do that.

but there is no interest in eradicating that crop.

do you savvy that reality?

and why would that be? well, without the warlords and karzai's family becoming enriched from opium trafficking, we would have no indigenous allies.

it is very similar to the situation in indochina some decades ago.

which, of course, brings us to another understanding...the legalization of the usage of narcotics. this would eliminate the scourge of gangsters enriching themselves at our expense.

Posted by: albertchampion on July 15, 2008 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

let me explain it to you 'blinded by the glory that is The Obama' types:

Dude, there were only two comments before yours that mentioned Obama, one mildly critical, the other venomous. I don't think I read a single comment in this thread that was unambiguously favorable towards him. In fact, from what I've seen on this blog and other liberal sites, very few of the people who will be voting for him think he's a perfect candidate. Most think he's either a decent guy, but not perfect (my view), or they'll vote for him because he's a Democrat, but without much enthusiasm. There are vastly more hysterical whiners like you who see Obama cultists everywhere. I don't really care *why* - mostly Clinton dead-enders, I assume - but it's getting really fucking annoying.

firstly, no fundamentalist islamic jihadis hijacked any aircraft on 11/09/01.
ubl died years before 11/09/01. and every intell service in the world knows that.
please, there has been virtually no interdiction of opium/hashish production.

Aw crap, who let the Truthers in? I never thought I'd miss Kevin's conservative trolls, but you freaks are making me nostalgic. Norman Rogers, come back! All is forgiven!

Posted by: Nat on July 15, 2008 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

albertchampion: so, o'neill has told us that the events of 11/09/01 had to have been a usg false flag op so as to energize that pre-planned invasion.

Care to tell us precisely where and when O'Neill said that 9/11 "had to have been" a false flag op?

Posted by: JM on July 15, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect that all the grocery stores in AlbertChampion's neighborhood are out of tin foil.

His hat must be huge!

Posted by: optical weenie on July 15, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Taliban is an enemy of the US because they sheltered Al Qaeda before and there is no indication that they have changed.

How many more Afghan civilians must the US kill before the crime of sheltering al Qaeda by the then ruling Taliban is sufficiently punished?

Some Americans, including the cowardly anonymous commenter and some Democrats, think the US must continue to kill Afghanis as punishment for 9/11. Of all the Afghanis killed by the US, few had anything to do with the former ruling Taliban or with al Qaeda. One thing many Afghanis agree on now, however, is that attacking Americans in Afghanistan is a legitimate patriotic act.

Posted by: Brojo on July 15, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, share your outrage regarding killing civilians. It is immoral and nothing good comes out of that. The coalition should do a better job of avoiding civilian casualties, and when they do occur, of thoroughly investigating incidents, punishing those who were found to be negligent, and compensating families for death and injuries.

Just because somone recognizes the need to hunt the Taliban and Al Qaeda doesn't mean they accept civilian casualties. Al Qaeda/Taliban shouldn't be killing innocent civilians and neither should the coalition.

Posted by: rational on July 15, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why should we be fighting the Taliban? It's not our country. Haven't we gone through this before - "we must support the government and send troops to keep the evil communists/fundamentalists/jihadists out of power"? The only valid reason for invading Afghanistan was that it hosted Bin Laden - and now he's not there now.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 15, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why should we be fighting the Taliban?...The only valid reason for invading Afghanistan was that it hosted Bin Laden - and now he's not there now.

So we leave. And then the Taliban regains power. They might offer UBL a nice apartment in Kabul.

Posted by: JM on July 15, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

UBL will not leave Carlyle HQ in Luxembourg for the wastes of Kabul.

Posted by: Brojo on July 15, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

albertchampion: please, there has been virtually no interdiction of opium/hashish production.

Yes, there has. It hasn't reached into all areas, and it has--as I tried to point out--often been subjugated to other efforts. That doesn't mean that it is condoned or supported by ISAF or US troops--all indications are the opposite--that those troops would like to do much more.

And please, spare me the bullshit about napalming poppy fields. Yeah, it might work, but would likely involve significant collateral damage, including loss of life in the most horrible way. And you would undoubtedly be the first to scream about it.

Would you be willing to napalm those fields knowing that there would likely be significant civilian casualties? Horrible burn cases that couldn't be treated because medical support is non-existent? No, you wouldn't. Or maybe you would.

You occasionally have good points, and comments worthy of thought, but your recent comments are thoughtless and deserve nothing but ridicule.

Posted by: has407 on July 15, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

No wonder criminals & con-men like Bush, Cheney, Obama & McCain will continue to send their sheep out for slaughter, over bullshit & $$$.

This was never about Osama or the Taliban, it was & is about oil, pipeline to transport the oil & $$.

Bush & company doesn't gave a flying crap about 2 or 3,000 US citizens getting their asses blown-up on 9/11, as long as it wasn't their asses. 9/11 only provided the opportunity to sacrifice a few more thousand of their dumbass subjects to make money, by invading Iraq & Afghanistan.

Posted by: ZombieNation on July 16, 2008 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

how weird.

i have never advocated napalming opium crops.

in fact, i want opium produced. and all criminal sanctions against opium producers and consumers terminated.

Posted by: albertchampion on July 16, 2008 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

yes, paul o'neill told us that in his first meetings after the inauguration that an invasion of iraq was a mission of the bushit administration.

though it may be technically accurate to claim that paul o'neill never revealed a false flag op, i think it pretty clear that paul o'neill told us that george walker bush was going to do anything to instigate an invasion of iraq.

and agreeing with that revelation does not require using any of my grocery store's aluminum foil inventory.

it is no longer a secret how the bushit regime lied this country into more than a few invasions.

the most egregious continues, dick'em cheney continuing to assert that saddam hussein was responsible for the events of 11/09/01.

and then there were the most extraordinary prevarications. especially the yellowcake from niger story.

yeah, the only wearers of tinfoil hats were those individuals who bought that story.

i think it is time that we filtered this site. so that we could discern the real disinfo agents.

i would like to think that you could pick them out of the pack without any filtration. they are pretty well revealed.

Posted by: alber on July 16, 2008 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK
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