2010 November 21 Sunday
More NATO Troops Than Soviets Had In Afghanistan

While in the home war zone American air passengers are being x-rayed or heavily frisked in Afghanistan NATO now has more troops than the Soviets did and with far more advanced technology.

In April 2009, Gates cautioned in a CNN interview, “The Soviets were in there with 110,000, 120,000 troops. They didn’t care about civilian casualties. And they couldn’t win.” Sixteen tanks do not remotely approach what the Soviets sent to occupy Afghanistan. And the proportion of civilians killed by the Taliban vastly dwarf those killed by NATO forces.

But now NATO, all combined, has 130,000 troops in Afghanistan. The numbers of civilians killed in the war is at an all-time high, despite a U.S. strategy predicated on protecting Afghans from violence.

So that's a huge war effort. Plus, the Soviets had to fight against CIA and Saudi support for the Muj. Now the US isn't facing much in the way of external funding of the Taliban.

How is this going to turn out? One key thing to keep in mind: The fertility rate in Afghanistan is one of the highest in the world. The Taliban are making future generations of warriors. Any seeming short term victory will not last long since 5 years later a new cohort of teenage males will be ready to take up the fight.

The Afghans are not inclined to support a central government since the idea of Afghanistan is at a higher level than they give their allegiances to. Plus, the Karzai government is a big family business.

Fouad Ajami has no illusions about what we face in Afghanistan: bandits in government and out.

The idealism has drained out of this project. Say what you will about the Iraq war—and there was disappointment and heartbreak aplenty—there always ran through that war the promise of a decent outcome: deliverance for the Kurds, an Iraqi democratic example in the heart of a despotic Arab world, the promise of a decent Shiite alternative in the holy city of Najaf that would compete with the influence of Qom. No such nobility, no such illusions now attend our war in Afghanistan. By latest cruel count, more than 1,300 American service members have fallen in Afghanistan. For these sacrifices, Mr. Karzai shows little, if any, regard.

In his latest outburst, Mr. Karzai said the private security companies that guard the embassies and the development and aid organizations are killer squads, on a par with the Taliban. "The money dealing with the private security companies starts in the hallways of the U.S. government. Then they send the money for killing here," Mr Karzai said. It is fully understood that Mr. Karzai and his clan want the business of the contractors for themselves.

How can this end well? It can't. We avoid total failure by staying.

Karzai sees the US as a source of money and protection while he fails to deliver anything remotely approaching good government.

Some months ago, our envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, saw into the heart of the matter in a memo to his superiors. Mr. Eikenberry was without illusions about President Karzai. He dismissed him as a leader who continues to shun "responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance or development. He and his circle don't want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further. They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending war on terror and for military bases to use against surrounding powers."

The Eikenberry memorandum lays to rest once and for all the legend of Afghanistan as a "graveyard of empires." Rather than seeking an end to the foreign military presence, the Afghans and their leader seek to perpetuate it. It spares them the hard choice of building a nation-state, knitting together feuding ethnicities and provinces, and it brings them enormous foreign treasure.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 November 21 08:56 PM  MidEast Afghanistan

A.Prole said at November 22, 2010 12:35 AM:

And despite all that Osama Bin Laden is still at large.

Mthson said at November 22, 2010 6:13 AM:

"Say what you will about the Iraq war—and there was disappointment and heartbreak a plenty—there always ran through that war the promise of a decent outcome."

That's easy to say now, but seems a little strange. The Iraq war was not long ago considered a hellhole compared to the less controversial Afghanistan war, with discussion about a full-blown Iraqi civil war.

California kid said at November 22, 2010 10:06 AM:

What is the point of the war ?

1. To turn Arabs into Oreos (same project as with American Blacks).

2. To provide jobs for outsourced Scotts-Irish and German Americans (former employees of the factory or mill that was shipped to China).

3. To keep the U.S. Army out of the country indefinitely so it doesn't do a coup on Obama.

4. To give young Americans a real live version of Halo, COD, HalfLife, Fallout, etc.

5. To give young White Americans a country to immigrate to, while their own country is immigrated by the Third World.

6. The war is now an institution, like Social Security. It's always been there. You can't conceive of the USA without it. It has an angry, sullen constituency that growls loudly if you talk of ending it.

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