Obama begins to wind-down the costly war in Afghanistan (Final in a series)
For antiwar groups, the President’s address to the nation was somewhat welcome news; the ever-increasing unpopularity of the war opened the door to common sense. On the other hand, critics called Obama’s speech a road map for insurgents to plan their takeover of the Afghan government.
The dilemma for commanders on the ground centers on the classification of the 10-year war. A mission change is in the works and military leaders will now shift the counterinsurgency strategy to a more stealthy counter-terrorism position.
Afghanistan’s corrupt government, lack of infrastructure and tribal tendencies have met a predictable ending- a U.S. troop departure, a small victory toppling the Taliban and killing Osama bin Laden.
General David Petraeus outlined the requirements for a successful counterinsurgency strategy in a 2006 military handbook. “As the counterinsurgent gains success, offensive and defensive operations become more in balance and eventually diminish in importance compared to stability operations.”
It has been five years since Petraeus wrote the Manual on Counterinsurgency and Afghanistan remains in the hands of corrupt leaders who provide economic and security failures for its people. Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to swindle the American people by requesting billions of dollars for nation building; however, there has been little progress with building infrastructure in the past 10 years.
According to the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan, the foreign aid dispensed to Afghanistan amounted to $320 million each month and the monthly military tab is approximately $10 billion. Other money earmarked for the corrupt Karzai government is a $19 billion slush fund that is included in the U.S. aid package, most of it coming under the Obama Administration for its counterinsurgency approach.
America’s love affair with exporting democracy has sent the nation into an economic abyss. In the case of Afghanistan, a 2003/04, a plan hatched by Army Lt. COL Anthony Shaffer could have saved taxpayers billions of dollars. His book entitled “Operation Dark Heart,” reported that Pakistan officials were meddling in the Afghan War and were not friends of the U.S. “They were playing both sides of the war efforts,” COL Shaffer said. Had COL Shaffer’s intelligence of the Afghan War effort been heeded by military leaders at the top, U.S. troops could have shifted their tactics and avoided a troop surge.
Evidence that the Department of Defense did not want COL Shaffer’s 2003/04 plan to find its way into civilian ranks came in the form of the heavily-redacted book “Operation Dark Heart.” The tell-all book chronicled gritty details regarding Pakistan’s and U.S. complicity with insurgents.
Many lawmakers as well as, Johnny Come Lately politicians, are arguing that the Afghan War’s focus should be on Pakistan’s unsavory alliance with the Taliban and al Qaeda. By focusing on terrorist organizations, the U.S. can unleash special op teams, and reduce the number of boots on the ground.
“There cannot be a gradual drawdown of troops without a change in mission objectives,” said Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Successfully implementing a counterinsurgency strategy is near impossible without enough Marines and soldiers to see it through. On the other hand, counterterrorism operations linked to a more simplified set of objectives is sustainable with a significantly smaller force size.”
Hunter continues to explain that a drawdown is on the horizon, and the military must narrow its objectives in Afghanistan. “These objectives should consist of making sure the enemy cannot get back on its feet, strengthening the Afghan military and stabilizing Pakistan. We can do all of this with a much smaller footprint, utilizing special operations forces, intelligence gathering capability and air assets.”
Hunter contends the situation on the ground has changed and, “what might have seemed like a good strategy years or even months ago is not showing the level of success that justifies continuing the mission with such a large troop presence. The time has come for a change in strategy that begins with a departure from nation-building and counterinsurgency operations – the centerpiece of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since Mr. Obama took office.”
Corruption fuels instability
Afghanistan’s corruption is legendary. The war-torn tribal nation provides fertile fields for training terrorists and growing poppies, is home to al Qaeda, and is where the 9/11 plotters hatched their terrorist attack on America. But sadly, in the worst kept secret in Central Asia, the U.S. condones and encourages the growing of poppies (the base ingredient for heroin and cocaine) paying billions to Taliban insurgents and warlords for convoy protection. We do so, not to keep the poor farmers happy, but to line the pockets of the Taliban, warlords, and the Karzai government. In other words, Americans are fighting and dying protecting the poppy fields.
“More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide. It’s not like they grow money on trees here,” said one U.S. official investigating the corruption and Taliban. “A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium (poppies), of course.”
President Hamid Karzai sees the money changing hands differently. “Making money is fine and taking money out of the country is fine. The relatives of government officials can do this, starting with my brothers. But there’s a possibility of corruption.”
If this is true why does America/NATO continue to send billions of dollars to such a corrupt country? This scenario implies the American government chose its political elites poorly and the continuation of business as usual will only leave disenfranchised Afghan civilians inflamed at the U.S.
According to separate Congressional and Senate reports, the American government pays more than $2 billion for Host Nation Trucking (HNT) or in layman’s terms, private security firms that protect U.S. military convoys and materials in dangerous tribal areas.
A report titled “Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan” was published by Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) in June of last year. The report detailed the billions of dollars spent to protect U.S. military supply convoys in Afghanistan- the majority of the money is paid by the DOD through defense contractors and finds its way into the hands of Taliban leaders and warlords.
The Senate Armed Services Committee also sent staffers to investigate the “convoy protection” issue. Their report titled, “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan” concluded the U.S. pays trucking contractors billions of dollars a year, much of it ends up in the hands of local warlords.
Two U.S. administrations have now promised a “hearts and minds” and “nation building” campaigns and to date both have subverted the ability to impose a military solution. This role is fraught with disappointments since it implies that the U.S. and allied forces will provide the Afghan people with an effective government, root out corruption, create a westernized Afghan military, value women’s rights and ensure fair elections.
It has been 10 years since America waded into the Middle East Wars, and the ability to achieve victory continues to be nothing more than a pipe dream.
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
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