The movement to end the Afghanistan War is gaining momentum, and on March 12, it will gain some more. In a little less than two weeks, supporters of Rethink Afghanistan (“Rethinkers”) will get together with their neighbors in hundreds of communities to talk about what can be done locally to stop the war. We’re going to swap stories, share a coffee or a beer, and make the personal connections with other Rethinkers in our neighborhood that will carry us through to our goal of bringing our troops home. Join us in your hometown for Rethink the Cost, a worldwide Meetup for people who want to end the Afghanistan War.
Posts Tagged ‘anti-war’
Tags: Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, Afghanistan war, anti-war, Army, Brave New Foundation, COIN, corruption, counterinsurgency, failure, Hamid Karzai, Kabul Bank, Kabulbank, military, Obama, Pashtuns, peace, Rethink Afghanistan, strategy review, war in Afghanistan, white house
As President Obama’s strategy review for Afghanistan commences, let’s hope he’s balancing the information coming to him from his happy-talking generals with some independent news reading of his own.
- While General David Petraeus serenades the major news media in the United States with the siren song of “progress,” security in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating, and efforts in the south to win legitimacy for the Kabul government are failing.
- Hamid Karzai seems dead set on proving just how corrupt he and his business connections are.
- Efforts to transform the Afghan National Army from a carpetbagger army to a legitimate, representative force capable of keeping peace in the south are a flop.
All of these reports are clear indications that the massive influx of troops into Afghanistan under Obama failed to improve the situation in that country and very likely made it worse. The president should seize on any of the numerous signs of policy failure–from the massively corrupt Kabulbank fiasco to the collapse of security across the country–and use this strategy review to create a plan that begins immediate U.S. troop withdrawals.
Aid groups warn that security in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating, and they strongly dispute military assurances that things are “getting worse before they get better.” According to The New York Times:
Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations and humanitarian groups.
…Last month, ISAF recorded 4,919 “kinetic events,” …a 7 percent increase over the previous month, and a 49 percent increase over August 2009, according to Maj. Sunset R. Belinsky, an ISAF spokeswoman. August 2009 was itself an unusually active month for the insurgency as it sought to disrupt the presidential elections then.
With one attack after another, the Taliban and their insurgent allies have degraded security in almost every part of the country (the one exception is Panjshir Province in the north, which has never succumbed to Taliban control).
While Petraeus has been on a media blitz claiming that the rise in violence can be attributed to the Taliban fighting back as NATO forces “take away areas that are important to the enemy,” the Times’ story makes clear that his explanation fails to address rapidly deteriorating security in parts of the country where the NATO presence is light. In fact, compared to August 2009, insurgent attacks more than doubled last month.
General Petraeus’ manual on how to conduct counterinsurgency refers to a legitimate host nation government as “a north star.” But over the past week, we’ve been treated to a sickening spectacle showing just how corrupt Hamid Karzai and his cronies really are. A real estate market collapse in Dubai rocked the privately owned Kabulbank, exposing the “investment” of hundreds of millions of depositor assets in palatial homes on Palm Jumeirah off Dubai’s cost, handed out to friends and family of the government. As media attention zeroed in on the bank, we learned that presidential campaign contributions were given to Karzai by Kabulbank in exchange for naming a major shareholder’s brother (a notorious war criminal) as his vice presidential running mate; that Karzai’s brother, Mahmoud Karzai, sat at the center of the scandal; and that key campaign advisers had become major shareholders in the bank. Now government forces and security guards are beating people away (literally) as outraged depositors seek to get their money out. Karzai’s inner circle was implicated so thoroughly that now the U.S. is backing off its repeated pronouncements of the importance of rooting out corruption.
In short, we lack one of the prerequisites asserted by Petraeus’ own doctrine for success under the current strategy in Afghanistan, and we’ve stopped even really trying to construct one.
Southern Pashtuns Stay Away from ANA
Another of the key components of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to create an army with a sizable enough southern Pashtun contingent to allow the security forces to operate in the Taliban’s traditional strongholds without being seen as an occupying force from the north. According to The Wall Street Journal, that effort is failing:
Recent initiatives to recruit more southern Pashtuns into the Afghan security forces…appear to have backfired.
In January, southern Pashtuns accounted for 3.4% of recruits that month, falling to 1.1% in July and 1.8% in August.
Last month, just 66 of the 3,708 Afghan recruits were Pashtuns, U.S. officials said.
Overall, Pashtuns account for 43% of the Afghan army, but very few of them are from the south.
Afghanistan’s recent history is fraught with internal strife between factions and ethnic groups, including a nasty conflict between those forces comprising the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. Pashtuns in the south likely aren’t going to take kindly to the presence of a U.S.-backed force made up of northerners. The fact that the security forces can’t recruit southern Pashtuns speaks volumes about the failure of efforts to persuade populations in the heart of Taliban territory to support the Kabul regime.
There’s No Time Like the Present
Giles Dorronsoro, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, just returned from Afghanistan with a stark warning:
“Washington wants to weaken the Taliban by beefing up the counterinsurgency campaign to the point where the Taliban will be forced to ask for amnesty and join the government. But the Taliban are growing stronger and there are no indications that U.S. efforts can defeat the insurgents…
“Since last year there has not been one serious element of progress and the situation will not improve without a strategic recalculation. …In a year, the Taliban will not disappear as a political force or even be weakened militarily—the longer it takes for negotiations to begin, the harder it will be for the coalition to carry out the best possible exit strategy. …In the coming months, the American-led coalition needs to declare a ceasefire and begin talking to the Taliban. While negotiations could be an extremely long and fraught process, the sooner they begin the more likely they are to achieve results.”
Every individual factor listed above would be a body blow to the premises of a counterinsurgency strategy according to General Petraeus’ own handbook. Taken together, they’ve exposed the Afghanistan War as a brutal fiasco that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.
The American people, recognizing the futility of spending more U.S. lives and dollars on this failing war, have turned solidly against it, with nearly six-in-10 saying they oppose the war in CNN’s most recent poll. The president should keep that in mind as we approach our own midterm elections here in the U.S.
We can’t wait until July 2011. Those troops need to start coming home, now.
If you’re tired of this costly, brutal war that’s not making us safer, join us at Rethink Afghanistan:
Invitees to President Obama’s UT-Austin Speech: Get Out of Afghanistan, War’s Failing, Set a TimetablePosted: August 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: Afghanistan, anti-war, antiwar, Austin, barack, Brave New Foundation, defense spending, Democrats, economics, economy, education, george lopez, Gregory Gymnasium, insurgency, KXAN, Obama, peace, politics, rally, Rethink Afghanistan, Robert Greenwald, scholarship, student, Taliban, Texas, University of Texas, UT, war, war spending
Today, President Obama came to my town to give an invite-only speech at the University of Texas. Lacking an invite, I wondered what people with invites had to say about the Afghanistan War. Here’s what I found:
All the people who had tickets to the event who consented to be interviewed and who gave an opinion for or against are in this video, and their views are fairly represented. Of course, that’s not a surprise, given the levels of public disgust with this war, the higher levels of opposition among Democrats and the likely makeup of the invitee crowd.
Most Americans — 54 percent — think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Forty-one percent disagree.
There is a partisan divide on the issue: 73 percent of Democrats think the U.S. should set a timetable, while only 32 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should do so. Fifty-four percent of independents want a timetable.
What is surprising, though, is the “heads down, follow through” attitude on the part of our elected leaders.
Ever heard of a thing called an election?
Tags: Afghanistan, anti-war, biden, Iraq, Lynn Woolsey, McCain, Obama, Rumsfeld, surge
Thursday marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.’s military assault on Iraq. The occupation continues today, although President Obama recently stated his intent to withdraw our forces:
Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end….And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
The endpoint outlined by the president will come five years after public opinion turned solidly against the war.
It will have taken the anti-war movement in the United States more than five years to make the official policies match the will of the people. That should be a glaring warning to our movement: online petitions and rallies on the Capitol lawn are insufficient to change policies in a timely way. The policymakers in our country manage orderly dissent very well.
That’s not a critique of the powerholders; it’s a critique of us. The function of the incumbent is to manage dissent. Our job as peacemakers is to make dissent unmanageable.
The saga of Cindy Sheehan, which was a microcosm of the relationship between the larger anti-war movement and the powerholding elite in this country, transformed her lone, principled and powerful voice for the human cost of war into a political force, which was then co-opted by Democratic elites, marginalized and ultimately discarded once it lost its utility. The same dynamic happened in the larger political world over the same time period: Democrats took power in Congress in 2006 on the rising tide of anti-war sentiment in America and used it in part to take the White House in 2008, only to marginalize the anti-war movement in the policymaking process.
To keep the occupation going as long as politically possible, powerholders framed the debate on withdrawal as “responsibility vs. irresponsibility.”
During the 2008 presidential race, Republican powerholders portrayed proposals to end the occupation as “irresponsible” and raised the spectre of genocide:
“[We] cannot consign Iraqis to genocide that would follow reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal,” McCain said in his speech to the World Affairs Council.
Democratic powerholders responded to this with some wily framing of their own. Portraying themselves as moderates situated between Republicans and get-out-and-get-out-now anti-war activists, Democrats adopted a frame of “responsible redeployment.” This frame draws an unspoken contrast with advocates for “irresponsible redeployment,” i.e. the principled anti-war movement on the Capitol lawn. This movement to slow-walk an end to the occupation succeeded in marginalizing advocates for immediate withdrawal by appealing to the same nightmare scenarios as the Republicans. Then-candidates Obama and Biden pushed for “a responsible, phased withdrawal,” but cited “potential genocidal violence within Iraq” to stave off calls for a faster end to our occupation.
The outcome of these combined framing efforts was to paint the anti-war movement as “irresponsible,” bordering on “pro-genocide.” Today’s message is “we can’t end the Iraq war any sooner because we’re concerned about civilian casualties.” That’s an interesting new development, considering that powerholders, suddenly so concerned about civilian deaths in 2008-2009, were deaf to that very same concern voiced by members of their own parties back in 2002, including U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey:
I believe that a decision to invade Iraq would be a terrible mistake: The President’s single-mindedness threatens the lives of thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, ignores international law, disregards our Constitution, and undermines our fight against terrorism.
These same policymakers, suddenly so concerned about civilian casualties, do not even count the civilian dead:
In the evenings, women in black gather at Umm Fatin’s house to remember the dead.
Each family in the four neighboring houses in Tahrir, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold in Baqubah, has lost loved ones to bombings or shootings. Yet these deaths and countless others have fallen under the radar of the Iraq war. Nobody keeps an accurate tally of Iraqis killed because nobody knows.
As the Iraq conflict approaches its sixth anniversary, the number of American troop deaths – more than 4,250 – has been meticulously logged by the US military. Yet analysts are no closer to knowing how many Iraqi civilians have been killed, and they acknowledge a credible death toll will probably never be recorded.
Our national politicians take on a deformed version of responsibility, meticulously avoiding responsibility for actual civilian deaths (which we “regret” but always with caveats) while claiming the policies that cause civilian deaths are necessary to prevent more civilian deaths. This tension led to a now-famous exclamation from Muqtada al-Sadr, after then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said we would not interfere with a potential civil war in Iraq :
…US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said last week that the US military would not intervene in an Iraqi civil war, leaving that to Iraqi forces.
‘May God damn you,’ Sadr said of Rumsfeld. ‘You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won’t interfere. ‘”
This dynamic continued to play out during the “surge.” The military claimed the surge brought a reduction in violence, despite clear evidence that a brutal civil war and ethnic cleansing concluded right as the new troops hit the ground, leading to a drop-off in violence (which tends to happen when one group slaughters their opposition). But despite the fact that our occupation did not take responsibility for stopping this real civil slaughter, powerholders want us to stay as long as possible so we can be responsible for stopping a hypothetical slaughter.
Obama’s election represented a partial victory for the anti-war movement in the United States, and we should celebrate that. But as our official policies set a course toward ending this murderous misadventure in Mesopotamia, we should keep the historical account of powerholders’ motives honest. And as our powerholders slow-walk the end of one war while intensifying another, the anti-war movement must take a hard look at our own tactics to prevent being hamstrung like this in the future.
We owe that much, at least, to the dead.