Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: History, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 10:12 am

In my latest for FPM, I come out of the closet entirely and make the case that Afghanistan is hopeless:

Beyond the questions regarding the capabilities of the Afghan army and the confusing mission of Special Operations personnel, there is the huge problem of winning the Afghan people to the government’s side. This was one of General David Petraeus’s major goals when he announced his plans for the surge in troops in 2009. By pacifying population centers, freeing them from Taliban control, while the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) move in and improve the lives of ordinary Afghans by building schools, mosques, and infrastructure, it was believed that the people’s loyalty would flow to the government in Kabul rather than the Taliban.

To date, it hasn’t worked that way, and given the fact that troops will be leaving by 2014, it appears probable that the concept will never work.

An article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel profiling local PRT officers points up the daunting challenges faced by the reconstruction teams as they work with local officials to bring water, electricity, roads, and other amenities to the provinces. They also seek to develop economic infrastructure in order to boost local economies. One such effort involves developing an agriculture production system where none existed before. Capt. Gena Selby is working with Afghan officials to figure out ways to improve transportation and storage of crops and boost marketing. She is also working to set up an agricultural resource center so that local farmers can improve their farming methods.

“Farmers have no incentive to change their practices if they can’t get more money for their crops and if there’s not a market,” said Selby. She also listed the almost impossible challenges she faces: “You need transportation to move your crops to market. You need packaging and grading, sorting and milling to preserve it or canning if you want to make jams and jellies,” Selby said.

Very little of that — not even the roads — currently exist in Afghanistan.

Another PRT member hit upon the biggest problem facing these dedicated soldiers and public servants. “Afghanistan is tribal based, and if you had a problem you went to the tribal elders. Now we’re trying to get people to understand they can come to the government.”

This is where our nation-building efforts have landed us in Afghanistan. We are trying to alter a culture that has done things a certain way for a thousand years, attempting to make a nation-state out of a collection of farmers and small artisans who have never contemplated any identity other than that defined by their clan, or tribe, or village. Kabul is so remote to almost all of them that it may as well be on the surface of the moon. They appear angry at the occupation of their villages — not because they believe it violates Afghanistan’s sovereignty, but rather for the much more mundane reason that the fighting disturbs the familiar rhythms of their lives. They don’t like the Taliban much either, but at least they’re local.

The downing of the helicopter carrying 30 brave Americans is a tragedy. But perhaps a bigger tragedy is that we are still in Afghanistan after 10 years of failure — asking our courageous soldiers to do the impossible.

There aren’t too many people arguing that our continued presence in Afghanistan will lead to any kind of viable state in the near future. As I point out above, Afghanistan is not a “state” at all and the prospects for building one are bleak.

It’s not worth one additional American life to attempt the impossible task of pacifying a country where most do not want to be pacified, nor should we be spending one additional dollar to build infrastructure that will only be of use to the Taliban when we leave.

Let the Taliban have their prize. They revel in living and thinking like 12th century peasants, so the Afghan people and the extremists deserve each other. And if they insist on allowing terrorists to use their country to attack us, we will treat them like a 12th century city state and violate their non-existent sovereignty with impunity by sending in forces to squelch the threat.

As for withdrawal - Faster, please.

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