by Imran H. Khan
Today is the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by US troops. It is time to reflect on the manner in which US got involved. It is also a good time to look at responsible ways to get out of the Afghan quagmire while ensuring peace for all the nations involved. To re-phrase the line from the movie “Gladiator”, “Countries should know when the war has been lost”. This comment is not a reflection on the proud soldiers serving there, and has more to do with the policy. I had stated in a publicly broadcast show that the war in Afghanistan had been lost early last year. Everything since then has gone downhill, as was easily predictable to those who have the slightest sense of the region. It is already the longest war that US has ever fought. Churchill once said that “America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other options.” It is now time to do the right thing as all the options have been exhausted.
I believe the main reason for hastily attacking Afghanistan after 9/11 was primarily a need to take revenge. This was abundantly evident by the expletive markings on the bombs being loaded onto aircraft aboard aircraft carriers to attack. Pakistani leader was begging for more time to work on Talibans to offer Osama bin Laden for trials. Had the Bush administration not been blinded by sheer hubris, we could have had him and his cohorts without resulting in huge human and monetary loss.
In my opinion the war was lost before it even started. The reasons have to do with the way it was planned. The fundamental long term mistake made then was that we wanted to do Afghanistan on the cheap. Then Secy Rumsfeld was obsessed with containing costs and wanted to do Iraq first. So we chose the easy way in the short term by using Northern Alliance and committed far fewer troops than were needed. These decisions were made in a rush and not enough long term thinking was put in. The result was that Osama got away in Tora Bora and we ended up working with Northern Alliance, a group far more criminal than the Taliban. An important side effect of this association was giving India the back door space into Afghanistan, as they were supporting the Northern Alliance. We were forced into resorting to the blunt instrument of bombing from the air at the slightest provocation, since we did not have boots on the ground. This in the long run turned us into a brutal occupational force in the eyes of most Afghanis. This fact could be witnessed recently on CBS’s 60 minutes, where US soldiers ventured out only in their armored MRAPS and no Afghani was willing to work with them.
It does not serve anyone much to dwell on the past. What is essential is to do the right thing going ahead. I don’t think US can afford this war in the medium to long term when 40% of the US population is hovering around the poverty line, and the cost of getting one gallon of gasoline to Afghanistan is a whopping $800.
We need to immediately do the following things:
- Training Afghan Army a lot more aggressively.
- Distance ourselves from the Karzai gang of warlords and criminals. ( Read Taliban by Ahmed Rashid for more details.)
- Get a much larger (300,000+) peace keeping force in Afghanistan, from preferably muslim countries.
- Give more representation to Pashtuns, who are the majority.
We must not do is
- Talk to the Talibans.
- Conduct criminal drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Alienate Pakistan by military incursions and intrusive activities into their internal affairs.
I am no longer too sure about Churchill’s words. My prediction is that we will be in Afghanistan till well into the next century. I sincerely hope that I am wrong.Views: 5169Share