Monday, September 14, 2009

The Helter Skelter War: Afghanistan and the Lost Cause

Back in 1969, at Woodstock, the climate was a definite anti-war tone against the US in Vietnam, a country that pales in size when it comes to Afghanistan. Then, it was the band, Country Joe and Fish singing, "what are we doing there, I don't give a damn about Vietnam".

Fast forward to now

There is a small chorus of scholars and media that are now asking the same, "what are we doing there", "at best, it is a draw", "what is winning anyway"? Despite the patriotic support for the troops (you know, it was also there in the Vietnam war, also) many are looking at this long war (as they did with Nam) and question it.

This war is 50% longer than the combined US involvement in the 1st and 2nd World Wars! For the most part, Afghanistan is a US war sparked by terrorism. Afghanistan is the second worse place for a war, Somalia is the first. It is a HUGE country. The government is corrupt and created by the US, just as the US tried South Vietnam with President Thieu's regime. Afghanistan's para-military is corrupt as was much of the South Vietnamese Army despite the modern weapons given to them from 1966-74. Then, our mission was to stop Communism. Now, its another form of this system, worse, fueled by hatered of the West and Islam.

Our mission now is to clear, hold and build in key areas of the country and given the lack of troops, it creates a series of outposts, islands of democracy that once US presence exits, returns back to its former state- warlords and Taliban.

Kabul and the Karzai government only control 1\3 of the country. The rest is a free for all, many areas are pure Taliban, untouched or unfazed by the war. Take Helmand Province. Unless you realize that this province is the size of the State of West Virginia (which is 25,000 sq. miles or 62,000 sq, km) one might think little of it. However, there are only 4000 US Marines there to fight the war! They can do little more than patrol and skirmish with the Taliban in their assigned area. The local government and police are thieves. They take bribes from the Taliban, they steal, say one thing, do another when the Americans are not there. The Afghan "soldiers" indicate they are there for a vacation and seldom fight. The situation in Afghanistan is NOTHING like Iraq, where there is hope things will turn out alright. Things seem viable there. Iraqis have a history of good relations with the West.

Economically, the whole country of Afghanistan has a $23 Billion dollar budget. While it sounds impressive, it is a drop in the bucket when you realize that the the City of Boise, Idaho, has the same amount for their budget! This is a medium sized city, not a country!

Back to Helmand Province. Why is this area important? Poppies. Drug money. The province accounts for 75% of the countries opium crop, which provides revenue. But, we only have 4000 troops there trying to persuade farmers with our own "bribes" to grow other crops. None that will bring in revenue.

President Karzai, like President Thieu, does not enjoy popularity with the commoners. Many think he is corrupt, inept and predatory, according to the Economist. Some of the commoners really want a return to the "warlord" system because it is less brutal. The country will have 68,000 US troops and 9000 British troops. Commanders know from their military training that to fight this kind of guerrilla hide and seek war requires well over 150,000 troops because of its size. Nobody has an appetite for that one. Now, the recent "democratic" election has been declared fraudulent in many provinces by international observers that demand a new re-election.

But what is the purpose of destroying Taliban or al-Qaida bases there, if they are untouched in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan? They still will exist, train and grow. They still will conduct terrorist attacks. And we all know that when the Americans and British leave this country, things will deteoriate and the country will either slowly return to its former 2001 state or some variation of it.

When the US left Vietnam in 1973-4, South Vietnam only lasted until May, 1975. Despite the years of training, building, supplying its large army and airforce, when the North conducted its last attack, even they were surprized how quickly the South's troops fled and ran overall, how quickly the government fell into chaos.

Ditto for Afghanistan.
Our own "warlords" promoting this war can put any kind of spin on it they want but that is all it is. History is repeating and while we are not making all the same mistakes as in Vietnam, enough are being made and the adversary is as tough to make the outcome very similar once US troops vacate the Afghanistan premises.

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