White House Notices Afghanistan

After nearly five years, it seems President Bush and his White House cronies have finally noticed that there’s a war in Afghanistan, that we’re involved, and that it’s not going too well.

A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met….

Yeah, well, that’ll happen when you ignore a war you didn’t actually win and turn the country over to an enemy you didn’t actually beat to avenge yourself on another country that didn’t actually attack you.

But then, you know, Afghanistan doesn’t actually have any oil, so like, who cares?


The assessment is by NSC intelligence analysts who conclude that though the US military is winning the battles, it’s most likely losing the war.

This judgment reflects sharp differences between U.S. military and intelligence officials on where the Afghan war is headed. Intelligence analysts acknowledge the battlefield victories, but they highlight the Taliban’s unchallenged expansion into new territory, an increase in opium poppy cultivation and the weakness of the government of President Hamid Karzai as signs that the war effort is deteriorating.

The contrasting views echo repeated internal disagreements over the Iraq war: While the military finds success in a virtually unbroken line of tactical achievements, intelligence officials worry about a looming strategic failure.

Bush’s infamous tirades against “nation building” were assumed to have been thrown aside when we invaded Afghanistan but it turns out he actually meant it. He likes the battles – they make him come over all John Wayney and goosebumpy – but he isn’t interested in prosecuting the actual war with an eye to actually winning it (which could be defined as throwing the Taliban out and keeping them out) which would then allow Karzai’s govt enough stability to begin dealing with the war lords. Nation building is, after all, kind of boring compared to firefights and bunker busters, and our C+ pres is easily bored. He likes the blood-and-guts but paper-pushing puts him to sleep.

But one senior intelligence official, who like others interviewed was not authorized to discuss Afghanistan on the record, said such gains are fleeting. “One can point to a lot of indicators that are positive . . . where we go out there and achieve our objectives and kill bad guys,” the official said. But the extremists, he added, seem to have little trouble finding replacements.

Although growing numbers of foreigners — primarily Pakistanis — are joining the Taliban ranks, several officials said the primary source of new recruits remains disaffected Afghans fearful of opposing the Taliban and increasingly disillusioned with their own government.

Overall, “there doesn’t seem to be a lot of progress being made. . . . I would think that from [the Taliban] standpoint, things are looking decent,” the intelligence official said.

There is, of course, no sign whatever that Bush is going to listen to his own advisors – he hasn’t so far, why would he start now? He’s sinking so many resources – military and financial – into the Iraq swamp that there’s very little left over for poor Afghanistan.

There is widespread agreement among administration officials that the Taliban has suffered heavy losses this year. But the U.S. military has also suffered losses, with deaths already past the 100 mark, compared with 87 over all of last year — making this the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began. Afghan civilian deaths also reached an all-time high of 5,700 this year, according to an Associated Press tally.

The strategy is “clear, hold and build,” said Seth Jones, an Afghanistan expert at the Rand Corp. “You clear the Taliban out, then you hold it for a period of time. You keep forces there, including Afghan forces, then you begin to build, then expand and go into neighboring districts. The problem has been that when you move troops into neighboring districts, you don’t have enough to hold what you just cleared.”

(emphasis added)

It’s been a problem from the beginning, and it’s a problem in which the Emperor has shown not much interest.

But then, you know, Afghanistan doesn’t actually have any oil, so like, who cares?

President Bush seldom mentions Afghanistan. In White House remarks last month asking Congress for an additional $200 billion for both wars, he noted that “our troops, NATO allies and Afghan forces are making gains against the Taliban,” then offered an extensive recounting of progress in Iraq.

Mainly, it would appear that the Bush is mostly interesting in blaming NATO for not sacrificing more troops and resources to clean up the mess he made – a standard assumption for elitist silver-spooners who’ve always been able to ignore the consequences of their destruction secure in the knowledge that cleaning up is the maid’s job. And what’s the point of being involved with the UN and NATO of they’re not going to act as maids whose function is to pick up after him? What other possible use could they have?

To the extent that the administration has publicly described problems in Afghanistan, it has focused on the reluctance of NATO members to send more troops and the restrictions placed by some on the missions they can undertake. “In Afghanistan, a handful of allies are paying the price and bearing the burdens” for the rest of the 26-nation group, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said at a NATO meeting last month. “The failure to meet commitments puts the Afghan mission — and with it, the credibility of NATO — at real risk.”

Uh-huh. Gates may be an improvement on Rummy but a) that’s not saying much, and b) he still manages to push the Bush’s “Find a Scapegoat” political tactics. Bush starts a war, abandons it to concentrate on – in PNAC speech – “planting a footprint” in a country that has, you know, oil, and then ramps up a handy fallguy to take the blame for the consequences of his blind greed. It’s a neat strategy and it works far more often than it doesn’t, which is why he keeps doing it.

All of which would tend to suggest that the Whack-a-Mole dumbshow in Afghanistan isn’t going to change any time soon.

[O]thers said the problem is not…a lack of military or financial resources in Afghanistan. It is the absence, they say, of a strategic plan that melds the U.S. military effort with a comprehensive blueprint for development and governance throughout the country.

“There are plenty of dollars and a hell of a lot more troops there, by a factor of two, from when I was there,” the former commander said. The question, he said, is “who owns the overarching campaign for Afghanistan, and what is it?”

(emphasis added)

Plan? Plan? What plan? Were we supposed to have a plan? An Afghanistan Plan? What for? I mean, Afghanistan doesn’t have any oil.

2 Responses to “White House Notices Afghanistan”

  1. xranger says:

    Sounds like they need to transfer Petraeus to Afghanistan.

    If only they could find another use for poppies.

    Say, can poppies be used for ethanol? Hmmm…

  2. mick says:

    If only they could find another use for poppies.

    It’s an idea. Gets to the root of the difficulty. If only Afghanistan had some resources – any resources – we could plunder, I suspect there would be more interest. But they don’t (unless the poppy-ethanol thing works or the Pet Rock comes back – rocks are what they have the most of) so there isn’t any. It’s a puzzlement.

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