Less New Thinking and More Old Mistakes in Afghanistan

Also see: The Twin Idiots, Mohammad N Asif, 7 May 2009

On October 2, 2002, Barack Obama, then an Illinois State Senator, gave a speech opposing going to war in Iraq. That speech, at that time, would prove crucial to his election, first as a US Senator two years later, and then as President, four years after that. Democrats who equivocated were a dime a dozen. Obama stood out, because he stood up when others did not, and said, "This is wrong."

Obama did not oppose all the wars he said what I am oppose to is a DUMB WAR. On his third day in office he ordered two separate deadly strikes inside Pakistan which killed 23 innocent people including three children. Now President Obama has made it official. In addition to another 17,000 troops promised early, he made an additional pledge of 4,000 more on Friday, March 27. It was reportedly a 'carefully calibrated' decision; these would be trainers, not combat troops, we were told.

On March 31, 2009, Jon Stewart in his "Daily Show" announced Commander-in-Chief Obama's mission of "Redefinition Accomplished" was in full swing. A new Orwellian vocabulary more soothing and politically correct has been invented in Afghanistan and marketed to the American citizenry by Obama. But as Peter Baker of the New York Times noted, "for all the shifting words, Mr. Obama has left the bulk of Bush's national security infrastructure intact so far." In the real world, average Pashtoons on both sides of the border experience this continuing brutality daily basis. "Civilian casualties" is non-existent in Obama's vocabulary as a search of Google reveals. Dead Afghan and Pashtoons civilians have simply been redefined as non-existent.

Majority of Afghans see no realistic prospect for peace as long as foreign soldiers remain in Afghanistan and the Taliban have no incentive to compromise when they are in a winning position. An additional 17-21,000 U.S troops - the Obama surge - means nothing in a country where military experts estimate that 4-500,000 foreign soldiers would be necessary to defeat the resistance. When asked by the New York Times aboard Air Force one as to whether the US was winning in Afghanistan, President Obama replied: 'No'. Short and sweet, but accurate. Later, the President elucidated that there may be some opportunities in the region with factions who are loathe to Al Qaeda to join the coalition's efforts in combating the extremists groups. That was based on assessments given by Petraeus who recounted minor successes in Iraq with a similar strategy. It was later revealed that much of that success was in fact due to bribing and paying huge sums of money to the enemy in order for them not to kill us. That revelation came by way of a well documented piece which talked about the disappearance of billions of dollars in Iraq during the reconstruction effort. Additionally, analysts are pointing to the fact that there are no 'moderate Taliban' in Afghanistan the continuity by Obama of Bush policies is striking, the soothing rhetoric notwithstanding. Obama continues the troop buildup begun under Bush during 2008. Drone attacks in Pakistan multiply. Foreign forces' midnight raids upon Afghan homes continue. Look at the disastrous idea of trying to export American and British democracy to Iraq. Afghanistan is not Iraq; it is bigger, more difficult, has a long border with Pakistan which is also currently on fire, and the Taliban just won control of the Swat Valley , Bunair and are just two hours away from Islamabad. We must pay attention to history, there is a perfectly good reason that Afghanistan is called the graveyard for invaders. Sending more Americans and British troops to Afghanistan will only mean more deaths. In February CNN poll found the American people slightly opposed to the war there - 51-47%, but with 64% of Democrats opposed. While Bush never listened to those who disagreed with him politically, Obama seems to have made a fetish of the opposite: he has listened almost exclusively to Bush holdovers in the military, from Defense Secretary Gates on down, while tuning out those whose diverse alternative approaches have much more support in his political base. Indeed, it is difficult to escape the feeling that if Barack Obama were still an Illinois State Senator, he would look at this latest push to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and conclude that it too, had to be opposed, because it is a "dumb war."

This is Obama current Afghanistan where most of the rebuilding projects have been handed over to profit-driven private corporations. Most roads and buildings remain in tatters. Average life expectancy is 44 years. Between 53% and 80% of Afghan people live below the official poverty line (depending on which part of the country). Adult literacy is 29%. In some regions, less than 1% of the population is literate. One in five children dies before the age of five. If anything, the war is preventing progress being made. The other myth is that the war is making Afghanistan safer where 2008 was the bloodiest one since 2001.The Afghan government appears to have been run for the financial benefit of 20 families. From the allocation of mineral rights to the awarding of contracts, ministers frequently intervene to favour families and friends. Even more disturbing, the beneficiaries of this corruption are old-time warlords and faction leaders responsible for past atrocities. Today, they operate with impunity, even over acts of violence and attempted murder. Many public officials, from police chiefs to governors to ministers, have acquired multi-million dollar fortunes in office. AIHRC reported in September 2008 that civilians are killed in most US operations, and that 98% of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces in Afghanistan are "intentional". "War criminals" is how it described the occupying forces.

Well done Mr. President Obama for bringing us change, peace, security and stability which you promised us while running for your OVAL office(?). Keep the George Bush's mission alive and kicking. Afghans will never forgive you.

Mohammad N Asif
Exile Journalist and President Scottish Afghan Society