Op-Ed: Afghanistan: Chronicle of a Conundrum
Yonatan SilvermanThe author is a professional translator from Hebrew to English. He is the author of For the World to See:The Life of Margaret Bourke White. He operates the online newsletter SARTABA.
Afghanistan has been an international conundrum since 1979 when the USSR invaded the country. The military and other conflicts in Afghanistan have known numerous twists and turns and permutations since then.
The most recent episode however took place at the end of April when president Obama made a surprise secret visit there to meet with Afghani president Karzai.
The occasion of Obama’s visit to Afghanistan was the first anniversary of the assassination of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. And he had a mixed message for the US troops fighting the Taliban there. He warned them on one hand that there was more hardship ahead, but he also said he saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
Shortly after he arrived, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement, which sets out a long-term US role in Afghanistan, including aid and advisers. The deal ostensibly provides Afghanistan with reassurances that they will not be abandoned when most NATO combat troops leave in 2014.
But so much for presidential platitudes. Hours after Obama departed Kabul, the Taliban set off a suicide car bomb in the city that killed six. The car bomb attack was the latest in a recent surge of violence after the Taliban announced they had begun their usual "spring offensive", and that they had suspended tentative steps towards peace talks with the United States.
Taliban Insurgents staged coordinated attacks in Kabul a few weeks ago, paralyzing Kabul's center and diplomatic area for 18 hours.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for those attacks, but US and Afghan officials blamed the militant, al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.
US policy in Afghanistan under President Obama has been severely flawed and has unfortunately just lurched from one erroneous move to another.
US policy in Afghanistan under President Obama has been severely flawed and has unfortunately just lurched from one erroneous move to another, and from one miscomprehension to another.
A large part of the problem seems to stem from Obama’s documented philo Islamism. He seems to have a soft spot for the world’s Muslims, and cannot bring himself to focus on Islam as an enemy of the United States or the West in general. This is sadly also the case with Obama’s Afghanistan policy, where the enemy is a hard boiled Islamic terror gang called The Taliban. Obama simply overlooks the Islamic element.
Following 9/11, President Bush declared war on The Taliban who ruled Afghanistan then because they were responsible for giving aid and refuge to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. If not for the Taliban’s ongoing support and assistance to Al Qaeda, it is unlikely the terrorists would have found the repose to plan 9/11. So the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 definitely was based on a justifiable casus belli.
Massoud's United Front troops, with American air support, ousted the Taliban from power in Kabul in Operation Enduring Freedom. In November and December 2001, the United Front gained control of much of the country and played a crucial role in establishing the post-Taliban interim government of Hamid Karzai in late 2001.
In December 2001, the UN Security Council established ISAF - International Security Assistance Force - whose numbers have risen in Afghanistan from around 15,000 to over 150,000 at present. These foreign troops not only fight the Taliban insurgency but also train the Afghan military and police forces.
The battle against the despicable Islamic fanatic Taliban has been going on for over a decade and cost $ 1 trillion. But there are few signs of progress. If any.
According to best estimates, the Taliban will field around 10,000 fighters in any given skirmish with US and allied forces. The US and allied forces have ten times as many troops at their disposal. So the fact that the US and allies are not overcoming the Taliban in battle is a sign that the problem is qualitative, not quantitative. Something may be flawed with the channels of command of the troops fighting the Taliban, not with the number of troops.
A flaw of a different character emanates from Obama himself. On account of his philo Islamism, he is deterred from focusing on the fact that the Taliban is an Islamic enemy.
For example, in 2009, Obama delivered a major Afghan policy address to the cadets at West Point Military Academy, It was in this speech he announced his intention to send another 30,000 US troops to the war in Afghanistan.
However, if you examine the speech there is a remarkable omission. Obama does not say the word Muslim or Islam once in this important Afghan policy address.
For Obama the war in Afghanistan is a generic war, against a generally violent foe, and the fanatic Islamic ethos of the Taliban doesn’t seem to register. This failure to identify the enemy is another reason the US and allies are losing the war in Afghanistan.
In the same speech and practically the same breath in which he committed 30,000 new troops to the fight in Afghanistan, Obama declared a time frame for withdrawing the troops.
How a commander in chief says the country is sending more troops and simultaneously says he will withdraw them at such and such a date is just preposterous. Surely withdrawing the troops is an outgrowth of defeating the enemy, not just an arbitrary suggestion.
This is indeed another formula for losing the war, not winning it.
A separate but equally important issue is the corruption of the Karzai government:
U.S. officials have documented ties between Afghan government officials and the Taliban insurgency that show American funds flowing from the Afghan government directly to the Taliban. Afghan government officials are calculating their self-interest and positioning themselves for a reckoning with the Taliban after America withdraws.
On every front and at every juncture, President Obama has unfortunately just dropped the ball on the war in Afghanistan. Underlying his failure to take the matter in hand and do what is needed to conduct a victorious war against the despicable Taliban, is his philo Islamism. For whatever reason, President Obama just cannot bring himself to focus on Islam as the enemy, and that is primarily why the war in Afghanistan cannot be won.