Saturday, March 17, 2012

Time to Go - Afghan Edition

The Fat Lady has risen and is now limbering up her vocal cords for a rendition of “Impossible”.  Afghanistan is over and the distrust and dislike are fully out in the open.  Since the entire COIN theory rests basically on trust, there is nothing left to salvage from a war that was won on the ground almost a decade ago and the goal of which died in a lightning raid in Pakistan last year.  The US indulged in nation building after 2003 and no one remembers why.  Nation building in a place like Afghanistan, where local villagers do not even know why foreign troops were everywhere because they never heard of 9/11, is building on foundation of sand.  The coalition has lost the hearts and minds battle. 

Let’s understand one thing – there is no trust on either side.  The latest killing spree by a veteran US sergeant where 16 people – 9 of them children – died is only a degree of difference from the death of civilians around the country by accidental fire and collateral damage.  The accidental burning of the Quran – considered the literal word of God – and videos of US soldiers urinating on the bodies of Taliban are only the most obvious of the incidents that have made the coalition presence problematic.

Three weeks ago an Afghan gunman killed two senior US officers inside the Interior Ministry’s headquarters.  This was on the heels of the Quran burning. A couple of days before the incident inside the Interior Ministry coalition helicopters flying in eastern Afghanistan fired on a group of civilians, killing four and injuring three.
And guess what.  Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall and Karzai can’t put him back together again.  Why? Because he is not respected and is aptly called the Mayor of Kabul.  And even if he could, he cannot because he cannot be seen to be supporting a coalition that has lost all trust.
Finally, all those foreign aid workers might soon find themselves protected by Afghan security because the Afghan government looks like it is going to enforce the banning of private security firms.  It is hard enough for various international aid agencies to get qualified people to go to Afghanistan.  Being protected by those in whom you have no trust will make it impossible.
The fact is that at this point any possible gains made in Afghanistan by the coalition are now gone.  President Obama has assured Karzai that NATO will “stay the course”.  There is no course.  It is time to cut the losses and go – because frankly, what purports to be a country but in reality is just a loose combination of regions that sometimes fight each other is not worth it.  Afghanistan is irrelevant and can be dealt with from a distance.
Withdrawal will likely make Pakistan more peaceful and stable. Donor funds, Russian and US security efforts and other aid interventions are pouring into neighboring Tajikistan.  Afghanistan is not bordered by friends and internally is divided.  Take away the foreign troops and it is not hard to envision the results.  We should not care.   It is not worth another 18 months of further bloodshed.

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