Geek Mythology

June 19, 2010

The bleeding wound.

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 9:54 am

America has now been in Afghanistan for almost a decade, making it the longest war in US history. The Soviet Union was also in Afghanistan for a decade and it was after ten years that they pulled out, drained and defeated. The American war effort in Afghanistan has been meeting with some major problems. First and foremost the Afghan government which in many Afghans eyes lacks legitimacy due to the inustrial sized voting fraud commited by President Karzai has plauged his administration since the elections last summer. Washington has tried different techniques in dealing with him during this past year, from tough love to love bombing during his recent visit to the American capital. None of these strategies seems to have worked and Karzai has been expressing contradictory statements in the line of wanting to make his own deals with moderate Taliban and blaming NATO and Americans for the fraud amongst other things. With no reliable partner on the ground the US counterinsurgency effort is lagging.

The major recent operation that has taken place is the attempted implementation of the ”government-in-a-box” in the area of Marja, an agricultural district located in Helmland province, southwest of Lashkar Gah. In febuary this year operation Moshtarak(meaning ”together”) was launched by a combination of Afghan, NATO and American troops. Marja is a major center for the poppy trade and was also controlled by Taliban militants. This operation was suposed to clear out the enemy and bring in the new Afghan government. However, the success of these operations has not really manifested itself. The Taliban have been driven away to some extent, but they still have a strong influence over the local population. They have been pressuring locals who cooperate with the army and international forces making it difficult for any real change to occur there. American army commanders are now calling Marja a “bleeding ulcer”, which is an ominous parallel to Gorbachevs term for Afghanistan which was “the bleeding wound.”

The next step in General Stanley McChrystals counterinsurgency strategy will be to take Kandahar which is a significantly larger city and startegically more complex operation than the one in Marja. Kandahar is the second biggest city in Afghanistan and has been seen as the ”spiritual birthplace” of the Taliban in the southern part of the country. To ”clear and hold” this city is the next major aim of the international forces and this is proving to be more difficult than they could imagine. Taliban forces have gone on an assassination campaign where they are taking out different government collaborators inside of Kandhar. In this way spreading fear in the local populations.

The US army is currently in the process of scaling down the war in Iraq and bringing in more soldiers to Afghanistan. President Obama has pledged to send in 30,000 more troops which are all now in the process of arriving on the ground there. When I spoke with a Swede who had worked in Afghanistan she told me that 5,000 American troops would also start being deployed into the north of the country where the Swedish army is located. During this summer we will see increased levels of violence as the war is escalated and the pressure is increased on the Taliban. With Kandahar being the main objective, I dont think there will be a Fallujah style seige of the city, but more of a slow build up of troops that aim to secure the city. This however will be very difficult. If one views the stalled progress in Marja, which is significantlly smaller than Kandahar, then one can sense the immense difficulty in this undertaking.

President Obama has declared that he will start withdrawing his troops form Afghanistan in July 2011. This has worried many of the players in the region making them fear that they will again be abandoned by the Americans like they felt they where in 1989 after Russia was beaten and the Americans went home, leaving the country in a dangerous power vaccum that created chaos and carnage. With the Americans signalling that they will soon start withdrawing their forces then all ISAF forces will soon follow suit(infact this is already starting to happend). The developments during this summer will be crucial for the international forces. But this situation does not look good. They are not making the progress that they planned on, they are supporting a government that is disliked in many parts of the country and are seen as unreliable due to the fact that they have signalled an early withdrawal. In a senate hearing a few days ago the American General Petraeus was answering questions about Afghanistan in pretty harsh session when he fainted. The pressure is on and it looks like its going to be a cruel summer.

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