I'm reasoning this because there's a patten of activity right now in Afghanistan which resembles the 'declare success and get out' approach President Obama just demonstrated in his decision to move forward with the Iraq withdrawal ahead of schedule; despite the ongoing conflicts and possibly escalating violence in the war-torn nation.
First I'd start with the reported 'planning' by the Pentagon to move forward with their handover and pullback from their self-defined 'litmus test' in the Kandahar region. It hasn't happened yet, and there's a great deal of protest reported from the locals we put in place to manage things in the wake of our forces' deadly and costly assault on Marjah and our occupation of Kandahar City.
from a Nov. 2 AP report: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/nov/0... /
"Lawmakers from Kandahar said Tuesday that Afghan forces are far from ready to assume full security responsibility in the province that was the birthplace of the Taliban, stressing it should be among the last regions where NATO forces hand over control to Afghan counterparts . . ."
"The Kandahar legislators fear their province will be on the second list that President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce in the coming weeks as regions where security is to be handed over to Afghan forces."
However . . .
"Instead of a six-stage transition process, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the coalition's top commander in the country, has said the plan is to now achieve the transition in five steps, with the last starting as early as the fall of 2013 instead of later that year or early 2014."
"Initially, the idea was to have Afghan security forces take charge in the most peaceful areas first. But Allen said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that Afghan, coalition officials and others recently decided it would be unwise to transfer the most volatile provinces in 2014, when the international force's footprint will be shrinking."
So, the commanders on the ground are already planning forward to 2013 and 2014, with little regard for the chaos, violence and danger they've bequeathed to Kandahar, and even moving their transition date forward to accommodate the anticipated reduction in force.
Already, the rhetoric about 'success' is being allowed to rise above their own bleak report to Congress in which they claim gains, yet report that civilians have died in record numbers under our military forces' supposed protection and that their 'goals' may not be achieved as planned.
A summary of bullet points from the Pentagon report from Ahmad Shuja at UNDispatch: http://www.undispatch.com/how-the-american...
--Transition remains on track with no demonstrated effort by the insurgency to target the process.
--International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its Afghan partners have made important security gains, reversing violence trends in much of the country (except along the border with Pakistan).
--Overall, year-to-date enemy attacks nationwide were five percent lower than the same period in 2010, and attacks continue to decline.
- The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continued to make substantial progress during the reporting period, increasing in quantity, quality, and operational effectiveness.
--Both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) remain on track to achieve their respective growth goals for October 2012.
--During this reporting period, both the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior made significant progress in being able to train, and thereby generate, their own forces.
You can read the entire report here (PDF): http://www.undispatch.com/un-content/uploa...
The report is full of assessments of 'successes and progress' . . . with glaring, contradicting exceptions.
"Civilian casualties -- most caused by the Taliban -- reached an all-time high this summer with approximately 450 civilians killed in July," the report reads. "Attacks using homemade bombs, or IEDs, also reached an all-time high this past summer, with about 750 IED detonations recorded in July."
from Just Foreign Policy: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/obamavsbu...
"Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. fatalities in the war in Afghanistan have occurred during the Obama administration, which has managed the war for a mere quarter of its duration."
And with two months left to go, 2011 is already the second-deadliest year of the Afghanistan war following 2010, the deadliest year of the war with 497 total deaths. The top three deadliest years of the war -- 2010 (497 deaths), 2011 (362), 2009 (303) -- have occurred under President Obama’s tenure. August 2011 was the deadliest month of the war, so far, with 71 total fatalities.
Just as importantly, "the change in Taliban tactics has kept up the number of civilian casualties," said a senior defense official describing the report. Even though there are fewer Taliban attacks overall, he said, the Taliban "are killing more Afghan civilians."
Predictably, resisting Afghans have avoided the areas where U.S. troops have masses and have scattered their violence around the capital and elsewhere -- even killing former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
For these figures alone, this Afghan mission should be scrubbed. I believe that's what commanders must be thinking (and our Commander-in-Chief is thinking as well).
President Obama has already decided that, for better or worse (he says better) that his surge is all but over. His Pentagon and his intelligence agencies took out the original terror suspect who claimed responsibility for the 9-11 plane crashes and more than a few others. For an economically crippled superpower pushing up against the admitted limitations of our military, that's enough for the President to declare 'success' and 'progress' and leave when he says he will -- if not ahead of time.
Already, this week, in fact, our installed autocrat, Karzai has gone fishing for countries willing to fill the void when we eliminate combat troops from Afghanistan as planned in 2014. That's not going to be an easy sell, although you can be certain the U.S. will step up and sweeten the pot for anyone willing to take on the heady burden in our absence.
At a regional conference today on Afghanistan held in Turkey the Afghan and Pakistani presidents met with their neighbors to try and work out some sort of security agreement to keep a lid on things when they anticipate the US leaves in 2014.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi announced at the summit that his country understood that NATO will change their combat role to supporting role after 2014.
Although he emphasized that that the date was a transition period and not a dead-stop end point, he also insisted that Afghan security forces are near ready to take over their security responsibilities.
Now, no one believes that even he believes Afghans will be 'ready' for the U.S. to bug-out in 2014, but almost no one believes the U.S. has the political or operational will to remain long past that date. That's understandable given the virtual stalemate between resistors and the NATO forces (despite the thousands of 'insurgents' they claim to have killed).
More importantly, there's really nothing left for this administration to point to as justification to remain. It's always amazing to hear the President and the administration talk of 'progress' and 'successes' in Afghanistan. The stated aim of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan has been described by military leaders and the White House as an attempt to 'breaking the momentum' of the Taliban insurgency and 'turning' the terrorist-associated organization, instead of the more direct talk at the inception of the escalation of force in December 2009 about 'defeating' al-Qaeda.
What's missing from the assessments of 'progress' and 'success' from occupation supporters is the acknowledgment that our nation's military posture in Afghanistan and the region has actually widened the initial conflict between the U.S. and the original band of 9-11 perpetrators into a proxy war in which Afghans and Pakistanis are bearing the brunt of resentment and resistance to our imposed alliance with the dubious regimes clinging to power. Every move that the U.S. makes to enable or defend those country's regimes deepens the initial, blundering acquiescence to bin Laden's plot to draw the U.S. into a conflict where Muslims and others in the region became targets and casualties of our nations military forces.
Seemingly unaware or indifferent to that initial acquiescence of the U.S. to the aim of the 9-11 perpetrators, this Democratic president doubled-down on Bush's fateful appeasement and has decided to try and temper the fires that our military forces have sparked with their dubious defense against the ghosts, remnants, and outgrowth of our own misguided military activity in the region since 9-11.
The administration's attitude is that past mistakes don't obviate the need and efficacy (in their view) of pressing forward with their military campaign. They're optimistic that our military forces can achieve enough of a push-back against resisting Afghans, and a crippling of anyone operating behind the moniker of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, to allow and encourage Afghans to assume a fight against that insurgence which would compliment our own national security interests in defending against 'al-Qaeda' and against further attacks on our nation.
The obvious problem with that equation is in the self-perpetuated, counterproductive effect the U.S. military presence and activity has on achieving those unifying goals. The present escalation of force unfolded too slowly to achieve any decisive military intimidation of the vast and organic number of individuals compelled to violence.
The resistant unrest hasn't abated; it's intensified, even as our forces are angling to leave. Even the military commanders have recently predicted that violence and deaths will likely increase in the near future. I'm at a loss to imagine how that prospect will enhance or relationship with Afghans or others in the region and encourage them to adopt and carry our nation's banner of war against their resisting country-folk. But, that's the plan . . .
Bush wrote the script for the U.S. in the region; cast the antagonists in his kabuki play - erected Potemkins of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend in contrived protection schemes where we create the 'enemies' we then claim to protect and defend against.
The Taliban is an imposture in our government's terror war. Our own invading and occupying military forces are the most aggravating element in the perpetual violence in Afghanistan and the region. Deliberately so.
Yet, this president has no apparent interest in assuming the mantle of a 'war president' as Bush so opportunistically did after 9-11 to cover for his lackluster domestic agenda. This president campaigned on domestic priorities which are increasingly threatened by the cost of continuing the escalated occupations he's inching toward drawing down. I find it hard to believe that Mr. Obama has as much enthusiasm for making Afghanistan the centerpiece of his foreign policy as Bush did with Iraq. Gone are the last president's references to 'spreading democracy' and the 'center of the terror war'.
Also absent from this new administration's rhetoric is any illusion that there will be some rallying of allies around this president's continued prosecution of the persistent, grudging vengeance against the remnants and ghosts of the original 9-11 fugitive suspects. Indeed, America will soon be standing almost alone in Afghanistan if the president doesn't find a way to define the mission there in terms of some eventual resolution or end.
The President declared in televised remarks in 2009 on 'Meet the Press,' that, "I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration."
The mixed results of the Afghan elections our troops have defended, and the almost negligible effect on the balance of power outside of Kabul (a majority adhering to the tribal leadership of the Taliban and others over the influence and control of Afghanistan's central government), expose the administration's nation-building behind the force of our military as the crap-shoot almost everyone expected it to be.
Facing limited resources (both money and manpower) available to fulfill all of the desires that the President and the Pentagon may have had to perpetuate the occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama is now challenged to end it as soon as he's able. We can only hope that he'd end it sooner than 2014, but I think we can be damned sure there isn't going to be any driving desire for a Democratic administration and their Democratic counterparts in Congress to continue in Afghanistan much longer.
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These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though
Speech were a still performance.
Arranging by chance
To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I (and others)
Are suddenly what the trees try
To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.
And glad not to have invented
we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges
A chorus of smiles,
a winter morning.
Place in a puzzling light,
Our days put on such reticence
seem their own defense.
- John Ashbery
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