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August 22, 2011

We lost our war on Afghanistan

Reuel S. Amdur

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Canada has gone from success to success in Afghanistan. Too bad that it has lost. It has captured one area after another and defeated the Taliban in all the major encounters. No wonder our military leaders talk of the end of the Taliban being clearly in sight. Yet, the areas have a marked tendency to fall back into enemy hands when Canadian forces leave.

Our forces have trained local police and Afghan soldiers to replace NATO forces.  So why is it that the locals fear their own police forces?  Perhaps because they rob them and brutalize them.  And why is there such a massive problem of desertion by Afghan troops?  Both police and Afghan military constitute a problem as well as a solution to the needed presence of foreign forces.  Every now and then one of them goes rogue and shoots up allied troops or local Afghan officials who cooperate with the American-led forces. 

The smell of defeat is all over the place.  The US and other member nations of the invading forces are all talking about withdrawal plans, even when violence is escalating.  During World War II, did the Allies talk about withdrawing during the fighting in Sicily or the Battle of the Bulge?  More like Viet Nam.

On April 30, 1975, the radio in Saigon played “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”  That was the signal for the Americans and all the local hangers-on who thought they might be able to get a ticket out to make their way to the airport, hop on a plane, and leave.  As Richard Falk has expressed it, the new scenario in war is that of the weak conquering the strong.

True, there are differences between Viet Nam and Afghanistan.  In Viet Nam, the Americans faced one enemy, the Viet Cong.  Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a congeries of warlords and the Taliban in shifting alliances.  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is a good example, shifting from being an opponent of the Taliban to their ally, but always his own man, ready to make whatever deal seems to be in his personal interest at the time. 

But where Viet Nam and Afghanistan are alike is in the rot and corruption that is pervasive and in the popular lack of support for the government.  Afghanistan is in large measure an uneasy coalition of corrupt and brutal warlord fiefdoms, often on less-than-friendly terms with one another.  These opium-dealing warlords–“war criminals,” as Malalia Joya has accurately termed them–are comfortably ensconced in the loya jurga.  Of course, loud-mouth Joya was tossed out of the jurga by these self-righteous warlords whose delicate ears could not tolerate her unparliamentary language. 

Canadian forces are now pulling out of Afghanistan, leaving a thousand-man force for training purposes, to stay till 2014–or sooner if Hamad Karzai’s house of cards collapses or if the Americans admit defeat and pull out before then.  This continued role for Canadian forces is all thanks to Bob Rae, who was uneasy with our withdrawal now.  When he mused about the extension on the training role till 2014, Stephen Harper, still then in a minority government, jumped at the chance.  So there we are. 

We are assured that the Canadian forces, as trainers, will be safely ensconced “inside the wire.”  With that, there are two problems.  In the first place, you can’t train effectively just “inside the wire” during military activity.  Training also has to take place on the ground.  Secondly, “inside the wire” is not necessarily a place of safety.  The strategic fortification is not immune to attack, especially by rockets.  And there is still the danger from rogue Afghan police and soldiers.

Bob Rae has temporarily delayed the declaration of surrender, but by 2014 at the latest it will be time to play “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

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