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US Steps Deeper Into Afghan Quagmire
By Joel Skousen
Editor - World Affairs Brief 
Begin Excerpt
With the ongoing attack on Marjah, the US military began its first major assault on a Taliban controlled town in Afghanistan and simultaneously entered a new and expanded phase of the war. The resulting military victory was predictable but the side effects of civilian casualties and property destruction won't allow the coalition forces to win any local "hearts and minds," nor increase the acceptability of the Karzai regime. ''
Gareth Porter writes about the political motives behind the choice of target. "The primary goal of the offensive, they write, is to 'convince Americans that a new era has arrived in the eight-year long war...' U.S. military officials in Afghanistan 'hope a large and loud victory in Marjah will convince the American public that they deserve more time to demonstrate that extra troops and new tactics can yield better results on the battlefield.' Some advisers to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, told him last June that Kandahar City is far more important strategically than Marjah," But that city would be far too difficult to tackle. ''
Astute scholar and commentator Juan Cole poses four important questions about this latest Afghan Surge; "Gen. David Petraeus admitted on Meet the Press Sunday that the Afghanistan War will take years and incur high casualties... The Marjah Campaign, the centerpiece of the new counter-insurgency strategy, is over a week old, and some assessment of this new, visible push by the US military in violent Helmand Province is in order. The questions are:''
"1. Can the stategy of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, of taking, clearing, holding and building be extended deep into the Pashtun regions? Marjah is only a stepping stone to the key southern city of Qandahar, which has a population of a million, more the size of Detroit. This outcome has yet to be seen. But for rural Pashtuns to come to love foreign occupiers is an unlikely proposition. Even the WSJ admits that in Marjah, the Marines are not exactly feeling the love from the civilians they have supposedly just liberated. Since the Taliban are typically not as corrupt as the warlords, in fact, to any extent that the US and NATO re-install corrupt warlord types in power, they may alienate the locals. And keeping civilian casualties low so as to win hearts and minds is key here [and failing rapidly]. That task will become more difficult as the US inserts itself more deeply into Pashtun territory, since insurgent villages will have to be defeated. A campaign in Qandahar could easily displace half a million people, and they might mind. Meanwhile, on Monday, the governor of Dai Kundi asserted that a US airstrike killed 27 persons, mostly civilians. There is also the question, raised by Tom Englehardt, of whether the US is capable of good governance in Afghanistan when it is not in Washington, DC.''
"2. Can the demonstration of vitality and of a sense of progress mollify NATO publics long enough to fight a prolonged war and do intensive training of troops and police over several years? No. Over the weekend, the center-right government of the Netherlands fell over whether to keep Dutch troops in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan war is universally unpopular in continental Europe, and governments have troops there mostly in the teeth of popular opposition, because NATO invoked article 5 of its charter, 'an attack on one is an attack on all' with regard to the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks [which was totally falsified by US intelligence]. Australia is already refusing to take up the Dutch slack, and its government is under public pressure to get out, itself. While it is entirely possible that scandal-plagued rightwing billionaire Silvio Berlusconi will survive the next elections in Italy, it is also possible that he will not, and his successor may well want out of the unpopular Afghanistan quagmire. ''
"3. Can an Afghan army be stood up in short order that has the capacity to patrol independently and keep order after the US and NATO troops withdraw? Unlikely. The answer to the question about Afghan military preparedness-- after nearly a decade of training and an investment of $1 billion that Afghan troops are not ready for prime time. In the Marjah campaign, they showed no initiative, no ability to fight independently. They are poorly served by their junior field officers, and they are 90% illiterate. There is often bad blood between Tajiks and Pashtuns, the group that predominates in Marjah. The same skill set of the ANA most prized by the US Marines during the assault-- the ability to sniff out which households are Taliban-- may be a liability in the holding and building phase, since it stems from a decade and a half of Tajik Northern Alliance battles against the Taliban.''
"4. Can the Afghan public, which includes many groups (Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks) deeply harmed by Taliban rule, accept reconciliation, as well? Unlikely. Former Northern Alliance leader popular among Tajiks, Abdullah Abdullah, warned Karzai against reconciling with the Taliban this weekend. Abdullah dropped out of last fall's presidential contest in protest against alleged ballot fraud in Karzai's favor. There is general hostility toward reconciliation with the Taliban among the parties representing northern, non-Pashtun ethnic groups. [Karzai has damaged his credibility further by taking personal control of the electoral watchdog council that overseas election fairness] ''
Next it is important to consider how crucial are US and Pakistani successes in capturing and killing major Taliban leaders. Bill Roggio gives a summary of the latest apprehensions: "The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that four additional members of the Afghan Taliban's Quetta Shura have been captured. And one of them may be none other than Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who serves as the leader of one of the four regional military shuras. According to the Monitor." This brings up the question of why did the US let Zakir go while holding others that are not much threat at all?''
The capture of Taliban leaders has had one predictable effect which may further success more difficult. "Top US defense officials briefed Congress about the move of the Afghan Taliban's top council, the Quetta Shura, from Quetta to Karachi. 'Elements of the Afghan Taliban high command are beginning to relocate from Quetta to Karachi, due in large part to drone attacks,' said Lt. Gen. John Paxton, director for operations at the US Joint Chiefs of Staff." This obviously makes it more difficult to target other senior Taliban leaders. Karachi is a very large city of some 3 million inhabitants, mostly Pashtuns.''
The capturing of terrorist leaders goes both ways. This latest one will prove embarrassing to the US and its covert operations inside Iran working to overthrow the existing government. Asia Times M K Bhadrakumar has the story: "It was the morning after the dramatic capture of the 31-year-old leader of the dreaded Pakistan-based terrorist group Jundallah, Abdulmalik Rigi, in a stunning operation by Iranian intelligence. In turn, that would have implications for the United States-Iran standoff. But that is only one aspect. The fact is that Tehran has put Washington on the back foot at a critical juncture. Rigi is bound to spill the beans - he may already have begun - and much is going to surface about the covert activities by the US forces based in Afghanistan to subvert Iran by hobnobbing with Jundallah, which, incidentally, is also known to have links with al-Qaeda. Rigi apparently had a meeting with his US mentors in an American base just a day before his journey to the UAE. It seems he was traveling with a fake Afghan passport provided by the Americans. A lot of highly embarrassing details are trickling in already that will be eagerly lapped up by the so-called 'Arab street' and which will make the entire American position on the situation around Iran look rather weak." --Unless the story never gets much press in America, which is rather certain.''
End Excerpt
World Affairs Brief - Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World
Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted.
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