Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Afghan conundrum

I’ve written before about this very complex country and even more complex situation we find ourselves in.

It is bad enough for our young men (have not heard of any U.S. women being killed in Afghanistan) to be killed in this fight for … what?

That’s my problem right now … “So it’s one, two, three. What are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a …” (all you hippies from the 60s know the next few lines)

Not sure what the next stop is but it still could have more similarities to Vietnam than we care to admit.

In this case it is General McChrystal to the unemployment line. Regardless of what he thinks, he should have known better. I’ve not been in the military but I’ve heard they have a real respect for chain-of-command. He also works at the pleasure of the President in this case I guess. I’m sure he will take his lumps.

For me though the bigger issue is not what, where or how he said it.

Today Tom Friedman has a good column (I’ve grown tired of reading so many of his climate change rants) on the war. The most interesting things he said (read it for yourself here) is that we are trying to train the Afghans to take over their own army. Many of the soldiers can’t even read. We expect them to step up and make their country safe.

Yet Friedman points out (as the Russians learned all too well) Afghanis know how to fight. Especially the Taliban. Are they recruiting and training soldiers from someplace else? Why are their’s so able to fight us to a stand-off (one can argue we are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs)?

This is my simplistic answer to some of the above. I think the average Afghani would just like their country back - from everybody.

Another viewpoint I heard this week is that we long since stopped being in Afghanistan because of Al Qaeda or Osama. We aren’t there because of the Taliban. We are there because of Pakistan. It was said the U.S. could not afford to let Afghanistan fall because then Pakistan would fall soon after.

Can you spell D-O-M-I-N-O?

The fear is not about Afghanistan. What do they have but a huge pile of rocks, an unforgiving landscape and climate. Pakistan has nukes. They sit on the most contentious border (save perhaps those surrounding Israel) in the world. Google maps may be able to tell you exactly where Pakistan ends and India begins, but I don’t think folks on either side of that border agree. And this fight has been going on since the late 1940s. And some would say were it not for the partition of British India in 1947, who knows if the current state of Israel would have been created one year later. But that is another way more complex story.

So if we let the Taliban win, we lose: face, we lose Afghanistan, we lose a protracted war and hundreds of American lives, we lose one large battle in the war on terror (maybe, I’m not too sure anymore) and in the bigger picture we might lose Pakistan or India – neither of whom is ours to win or lose but … But if we win, what will we win and what will that look like exactly?

So while McChrystal was wrong to voice his ideas and concerns in the Rolling Stone (due out tomorrow), you have to ask, if the top commander has questions about what we are doing (Disclosure – I’ve not read the article yet and we all may be surprised by what is actually published), maybe others should be answering some of the those very serious questions.

POST SCRIPT: This just in (12:30 CDT): “Gen. Stanley McChrystal Is Relieved of Command in Afghanistan, White House Official Says.” So at least one burning question has been answered.

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