Marjeh One Month On

by Joshua Foust on 4/4/2010 · 26 comments

Saturday morning, I asked my twitter peers if anyone had seen a story datelined from Marja(h)(eh) the past few weeks. In his inimical way, Alex Strick van Linschoten sent me this story. Check it:

Since their offensive here in February, the Marines have flooded Marja with hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. The tactic aims to win over wary locals by paying them compensation for property damage or putting to work men who would otherwise look to the Taliban for support.

The approach helped turn the tide of insurgency in Iraq. But in Marja, where the Taliban seem to know everything — and most of the time it is impossible to even tell who they are — they have already found ways to thwart the strategy in many places, including killing or beating some who take the Marines’ money, or pocketing it themselves.

Just a few weeks since the start of the operation here, the Taliban have “reseized control and the momentum in a lot of ways” in northern Marja, Maj. James Coffman, civil affairs leader for the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, said in an interview in late March. “We have to change tactics to get the locals back on our side.”

I mean, it’s almost like no one could have possibly seen this coming. It makes for a depressing contrast for how the Small Wars Journal comments section treated my analysis of what to do in Marjeh: people mocked my argument that even the Marines have achieved little success at holding or building areas once they’re cleared, my call for building a base inside the city rather than a mile outside it, and my assertion that Haji Zahir was a poor choice for administrator. And yet… those things they mocked are exactly what are failing:

In Marja, the Taliban are hardly a distinct militant group, and the Marines have collided with a Taliban identity so dominant that the movement appears more akin to the only political organization in a one-party town, with an influence that touches everyone. Even the Marines admit to being somewhat flummoxed…

In another sign of how little the Marines control outside their own outposts, one week ago masked gunmen killed a 22-year-old man, Hazrat Gul, in broad daylight as he and four other Afghans built a small bridge about a third of a mile from a military base in central Marja.

Mr. Gul’s boss, an Afghan who contracted with the Marines to build the bridge, says he has been warned four times by the Taliban to stop working for the Americans.

I should be clear: it makes me sick that this is happening. But it is equally sickening that there was apparently no plan in place to deal with an entrenched local Taliban presence—it seems as if the Marines assumed all the Taliban were foreign fighters (that is, after all, how we choose to describe them, even if it’s inaccurate), and that there wasn’t already a well-organized local group that declined to fight the initial occupation.

No one did their homework. It’s depressing.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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reader April 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

I found this response to Foust on SWJ interesting:

“His comments about Zahir and Mangal are also incredibly simple. Nothing is black and white there.”

Gray for our allies, but black and white when it comes to our enemies. So a man can stab his stepson because his stepson was mad that said man was beating the boy’s mother (this little bit always gets left out), and we are told “oh well, it’s a complicated world.” But then, at other times and other places, we get told by Mattis:
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”
Somebody should contact Gen. Mattis for his take on Marjah’s new leader.

TJM April 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm

That quote is at least 5 years old.

DE Teodoru April 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Guys, isn’t it all deja vi? How long does it take to learn that you can change ecology but not climate, so that in the end your crops fail and the old “weeds” come back because the bugs ate your plants instead of the weeds?

Toryalay Shirzay April 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm

You make some good points but many important ones were left out.The plan to let the Taliban leave before Marines came to Marjah was’nt right because the brutal Taliban don’t vanish into the thin air.They are even working harder to thwart US/NATO than the other way around.If the US/NATO have ears to hear,this is what they must do to win this fight: Do not ever play mr.nice guy in any place infested with the Taliban.The Taliban and their supporters are true manifestation of evil and it is a good deed to eliminate them just like the Nazis once and for all.Thus,You will have spared the innocent persons countless misery and pain!!

DePetris April 4, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Its even more depressing that the U.S. Military is planning to launch a similar “take back the town” campaign in Kandahar this summer, when the job of securing and developing Marjah is anything but over. The United States is to obsessed with meeting the July 2011 timeline for withdrawal that they are rushing strategy in ways that could quickly stretch out U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

I heard that about half of the 30,000 troop surge will participate in the upcoming Kandahar offensive, the spiritual and political home of the Taliban (and the place where the Movement first arose in 1994). Perhaps it is the symbolic significance that is prompting the U.S./NATO brass to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

Whatever the reason, we are going to have some very real problems if resources and troops are diverted from Marjah to Kandahar. Unfortunately, it appears that this is what might actually be happening. If so, the Marjah operation last month might as well have been scrapped altogether.

Farhad April 5, 2010 at 12:24 am

Professional Afghan Army Missing

There needs to be credible, professional, semi-local Afghan army personnel positioned day and night throughout Marjah to protect the people and root out the local Taliban.

But NATO is focusing on quantity not quality in creating an Afghan army and police (please see this audio slideshow report:

Leadership is missing in all Afghan security forces. After 8 years, less than 200 Afghan officers have graduated from the Afghan Military College in Kabul have graduated, and a handful of non-commissioned officers have received some certificates.

Why not send a few of those young graduates to Marjah and allow them to gain some experience in the field. Make sure they are Pashtuns so they can mix easier with the locals.

We read hundreds of stories about the sloppy nature of the Afghan army and police force– that they can’t even tie their shoes. True. But shouldn’t we also point the figure at NATO who is looking only for numbers.

Years later, NATO finally understands that investing in leadership in the Afghan army and police is important.

Hey NATO, why don’t you cut the size of the army and police force, only train men with potential, raise the pay and educate better leaders. You can do more with a handful of good men than a thousand incompetent individuals.

As long as foreign forces are in the region, the Taliban will keep fighting and the locals will not give in. But then again, the locals are as scared of the Taliban as they are of the Afghan government, who helped usher in the Taliban in the first place—back in the early 1990s and shortly after 9/11.

According to some reports, the Afghan Interior Ministry and the police are responsible for more opium traffic than the Taliban.

But the Afghan army and police can’t do it alone. You need a non-corrupt judicial system that can handle cases quickly yet fairly. Justice has been missing in the Afghan government for over 20 years. No one is talking about a judicial surge.

Šťoural April 5, 2010 at 8:46 am
DE Teodoru April 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

This article arouses yet another deja vu headache:

The Taliban were always a part of a REGIONAL ecology. We altered that ecology with ordnance and gunfire but not the Taliban. Taliban always had something to sell. Proof of is that Clinton was rather lavishly treating them as guests in WashDC when they came to us for discussions. Then came 9/11. We immediately assumed that they were one with alQaeda (something alQaeda never assumed, sending most of its fighters to Iraq and Mideast), even as Gulf money was moving directly to Taliban and not alQaeda. Dec 2001 was the begininig of Taliban’s new life as benefactor of the Arab-Pak coalition against Iran and India. The idea became to create a Taliban strong enough to bring alQaeda under control. But the old Muslim Brotherhood– which originally motivated lots of money and cadres sent to Mullah Omar– had resources of its own to keep alQaeda from folding. What America thought was a dead issue in its appetite for Iraq became a new regional battlefield that we barely understand.

The Petraeus surge strategy is failing in McChrystal’s hands as it did in Iraq for in both places it was reas as a desperate last try before leaving. Sadr’s recent role as Iraq “king maker” proves exactly that– as we are leaving there. “Gov in a box” is therefore besides the point as we have no idea what are the local power bases and what are their LONG TERM plans. We are, as have always been, intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb because we myopically only saw the operational area instead of the spider web before us. But this time it is more than tactical, it is strategic. So, per the above source:
“How to engage with them is the real problem. Because of the obsessions to call them “terrorists”, there is a hesitance to talk to them. One has to get rid of this obsession and treat them as ‘freedom fighters’, who, during the last three decades have sacrificed their two generations in order to “preserve their freedom, their values and traditions, which do not find harmony with the American plans and policies for Afghanistan .” Mulla Umar. There exists a serious trust deficit between the Taliban and USA , who betrayed them in 1989 at Geneva and again in 2001 at Bonn , by denying them power-sharing which they deserved as the winner and also being the majority, i.e. 55% of the population. The Maldives Plans which has now been hatched and is to be implemented, will be another betrayal and a disaster for peace. Pakistan and the other stake-holders do not want a Talibanised Afghanistan. They have no right under any law to make such a demand. It is, for the people of Afghanistan to choose the form of government best suits them. Amongst our immediate neighbours, China follows the Communist/Socialist ideology and is the most peaceful country in the world. Iran follows the Islamic Ideology and despite such provocations from Israel and pressures from USA , has maintained its cool. Similarly, Afghanistan under the Taliban will follow the Islamic ideology, respecting the rule of law and distributive justice. In fact, the world has to remain engaged with them to ameliorate their sufferings of the last thirty years, caused by foreign aggressions. Pakistan and the USA , in particular therefore have “to recalibrate their positions and harmonize their interests with Afghanistan for a lasting peace in the region.”

We are even blind to Karzai’s diplomacy, pretending that both he and the Pakistanis are following a negotations strategy that we can direct and maneuver. In fact, we may be making our exit as difficult as the Israelis made theirs from Lebanon under Barak. For:
“It is not Karzai and his government, which will look after the American interests when they are gone from Afghanistan . The Taliban can provide such a guarantee, if we remain engaged with them to create mutual confidence and the promise to invest in rebuilding the country which has suffered untold misery, death, destruction and deprivation, at the hands of the two great powers – Russia and America . They owe to the people of Afghanistan , not in blood, or flesh, any more, but in kind, if they decide to save the day and abandon the Churchill’s Choice of “leaving the tribes, to their blood letting.”

Obama ‘s recent encounter with the Chinese might mean that he can prepare us an exit. But it is hard to imagine that the Chinese can pull all the pieces together to allow us a Soviet-like exit.

Farhad April 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

What the Pakistanis, the patrons of the Taliban and other militant Islamists, don’t realize or chose to ignore, is that if the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan, a civil war will erupt, perhaps threefold in magnitude than the one in the 1990s.

And that wouldn’t be good for anyone. And the 8+ years of the world’s including NATO’s involvement will go down the tube.

As much as Karzai and his circle need NATO to protect them, the Pakistanis want to keep their cash cow (US) sending more military aid by harboring the Taliban and other militant Islamists. But how long can the Pakistanis keep this up?

DE Teodoru April 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Is the only option you can think of, Farhad, a Taliban takeover? Or, is there a series of alternatives that Russia. China and Pakistan work out to which India will have to aquiess? The issue #1 is getting Americans out. And it seems that’s also issue#1 for Obama. McChrystal may be the man without a choice as the prime issue now in America is printing of money and the lack of jobs that causes.

Farhad April 5, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Pakistani Option
That is one option– one that the Pakistanis are pushing damn hard. And I use the word “Taliban” loosely because you also have Hekmatyar and other crazy Islamists.

Iranian, Russian and Indian Option
Here you have Abdullah and the remaining “Northern Alliance” figures. This too will lead to a civil war because Pakistan isn’t going stand for it.

Indigenous Afghan Option
This option can avoid chaos and regional rivalry. There has to be a political movement(s) that can manage to “unite” the country. Afghans are looking for it. But Karzai isn’t the figure, although with his latest outbursts, he is trying. But this option will take the longest to formulate because a mature political process isn’t yet present. The parliamentary elections could be the test.

RScott April 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

But what kind of political movement? As Louis Dupree used to point out: When Daoud ended the kingship and established the republic, he ended the symbolic unity that held the country together. It would be ok as long as Daoud lived because in the minds of many, he was royalty that replaced the king…and unlike the king made speeches in Pashto. When he went along with most of his relatives, there was no unity to hold the country together. The Taliban had perhaps the idea that Islam could act as such a movement. What else did the multi-ethnic country have in common? The concept of democracy? Ha! That is the US dream.
The Pakistani option may be phrased the Pashtun option rather than Taliban. But there is a basic fear of the Pashtuns in Pakistan that is a card that the Afghans have tended to play periodically in the past. If I remember correctly, Daoud was one of those that used to mention “Pashtuistan”. Approaching the perhaps coming name change for NWFP.
And the “Iranian…. option with the northern alliance? That is what is being played out at present with the token Pashtun in the “leadership” role.
Unity based on what? Any ideas?

Farhad April 6, 2010 at 6:57 pm

There are many of political parties inside Afghanistan that span the spectrum.

Yet, the political system hasn’t fully matured because the conditions haven’t allowed it—mainly those in power are strongmen who are protected by the US/NATO, promoting a warlord culture.

The county has moved beyond the time of Sardar Daud Khan. Calling on Dupree’s viewpoints is like talking about modern day American as if it was the 1970s.

After 30+ years of war, Afghans are proud to call themselves Afghan. There is a true sense of nationalism. You don’t have separatist movements like in Pakistan.

Again, no real partnership has been provided by the West to work with progressive minded political forces in Afghanistan.

Hence you have the US scratching its head not knowing what to do with Karzai.

There are elements in the Afghan parliament and a young generation (68% of population is under the age of 20) that want serious change.

But is the West willing to work with these positive forces? Or will it continue to favor unsavory characters to meet short-term goals?

Shorting the political system in Afghanistan has and will not be good for anyone

RScott April 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I suggest that you may be wrong. Go the Hazarajat and as almost any Hazara if he is an “Afghan”. I think you will find, as in the past, that for him “Afghan” means Pastun. There is no doubt that there are lots of young Kabulis that want a change and perhaps see “democratization” as the potential unifying force… but they are not the less open minded rural population that tend to live more in the “past”. The farmers want change too but it has to do with security to get on with their farming lives and to be left alone by central, local governments and outsiders. From the government, support for their traditional cash crops (in central Helmand) and a credit system, which the narcotics industry provides, would be seen as useful if the government wants to see an end to the narcotics trade…but maybe they dont.

DE Teodoru April 5, 2010 at 11:46 pm

In the final analysis, FARHAD, none of these “things” exclude the others. The solution of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, is regional. The question now is what role does our massive presence in force play on all this?

What we’re trying to do now is no clearer than what we were trying to do in Oct. 2001 as we cannibalized Afghan War for War in Iraq before achieving stated goals. Much remains for secret archives to answer. But what is clinically obvious is the floundering and myriad of interests in random Brownian molecular motion within the terrain, each involved with various groupings. There is no ISAF, NATO, ANA nor Taliban—all are epiphenomena! We are repeating error of Iraq: getting in deeper to cover-up stumbling we’ve done so far. This too did not begin with Iraq. As a nation we committed to no strategy in order to achieve some given objectives. But instead, we reacted to what combos of forces were doing in reaction to each other and to us. Caught in the middle are the people whose only option is adapt or die. Yet we pretend that we can “win them over,” though we kill them, per McChrystal, so very often without reason. Will spreading cash bring back the dead?

The thing that is most clear is that we’re sending in troops intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb to try gimmicks that might produce one metric, again as in Iraq, decline in “acts of violence.” I see no discussion whatever of the fact that we confronted a religious revolution with no counter-revolution of our own to offer. Instead, Afghanistan, like Iraq, became a post-“mission accomplished” place where contracts were enacted and subcontracted in order to distribute freshly minted dollars to corporations that just a few years ago outraged us for charging the Air Force $70 for a hammer and $500 for a toilet seat.

Can someone on this site of minutia bangers please tell me what it is that we’re trying to do in Afghanistan and if it is the same thing we’ve been trying to do for a decade now? We can start there.

Farhad April 6, 2010 at 12:39 am

You ask what the US/NATO is doing in Afghanistan?

Ask this question to a normal Afghan on any street or village and they will say the following: “US/NATO is enabling poverty and corruption by protecting war criminals, drug barons and thieves.”

The same CIA/ISI backed “Mujaheddin”/”freedoms fighters” that killed, raped and destroyed in the 1990s civil war are running the current “government” of Afghanistan.

These same monsters were chased away by the ISI backed, al-Qaeda friendly Taliban in the mid 1990s. But were placed back into power in post 9/11 Afghanistan, thanks to the US/NATO.

The Afghan people didn’t ask for them. No one consulted normal Afghans what they wanted.

For 8 years, these monsters led by Karzai have pillaged whatever is left of Afghanistan, under the protection of the US/NATO.

As a former NATO official with years of experience in Kandahar puts it, “You have essentially a criminal enterprise in the guise of government, using us [NATO forces] as its enforcing arm.” (see source). That is reference to Karzai’s criminal brother Ahmed Wali Karzai.

Frankly, Afghans can govern for themselves. Afghans did it for over a hundred years creating a semi-modern state.

BUT the state was destroyed, thanks to the US using Afghanistan to trap and give the USSR its Vietnam. This plan was hatched in 1973 and executed in 1978, two years before the Red Army invaded. It is history, but we need to note the roots of US “mismanagement” of its foreign policy.

From Obama to McCrystal to EU, everyone is crying “corruption”. So when is US/NATO going to go after all these corrupt Afghans officials who are the cause of the problems in Afghanistan? Don’t expect Karzai to do it. He is part of the corruption itself.

According to a news report, the US is ready to pursue top Afghan officials involved in the drug trade. We’re all have been waiting for this!

Question is why has US/NATO waited so long? The answer is Afghanistan was done on the cheap, a warning that Colin Powell noted back in Bush’s first term. The idea was to rebuild Afghanistan “as little better than it was before the Taliban”.

Well if that was the plan, Afghanistan before the Taliban was in utter chaos and rocketed to the stone age.

Afghanistan can stand on its feet if it was treated as a real partner and helped with providing justice, establishing a creditable, professional security forces and promoting political and economical institutions. To find peace in the region, Afghans must decide what they want for their future– haven’t we learned from recent history?

Yet we have the opposite; Afghanistan is the US/NATO’s stomping ground for the sole purpose to “disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al-Qaeda”.

Farhad April 6, 2010 at 1:19 am

To fully answer your question, what is the US doing different than the previous 8 years, here are a few top new items we can list:

1. Asking a fraudulent elected President (Karzai) who is surrounded by corrupted, war criminals to seriously curb corruption.

2. Sending a mini-civilians surge to help revive the agriculture and economy of a country the size of Texas.

3. Talking tough about the drug farming, production and traffic of narcotics but not arresting anyone.

4. Hastily creating an ill prepared non-professional army and police where quantity is more important than quality.

5. Paying even more money and delivering more arms to American’s # 1 partner in the region, Pakistan, who continue to harbor crazy Islamists, including the Taliban for the sole purpose to extort more US tax payer money to support their war-hungry army.

6. Sending more troops to deliver a non-existing “government in a box” to Afghans who have been brutalized by an incompetent, graft-riddled “government”.

Farhad April 6, 2010 at 12:40 am

Here is the link to the news article about arrest top Afghan officials involved in the drug trade:

DE Teodoru April 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

We have two wars as PA programs for generals. We’re repeating Iraq in Afghnaistan while running out of Iraq fast so we can close the door behind us before it explodes. But, as if suffering from globus pallidus lesions we perseverate in Afghnaistan.

Two professions that require great skill and good minds but never get them– or actually DO get them but destroy them trough uniform rigid simpleton systems– are medicine and military. Obama may finally have done something to “change” healthcare delivery and for that we in the field look to a new tomorrow. It’s time he starts doing that with the military which has proven itself since Vietnam to suffer from Alzheimer’s.

I guess if you approach the Iraq and Afghan wars from the bottom up you can get so lost in tactical minutia, as a surgeon might get lost in anatomic landmarks, that you think you’re really “with it.” But when you approach it from the top down, then what the American Central Asian sounding names on this list make you feel, as I said, is like the incompetent surgeon whose patient miraculously survived yet another botched operation– but you, the surgeon, insist that you must be allowed to go back in and fix YOUR mess because YOUR professional reputation as a surgeon is at stake. That’s how I see these “surges.” It’s as if we think that any surgery will go better if you stick more instruments, gause, needles, sutures and gloved hands into the bursting bleeders. FARAH, thank you for punching a hole in the American hot air baloon before it gets so high that it explodes and we all come crashing to the ground!

DE Teodoru April 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Is our problem “fog of war” or “fog of enlistment”?

Of course, in the end, it’s always the fault of the units in the field, not of the commanders who send them in intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb.

DE Teodoru April 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Farhad, at risk of having your colleague again damn me as “bordering on absurd” I would point out AGAIN that we did NOT invade your country to do anything for you. Bill Clinton hoped that Afghanistan would allow us to run pipelines through Afghan territory once we managed to dominate the Central Asian “near abroad” of a Russia run by a multi-stroked drunk. He almost got a deal from the Taliban so the “Arabs” proceeded to the old Leninist tactic of the neocons: POLARIZE TO MOBILZE, blowing up US installations. 9/11, also my personal adventure that got me into all this, was an attempt to prevent Afghanistan from becoming another Sudan for binLaden (having to pack-up and get out fast). After the CIA with $$$ and the USAF with ordnance dethroned the Taliban, Rumsfeld engaged in “bait-and-switch” so that assets sent to fight Afghan War could be used to start the Iraq War, presenting Congress with a fait accompli.

We got caught up in “nation-building” because NATO would not participate on any other basis and we wanted Europeans to fight the Taliban. From that slogan on, Afghan War has been a lot of people trying to avoid unemployment at the expense of the duped patriots jumping out of the choppers. Some day everyone will show historians some of the “imperial economics” a Senator showed me. You are besides the point in thinking that there’s some end goal in this war, particularly if you’re an “Afghan,” because there’s no such thing by the time we get through “playing the Afghan contradictions,” another Leninist term borrowed by the neocons.

I couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t use the proven “good war” in Vietnam: building those cities we hold by modernizing them. The answer is simple: though you guys have to make a buck from our invasion, our American “entrepreneurs,” that Bush loved so much, must make their million bucks for every one you make. Liability is made invisible by titration subcontracting. And then there are generals who need a victory in Afghanistan for the same reason Rumsfeld needed victory in Iraq: they want to march through Rome hailed as emperor.

You see, Farhad, you Afghans and all these patriotic guys with their “one tribe at a time” once in a life time experience are totally beside the point. Eventually we’ll make a pipeline to the moon and I hear it’s got endless supply of something or other than will make us rich. So why should our “entrepreneurs”* care about Afghans, they don’t exist!
*(entrepreneur is French for taker-in-between who takes a commission just for being there).

Let me know what you think because that’s why I call for Shanghai Accord takeover of the problem. All the neighbor nations opposing each other in Afghanistan are in it (Karzai is in constant dialogue with them all). Their first act, I’m sure, will be to cut the “Arabs” and Israelis out of South and Central Asia. If they trust you they’ll tell you that they need to do that for reasons that go far beyond the five “stans” at issue.

RScott April 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Relative to the pipeline and the Taliban, The Clinton Administration’s mistake was to let US central Asian experts like Jay Leno’s wife demonize the Taliban because of their Pashtunwali orientations to the point of further isolating them and dropping the idea for the present.

Farhad April 7, 2010 at 4:58 pm


Really? So it was a good thing to imprison women, conduct ethnic cleansing, destroy the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and rewind the clock back to 4th century Arabia in the name of “Pashtunwali” and a “united” Afghanistan by force?

Currently only 10% of the country wants the Taliban back because they were a cruel regime.

Simple fact, Afghanistan was never seen as an partner in the eyes of the US, and it dates back to the first diplomatic encounter between the two countries.

Reading your passé viewpoints, you must have been a young man during the Harding administration and should remember the Secretary of State, Charles E. Hughes.

He encouraged President Harding to reject diplomatic ties with the visiting Afghan diplomatic mission in July 1921:

“The commercial opportunities for our people in Afghanistan indicates that they are extremely limited; in fact, so far as our present information goes, there is little or no opportunity for trade.” –Charles E. Hughes, The Secretary of State to President Harding

Forward to today’s “progressive” Obama politics, where Sen. John Kerry comments on the war criminal infested culture that has polluted Afghanistan, ”Not all warlords are bad.”

If Karzai doesn’t work for the US, then we can always turn to military dictatorship as the old Reaganite’s Bing West writes in today’s NY Times:

Outdated, Cold War thinking has created this bloody mess.

Why can’t the US do the right thing?

Karzai is one branch of the Afghan government. There are two other branches that can also partner with the US.

Yet, these options and any others aren’t considered.

Commonly heard is bring back the Taliban, keep the war-criminals/lords as clients and consult with regional powers (i.e Pakistan).

But no one asks what the normal people throughout Afghanistan want.

RScott April 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

“The normal people throughout Afghanistan…” are the farmers, and you are right hardly anyone asks them, nor do they listen if they do ask and get an answer. And again, when the Marines ask, the answers may be adjusted to the occupying military force…after all they are survivors.
And yes Farhad, really. When they tried to govern westernized Kabulis with Pashtunwali, of course it did not work. Its tribal law and a mistake for a place like Kabul and the liberalized Kabulis. It was a slightly different question in places like Kandahar and LashkarGah among the non-westernized elements that already lived by the code. And there were differences in how they were governed. At a less critical level, for example, while the media was reporting kite flying and football matches in Kabul were punishable offenses in ’97, kids were flying kites all over the place in Kandahar and neighborhood teams in Lashkar Gah were having a tournament at the football field in the center of town. And (kin)groups of women were shopping in central Kandahar without male escorts but with an old woman matriarch who would throw back her covering when she needed to examine the goods better…as in the past.

RScott April 7, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I left something out in my reply to you earlier. It is not what I may think is a good thing or a bad thing relative to the Taliban. It is what is and was in the attempt to understand, not judge. And to sort out fact from fiction, what the media reports relative to what is that they get from their press briefings. An example, The NYTimes reported before the Marja offensive that Marja was a city of some 80,000 people. There is no “city” in Marja. It is a major agricultural area built more or less from scratch with US help with scattered farmsteads, unlike Nad-i-Ali with its 5 centralized villages, built by Morrison-Knutsen in the 50s. There are a number of relatively small farmer bazaars scattered through Marja, one of which also included the office of the Wolis Wol but nothing that could be considered urban or a “city”. And now that the Taliban have been “driven out of Marja”, we must remember that they live(d) there and still live there…surprise? The US-led forces have occupied the area but dont control it, given the most recent reports. And Kandahar, if that offensive occurs, will be a harder nut to crack. The Soviets occupied it for years but never controlled it. Without judgment, we must attempt to understand what is happening.

DE Teodoru April 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm

That’s the European line. But the real issue is what Clinton was doing with the Saudis to the North and Israelis further South. One “expert”–God, I’ve never seen more “experts” crawal out of the woodworks on CA Asia than anything else since the oil issue broke, corporate America style.

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