What to learn from the Crash

by Joshua Foust on 8/9/2011 · 19 comments

For PBS:

The real scandal in Afghanistan isn’t that Americans are getting killed. The real scandal is that we don’t know why we’re there. President Obama’s goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda has been largely accomplished. The Afghan government has a sufficiently large enough military to prevent a total Taliban takeover, and with a political reconciliation there is every likelihood that Al Qaeda will be denied access to Afghanistan.

Tragic as the loss of those soldiers is, without a clear strategy articulated by our leadership, it’s difficult to say what grander purpose they served. Rescuing other troops is a noble mission, and those that died in service to this mission all deserve our profound thanks. But if the war they’re fighting has no purpose and no definable end state, we should be questioning why they have to perform such heroic acts in the first place.

&c.


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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 Registan.net. 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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{ 19 comments }

M Shannon August 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Of course we know why we’re there. Whether we would publicly admit it is another question:

1) Prevent Republicans from calling the President a coward, soft on terror, dishonoring the dead soldiers etc.

2) Keep the MID happy.

3) Be seen to be doing something, anything, just in case another major terrorist attack happens.

All of NATO also has it’s nasty little reasons for tagging along- all will say it’s about security or democracy etc but the real reasons revolve around domestic politics, sucking up to the US and institutional and personal wish lists.

carl August 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Joshua:

I don’t understand why this “and with a political reconciliation there is every likelihood that Al Qaeda will be denied access to Afghanistan.” holds true.

Why is there every likelihood? The MO part of the Taliban may have been miffed with AQ on occasion in the past but never enough to give them up. The Haqqanis, what indication have they given that they would be willing to give them up or keep them out? The whole Afghan Taliban & Co is in a large part a creature of the ISI and without them signing off nobody would turn on AQ. I just don’t understand where the confidence that there AQ would not find an Afghanistan just as congenial as it was pre-2001 comes from.

Faisal August 11, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Lets be actually correct. The Taliban are the only creation of the Taliban. Haqqani on the other hand is purely CIA developed. He plus Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massod (plus 4 others) made up the cadre of seven leaders who the CIA funneled money to in the 1980s.

Yes they all got/get money from the ISI and Hekmatyar also gets it from Iran, but these counter-insurgency tactics were not just dropped in their laps one fine day. All of them have been trained for 10 odd years by the very people they are fighting.

Faisal August 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Good grief. Need an edit button. The Taliban are the only creation of the ISI. That is what the second line should read as.

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me August 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm

what in the hell was that supposed to say?

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Nick Hanz August 13, 2011 at 3:04 am

Josh, Josh,

You are a very articulate person. It would be far better if you actually spoke about the facts behind the ‘crash’ and the others that have occurred over the course of this ill-fated war.

The fact is the US forces were conducting a night raid on the compound in question. A recent study has revealed that over 90% of these night raids have targeted civilians. What does this reveal to us? The fact is Taliban or not, the US has been at war with the people of Afghanistan. How do we know this? Well, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban had offered peace talks back in 2008 as Obama came to power. Maye he felt a change of presidency might be more amenable to discussions. He was willing to talk on everything, including the trumped up Al-Qaeda stuff which in fact has nothing to do with the Taliban. However, he did not budge and would never budge on US permanent bases, typical Afghan character. This was the reason Obama escalated the war. So the end result is the same, we leave on the Afghan’s terms, and NO, I am not speaking about our puppet Karzai, but the Afghan people who are opposed to our presence, and will never tolerate it at all.

The downing of the Chinook was only news because Karzai confirmed the claim made by Afghans by holding a press conference.

Toryalay Shirzay August 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm

@Nick Hanz, The majority of Afghans would very much like to get rid of the Taliban who inflicted major suffering on the Afghans.All Westerners must know this fact: THE BOND BETWEEN THE TALIBAN AND THE ALQAEDA is inseparable and will never be broken unless they both are thoroughly defeated.Why? because this is the Islamic rule of Jihad which will be carried out to death!!
The US and its allies will make a grave mistake of historical proportion if they turned their back now.The civilians in areas sympathetic to the Taliban are collaborators and they must be stopped convincingly.The present operations carried out are actually mild compared to what is actually needed to convince the collaborators to abandon their treacherous behavior .
Thus you are not properly informed and misinformed.

Osman August 14, 2011 at 1:45 am

You have about as much credibility as a mustachio Afghan communist.

Nick Hanz August 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Hi Toryalay,

Well, the Taliban in fact have already severed relations with Al-Qaeda, not that there was much to begin with. An interesting piece by MK Bhadrakumar highlights that back about the time Obama got elected, the Taliban with Mullah Omar’s instruction had said they would accommodate legitimate concerns, but would not never tolerate foreign occupation. Hence, their stated objective is to rid Afghanistan of the foreign forces. http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2011/07/31/what-annoyed-obama-about-mullah-omar/ “Taliban was willing to compromise on other issues but when it came to the US bases, Omar was tough as nail. He apparently took the stance that “not one metre” of Afghan soil could come under foreign occupation.”

This war was never about “terror.” I say ‘was’ because the outcome is pretty clear.

In regards to treachery, from the Afghan perspective, and the most common one. the only traitors are those who support the US war against the rest of the country. Perhaps this is the reason Karzai stands no chance of staying or having any role in Afghanistan post-withdrawal. I beg to differ with you, as you seem to disregard typical Afghan character. Perhaps, people may not agree with or favor the Taliban, but they definitely are opposed to the US presence, and with that will see eye to eye with anyone who resists it.

What does a RAWA feminist and a Talib have in common? They both are opposed to the US presence, and the empowerment of war-lords, and paid men like Karzai. Why is Karzai so unpopular? He is tied to the the US war?

Regards

Nick Hanz August 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Hi Toryalay,

Well, the Taliban in fact have already severed relations with Al-Qaeda, not that there was much to begin with. An interesting piece by MK Bhadrakumar highlights that back about the time Obama got elected, the Taliban with Mullah Omar’s instruction had said they would accommodate legitimate concerns, but would never tolerate foreign occupation. Hence, their stated objective is to rid Afghanistan of the foreign forces. http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2011/07/31/what-annoyed-obama-about-mullah-omar/ “Taliban was willing to compromise on other issues but when it came to the US bases, Omar was tough as nail. He apparently took the stance that “not one metre” of Afghan soil could come under foreign occupation.”

This war was never about “terror.” I say ‘was’ because the outcome is pretty clear.

In regards to treachery, from the Afghan perspective, and the most common one. the only traitors are those who support the US war against the rest of the country. Perhaps this is the reason Karzai stands no chance of staying or having any role in Afghanistan post-withdrawal. I beg to differ with you, as you seem to disregard typical Afghan character. Perhaps, people may not agree with or favor the Taliban, but they definitely are opposed to the US presence, and with that will see eye to eye with anyone who resists it.

What does a RAWA feminist and a Talib have in common? They both are opposed to the US presence, and the empowerment of war-lords, and paid men like Karzai. Why is Karzai so unpopular? He is tied to the the US war?

Regards

Nick Hanz August 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Toryalay,

So you are of the mind-set of supporting war against Afghan people, and then you proceed to define the word “treachery.”

Toryalay Shirzay August 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Not so fast ,Nick Hanz.
You are right about Karzai,but you are dead wrong about the Taliban who were created by Pakistan to control Afghanistan.You have a lot of misunderstandings about the Afghan issues and it is obvious you need heavy digging here. True Afghans,that is ,Afghans who are not sold out to anyone ,to put it bluntly,will fuck anyone who try to control their homeland and that includes the fucking arab-islamic colonialism!

Nick Hanz August 17, 2011 at 12:26 am

Hi Toryalay,

Please do not mistaken me as a fool. I have researched the topic well. Also, I have met with people whose families are from Afghanistan, most importantly the Southern and Eastern parts where there is fighting. I have asked them how they feel, and they are opposed to the war on every level, and want t. They support the defense of their country, and wish to see it free.

I have heard this false story too of Arab-Islamic this, and it is a prevalent ‘story’ that circulates with urbanized Afghans, especially those who live in the West. I researched it, and found it full of flaws. It was better if your were outright honest. You see the problem with this urbanized minority group (minority in the sense that their opinion is largely insignificant against the will of the majority) is that they have never fought for what they want. Instead they have continuously invited and supported foreign armies to wage war against the rest of the populace. 20 years ago it was the Soviets, today it is the Americans, but the result will be the same. Hence, this urbanized group is hated by most. They are seen as the ones who have betrayed their country and supported the American war against the rest of the people.

To tell me that the resistance in Afghanistan serves Pakistan, and fights for Pakistan is a tough sell. In fact, it is no-sell. This is the bigges fairy tale ever. To say that Afghans do not resist a US occupation is denying the present scenario where it is clealry evident that they do. No resistance can be supported without the support of the population. This is fact.

How do you expect anyone to believe that the Taliban live for and die for Pakistan? That they hoist the Pakistani flag above their own? They fight to get rid of the US occupation, and that is their stated goal. Do you deny this?

No, the Taliban are a movement that arose out of the chaos following the defeat of the Soviets. Widespread crime, murder, and rape plagued Afghanistan during those years. Two girls were raped at a base of a Anti-Soviet commander, and the locals alerted the local Mullah who we all know as Mullah Omar. He carried out an attack on the base with his fellow students, now known as Taliban despite the fact they never claimed this title. He freed the girls, killed the members of the militia, and had that warlord hung from the barrel of a tank. This is how the Taliban rose to power.

If we are to go back in history, they have existed in those rural regions for a long time.

Please don’t take me as some pushover. A while ago, I considered your debate, but it is a false narrative spun by the desperate few who seek to deny the legitimacy of a resistance.

It does not work. The Taliban, and other Afghans fight for the freedom of their land. This is not an opinion, it is plain fact as day and night. To suggest otherwise is stupid and ridiculous.

Recent US reports show that the Taliban have increasing support throughout Afghanistan.

The reason they have returned to the North is due to the same disorder and crime brought by Northern Alliance warlords.

Jawan Kohistani August 17, 2011 at 2:38 am

@ Nick Hanz,

Whilst there is no denying that the Taliban cannot operate without local acquiescence/support…and that indeed the Americans are motivated by more than just smashing the Taliban…You do not seem to be one whom cares much for the fate of Afghanistan.

Why?

Well, lets see :

– You ignore & try to deny Pakistan’s Strategic Depth policy for Afghanistan, and their role in the capacity of the Taliban to operate. The importance of the safe havens of the Taliban in Pakistan cannot be overstated, yet you say this is fairy tale.

– You equate the opinions of the Taliban supporting parts of tribal south & east of Afghanistan with the opinion of the ‘people of Afghanistan’. The south and east of Afghanistan is not the majority of Afghanistan – neither in geography nor in population. And the 400+ tribal elders killed by the Taliban in order to get support from those tribals…

– You seem to think that the people of Afghanistan only have one of two choices – namely the Taliban or Warlords; whilst ignoring important work that could be done towards building democratic institutions in the country.

In short, you seem to have a very low opinion of the people of Afghanistan and you do not believe or do not want democracy in Afghanistan.

Nick Hanz August 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Getting into a spat here about you and I is not the discussion.

We are discussing Afghanistan, and the Afghan resistance I against the US presence. I speak as objectively as I can on this matter.

I did not say that Pakistan has no interest in seeing the withdraw from Afghanistan. Iran has the same interest.

Just because Pakistan, Iran, and others have this interest, it by no means denies the legitimacy of the Afghan resistance.

On that same token of reasoning, you might as well deny the legitimacy of every single resistance in history- Vietnamese resistance to the US (which served Russia and China’s interest), China’s resistance to the British (which served Japan’s interest)..etc.

So, no, if anyone is thinking “lowly’ of Afghan people, it would be you. You because you want to promote a fairy tale that Afghans do not resist foreigners whereas history slaps this absurdity in the face.

It matters not to any Afghan who is resisting who supports them and who does not.

I look at something in a very objective lens. I do not apologize if my perspective which is very factual does not fit your imagination.

Nick Hanz August 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm

To even highlight the further ridiculousness of your claims, are the Afghans who support the Taliban, serving Pakistan’s interest actively? Do they fight and die for Pakistan?

The logical answer is no.

Now, you will say that Afghans do not support the Taliban. However, ample reports and polls (both neutral and US) suggest that the Taliban do indeed have support in Afghanistan, especially in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, as well as parts of the North.

Now, do all Afghans agree with the Taliban about their goals for the state post-withdrawal. No, but Afghans do not tolerate and will not tolerate a US presence and war directed against them.

This is true for any country in the world.

Nick Hanz August 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm

excuse the grammar mistakes, was in a rush

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