Another Year, Another Year of Turning Points

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by Joshua Foust on 2/27/2012 · 3 comments

Just about a year ago, I noted a disturbing trend in reporting on Afghanistan: every single year was a critical turning point in the war, going back to 2002. 2011, we were told, was the turning point where things would either get better or get worse.

Anyway, now that it’s 2012 we have a fresh round of really critical turning points in the war. In December, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared that the U.S. was at a real turning point in the war in Afghanistan:

“I really think that for all the sacrifices that you’re doing, the reality is that it is paying off and that we’re moving in the right direction,” Panetta said. “We’re winning this very tough conflict here in Afghanistan.”

Panetta was less than 34 miles from the Pakistan border when he told U.S. troops they have reached a turning point in the war. He also demanded that Islamabad must do more to secure its side of the border.

And the last week or so of violent riots sparked off by the accidental cremation of several pre-defaced Korans out of the Bagram detention has inspired a new round of turning points:

Days of violent protests have seen Afghan security forces turn their weapons on US soldiers, rampaging demonstrators attack Western targets and NATO pull all its advisers out of government ministries. “It has never been as bad as this and it could be a turning point” in the West’s 10-year mission in the war-torn country, said Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network.

Anyway, we’re still turning.

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– 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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marc February 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Re-brand the whole enterprise as a scripted reality soap opera. A working title might be “As the War Turns”. It’s already proven that it has “legs” 10 years on and going strong. Problem is that at the moment American;s find the story line stale, pointless and boring. Except for a small cult fan base they don’t feel any connection with it, don’t know or want to know the characters and would just a soon it was canceled. On the plus side it has a very loyal sponsor in the MIC . It just needs some sexing up, maybe a “Jersey Shore” cast.

RScott February 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Basically there never have been turning points except for those produced by various units of our Defense Department for US consumption, as the US Army Col. just recently pointed out. For the Northern Alliance, the turning point was our invasion taking out the Taliban government and their fighting force that would have ended the last vestiges of resistance of the minority groups…especially with the death of Ahmed Shah Masud(sp) just before 9/11. We have remained the foreign military occupational force, replacing the Soviets, that replaced the Taliban government, as in effective as it was, with one representing mostly the minorities and several warlords like Uzbek Dostum that should have been tried for war crimes rather than put in positions of power. Except briefly in 02 and 04 in Helmand, we have never attempted to address the opium poppy issue but have allowed it to dominate the economy and corrupt the local and central governments that are kept in power only by our military presence….and generally considered illegitimate by many locals. In Helmand, the center of the opium industry, the turning point was perhaps when probably Taliban elements killed 12 Afghan employees of a USAID funded reconstruction project that ended a very large non-military project. Or it might have been when the British Army arrived on the scene in 06 when violence erupted and has never ended. Since that time we have killed many people in the region by accident and on purpose (men, women and children) increasing the support for our enemies. We have spent millions in the region on pointless projects, built many roads that are said to improve the farmers’ ability to get produce to market but with opium poppy being the dominant crop and little or no support for the regions traditional cash crops, the farmers will likely tell you that the improved roads are for the rapid movement of troops. If there have been turning points, they have been more for the negative or in our imagination.
(This represents admittedly one biased view of what has been happening.)

Gina March 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm

The problem is that we, as Americans, think and act diferently. We can never, ever create the atmosphere of peace as long as there are drugs lords and war lords ruling over any area. We are trying to create an impossibility.

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