At the beginning of October, it was reported that eight US soldiers were killed in Nuristan province in Afghanistan. Hearing it at the time, I thought nothing in Nuristan can be worth the life of an American soldier, yet eight of them fought and died there. Afghanistan is literally half way around the world from the US, and Nuristan is the middle of nowhere even for Afghanistan. The US has occupied Afghanistan for eight years already and the current plan is for an ongoing, pointless occupation for at least another five or ten years. President Obama is even considering pouring more US troops into the country, a truly feckless plan.
Then this November the US installed ruler of Afghanistan, ‘President’ Karzai, finished stealing the national election and declared himself President. It was also reported that his brother runs a big piece of the heroin trade and has immunity from US anti-drug efforts because he works for the CIA. Why are US soldiers fighting and dying to support the Karzai family dictatorship?
And the US war effort is still febrile. Eight years into the occupation of Afghanistan, the Pentagon is still talking about ‘ramping up’ the training of translators. US translators who speak Dari or Pashto, the major languages of the country, are so few in number that the translators at NATO headquarters in Kabul are all Afghans. Translators are thin on the ground and the US relies mainly on Afghan locals. How is the US going to run a counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign in country where almost no US troops speak the language?
What is the US doing in Afghanistan? The few thousand Al Qaeda fighters that were in Afghanistan in 2001 were killed by the US or fled to Pakistan. Even the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan don’t want them back.
Nothing is accomplished by continuing the US occupation of Afghanistan. It’s costing the US the lives of our soldiers and $100-200 billion a year. End the US occupation today!
Update: President Obama announced today he will escalate the war in Afghanistan, sending an additional 30,000 troops, for a total escalation of 51,000 troops since he took office. What an incredibly foolhardy and poor decision, one that will kill thousands of people and waste hundreds of billions of dollars. In related news, Middle East scholar Juan Cole provides a thumbnail portrait of the corrupt and fragmentary nature of the Afghan government to which the US has pinned its plans.