As in: On Sunday, General John Allen, the US/NATO Commander in Afghanistan ordered a stop to joint combat operations and patrols “until further notice”, except for ‘partnering and advising with Afghan forces at 800-forces battalion level or above’. Reacting to hair-on-fire media coverage in the UK, ISAF later said it was ‘temporary’.
Are there any more rabbit holes to fall into? Looking glasses to fall through? Edvard Munch Screams to imagine as we contemplate the deranged, demented, irrational execution of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’? The first week in October will mark year twelve of the failed, unwinnable war. Twelve.long.years.
Here’s the stage set, then comes The Play.
You will remember that the COIN (counter-insurgency) strategy came with OBomba’s 30,000 troop surge in Dec. 2009. Authored by David Petraeus, it was a theoretical plan to win the hearts and minds of Afghan citizens, entice them to feel good about the Karzai government, thereby marginalizing the Taliban…and winning the war, stabilizing the place, I guess.
Well, it didn’t turn out all that well, especially that a major part of the strategy was the old Iraqi claim: ‘We’ll train up their troops, so we can stand ours down.” As in Iraq, the number of well-trained and loyal local forces was a constantly jiggered number. When a good report was needed; the number was high; when it was diminished, the report always ended with the ‘we just need a little more time’ claim. And of course was entwined with the extending the date for NATO’s final withdrawal, now aimed at a slightly chimerical 2014. The 30,000 ‘surged’ troops are due to leave soon, leaving 68,000 and God knows how many contract mercenaries and support personnel (no one dares tell that secret strategy, imo).
It seems that recent developments in Afghanistan have pretty much turned the strategy to shit, unless of course you’re Leon Panetta, who had been assuring us that things are going swimmingly, and that NATO had those freakin’ Taliban on the run. (Lick your elbow if you believed him.)
You’ve likely read that two British and four American soldiers were killed by Afghan security forces over the weekend, which brought the tally of ‘green-on-blue’ killings to 51 so far in 2012, which means they are happening with increasing frequency. At about the same time, Taliban forces attacked Camp Bastion in Helmand Province during an assault which killed two US marines; maybe those deaths brought the number to fifty-one. The assault that (Prince Harry was there but is safe, which fact was the larger news in the UK, of course.)
There were fifteen NATO forces killed by ‘insider attacks’ in August alone, in addition, Radio Free Europe (RFE), is announcing that four U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan were shot dead, and two wounded on September 16 by at least one Afghan police officer in the Southern province of Zabul. It’s unclear if these deaths were included in the number, either; I just happened upon the news.
In mid-August, US commanders had issued orders that soldiers were to be armed at all times, and guard each other as they ate, slept or interacted with Afghan forces. You might conclude that they don’t trust their counterparts, which might be considered a PR victory for the Taliban, whoever they are exactly.
Zo. Now The Play, centered in the UK:
It turns out that upon hearing of the recent deaths of two members of the Yorkshire regiment and the fact that one fifth of UK soldiers killed in the Graveyard of Empires this year were ‘green-on-blue’ attacks, Members of Parliament wanted to quiz Foreign Secretary William Hague about it. He’d just visited Afghanistan, so they must have reckoned he could shed a little light on the subject.
To make a long story short, Hague announced to Commons on Monday that these killings would in no way change NATO’s mission, which Defense Secretary Philip Hammond echoed. Both men were publicly humiliated when it was discovered that NATO commanders had made their ‘no further collaboration’ announcement on Sunday. It appears that commanders hadn’t even communicated the New Rules to Hamid Karzai or the Afghan Defense ministers.
Reaction has been swift and furious from many quarters. Not least is the fact that the UK, as the premier ally of the US wasn’t even notified of the decision. A NATO spokesman said there just wasn’t time.
“Mr. Hammond was implying that the new rules – which would indeed make our continued stay in Afghanistan a complete waste of time as we’re supposed to be there only to train the Afghans’ insecurity forces – were something or nothing. Dennis Skinner, who does not use army slang, said “the allies are unreliable, Karzai is useless and the Afghan forces are treacherous. It’s time to get out!”
But Labour MP MacShane, who is demanding that UK forces leave Afghanistan by Christmas, said: “In essence the Americans are saying: ‘It’s over. It’s drawdown time and pretty soon we’ll be out like we got out of Vietnam, like we got out of other colonial wars. “Yesterday I did ask an urgent question of Mr Hammond. He came to the Commons about these deaths and he didn’t mention this at all.
“Either he knew about it and was hiding it, which I don’t think is the case, or frankly the Americans aren’t even bothering to tell their biggest ally.”
One of the main justifications for troops being in Afghanistan is the training of Afghan security forces to handle the situation once UK forces withdraw in 2014.
Conservative MP Bob Stewart backed calls to “get our troops out as fast as possible” but added: “It’s not easy to just pull up stumps.”
Tory MP John Baron, while pointing out that the original mission was to defeat al Qaeda, pushed back against another Member’s notion that nation-building and women’s rights were a reason to stay (my bold):
“Meanwhile, misguided attempts at nation-building demand victory over the Taliban. Little attempt was made to discern differences between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, even though these differences are real. Many Taliban have not forgotten it was due to al-Qaeda that they were driven from power, and we now learn that even before 9/11 some in the Taliban leadership were unhappy with their guests.
With al-Qaeda a spent force in Afghanistan, and it being clear the insurgency will not be defeated, the logical course of action for our withdrawal is to refocus on our central mission. This has to involve non-conditional talks with the Taliban. This is what made Thursday’s statement so depressing: the Government is sticking to the American line that negotiations will not take place until the Taliban lay down their arms and accept the Afghan constitution – this will never happen.”
Now, The Play (my bold):
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, described the attacks as the “last gasp” of a weakened Taliban, but in another Oops Moment had to walk that drivel back after this from former ambassador Ryan Crock said:
“I will believe it’s their last gasp when I’ve got my boot on the throat of the last one of them.”
“We have seen the Taliban go from mass attacks to high- profile suicide attacks to the indiscriminate suicide bombings,” such as a Sept. 8 blast that killed six Afghan children and injured several others, Crocker said.
The Taliban “are tough, smart and resilient,” he said. “Don’t underestimate your enemy.”
Radio Free Europe has it that NATO is saying that about one-quarter of the insider attacks are thought to be carried out by militants or Taliban fighters who have infiltrated Afghanistan’s security forces.
It says that the majority of insider attacks are the result of misunderstandings, cultural differences, and Afghan soldiers harboring personal grudges against some of those who are training the 350,000-strong Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.
Yes, some misunderstandings may have resulted from the West occupying their lands, killing their people, conducting night raids and disappearing many into the Dark Prison system, address unknown. They might hold grudges over things like the most recent NATO air attack on ‘militants’ resulting in the deaths of eight women and the injury of seven others, including several as young as ten years old…who were out gathering wood. Cultural misunderstandings, yes.
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
~ Excerpt from ‘The Second Coming’ by William Butler Yeats, 1919
(cross-posted at kgblogz.com)