Friday, June 25, 2010

Afghanistan: 'declare a victory and leave'

Why the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan
William Dalrymple: During lunch, as my hosts casually pointed out the various places in the village where the British had been massacred in 1842, I asked them if they saw any parallels between that war and the present situation. 'It is exactly the same... Both times the foreigners have come for their own interests, not for ours.'... 'Since the British went, we've had the Russians... We saw them off, too.'... 'Next, it will be China. This is the last days of the Americans.'...

After the jirga was over, one of the tribal elders came over... 'Last month,' he said, 'some American officers called us to a hotel in Jalalabad for a meeting. One of them asked me, 'Why do you hate us?' I replied, 'Because you blow down our doors, pull our women by the hair and kick our children... We will fight back, and we will break your teeth, and then your teeth are broken you will leave, just as the British left before you. It is just a matter of time... In truth, all the Americans here know that their game is over. It is just their politicians who deny this.'

Gwynne Dyer: But what if Obama, Biden and Eikenberry really think (a) that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, and (b) that it isn't important for the United States to win it anyway?... The best way to end the Afghan war is simply (as they used to say about Vietnam) to 'declare a victory and leave.' But they cannot say this out loud in the United States... So if [Obama] really wants to extract Americans,... then he is condemned to do so by subterfuge. He must engineer an apparent but temporary military success... and get out while the going's good. This is exactly how President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger got the United States out of the Vietnam War in 1973... If the Taliban understand his implicit message to them, they let him have a temporary 'victory' in order to get him out.

Michael Hastings: It's going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. 'It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win,' says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville. 'This is going to end in an argument.'... 'If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,' an adviser to McChrystal says... The very people that COIN seeks to win over -- the Afghan people -- do not want us there... So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war... Winning, it would seem, is not really possible.

What story are you working on now -- the Kandahar offensive?
That's the story I've been working on.
How is that offensive going?
I think it's in trouble, in serious trouble... We have this problem where we told our Afghan partners, if you don't want it, then we don't have to do it, and they said no and we said, well, we're doing it anyway. Now we're in a situation where we are eventually going to do it and we don't have the popular support of the locals... Petraeus is sort of a genius. He managed to turn what could have been catastrophic defeat in Iraq into a face-saving withdrawal. That's his mission in Afghanistan, to make it look like we didn't get run out.
Image source here.