Monday, October 30, 2006

Tomgram: Ann Jones on Bush's Poppy Wars in Afghanistan

While the Iraqi catastrophe -- and whether we are about to be at a post-midterm election "tipping point" in that country -- preoccupies Americans, an older Bush administration Afghan "success" story has sprung enough holes to sink the Titanic and looks to be taking on water fast. The President has long claimed that Iraq is the "central front in the war against terrorism." Looking at Afghanistan, however, it's increasingly clear that Bush's Iraqi adventure is the literal motor for terrorism that the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate suggested it was. ("The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world, and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.")

Iraq is proving the central training ground and testing field for the renewed Afghan rebellion. The Taliban, this summer and fall, returned to the battle in Afghanistan in force (with plans to continue their offensive well into that country's bitter winter) -- and with some techniques clearly imported from Iraq. So, the use of sophisticated IED or roadside explosive devices and of suicide bombers, as well as targeted assassinations of government officials, have been on the rise -- all techniques pulled directly off the Iraqi battlegrounds; while foreign jihadis are now, according to Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times, choosing Afghanistan over Iraq as the prime place to make a stand (as it was during the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s).

Meanwhile, NATO and U.S. forces in that country find themselves engaged in the kind of warfare that results, as in Iraq, in high body counts but also generates lots of enemies in the long run, fuelling the Taliban's war. (As one British officer put it, "For every Taliban you kill, you recruit three or four more.") From simple cultural ignorance to the slaughter of civilians from the air and even the desecration of the dead, not to mention the imprisonment of the living, western forces are acting in ways that can't help but bring events in Iraq to mind. NATO (and American) casualties have been on the rise; troops have been locked down and increasingly isolated in some Afghan cities for fear of suicide bombers; while unease, not to say disgruntlement, is growing among commanders who, as with Iraq, are starting to go public. Just this weekend, Prime Minister Tony Blair's most trusted military commander and confidant, General the Lord Guthrie "branded as 'cuckoo' the way Britain's overstretched army was sent into Afghanistan."

And then there are the drugs. Afghanistan is now the globe's prime narco-state. Ann Jones, whose vivid memoir, Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, is riveting reading, plunges into the Alice-in-Wonderland world of drug-eradication efforts in that land and shows why our Afghan programs are headed for the nearest cliff. Tom

What Are They Smoking?

The Bush War on Afghan Drugs
By Ann Jones

On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Bush administration's Afghan War, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld wrote an upbeat op-ed in the Washington Post on that hapless country's "hopeful and promising" trajectory. He cited only two items as less than "encouraging": "the legitimate worry that increased poppy production could be a destabilizing factor" and the "rising violence in southern Afghanistan."

That rising violence -- a full scale onslaught by the resurgent Taliban -- put Afghanistan back in the headlines this summer and brought consternation to NATO governments (from Canada to Australia) whose soldiers are now dying in a land they had been led to believe was a peaceful "success story." Lt. General David Richards, the British commander of NATO troops that took over security in embattled southern Afghanistan from the U.S. in July, warned at the time, "We could actually fail here." In October, he argued that if NATO did not bring security and significant reconstruction to the alienated Pashtun south within six months -- the mission the U.S. failed to accomplish during the past five years -- the majority of the populace might well switch sympathies to the Taliban.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

0 comment(s):

Post a comment

<< Home

Bloggers of Ontario Unite!

[ Prev 5 | Prev | Next | Next 5 | Random | List | Join ]