11.16.05

Afghanistan, News Articles, Outside Analysis, Outside Commentary, PNAC.info Commentary

“Afghanistan: The War Without End” (within a war without end)


This article provides an eye-opening look at the reality of that other war we’re in– the one that doesn’t get so much press these days. The key thing to note, of course, is that the Taliban is still operational–and in ways, appears to be quite strong, and possibly staging some sort of attempted comeback. And the war in Afghanistan is still a war in Afghanistan. From the way it’s presented by many who seek to defend the success of the “war on terror” as it has been conducted so far, one might think that Afghanistan was over and done with. But as you can see in the article, things are actually about to heat up in some ways. (In this case, I’m referring to the British troops who are going to be moved into an insurgent stronghold to try and gain control of that area.)

In searching for a quote from the PNAC on Afghanistan, I came upon an editorial from the Weekly Standard of October 29, 2001. It’s on the PNAC site as a PDF file, and it’s by frequent co-writers William Kristol and Robert Kagan, both of whom are part of both the PNAC and the Weekly Standard. Which is to say, I don’t know if it’s an official PNAC position statement, but it’s certainly very close to that if not.

The editorial only glancingly touches upon Afghanistan, actually — as noted in the recent American Conservative piece, the neocons had Iraq as their focus even when everyone else was honed in on Al Qaeda and Afghanistan — but it does lay out clear and simple terms for victory: victory is to be defined by “the unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden.”

So while I’m using this excerpt for the bigger picture statement within it (you’ll see what I mean) it is also certainly relevant as a lead-in to an article entitled “Afghanistan: The War Without End”. After all, it has been four years since the war in Afghanistan started, and not one of those three targets has been unequivocally destroyed. That only adds to the irony when you read how in 2001, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan were already gearing us up for the “broader war in the Middle East” that is being widely dreaded today. (Not dreaded by them, I assume.)

Here is what these two top neocons had to say about Afghanistan and the Middle East in post-911 2001:

We do not for an instant minimize the difficulties and the dangers to our forces of the current mission in Afghanistan, especially now as the Bush administration wisely moves closer to the more aggressive use of U.S. ground forces. We are glad that President Bush is apparently following the Pentagon’s advice to accelerate the military campaign to unseat the Taliban, without waiting for the State Department to name the cabinet and sub-cabinet officials in an as-yet imaginary “post-Taliban government.? Nor do we doubt the vital importance of victory in Afghanistan—a victory defined by the unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden.

But this war will not end in Afghanistan. It is going to spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity. It could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously. It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. And it is going to put enormous and perhaps unbearable strain on parts of an international coalition that today basks in contented consensus.

The signs that we are on the precipice of a much wider conflict are all around us. …

Full editorial (PDF file)


And here’s what a British journalist has to say about Afghanistan today:

Afghanistan: The War Without End

The Independent (UK)
By Justin Huggler Asia Correspondent
Published: 15 November 2005

British troops have come under attack in Kabul and Nato forces were targeted in two co-ordinated suicide car bombings in which at least four people died.

The attacks took place as ministers revealed that units are preparing to extend Britain’s role in Afghanistan when it takes command of the international peacekeeping operation next year.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, told Parliament that Britain faced a “prolonged” involvement in the country. But MPs warned last night that British troops faced being mired in a long-term military commitment to a country in the grip of a growing insurgency.

They insisted yesterday’s extension of Britain’s role in Afghanistan, four years after troops first arrived, also reflected the size of the task facing coalition forces in Iraq.

Fears for Afghanistan’s future emerged in the wake of suggestions, by the British and Iraqi governments, that British troops could begin pulling out of Iraq by the end of next year. For British troops, however, yesterday’s violence in Kabul was a taste of what they will face next year when they deploy to the turbulent province of Helmand as part of a move by Nato to take over security in the Taliban heartlands.

At least four people were killed in the attacks, including one German soldier and an Afghan child, but the implications of the attacks were far wider. The insurgency that has been worsening while the world’s attention has been focused on Iraq has now reached Kabul.

Mr Reid said British troops had to open fire to defend their camp in Kabul against “unauthorised entry”. Few further details emerged, but Mr Reid said British troops were not targeted in the car bombings.

A German soldier died when the Nato vehicle he was travelling in was rammed by a Toyota Corolla stuffed with explosives just after 3pm local time. Two German soldiers and three Afghan civilians were wounded.

An hour later, another Nato vehicle was rammed in a near-identical attack on the same road. Three Afghan civilians were killed, including a young boy, and two Greek soldiers were wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“We have plans for more of the same,” Mullah Dadullah, a top-ranking Taliban commander, said by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.

The insurgency in Afghanistan has been largely confined to the Pashtun area in the south and east. Until now, British troops have operated in Kabul and the north, where international forces have been largely welcomed by Afghans who suffered persecution under Taliban rule.

But in the south there is widespread support for the insurgency and opposition to any Western presence in Afghanistan. Helmand in particular is notorious even among Afghans for the ferocity of its tribesmen. British troops are moving into the province under a plan for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) to take over security in the area. And it was no coincidence that yesterday’s attacks specifically targeted Isaf troops in Kabul.

The message from the Taliban was clear: this is what is waiting for Isaf in the south. But the message was also that the Taliban can now strike in Kabul, which until now has been an oasis of stability largely unaffected by the insurgency.

Kabul is home to 3,000 foreigners, most working for NGOs, who live in an city that often seems utterly disconnected from the rest of the country. Replete with bars and expensive restaurants that sell alcohol to foreigners, but not Afghans, Kabul even boasts two designer boutiques for women’s clothes. Yesterday another Afghanistan came crashing up against that world. Both car bombings came on the Jalalabad Road, which has long been the scene of the most serious attacks in Kabul.

There was a suicide bombing on that road in September, and there have been countless improvised bombs hidden along it – partly it is because there are several Western and Afghan military bases, and the UN’s headquarters, on it. The road runs through a Pashtun suburb of Kabul where the Pashtun Taliban can operate freely. The fact that so senior a commander has claimed responsibility for the attacks is a sure sign the Taliban are stepping up their actions. Known as Dadullah-I-Leng, or Dadullah the Lame, he is known for his part in massacres of Hazara Shias, which have been described as attempted genocide.

One of the main failures of the Taliban’s insurgency has been its inability to attract support among other ethnic communities.

British troops have come under attack in Kabul and Nato forces were targeted in two co-ordinated suicide car bombings in which at least four people died.

The attacks took place as ministers revealed that units are preparing to extend Britain’s role in Afghanistan when it takes command of the international peacekeeping operation next year.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, told Parliament that Britain faced a “prolonged” involvement in the country. But MPs warned last night that British troops faced being mired in a long-term military commitment to a country in the grip of a growing insurgency.

They insisted yesterday’s extension of Britain’s role in Afghanistan, four years after troops first arrived, also reflected the size of the task facing coalition forces in Iraq.

Fears for Afghanistan’s future emerged in the wake of suggestions, by the British and Iraqi governments, that British troops could begin pulling out of Iraq by the end of next year. For British troops, however, yesterday’s violence in Kabul was a taste of what they will face next year when they deploy to the turbulent province of Helmand as part of a move by Nato to take over security in the Taliban heartlands.

At least four people were killed in the attacks, including one German soldier and an Afghan child, but the implications of the attacks were far wider. The insurgency that has been worsening while the world’s attention has been focused on Iraq has now reached Kabul.

Mr Reid said British troops had to open fire to defend their camp in Kabul against “unauthorised entry”. Few further details emerged, but Mr Reid said British troops were not targeted in the car bombings.

A German soldier died when the Nato vehicle he was travelling in was rammed by a Toyota Corolla stuffed with explosives just after 3pm local time. Two German soldiers and three Afghan civilians were wounded.

An hour later, another Nato vehicle was rammed in a near-identical attack on the same road. Three Afghan civilians were killed, including a young boy, and two Greek soldiers were wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“We have plans for more of the same,” Mullah Dadullah, a top-ranking Taliban commander, said by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.

The insurgency in Afghanistan has been largely confined to the Pashtun area in the south and east. Until now, British troops have operated in Kabul and the north, where international forces have been largely welcomed by Afghans who suffered persecution under Taliban rule.

But in the south there is widespread support for the insurgency and opposition to any Western presence in Afghanistan. Helmand in particular is notorious even among Afghans for the ferocity of its tribesmen. British troops are moving into the province under a plan for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) to take over security in the area. And it was no coincidence that yesterday’s attacks specifically targeted Isaf troops in Kabul.

The message from the Taliban was clear: this is what is waiting for Isaf in the south. But the message was also that the Taliban can now strike in Kabul, which until now has been an oasis of stability largely unaffected by the insurgency.

Kabul is home to 3,000 foreigners, most working for NGOs, who live in an city that often seems utterly disconnected from the rest of the country. Replete with bars and expensive restaurants that sell alcohol to foreigners, but not Afghans, Kabul even boasts two designer boutiques for women’s clothes. Yesterday another Afghanistan came crashing up against that world. Both car bombings came on the Jalalabad Road, which has long been the scene of the most serious attacks in Kabul.

There was a suicide bombing on that road in September, and there have been countless improvised bombs hidden along it – partly it is because there are several Western and Afghan military bases, and the UN’s headquarters, on it. The road runs through a Pashtun suburb of Kabul where the Pashtun Taliban can operate freely. The fact that so senior a commander has claimed responsibility for the attacks is a sure sign the Taliban are stepping up their actions. Known as Dadullah-I-Leng, or Dadullah the Lame, he is known for his part in massacres of Hazara Shias, which have been described as attempted genocide.

One of the main failures of the Taliban’s insurgency has been its inability to attract support among other ethnic communities.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


One final note: consider just what it means that Afghanistan, which was largely thought to be a comparatively straightforward mission– and which was indeed against a militarily weak government party which had only held power for a short amount of time, is still, after 4 years, a mission not accomplished. Assuming it will be accomplished, and assuming it can be considered on its own, rather than as part of some unfolding World War III– two very generous assumptions– how long is that one mission going to take? 5 years? 8 years? And how much cost in lives and money?

And if “taming” Afghanistan– a poor, governmentally weak nation that had been beaten silly by a full generation of war –is that giant of a project…what does that say about what to expect from Iraq? And what does that portend for the “wider war”, which would include changing regimes in at least two more nations that neighbor those two–both of which are arguably stronger than Iraq was upon its invasion?

2 Feedbacks on "“Afghanistan: The War Without End” (within a war without end)"

PNAC.info - Exposing the Project for the New American Century » Buchanan: “Vietnam Syndrome” is back

[…] And if Americans “don’t have the stomach” for all that it would take to remake Iraq (and let’s not forget Afghanistan), then what of a bigger plan to remake the Middle East? What of the neoconservative desire to exert similar control in other parts of the globe? […]



PNAC.info - Exposing the Project for the New American Century » An Iran Trap?

[…] This analysis piece from the libertarian Cato Institute discusses how Iran’s apparently rising defiance and belligerence may be part of a deliberate strategy to draw the U.S. into a greater war in the Middle East. The “benefits” to Iran in doing so would include the possibility of eliminating Israel during the conflict, and should the Arab states prevail in such a conflict (which would be a very long and burdensome one, if recent history is any indicator), Iran might end up being the triumphant lead-nation in a rejuvenated Pan-Arab alliance against the West. […]



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