The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Sunday, March 4, 2012

News of the Day for Sunday, March 4, 2012

Afghan army chief of staff, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, laments the failure of NATO troops to grasp Afghan sensitivities and culture in an interview with Reuters. Excerpt:

"They took advantage of [the burning of Korans]. They will take advantage." Karimi, sitting in his office at the heavily guarded Ministry of Defense, lamented NATO's failure to grasp the sensitivities regarding Afghanistan's culture and religion during the United States' longest war, now in its eleventh year. "Those friends who have come here to help us are not doing it the way we asked them too," . . . "God forbid if this mistake is repeated there will be a lot of trouble next time."

Reuters' Michael Georgy vividly shows how strongly many Afghans feel about religious symbols. Excerpt:

Matihullah, 24, had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Then news spread that Western soldiers had burned many copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base in Afghanistan. He gave up his studies and embarked on a new mission in life -- to become a suicide bomber.

"Since the desecration and burnings of holy books of the Koran, I have been burning with the desire of revenge. It is running in my blood," said Matihullah, wearing the traditional white skull cap worn by many Afghans.

AP's Deb Reichmann also explores the depth of anger over the incident.

Afghan authorities burn 21 tons of drugs in Helmand. Well, not exactly. The haul includes opium, "chemicals used to process opium into cocaine" [sic -- that would be a neat trick] and alcohol. How much of it was alcohol we are not told. Note the irony that a society which strictly prohibits alcohol is economically dependent on opium.

Semantic quibble drives bad policy department: Top US military officials are considering whether to put elite special forces under CIA control similar to the way in which they were used in the operation to kill Osama bin Laden last May, the AP reported. "In this way, the US could say there are no special forces left on the ground in Afghanistan because once Navy Seals, Rangers and other elite units are assigned to the CIA, even temporarily, they become spies, the AP said. . . .Handing over much of the combat to special operations troops would help the US shrink its presence in Afghanistan in time to meet the Obama government's 2014 deadline. However, a CIA-led conflict would mean the US public would not be told about funding or operations." Got that, suckers? We're going to pretend we don't have any troops in Afghanistan, but we actually will, however it will be a secret, even though we know about it. Change you can believe in.

Afghan authorities claim to have arrested a man in Kandahar who was planning to burn a Koran and frame Americans for it, or that's what I think this means anyway, the English isn't great. Maybe I believe this.

Head of Afghan central bank says capital flight has doubled. "taking out of money from the country’s airports and ports has doubled causing grave concern of the Central Bank. According to the in charges the figure formerly was around USD 3 billion while now it has reached USD 4.6 billion." They don't give a time frame. Note what happens: Foreign aid pours into the country, rich Afghans end up skimming much of it, then they send it abroad. -- C

Five Afghan soldiers injured in Helmand province. This Khaama Press article also has a roundup of security incidents.


dancewater said...

I don't know that the Afghans have particular sensitivities to total disrespect for their religion. I suspect many cultures/countries do.

dancewater said...

Protests grow over Obama's drone wars in Pakistan

Last weekend, Mr Akbar’s organisation brought 300 people from North Waziristan to Islamabad to protest. Between 70-80 were related to victims, the others were tribal elders. Many held photographs of those they had lost.

Among them was Kareem Khan, a 50-year-old from Machikhel, North Waziristan, who works as a journalist with an “Arab TV channel”. His 18-year-old son and brother were killed when a drone missile struck a community gathering on New Year’s Eve 2009. “They were both government employees – my brother was an English teacher at a government school and had done his Masters in English,” said Mr Khan. “And my son, who had completed his high schooling from Islamabad, he was a guard at a girls’ school. They were both martyred.”

Mr Khan became increasingly distressed and added: “A human is human. If one loses someone close, one weeps. Our hearts are still of flesh. When someone loses their son or brother or another relative they become depressed. My wife too, is very sad.”