Afghanistan: Why We Fight

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November 15, 2009: Foreign nations are at a loss on what to do with Afghanistan. The nations with troops in Afghanistan cannot all agree on what problem they are trying to solve, and what the solution is. A lot of this springs from that fact that foreigners have a problem accepting how Afghanistan actually works. While there is a central government, the real power is in the hands of warlords and tribal leaders. Many foreigners cannot accept this, or even comprehend it. Then there is the problem with "war crimes." Most of the warlords, and some of the tribal leaders, committed what the foreigners consider atrocities. The Afghans consider it justice or vengeance, and are perplexed at the reaction of the foreigners. Same thing with the foreigner reaction to the corruption. This is mainly stealing government money and foreign aid, and distributing to your fellow tribesmen and followers. This is how things have been done for thousands of years, and Afghans believe in tradition, and ignoring the criticism of foreigners.

To further complicate matters, some Afghans agree with the foreigners, and most of the senior leadership in the government realize the problem, and try to tell the foreigners what they want to hear (that corruption will be eliminated and naughty warlords will be punished). In fact, the corruption and bloody hands will not disappear anytime soon. The Afghans will do what they have always done; play the foreigners anyway they can, for as long as they can.

One thing the Afghan leadership, and the foreigners, can agree on is the need to keep Islamic terrorists out of the country. Many foreigners also have a hard time believing this. But Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban for most of the 1990s, and most Afghans hated it (and many were still fighting the Taliban on September 11, 2001). While many Afghans, like Moslems in general, are sympathetic to Islamic radicals, they are not big supporters of international Islamic terrorists, especially after they have suffered from the suicide bombs themselves. Thus the Taliban realize that they have to use force to regain control of the country, and establish a police state, as the Iranian theocracy has done, to keep the population in line. While Afghans want peace, they don't want an Islamic police state, and the tribes can be persuaded to help make this happen. General McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, has developed a strategy based on defeating the Taliban on one tribal area at a time, and driving out the drug business as well.

A recent U.S. Department of Defense survey of troop morale in Afghanistan and Iraq found that, while morale in pacified Iraq is going up, it's been sliding downward in Afghanistan. That's because there's more fighting there. But it's the nature of the fighting that hurts morale the most. The enemy, unable to face foreign troops in combat, are using more roadside bombs. This is a very nerve-wracking weapon, for those on the receiving end. Then there are the ROEs (Rules of Engagement), which are more restrictive than those in Iraq. This means foreign troops fight at an additional disadvantage when the Taliban have civilians nearby, that they can use as human shields.

November 8, 2009: Near Zabul, in the south, a Taliban group was torn apart by an ambush. The Taliban were firing mortar shells at an Afghan army base. NATO forces were called in, and the Taliban force was caught in the open, and 17 of them killed. In Kandahar, police raided a warehouse containing 250 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that, when mixed with diesel or fuel oil, can be exploded with a detonator. While only about 40 percent the power of the same weight of TNT, these fertilizer bombs are effective as roadside bombs. The Kandahar raid seized many other bomb components, and arrested fifteen people. The warehouse appears to have been a major source of terrorist bombs used in the south.

November 6, 2009: During a search for two missing U.S. soldiers in western Afghanistan, a NATO aircraft bombed friendly troops, killing a civilian and seven Afghan police. There were also 23 wounded, including five Americans. The two missing soldiers, it turned out, and been swept away and drowned as they tried to retrieve parachuted supplies that fell into a nearby river.

 

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