Our never-ending war with the Muslim world doesn’t sound like it is going so well in Afghanistan. What’s our end game? Why are we pissing away lives and dollars in this forsaken backwater? Once we leave, and we will leave eventually, if only to invade some other failing country, what happens then?
Dexter Filkins reports, in part:
And then there is President Karzai himself, who appears to be increasingly estranged not only from his NATO allies but also from reality. For years, American officials put up with Karzai’s excesses and even apologized for them; in so doing, they encouraged him to become more and more delusional. In a speech earlier this month, Karzai suggested to an audience of his countrymen that NATO forces were using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan, and accused them of killing innocent civilians and damaging the environment. He said of the Americans, “They have come to our country for their own goals and interests, and they are using our country.”
It will not be difficult to say goodbye to a man like this. But what of the thirty million other Afghans? The premise that anchored counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan—and in Iraq—was never explicitly humanitarian. The idea was that America could succeed only by helping these countries find a way to stand on their own. Otherwise, the places would collapse, and we’d have to go back. In Iraq, after many years of bloodshed, the Americans seem to have found a formula for maintaining rudimentary stability. In Afghanistan, after years of mismanagement and neglect, we manifestly have not. The country remains riddled with violence, and negotiations with the Taliban—a last-resort option—have led nowhere. It is not hard to imagine a repeat of the Afghan civil war, which engulfed the country after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, and which ultimately gave rise to the Taliban. Bloodied but unbroken, the Taliban hardly seem like an army preparing to beg for peace. Their leaders greeted Obama’s words with a swift promise: “Our armed struggle will increase.”
For the moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence is passing without very much to show for it. “These long wars will come to a responsible end,” the President said toward the end of his speech. That’s an appropriately tortured construction for two badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it seems more like a prayer
(click here to continue reading Saying Goodbye to Afghanistan : The New Yorker.)
Instead, we should invade urban blight in America, and rebuild there (here).