Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Afghanistan - 8 Years On
This week is the eighth anniversary of the first US-led bombing mission in Afghanistan: the start of 'Operation Enduring Freedom',God help us. So where are we today, eight years on? In terms of the policy debate in the US the war is lost. In the White House, some members of President Obama’s team are even reading Lessons in Disaster, a book about flawed decision-making in the Vietnam.
This week Mr Obama will hold two more sessions in the White House as he grapples with the most important decision of his presidency so far: whether to agree to a request by General Stanley McChrystal, his ground commander, for 40,000 more troops or whether to scale back the effort.
Yet there is one critical element in the thinking of those urging Mr Obama to oppose the wishes of his ground commander, though is rarely cited in what has become a very public debate. Eight years on the Afghan people feel betrayed. Many no longer see the US as a force for good but instead blame their presence for the escalating war. As General McChrystal himself pointed out in a speech in London last week, a Taleban roadside bomb that kills civilians does not necessarily bring opprobrium upon the Taleban but instead on the US military — the logic being that if the US military were not in Afghanistan the bomb would not have been planted. As one senior official put it: “In 2003 and 2004 the Afghans were buying what we were selling. I am not sure they want to buy what we’re selling any more.