Take a look at all of those US flags - up against Pakistan's border.
Yes, that's right. While Robert Gates and Condi Rice (who just arrived in Afghanistan for a surprise visit) have both been threatening the demise of NATO if Afghanistan becomes a "failed state" by not having other countries sending in more combat troops because they won't be bullied into it, US troops are busy fighting along the Pakistani border because their useless commander-in-chief has been busy propping up Pervez Musharraf to the tune of $10 billion the past few years. And what, exactly, has he gotten in return?
Musharraf, who has been protecting the notorious AQ Khan from international scrutiny, is now reportedly relaxing Khan's house arrest rules. The Bush administration has forgiven Musharraf every step of the way for his refusal to take control of Waziristan and if you're wondering why the US military won't commit more troops to Kandahar, where our Canadian troops are dying, it's probably because they'll be too busy training Pakistan's army.
Michael Vickers, assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said training sites are being chosen for a five-year program to train and equip the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary unit, to confront al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region.
"That is just getting under way," he told reporters at a briefing. "There may be other training assistance as well, subject to continuing discussions with the Pakistanis."
The training is part of a new $750 million U.S. development effort to make Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) less hospitable for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Washington has given Pakistan $10 billion, mainly in military aid, since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
As usual, this is too little way too late considering the situation in Afghanistan. But, both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been planned for on the fly at the behest of Donald Rumsfeld:
As the United States prepared to respond to the attacks of September 11, Rumsfeld pushed a reluctant military to think unconventionally about going to war in Afghanistan. Dissatisfied with the plan for a large-scale invasion that he received from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Rumsfeld turned to the Pentagon's Special Operations forces.
"He is willing to start military operations in Afghanistan before most of the military thinks that we're ready to do so. And [a] small number of special forces soldiers combined with CIA support for indigenous Afghan resistance forces brings about spectacular results," Krepinevich says.
When the president's attention turned towards Iraq, Rumsfeld pushed his war planners to think outside the box. Emboldened by his success in Afghanistan, the secretary once again pushed aside Pentagon critics and demanded an unconventional war plan.
"Rumsfeld thinks you can re-invent [the] war plan," The Washington Post's Bob Woodward tells FRONTLINE, "And anything that smacks of the old way or something that looks conventional to him, he asks questions about. Doesn't necessarily oppose it, but will ask questions about it, and is looking to make this quicker, with less force and with less casualties."
So, if the Afghanistan war is lost, it certainly isn't NATO's fault. And, just how much of a difference will 1,000 more soldiers make?
This is all on the Bush administration and no amount of guilt-tripping by Gates and Rice at this point is going to change that.
“I do think the alliance is facing a test here,” Ms. Rice said in a visit to London. “Populations have to understand that this is not just a peacekeeping fight.”
Can she possibly be any more condescending?
In Canada, as expected, the Conservative government will table a motion on Thursday for parliament to consider Canada's future role in Afghanistan beyond February, 2009. Stephane Dion said this week the debate will be "civil". Just how do you debate civilly with a bullying government armed with Bush talking-points and insults that any opposing opinion equals siding with the Taliban? While Dion hopes to play chess with Harper - hoping he'll accept a non-combat role extension - "The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have said flatly that they will vote against any extension of the mission."
As I wrote here last week, there's much more to this debate than whether or not the troops will continue fighting. There's an economic component that's important to both the Conservatives and Liberals in terms of US/Canada relations and I believe that's what's fueling the Harper/Dion meetings this week ie. how to stay on the so-called good side of the US without getting dinged financially.
But that's not what the general public will hear about in this upcoming "debate". It will be all about NATO's credibility and the idea that Canada is responsible for saving it.
Somehow, the Afghanistan people have been forgotten in all of this.
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