Thursday, November 26, 2009

This So-called "War of Necessity"

With Obama reportedly set to announce an increase of US troop levels in Afghanistan by tens of thousands next week - for this "war of necessity", as he calls it - we need to be reminded that the public has been repeatedly told that if that war is a failure (and actually "winning" it has been questionable since Day One) NATO's credibility is on the line.

So, what is this really about? "Democracy promotion"? Been there - done that. Ended up with corrupted election results once again propping up Karzai and his corrupt government.

Improving human rights? Well, the Canadian government would like you to believe that that's what we're they for and they've proven that they'll lie about that - shortchanging humanitarian spending while boosting the military budget.

Defeating al Qaeda? According to General McChrystal, the architect of the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan, he does not "see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now".

And the Taliban? First of all, we need to be reminded of who they are since "the Taliban" is too often referred to as some monolithic, organized threat. We also need to admit that the Afghans blame poverty for [the] war, making corruption a very lucrative business for those with regional power aka those lumped together as "the Taliban" so we can have a conveniently-named enemy. We also need to question why it is that the US is using [extremely irresponsible and anti-Pakistani sovereignty] drone attacks in Pakistan to go after "the Taliban" there but feels it needs to put tens of thousands more boots on the ground in Afghanistan to achieve the same end. The answer surely can't be about concern for civilians being struck down in Afghanistan since scores of civilians have been wantonly killed by drones in Pakistan.

Obama stated this week that he intends to "finish the job" in Afghanistan - to "dismantle and destroy" al-Qaida terrorists and extremist allies. If that is truly his goal, he and the military will have to be there for decades no matter what his new strategy might entail.

"I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive," he said, speaking at a White House news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Recent polls show that his confidence is misplaced.

If the full expansion that U.S. military planners anticipate does happen, it would take up to two years to get all the additional U.S. forces into the landlocked country.

The United States is quietly pressing NATO and other allies to increase forces as well, with a goal of between 5,000 and 7,000 additional non-U.S. troops.
NATO countries involved in the war have been begging for years for more troops from the US in order to hang on to that NATO credibility.

In the meantime, due to the lack of proper oversight, the US doesn't even know how many contractors it has in country.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan, independent commission mandated by Congress, presented data at a hearing showing major discrepancies in different accounting methods used to determine the number of U.S. contractors.

A traditional manual count by the U.S. military's Central Command turned up nearly 74,000 U.S. Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan as of June 30 -- more than twice the number shown in another survey by the Pentagon.

"I kind of want to scream.... Why if it's so important, are we failing to do something so basic?" said Christopher Shays, a former Republican lawmaker and a co-chair of the bipartisan committee.

Gary Motsek, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense, acknowledged in testimony that U.S. efforts to create a system to better count the number of contractors in Afghanistan had so far come up short.

"We failed," Motsek said, calling for better funding and regulations to require all U.S. agencies to report figures for contractors. "You should be concerned about the gap, because we are concerned about the gap."
Yet we're supposed to trust these guys to run a war?

Let's not fool ourselves. The fact that Obama is now the US commander-in-chief does not mean that this will suddenly morph into some new and better war. There are only limited war strategies to choose from. More troops does not necessarily equal mission accomplished. That was certainly the lesson from Vietnam. And if we're supposed to be comforted by the so-called success of the "clear, hold and build" strategy employed in Iraq, we have to ask why - if that was indeed a victory - the coalition of the shilling is still at war in that country.

The only honest answer we need to hear from Obama when he addresses his nation next week is that to the question of, "Why is the military still in Afghanistan?" And any answer that includes "national security concerns" must be forcefully challenged.

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