|Top Ten Ways the US is Turning Afghanistan into Iraq
1. Exaggerating the threat. An Afghan army foot patrol was attacked by
guerrillas in Helmand Province on Wednesday, according to AP. US and
Afghan soldiers responded, engaging in a firefight. Then the US
military called in an air strike on the Taliban, killing 20 of them.
On Tuesday, a similar airstrike had taken out 30 guerrillas.
It is this sort of thing that makes me wonder why the Taliban (or
whoever these guys in Helmand were) are considered such a big threat
that the full might of NATO is needed to deal with them. They have no
air force, no artillery, no tanks. They are just small bands,
apparently operating in platoons, who, whenever they mass in large
enough numbers to stand and fight, can just be turned into red mist
from the air.
2. The US has actually only managed to install a fundamentalist
government in Afghanistan, which is rolling back rights of women and
prosecuting blasphemy cases. In a play for the Shiite vote (22% or so
of the population), President Hamid Karzai put through civilly
legislated Shiite personal status law, which affects Shiite women in
that country. The wife will need the husband's permission to go out of
the house, and can't refuse a demand for sex. (Since the 1990s there
has been a movement in 50 or more countries to abandon the idea that
spouses cannot rape one another, though admittedly this idea is new
and was rejected in US law until recently).
No one seems to have noted that the Shiite regime in Baghdad is more
or less doing the same thing. In Iraq, the US switched out the secular
Baath Party for Shiite fundamentalist parties. Everyone keeps saying
the US improved the status of women in both countries. Actually, in
Iraq the US invasion set women back about 30 years. In Afghanistan,
the socialist government of the 1980s, for all its brutality in other
spheres, did implement policies substantially improving women's
rights, including aiming at universal education, making a place for
them in the professions, and so forth. There were socialist Afghan
women soldiers fighting the Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas that
Reagan called "freedom fighters" and to whom he gave billions to turn
the country into a conservative theocracy. I can never get American
audiences to concede that Afghan women had it way better in the 1980s,
and that it has been downhill ever since, mainly because of US
favoritism toward patriarchal and anti-progressive forces.
3. The US is building a mass of hardened bases costing over $1 bn. in
Afghanistan. That's about the annual budget of the Afghanistan
4. It begins. The US is creating local militias in Wardak called the
Afghan Public Protection Force. You wonder how long it will be before
the Karzai government is engaged in firefights with them (cf. Fadl in
Baghdad earlier this week).
5. Now thousands of private security contractors (i.e. mercenaries)
will be hired in Afghanistan. But they won't be Americans for the most
part. Children, can you say "Hessians"?
I don't understand the concept of paying someone $200,000 a year to
guard armed GIs being paid a fraction of that. Wouldn't it be better
to expand the size of the army if you need more troops? Wouldn't it be
more efficient to have one line of command? Aren't these essentially
6. The secretary of defense is predicting that the US military will be
in Afghanistan indefinitely and will only achieve limited goals there.
I ask myself, "why?"
7. An attempt by officials in the Obama administration to replace
Guantanamo with Bagram in Afghanistan has been shot down by a Federal
judge. The government actually argued that the three men (2 Yemenis
and a Tunisian) did not have habaeus corpus rights because they are in
a war zone.
Why are they in a war zone? Because the US government transported them there!
8. The president is corralling a coalition of the reluctant for troop
contributions in Afghanistan.
9. While militaries spend tens of billions on fighting disgruntled
Pashtun tribesmen, a fifth of pregnant women or women with newborns
are malnourished in Afghanistan. In Iraq, as well, public health
crises took a back seat while hundreds of billions were spent on
weapons and warfare.
10. A new Friedman unit. It was always the "next six months" that
would be "crucial" for Iraq. It is now "this year" that is crucial for
Afghanistan. By the math of Friedman units, does this mean the
Afghanistan occupation will last twice as long as the Iraq one?
Posted By Juan Cole to Informed Comment