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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"No news is good news" or so the old folk saying goes. Unfortunately the adage is not the way things always turn out. The depressing news coming from Afghanistan reports daily rioting and more American killed. Grannie Annie is getting concerned because she hasn't heard from "her" Chaplain's Assistant stationed there in the armpit of the world. She is still sending at least one box to "her" unit each week but there has been no return mail. Faithfully she checks the Internet on her iPad first thing each day -- no news.

Chaplain's assistants have a duty in addition to keeping their unarmed Chaplain safe. The assistant also functions in a mortuary role picking up the remains of dead soldiers and starting those remains on their final journey home. From the lack of communication I fear there may have been casualties in their unit.

Afghanistan. It is hard to wrap one's mind around our involvement in the affairs of that distant land-locked primitive country. Difficult to get to, it has no seaport. Transportation to support our forces on the ground requires either delivery by air, expensive, or ground transportation through less than friendly neighboring countries, hazardous at best.

After the terrorist attack on the United States on 9-11-2001 we, the American public, clamored for revenge. The Bush administration answered the call with overwhelming military action against bin Laden's Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, who had sent the terrorists to attack us. The military campaign included decimating the Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, who had taken over the government of Afghanistan. bin Laden and his lackeys escaped to a safe haven in Pakistan and the Taliban, those who weren't killed, found relative safety in the largely ungoverned North Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan.

The war was essentially over and it was time for our military to come home. Enter the U.S. State Department with the good intentioned goal of converting Afghanistan "graveyard of empires" into a democracy friendly to America. Huge amounts of our tax money was and continues to be showered into the country to build schools and roads.

Infrastructure that this primitive country had never cared to build on their own. Additionally huge sums were spent on training and equipping a civil police force and a military to sustain their government when we decide to leave.

In 2004, Hamid Karzai was elected president and was accepted as legitimate by wide swaths of Afghans and in the eyes of the world.

Today, under our watch, the Karzai government is corrupt and dysfunctional. It is seen as illegitimate by most Afghanis and a complete money-pit to international donors. More like a ruling mafia than a "government," it is rife with bribery, nepotism, disregard for the rule of law and their own constitution. The ruling elite are getting rich off international aid while regular Afghans scarcely see their lives improve.

Amid all this good intentioned nation building, the Taliban have infiltrated back into Afghanistan. For the moment the Taliban, which the vast majority of the Afghanis hated but had to tolerate before the U.S. Military routed them out of the country, have mitigated their negatives, brutality, ethnic exclusion and open association with al Qaeda. The new Taliban show a more benign face, at least for now, by demonstrating swift justice, longevity and ideological cohesion. They have regained and are maintaining a psychological grip on the Afghan population. The looming reality is that the Taliban will outlast the U.S. forces and eventually challenge a weak, corrupt and fractured Afghan government for control of the country.

There is no doubt in my mind that the current riots and killing of Americans over the alleged burning of their sacred Korans are the work of the Taliban. Our President's whining apology only made matters worse by appearing weak. He should have made a statement explaining how burning was proper disposal for Korans that had been already defaced by Muslims in prison sending covert messages. He should have told them to knock it off and that killing Americans would have severe repercussions. President Karzai has demanded that the Americans responsible be charged and tried in an Afghan court -- like that is going to happen.

He had no word of apology for the slain Americans since the incident was made public.

Today the Afghanistan government is almost completely reliant on international aid money to function. They have almost no tax base, save for import taxes and untaxed opium, 97 percent of their GDP is linked to foreign aid. We pay for their government and military. This year we will spend $13 billion on training and equipping the Afghan Army while the Afghan government will take in less that $2 billion in revenue.

It is a Hobson's choice, we either cut spending and reduce the size of their army or we continue to pay for it. If we cut the Afghan Army would eventually capitulate to the Taliban. The other choice is to continue to pump billions into their army and downsize our own which is even worse in my opinion.

Now our State Department is getting ready to openly negotiate with the Taliban. Vice President Biden recently said, "The Taliban is not our enemy." I couldn't disagree more. Any group openly fighting and killing our soldiers is our enemy! They will probably tell us during negotiations that they will swear off association with Al Qaeda, but just like Iranian denial of nuclear weapons we should not believe them. There is no chance that a radical and violent Islamic group taking control of Afghanistan can be a good outcome.

Yet we have an electioneering President that declared we will exit Afghanistan in 2014 no matter what happens. In my opinion we have created a monster that will become another radical Islamic State as soon as we leave. The current riots, sponsored by the Taliban, may well precipitate our even more hasty departure and a more rapid descent into chaos for those poor people.

Do not forget that we have young soldiers, dirty, tired, sweaty and hungry on patrol somewhere in no-man's land Afghanistan. They are fighting even at this moment. We must always remember them in our prayers. They are the linchpin of this effort, and the ones who bear the brunt of all the policies we execute. Remember too my compatriots, those Air Force personnel striving to train the Afghan Air Force pilots into a viable force.

Unfortunately several of those very pilots have turned on their trainers (our guys) and killed at least 16 of them in cold blood.

Parts of the above I have taken from Minnesota National Guardsman Capt. Pete Hegseth's email posts while serving at Camp Julien, Kabul, Afghanistan. Pete recently returned home and is running for the U.S. Senate. Still nothing heard from Ann's soldier out there at the tip of the spear.

That is how I saw it.

__ Dick Trail

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It seems, we are doing none better, in Afghanistan than did Russia. You say well, above about who we are trying to help, except one thing, I believe. Very few Afghani know how to read, or write, and from what I hear from some of our troops, training them in high-tech, is impossible, yet they are ordered to do so.

I never thought I would say this sort of thing, regarding a job started, but, we need shut down, and get our people out of there. How we need supply our people, and who the students are, coupled with the corruption of leadership (for lack of a better term), is a solid three strikes, and you're out situation, IMO.

Thanks for bringing up the subject. You are more diplomatic than I, I believe. Ha.

-- Posted by Navyblue on Tue, Mar 6, 2012, at 4:28 PM

While your article explains most of the story of the US involvement in Afghanistan and I am in agreement of getting out of there,I feel you left out a few points.

1. The US and allies were kicking tail during the first few months and had Bin-Laden on the run, just when it looked like he was cornered, it was decided to let Afghani's go after him in Tora Bora.

Big mistake number 1.

2. Big mistake number 2, when George II decided to take on Iraq and not finish the job in Afghanistan! Now we are still engaged in an almost impossible situation that most feel is not a winnable war. Now after over 10 years and thousands of dead and injured, and millions of dollars wasted, the US and it's allies have figured out what the Soviets learned years ago.

And just a side note on that deal, have we received any of that Iraqi oil revenues that was supposed to pay for the Iraqi war? Perhaps just another Cheney lie? Perhaps our elected in Washington need to be looking at that source of revenue?

By the way, I know you are writing for a family newspaper, but my old DI used to use a term, for "unpleasant" places such as Afghanistan, and it wasn't armpit.

-- Posted by goarmy67 on Wed, Mar 7, 2012, at 5:08 PM

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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It