October 24, 2003

Bush's Afghanistan predicament

Three more US GIs have died in Iraq. For what? Here's
some news I doubt you will hear tonight or tomorrow
night on NotBeSeen or Faux News. Post-9/11, the US,
with the good will of its true allies in the West, had
an historic opportunity to crush al-Qaeda and also
right one of modern histiry's wrongs in Afghanistan,
but -- because of the small-mindedness,
mean-spiritedness and hubris of the _resident and
because of the looney-tune fantasy life of the ne-con
wet dreamers -- this corrupt, illegitimate and
incompetent regime frittered away the opportunities to
what was right and needed, squandered the good will of
our true allies, AND INSTEAD placed us on a slippery
slope to a world war with a foolish military adventure
in Iraq. MEANWHILE...


Bush's Afghanistan predicament
Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange

10.24.03 -

After nearly two years of upbeat progress reports by
President Bush, thanks to Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld's recently disclosed memo, we now know -- to
put it in Rumsfeld-speak -- we know what we knew: The
global war on terrorism is not going as well as the
administration would have us believe. Case in point:

While most Americans paid little attention to anything
other Arnold Schwarzenegger's impressive victory in
the California gubernatorial recall election on
Tuesday, October 7, a bunch of guys who have proudly
rejected most things Western and modern were at the
tail end of the mother of all shopping sprees. On the
second anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan,
London's Telegraph reported that more than 2,500
Taliban have been gathering in the Baluchistan
province of Pakistan in preparation for what appears
to be a major attack on Afghanistan. Along with
purchasing more than 1,000 mostly Honda motorcycles --
apparently the vehicle of choice for attacking Taliban
-- they have also bought hundreds of satellite
telephones from the Arab Gulf states, "because those
bought in Pakistan are closely monitored by America's
Central Intelligence Agency." The Taliban, it is being
reported, have been stashing significant amounts of
arms and ammunition inside Afghanistan.

Taliban shoppers have also bought up hotels, houses
and shops, and after evening prayers they are seen
gathering to "take tea, eat ice-cream and plan their
raids." The Telegraph report claimed that the Taliban
have "virtually taken over several suburbs of Quetta,
the capital of Baluchistan, and are being supported by
Pakistani religious parties, the drug trade and
Al-Qaeda." The drug trade has been especially
profitable, raising as much money for the Taliban as
the country has received in reconstruction aid.

Two years & counting

Being a few weeks past the second anniversary of the
U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, it's worth checking in on
the country the U.S. rescued from the Taliban and

That was then: Thousands of civilians were killed by
U.S. bombs.

This is now: Civilians, many of them children,
continue being killed and severely injured by
previously unexploded ordinance, US bombs going
astray, and thousands of buried landmines.

That was then: The Taliban was driven from power and
Mullah Omar disappeared into the sunset. Al-Qaeda
operatives were dispatched to ____, and Osama bin
Laden was forced to flee to _____ -- you fill in the

This is now: According to the New York Times, the Bush
administration's special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay
Khalilzad -- who is awaiting Congressional hearings on
his appointment to be the next ambassador to
Afghanistan -- is warning "that the Taliban movement
and its Al-Qaeda partners in the region may be
planning larger or 'more spectacular attacks' in
Afghanistan as part of a campaign against the
reconstruction process."

That was then: The people of Kabul were free to listen
to the music of their choice and dance in the streets
if they wanted to. Hamid Karzai was installed as
President, and elections were going to be held.

This is now: The Karzai government is pretty much
limited to the Kabul city limits and he is guarded by
a contingent of 50 U.S. soldiers, according to
University of New Hampshire Prof. Marc Herold. The
rest of the country is divided among longtime warlords
with their own well-armed militias. U.N.-organized
elections could be endangered by the lack of security.

That was then: Reconstruction aid was promised.

This is now: Little aid was delivered and not long
ago, a United Nations official said that as much as
one-third of the country was "off limits to U.N.
reconstruction, aid and political personnel." The Bush
Administration's currently pending $87 billion aid
package for Iraq includes some $2 billion for

That was then: The drug trade had been diminished.

This is now: The opium trade is flourishing and,
according to Reuters, spreading into new regions of
the country. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director
of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,
pointed out that Afghanistan has retained its spot as
the number one opium producer in the world.

That was then: President Bush promised to finish the
job in Afghanistan. Six months after October 7, 2001,
the president said: "We will stay until the mission is
done. We know that true peace will only be achieved
when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve
their own aspirations. Peace will be achieved by
helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government.
Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan train
and develop its own national army. And peace will be
achieved through an education system for boys and
girls that works."

This is now: President Bush is promising to finish the
job in Afghanistan.

Where has the media gone?

Although more or less out of sight -- especially on
the 24/7 cable news networks -- news from Afghanistan
hasn't totally disappeared from mainstream media
outlets. Periodically there's a report chronicling
another colorful-sounding U.S. "Operation" intended to
strike a crippling blow at the Taliban and remnants of
Al-Qaeda that are left in country. There are also
occasional stories about a significant Taliban leader
killed in action or a major Al-Qaeda figure captured
by U.S. forces.

But these reports often lack context. Larry Goodson,
author of a 2001 book about Afghanistan and professor
of Middle East studies at the Army War College in
Carlisle, Pa., recently told the Associated Press that
"Afghanistan has flipped off the radar screen to some

How will the Pentagon respond to these new threats
from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? Will the administration
be forced to request more troops for the region?
Thomas Gouttierre, the dean of international studies
at the University of Nebraska who sees some progress
being made in Afghanistan, says that the 9-12,000 U.S.
troops and 5,500 NATO peacekeepers are not nearly
enough to do the job. "They need at least five times
that number of troops to provide the kind of security
that will reduce the dependency of the Afghans on
regional warlords and drug lords," Gouttierre told AP.

Is the $2 billion earmarked for Afghanistan enough to
even begin the reconstruction process? And does it
matter how much money is promised if the country
remains in the hands of thugs and outlaws? Will the
U.S. continue to cast its lot with President Karzai?
Can the warlords be brought under control? Has the
administration misunderstood the terrorist threat?

President Bush is fond of citing the number of Al
Qaeda leaders killed or captured as his way of
trumpeting the success of his war on terrorism, as if
the success or failure of this kind of all-out
never-ending war turns on the capture or deaths of one
or two or ten major figures. As British journalist
Jason Burke, the author of "Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow
of Terror" pointed out in a recent interview with
Buzzflash.com: "Al-Qaeda is commonly perceived to be a
tight-knight terrorist organization led by bin Laden.
Something that comes close to that description existed
in Afghanistan between around 1997 and 2001. That
entity no longer exists. What we have now is something
far more diverse -- a whole series of groups, cells,
and even individuals who are dissimilar in many ways,
but are united by certain fundamental ideological
ideas, and a particular way of viewing the world."

Whether it's frozen off the front page or whether the
cable news networks have moved on, there is no denying
that the news coming from Afghanistan is grim. "Since
August Taliban attacks have killed almost 400 Afghan
soldiers, aid workers and civilians," and four US
soldiers have also been killed, the Telegraph

And, even if we doubt the efficacy of remarks from a
Taliban mullah in a Pushtunabad bazaar, who told the
Telegraph that "We have the American forces and the
puppet regime of [President Hamid] Karzai on the run,
[and] [t]hey will collapse soon," a recent Reuters
report pointing out that Taliban commanders "secretly
met" with Mullah Mohammad Omar, "and vowed to step up
attacks on Afghan government and U.S.-led allied
troops," is proof that more destabilization is on the

Secretary Rumsfeld's October 16 memo predicted that
the U.S. would win the global war on terrorism but it
would be "a long, hard slog." Rumsfeld writes: "With
respect to global terrorism, the record since
September 11th seems to be: We are having mixed
results with Al Qaida, although we have put
considerable pressure on them -- nonetheless, a great
many remain at large... .USG has made somewhat slower
progress tracking down the Taliban -- Omar, Hekmatyar,

October 7, 2003 was an anniversary the Bush
Administration and much of the media allowed pass
under the radar. And while most Americans aren't
paying much attention to events tearing Afghanistan
apart, the boys in Baluchistan are dropping cash like
William Bennett in Vegas, and getting ready to launch
another round of bloody attacks on U.S. and
Afghanistan troops. It's time for Americans to hold
the Bush Administration accountable for its failed
policy in Afghanistan. That can only be done if a
disinterested media is forced to pay attention to
Bush's Afghanistan predicament.

(c) 2003 Working Assets Online. All rights reserved

Posted by richard at October 24, 2003 11:13 PM