Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Forgotten War in Afghanistan

The unfinished war in Afghanistan continues. The name of Osama bin Laden is sometimes trotted out by the Bush Administration for political purposes but the hunt for him has largely languished. If he's across the border in Pakistan, and that seems likely, there is little interest in the Pakistani government in pursuing him. The perpetrator of 9/11 remains at large. In a twist of fate, though he had nothing to do with 9/11, Saddam Hussein will be executed within 30 days for other crimes, and the civil war and insurgency in Iraq will continue, if not worsen. But Iraq is the strange war we did not need. In a real sense, the death of more than 600,000 Iraqis and more than 3,000 American soldiers and contractors is a steep price to pay for the execution of Saddam Hussein.

But I was talking about Afghanistan. You don't hear much about Afghanistan on the nightly news. It is the forgotten war. Here's a story by Nick Allen in the Daily India, of all places:
As winter grips Afghanistan's mountainous border with Pakistan, US troops and Taliban and other insurgents are winding down after a year of fierce but inconclusive fighting in a barren swathe of Central Asia where everything has still to be won.

The first December snow brought a lull in the constant skirmishes, roadside bomb and suicide attacks and rocket strikes against the Bermel base by the border with Pakistan, where soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division will ship out next month after a gruelling 12-month tour.

(snip)

While Pakistan's leadership stresses its commitment to the war on terror, US officers feel not enough is being done there to suppress the Taliban, and claim the insurgents sometimes even receive help from Pakistani units along the porous 2,500 km border.

'We don't really trust the Pakistani military too much,' said Captain Jason Dye, the commander at Bermel.

Frustration is evident in the ranks.

In early late 2001, Afghanistan was clearly a winnable war. Most Afghans seemed tired of the Taliban, or at least tired of twenty years of war, a period that began with the invasion by the Soviet Union in its last throes of power. When the Americans first arrived, things looked promising. But the war continues largely due to neglect by the Bush Administration as their interest turned to an unneeded war in Iraq. I have sympathy for the Afghans and for Americans halfway around the world.

David Ignatius of The Washington Post has written an article about Bush that seems designed to evoke sympathy for the president. Given how much of our policies in the last six years have been steeped in arrogance and deception, I find it hard to feel that sympathy. The sympathy that Ignatius seems to feel should be directed elsewhere.

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