Friday, September 4, 2009

Afganistan Is Not Worth The Price

President Obama this weekend at Camp David is studying a classified report submitted by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that some say could be a game changer by putting a larger emphasis on "protecting the Afghan people."

You can bet he will not take my advise and that of a growing number of both liberals and conservatives that the U.S. should pull its forces from that country which has booted out every invader in recorded history.

From the U.S. perspective, we are not invaders but rather protectors resisting the Taliban from governing and al quada from training terrorists. Tell that to Afghan civilians who are killed in air attacks at a frightening rate, including perhaps dozens early Friday.

From the Afghan perspective, we kill indiscriminately, burn their best source of income in poppy production, interdict their drug traffickers and support its corrupt government. Humanitarian efforts by the U.S., some NATO allies and the World Bank go unnoticed because the projects stagnate once they enter the hands of local officials and inept bureaucrats.

Friday's air attack on two hijacked diesel tankers is the latest tragedy. Depending on what report you believe, the German command ordered the attack believing no civilians were in the area of the tiny village of Omar Kheil, about 10 miles south of Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. The explosion killed about 80 people, and an undetermined number of civilians who arrived beginning about an hour earlier to collect released fuel from the tankers to lighten their loads in order to cross a muddy stream bed.

The airstrike comes three months after McChrystal tightened the rules governing the use of airstrikes in an effort to reduce the civilian deaths that he said were undermining the American-led mission by creating anger and opposition among Afghans.

This latest episode could have political ramifications in Germany where its participation is deeply unpopular and comes just three weeks before the federal election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a second term.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled Thursday he may drop his resistance for more troops to Afghanistan if it would help McChrystal's change in strategy to protect Afghan civilians which Obama is reviewing at Camp David. "It's not the size of the footprint, but the nature of the footprint" that matters, said Gates.

Gates must be reminded that any footprint would be resisted by the Afghan civilians as they have each and every time a foreign army has set foot in that forsaken country.

Gates says the call to vacate the Afghans is improper although he agrees the American people are growing weary of the growing number of casualties. He argued that President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan hasn't even been given a chance to work.

One way of looking at the Obama strategy is its focus on nation building -- programs to train the police and army for security, rebuilding roads and improving the infrastructure which is in shambles whether its irrigation, drinking water, sewage or electrical grid system.

Afghanistan remains a nation ruled by tribal factions and warlords. They will fail to improve themselves if they follow the Taliban influence which systematically allows women to bear children and bans them from all other contributions to its society.

My feeling is if they existed this long without us, so be it. They may be on to something we can't comprehend. The price in American lives and the cost to nation build is too enormous when the end game is factored in. I don't pretend I'm an expert on Afghanistan. I know nothing about the country or its people other than what I have read, and, I must confess, isn't all that much. Call it an opinion from a common Joe who sees no U.S. resolve, no public will to spend resources we can't afford.

We will never win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. And the location of the country in the Middle East never could be confused as strategic or critical to our national security. It cannot be argued it is a buffer to its neighbors in Pakistan or Iran. The only thing Afghanistan has to offer is its poppy fields. If the country is used as a training ground and safe haven for terrorists, then fly in the drones and jets from off shore carriers.

The problem I had with President Bush and now Obama is allowing the generals on the ground to influence policy decisions. Generals rarely tell their commander-in-chief they can't carry out a mission.

Of course, McChrystal has a plan. Whether it works is not the point. It is just not worth the effort.

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