Thursday, February 05, 2009

Obama Needs to Rethink Military Solution for Afghanistan

UPDATE: 11:50 AM Feb. 5, 2009

It is up to Obama to redefine the so called War on Terror.If he accepts the War on Terror Mindset how can he possibly consider reviewing the way this conflict has been fought since 9/11.

Will Afghanistan be Obama's Vietnam Quagmire. Obama claimed he would treat all parties in the disputes with respect yet the first thing he did was to bomb inside Pakistan showing disrespect for Pakistan. He has also insisted on increasing American and Nato military presence in Afghanistan by doubling the number of troops. So we are back to continuing America's War on Terror and defending or even increasing the American Empire. Has Obama drank the same old kool-aid that Bush Regime did. He seems to be more concerned with America's power and interests than with finding a diplomatic solution. So Obama has proven so far that he will take advice from the most hawkish individuals in the Democratic party and at the Pentagon. We were led to believe that Obama would bring some sanity to foreign relations but he appears unable to think beyond bombing the shit out of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

President Obama's Military solution in Afghanistan is no solution. The more troops the Americans send in the worse the situation will become. The situation is much more complex than Obama or the hawks who are advising him claim it to be. If Obama sends more troops they will be seen as a foreign army invading and occupying their country. The resistance will only escalate . For an in depth discussion watch Bill Moyers Journal Jan . 30, 2009. Here's an excerpt from the transcript below:

See: : Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan? Bill Moyers Journal Jan. 30, 2009

Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young, author of the forthcoming BOMBING CIVILIANS: A TWENTIETH CENTURY HISTORY and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planes and helped found the military reform movement.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

Very often in the White House, the most momentous decisions are, at the time, the least dramatic, the least discussed. And they don't make news, or history, until much later, when their consequences bubble to the surface downstream. There are observers who think that could prove to be the case with a decision made within hours of Barack Obama's swearing in last week.

It started as a few lines in wire reports - a bit of buzz on the web - then a story here and there in the weekend papers. Unmanned American drones like this one, called Predators, honing in on villages in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan, striking like silent intruders in the night, against suspected terrorists.

Early accounts of casualties varied from a dozen to more than 20 dead and wounded. One Pakistani security official told THE WASHINGTON POST that perhaps ten insurgents had been killed, maybe even a high value target, a senior member of al Qaeda or the Taliban. Then the TIMES of London quoted locals who said "... three children lost their lives" when the missiles destroyed several homes.

Since last August, 38 suspected U.S. missile strikes have killed at least 132 people in Pakistan, where allegedly we are not at war.

In next door Afghanistan, the number is much higher. For seven years American and NATO forces have been chasing Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban, not only with Predator drones, but with guided missiles and bomber raids as well. According to the United Nations and the organization Human Rights Watch, aerial bombing has killed or wounded more than a thousand civilians, what the Pentagon calls, "collateral damage."

The death of civilians has brought sharp criticism, including from some of our NATO allies and the president of Afghanistan. They believe the bombing is turning people in both Afghanistan and Pakistan against the West, actually undermining an effective campaign against terrorists.

The bombing of civilians from the sky is an old and questionable practice, argued over since the moment the military began to fly. It was deliberate strategy in World Wars I and II. American presidents approved it in Korea and extensively in Vietnam, again in the first Gulf War, then in Bosnia and Kosovo, and six years ago during the campaign of "shock and awe" over Iraq.

But what lifted those reports last weekend out of the routine is the simple fact that for the first time the air strikes occurred on President Obama's watch. As he said during his campaign, and as Secretary of Defense Gates reaffirmed this week, Obama is escalating America's military presence in Afghanistan. He may increase it to as many as 60,000 troops this year.

When I read the first story about the Predator strikes last weekend, I thought back to 1964, and another president.

LYNDON JOHNSON: My fellow Americans...

BILL MOYERS: After an encounter in the Gulf of Tonkin between American destroyers and North Vietnamese torpedo boats, President Lyndon Johnson ordered bombing raids over North Vietnam.

LYNDON JOHNSON: Air action is now in execution...

BILL MOYERS: LBJ said we want no wider war, but wider war is what we got, eleven years of it.

Now military analysts and historians, including my two guests are wondering aloud - could Afghanistan become "Obama's war," a quagmire that threatens to define his presidency, as Vietnam defined LBJ's?

...BILL MOYERS: Marilyn, what did you think last weekend when four days into the Obama administration we read those reports of the strikes in Pakistan?

MARILYN YOUNG: My heart sank. It absolutely sank. It had been very high. I had been, like I think the rest of the country, feeling immensely encouraged and inspired by this new administration and by the energy and vigor with which he began. And then comes this piece of old stuff on approach to a complicated question that in comes in the form of a bomb and a bomb in the most dangerous of all places. And, yeah, my heart sank, literally.

BILL MOYERS: Our military, Pierre, says it's sure that it's striking militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And that they're not targeting civilians. Can they be sure? From your experience, can they be sure?

PIERRE SPREY: I'm sure that their purpose is to strike militants. I have no doubt of that whatsoever. But with the weapons they use and with the extremely flawed intelligence they have.

PIERRE SPREY: I'd be astonished if one in five people they kill or wound is in fact, a militant.

...and :

Pierre Sprey : “What happens on the ground is for every one of those impacts you get five or ten times as many recruits for the Taliban as you've eliminated. The people that we’re trying to convince to become adherents to our cause have become rigidly hostile to our cause in part because of bombing and in part because of other killing of civilians from ground forces. We’re dealing with a society that’s based on honor... They have to resist being invaded, occupied, bombed and killed. It’s a matter of honor, and they’re willing to die in unbelievable numbers to do that.”

Marilyn Young: “The problem is [that] the focus remains a military solution to what all the other information I have says is a political problem. I don’t care how you slice the military tactic. So long as your notion is that you can actually deal with this in a military way, you’re just going to march deeper and deeper into what Pete Seeger called ‘The Big Muddy”... The point is, if you can’t figure out a political way to deal in Afghanistan then you can only compound the compound mess.”

Rethink Military Escalation in Afghanistan-Feb. 4, 2009

We must end the Bush war in Afghanistan. Do not let the dreams of the Obama administration get destroyed in the hills of Afghanistan. Insist on hearings, now.

Taliban warns Obama of Afghan bloodshed - 1 Feb 09

also see:

" Pakistan: 10 trucks torched along US supply line " By RIAZ KHAN –Feb. 4, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Assailants torched 10 trucks stranded in Pakistan by the bombing of a key bridge on the main supply route for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.

Increasing attacks on transport depots and truck convoys heading to bases across the border have raised doubts about Pakistan's ability to protect the vital road as the U.S. prepares to send as many as 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year.

also see:

" Helping Afghan Women and Girls " by Katrina Vanden Heuval The Nation Feb. 2, 2009

...So, we need a different kind of troop deployment in Afghanistan, we need a massive deployment of humanitarian troops. We need to invest in Afghanistan's economic infrastructure, in its agriculture. These are villages where people are literally not able to piece together anything that comes close to a subsistence living. Afghanistan is a country in which the maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world after Sierra Leone. Why are we not sending in teams of doctors and midwives to train local women? We're not talking about a German Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. Instead, we're talking about - without a very clearly defined "enemy" - sending in 30,000 troops to look for this shadowy enemy and we're not even clear about what that enemy represents. Afghanistan has a very long and very proud history of having thrown out every foreign invader that was ever unfortunate enough to try to subdue them. Yet every political leader suffers from this historical amnesia, and seems to lack the willingness to look at the core structures within Afghanistan society. Afghanistan is a very non-centralized nation of very unique and independent small groups and clans that have never had a formally centralized government.

Returning to this argument that sending in troops is being done because, "we have to save the women," is exactly what George Bush cynically did in his use of that as a kind of justification. I think the Obama Administration has to be very, very careful not to fall into this trap. Yes, there is an incredible need to make a difference in Afghanistan, but more military presence is not the solution. More presence, yes. More dialogue, yes. More engagement with both Pakistan and Afghan leaders and different factions, yes. More genuine investment in the long-term economic growth and development in Afghanistan, absolutely. But none of that is what is being promised. What is being promised is 30,000 US troops and the accompanying support systems, including the Halliburton companies that will supply, feed and look after them.

This then creates another effect which is very important to remember. You then have a group of people, who are foreigners, who do not speak or understand your language or your culture, who are allegedly there fighting the bad guys, who are members of your own people. These "outsiders" feel like occupiers - they live in relative comfort with access to food -all the trappings of what looks like a luxurious life. When the vast majority of that population is living on less than $1 a day. This creates a huge amount of resentment. You walk around any of these American camps in Iraq or Afghanistan - huge areas of land which are cordoned off - and there are SUVs and guys full of body armor and machine guns. Inside it's like a little America with the PX, hamburgers, and TV for the troops to watch whatever they want. Meanwhile, outside, Afghan children on the street are still playing with cluster bombs that were dropped by the American army in 2001 - they risk being blown up, and losing their sight, their limbs, their fingers.

also see:

" More Troops, More Worries, Less Consensus on Afghanistan " by Jim Lobe Inter Press Service Feb. 2009

Even as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to deploy more military forces to Afghanistan - what he has called "the central front" in former President George W. Bush's "global war on terror" - a consensus on overall U.S. strategy there remains elusive.

Even Washington's precise war aims in Afghanistan more than seven years after U.S.-backed forces chased the Taliban out of the country appear subject to continuing debate, as, in the face of what virtually all analysts and officials concede is a deteriorating situation, the Pentagon is actively downgrading the Bush administration's hopes of ushering in a thriving democracy to something far less ambitious.

... fears that Afghanistan could become a "new Vietnam", a deadly quagmire in which already overstretched U.S. forces could become bogged down in an unwinnable war, have gained sudden new currency in the mass media.

And there are those experts who believe it would be better to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan:

...In a new report released Tuesday by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gilles Dorronsoro, a French expert on South Asia, argued that adding troops would actually be counter-productive because the mere presence of foreign soldiers in Pashtun areas has fueled the Taliban's resurgence and that the best way to weaken it is to reduce military confrontations. In that respect, "the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops."

Indeed, Dorronsoro argues, as do other critics, that most effective way to ensure that Afghan territory is not used as a base to attack the U.S. is to "de-link" the Taliban from al Qaeda, "which is based mostly in Pakistan."

"We will be in a much better position to fight al Qaeda if we don't have to fight the Afghans," he said. "We have to stop fighting the Taliban because it is the wrong enemy."

and :

U.S. supply routes to Afghanistan suffer two huge blows by Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers, Feb. 3, 2009

MOSCOW — The U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban suffered two logistical blows Tuesday as the president of Kyrgyzstan announced that he'd shut a U.S. airbase in his country and insurgents in Pakistan blew up a bridge, disrupting the main U.S. supply route into Afghanistan.

and :

" UN chief urges end to Afghan deaths " Media With Conscience Feb. 4, 2009

and so it goes,

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