Sunday, January 22, 2012

Afghanistan, Where Empires Blunder Onto Rocks That Sink Them

At one point, soldiers in 3rd Platoon talked about throwing candy out of a Stryker vehicle as they drove through a village and shooting the children who came running to pick up the sweets. (Source: RAWA; Photo: Rolling Stone)
Those in the know about Afghanistan have been saying for at least the past year that it's not a matter of if NATO's imperial project will fail, it's a matter of when it will.

Like a luxury cruise liner puffed with pride at its own awesomeness, the war to control the eastern flank of Iran has blundered onto rocks that have torn a hole in its hull; it is a matter of time before the ship rolls on its side, spilling any number of additional poor souls into treacherous waters. The captain may stall for time, clinging to denial, but his boasting is no match for actual defeat, and shipwrecks have little use for hubris. In the end he will be lucky if he trips and falls into a lifeboat -- much luckier than he deserves.
Source: AP/Pier Paolo Cito

I survey the dark clouds of bad news with the hope of a silver lining: that necessity will force a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2012, including mercenaries and, especially, robots.

Pakistan, too, has suffered terribly from air strikes on civilians as well as its own military personnel as the joystick warriors of Barack Obama continue to pummel the world from the safety of desk chairs. From an Associated Press report than ran in the Guardian "Costs soar for new war supply routes":
The U.S. is paying six times as much to send war supplies to troops in Afghanistan through alternate routes after Pakistan's punitive decision in November to close border crossings to NATO convoys, the Associated Press has learned.

Islamabad shut down two key Pakistan border crossings after a U.S. airstrike killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in late November, and it is unclear when the crossings might reopen.

Pentagon figures provided to the AP show it is now costing about $104 million per month to send the supplies through a longer northern route. That is $87 million more per month than when the cargo moved through Pakistan.
Here's an old map of the plans in place three years ago for just such a contingency.
Source: Youth Atlantic Treaty Organization blog post from Dec, 2008
In the fall my husband ran the most current numbers he could find for total cost of the war in Afghanistan, and at that time it was a bit over $200,000 a minute. If the factor of six were applied (remembering that factor only relates to transport) we'd be at well over $1 million a minute. Dare we hope that spending $1 million a minute on a foreign war might be a threshold that the U.S. taxpayer will refuse to cross? Because every time a drone crashes (and they often do) it costs at least $2 million.

There is no shortage of bad news of conventional warfare, either, whether insurgents taking credit for shooting down a helicopter full of Marines, or for assassinating a local official during prayer allegedly because he spoke out against the Taliban. After a decade, stories of soldiers (and collaborators) dying have become routine. If you know where to look.
Source link.
But other, more ominous, cracks are rapidly appearing in the hull of imperial hubris. After a man in an Afghan army uniform killed several French soldiers, France suspended its operations and appeared to be contemplating urgent withdrawal from the failed Afghanistan project. Taliban leaders issued a statement taking credit for recruiting the gunman.

Meanwhile a classified report on attitudes among troops on both sides turned up in the New York Times even before the bad taste left by the video of Marines pissing on dead Taliban fighters had subsided. From "Afghanistan's Soldiers Step Up Killings of Allied Forces":
...deep-seated animosity between the supposedly allied forces, according to American and Afghan officers... the contempt each side holds for the other, never mind the Taliban. The ill will and mistrust run deep among civilians and militaries on both sides...
[quote from the internal report] “Lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history),”
In a nutshell, U.S. forces see the Afghans as unreliable, while Afghans see the U.S. forces as childish  bullies. You can see some of our military personnel here bragging on Facebook.

Night raids have been a bone of contention for years, traumatizing the families whose homes are invaded as well as the soldiers who kick down the doors and then must lived with the knowledge of having terrorized women and children. I was going to add elderly but, with a life expectancy of 44 years, I'm not sure how many Afghan families have old family members after thirty years of continuous war. I did read that polio cases have risen dramatically since war has disrupted what had been a successful vaccination campaign.
Source: CNN report that Taliban emailed saying polio vaccinations will be supported.
How much longer should the people of Afghanistan be made to suffer? Could there be a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel? From the AP story on supply lines referenced above:
There may be, however, some movement by Pakistan to allow certain civilian Afghan supplies through the closed routes. Dependent on Pakistan for its imports, landlocked Afghanistan has asked authorities in Pakistan to release hundreds of vehicles stacked with goods and fuel that are being held up along with NATO supplies. Pakistani officials say they are sorting through the thousands of stranded vehicles to push through supplies for Afghans.
Damn public opinion, full speed ahead, says the Pentagon. I hope they run out of $$ soon, says the 99%.


chrisrushlau said...

Speaking (if we are) of the anthropology of empire, here's a bit from Uri Avnery today:
When the Jews from Muslim countries started to arrive en masse in Israel, they were steeped in Arab culture. But here they were received by a society that held everything Arab in total contempt. Their Arab culture was “primitive”, while real culture was European. Furthermore, they were identified with the murderous Muslims. So the immigrants were required to shed their own culture and traditions, their accent, their memories, their music. In order to show how thoroughly Israeli they had become, they also had to hate Arabs.

It is, of course, a world-wide phenomenon that in multi-national countries, the most downtrodden class of the dominant nation is also the most radical nationalist foe of the minority nations. Belonging to the superior nation is often the only source of pride left to them. The result is frequently virulent racism and xenophobia. (end of excerpt)
You have to wonder about his "of course".

Stone in India said...

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Stones in Rajasthan