Things aren't going so well, for U.S. and NATO forces, in Afghanistan. Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported:
Insurgents launched a brazen pre-dawn assault Wednesday against the giant U.S.-run Bagram Air Field one day after a suicide bomber struck a U.S. convoy in the capital of Kabul, killing 18 people. The Kabul dead included five American troops and a Canadian and was the deadliest attack on NATO in the Afghan capital in eight months.
The back-to-back attacks appeared part of a Taliban offensive that the insurgents announced earlier this month -- even as the U.S. and its partners prepare for a major operation to restore order in the turbulent south. The insurgent attacks against both the capital and a major American military installation show the militants are prepared to strike at the heart of the U.S.-led mission.
The last major operation against the Taliban didn't turn out so well. On April 4, the New York Times reported that the Taliban were in the process of reseizing Marja, just weeks after the large and bloody American offensive that had been intended to restore order, there. On Monday, the Times had even more bad news:
Farmers from the district of Marja, which since February has been the focus of the largest American-led military operation in Afghanistan, are fleeing the area, saying that the Taliban are terrorizing the population and that American troops cannot protect the civilians.
The departure of the farmers is one of the most telling indications that Taliban fighters have found a way to resume their insurgency, three months after thousands of troops invaded this Taliban stronghold in the opening foray of a campaign to take control of southern Afghanistan. Militants have been infiltrating back into the area and the prospect of months of more fighting is undermining public morale, residents and officials said.
Over a 150 families have fled in just the last two weeks. In late February, the Los Angeles Times reported that a third of the civilian population- some 24,000 people- already had officially become refugees. And they were the relatively lucky ones. Others had been accidentally bombed.
As that Monday New York Times article continued:
Combat operations in Marja ended at the end of February and the military declared the battle won. But much of the local Taliban, including at least four mid-level commanders, never left, stashing their rifles and adopting the quiet farm life.
A Taliban resurgence was not entirely unexpected, especially now as the poppy harvest ends, freeing men to fight, and as the weather warms up.
A battle declared won despite its not actually being so. Opium farmers now returning to the fight. The U.S. having already ended efforts to eradicate the local opium trade. The world leader in opium production having already, this year, become the world leader in cannabis production, too. On Thursday, the Times summarized:
A new fighting season has begun around Marja... Fighting is frequent again.
Things aren't going so well, for the U.S. and NATO, in Afghanistan.
On May 12, the Times reported the obvious:
Nearly a year into a new war strategy for Afghanistan, the hardest fighting is still ahead, but already it is clear that the biggest challenge lies not on the battlefield but in the governing of Afghanistan itself.
In Marja, the Americans and their local allies were having trouble establishing a local government that had local support. Which is no surprise. Because support for government is a problem, in Afghanistan. And for good reason.
The success of the far larger offensive in the coming weeks in Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, may well depend on whether Afghans can overcome their corrosive distrust of President Hamid Karzai’s government.
Corrosive distrust happens, when a guy throws his country into crisis by stealing an election, and runs a regime that is chronically corrupt. But such corrosive distrust could be a good thing, if the distrust was fully shared and acted upon by President Obama, whose continual warnings are never heeded, and whose own regional goals are treated with mockery and disdain.
We're supposed to begin to withdraw our troops, next year, but no one has explained how quickly they will be withdrawn, or if there even is a timetable for being out altogether. For that matter, no one has yet plausibly explained what we are supposed to be accomplishing. But as for that timetable for the beginning of the withdrawal, that May 12 Times article continued:
If the timetable is not daunting enough, an April report by the Pentagon to Congress found that by most measures, the country is, at best, only a little better off now than it was a year ago. Progress so far appears well off pace to meet the American goals.
Which is an understatement:
In 120 districts that the Pentagon views as critical to Afghanistan’s future stability, only a quarter of residents view the government positively. And the government has full control in fewer than a half dozen of these districts.
European Union special representative Vygaudas Usackas bluntly stated that success cannot be had by 2011. At least someone is willing to speak the truth. Because we continue to lose hearts and minds. We recently conceded defeat and left the Korengal Valley, after trying for four years to pacify it. How can we claim to be able to win a war when we are ceding regions to the supposed enemy? American troop deaths have doubled, this year. The Afghan military is proving useless, to our cause. Things aren't going so well, for U.S. and NATO forces, in Afghanistan.
The coming carnage in Kandahar is supposed to be a decisive turning point. But the Taliban have been preparing for it, for weeks. We cannot fight our way to success, in Afghanistan. There is no real government. There is no real military. Our supposed battlefield victories prove illusory. It's well past time that those who can do something about it figured it out.
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