Thursday, December 16, 2010

Full Circle in Afghanistan

Today the unwitting heir of Bush's Afghan adventure releases his long-awaited assessment of the war over there. There will be sufficient commentary and dissection by people who know something about this, that more virtual ink from my peepings can add little. But I do have to flag an irony of the forest which the better informed may miss for all their insights on the trees. Despite all the different rationalized objectives that have piled up since the invasion nine years ago, the espoused single-most purpose in romping into Taliban country was to root out the Al-Qaeda militants from their training bases, the locales where the World Trade Centre's demise was planned. The add-on purposes that we in Canada and the USA know hear widely touted - establishing un-corrupt democratic governments, liberating women, (re)building the infrastructure of a nation so long at war etc. - were entirely subsidiary to and derivative of getting rid of terrorist incubators.

The seemingly deliberate ignorance of the history of longer term foreign intervention in Afghanistan is stunning as is incomprehension of basic precepts of insurgency, laid down long ago by the likes of T.E. Lawrence and Che Guevera. You don't raze villages and "collaterally damage" thousands of innocents and then expect love, gratitude and support or emulation.

So here we are back on December 16, 2010 and the key insight emerging from Obama's year-long situation review is that the enemy has extensive sanctuaries in Pakistan, about which, it appears nothing can be done, not without further alienating the world's second most dangerous and unstable nuclear power. The net result is that the terrorist training camps of the early 2000s in Afghanistan are dead; long live the terrorist training refugiae across the border today. The persistence of these bases means that all the other high-sounding purposes of freeing women and building bridges and schools for a future Afghan democracy have no more staying power than does the Karzai regime, of which it has been said: if the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force leaves at 4 p.m., it'll be toast by 6.