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July 07, 2010

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these accounts show that the years since 2001 have radicalized the insurgents and imbued them with Al Qaeda’s global agenda

I've been hitting myself on the head with this hammer for a half hour now, and not only hasn't my headache gone away -- it's actually gotten worse!

Clearly, I need to get a bigger hammer.

Well, you could get a smaller hammer, but that would just embolden your head. And nobody wants that.

What is truly amazing is that Packer gets big bucks for turning out this drivel.

So many assumptions, so little time.......

If there were a low-cost way to contain the interconnected groups of extremists in the Hindu Kush

Leave them alone? I guess interconnected-groups-of-extermists-in-the-Hindu-Kush are such a threat to overthrow the government of the United States of America, and then THE WORLD!, that we must grind ourselves into dust to stop them.

You guys have done a lot of hard work to figure out the way forward. Based on this, I think the way forward is to build a greater flexibility into the worlds acceptance of US actions in AfPak.

The best way to do this is to bring back the head of Osama bin Laden on a silver platter. Many New Yorkers would be eager to donate the platter. All you guys have to do is go out and get the bastard. Well, his head. Mission Accomplished. Time to go home, snuggle up tight and make babies. The world will celebrate any decision you make.

Peter Bergen wrote a book on the Taliban which was published earlier this year. I haven't read it, but I heard him interviewed, and he spoke about the Taliban's MO in Pakistan. He said that in one village, all Hindis have been forced to wear yellow clothes. How do you coexist with something like that?

How do you coexist with something like that?

Same way we coexist with every other group of assholes on the planet: we ignore them as much as possible, discourage them where we're able, and contain them when we have to.

I'd ask the British how taking responsibility for civilizing the whole planet works out. It is, uh, burdensome.

I believe Chamberlain thought he'd contained Hitler. That worked out well.

It's true that the Taliban are just like Hitler, in that they are in charge of one of the world's leading industrial powers, capable of churning out state-of-the-art tanks, planes, and submarines at a breakneck pace. The terrifying menace of the Taliban's vengeance weapons threatens all of us. And the Taliban U-boats are renowned for their power, stealth, precision, and ability to fly hundreds of miles back to the mountains of Waziristan for refueling.

Wait, I'm thinking of another country, I think it's called Doesntexististan. In reality the Taliban military differs from the Nazi military machine in 1939 in a few small but important details, like where the Nazis had 1,500,000 men under arms, the Taliban have 25,000, and where the Nazis had thousands of tanks, the Taliban have none, and where the Nazis had hundreds of warplanes, the Taliban have, er, also none, it turns out, and where the Nazis had hundreds of warships and submarines, the Taliban have none, which is probably for the best what with being landlocked & all

Other than that, they're totally sort of similar but different but the same! Also, Hitler!

Goddammit! Hitler, Hitler, Hitler! That's all I ever here when it comes to the enemies of the Unites States. Osama? Hitler! Saddam? Hitler! Amediwhatsit? Hitler! And now the bassackwards know nothing Taliban. Hitler!

Hasn't anybody heard of the Bataan Death March? The Rape of Nanking? I mean, for fncks sake, Pearl Harbor? Helllloooooo?

Jesus H. Christ, when am I going to get some Goddamned respect?!!? Its like all these pro-war fanatics in the US need to cast their purported enemy as some sort of ultimate villain so they can sleep at night, which is fine and all, but come on, this Hitler stuff is soooo 2003, pick me!!! Hell, Hitler went out like some two bit coward, I survived two atomic bombs and lived to see the Berlin wall come down. From that perspective Hitler's a chump, yet he gets all of my press.

Wanker.

How do you coexist with something like that?

The same way we deal with all the other evil in the world that we're coexisting with. If you really want us to do something about the Pakistani Taliban, you need to answer the simple questions of why and how:

1) Why are you picking the Pakistani Taliban as a target? There are plenty of other terrible, evil groups in the world that we're not attacking. What's so special about the Pakistani Taliban that we should attack them while leaving the rest of the evil in the world alone.

2) How are you going to achieve your goals? It's nice to say that we should protect the Hindus from the evil Taliban, but aspiration is not the same as results. There's no point in doing something for the sake of doing something. We need to see a plan that has a reasonable chance of actually protecting those Hindus from the Pakistani Taliban, or we're just getting ourselves into a bigger mess.

If you can't answer those two questions, you're just flailing around looking for somebody to attack. We've had far too much of that since 9/11/01.

Nice to see all the overreaction.

I don't compare the Taliban to Hitler because I'm a war monger (far from it), nor do I care about numbers or machinery. I use the comparison because of the depth of intolerance (like, to a lesser degree, what I'm reading in this thread). Does it not bother any of you that the Taliban is stigmatizing Hindus just like the Nazis forced yellow stars upon Jews? Or that the Taliban totally abuses and demeans women (and other minorities)? I suggest you check your own moral compasses if you're willing to share the world with them -- not to mention checking your gullibility meters if you think they're going to stay confined to that small area of the globe.

The reason I pointed to the Taliban in Pakistan (as opposed to the Pakistani Taliban) is because it is evidence that the Taliban, despite 8 years of military war, is stronger than ever and appears to be more influential among the locals, whether that's by intimidation or by convincing them that the U.S. is their mutual enemy. That's what needs to be fought.

I'm not saying that a military war in Afghanistan is any sort of solution. My preference would be to bypass all the corrupt politicians and warlords and go directly to the people. Empower them (with money and training) to build schools, roads, water systems, etc., and to do it themselves (no KBR, etc.). Set up an FDR-kind of program to get everyone working for themselves and their country, instead of some neighborhood bully. Set up some sort of microlending program, making sure that it includes women.

And, really, what's the alternative? Some sort of marketing/branding campaign, leaving the area and claiming that the U.S. has accomplished what it set out to do? I'd have thought the world would have had more than enough of all the half-finished American wars by now. Finish the job, already, just do it more smartly.

I'm not saying that a military war in Afghanistan is any sort of solution. My preference would be to bypass all the corrupt politicians and warlords and go directly to the people.

Warlords are called warlords because they have a lot of men with guns who do what they say. You can't bypass them and get to the people without military action. That's what being a warlord is all about.

I think the Taliban are a disastrous scourge on the people in the region. But there is no way of leaving aside the various heavily-armed parties and just getting to the part where you help people. The men with guns make that absolutely impossible.

I suggest you check your own moral compasses if you're willing to share the world with them

How, exactly, would you propose that we would go about not sharing the world with them? Should we kill them all? If you think that "morality" requires eliminating everyone who disagrees with you, I fear we are not meaning the same thing by the word.

Presumably you mean something milder, like killing them only until they pretend to agree with us, and then going home. So far that hasn't worked very well either.

not to mention checking your gullibility meters if you think they're going to stay confined to that small area of the globe.

Yes, the threat of 25,000 Pashtun Afghans armed with AK-47s and RPGs currently located in the ass-end of nowhere suddenly finding themselves able to conquer the planet is terrifying, I agree.

Presumably you mean something milder, like killing them only until they pretend to agree with us, and then going home. So far that hasn't worked very well either.

No, I mean providing an alternative, better choice for the people. The Taliban can't exist without any kind of popular support. Plus, I don't see where I've said where anything has worked so far. I'd appreciate you not attempting to speak for me.

Yes, the threat of 25,000 Pashtun Afghans armed with AK-47s and RPGs currently located in the ass-end of nowhere suddenly finding themselves able to conquer the planet is terrifying, I agree.

Well, considering less than 2 dozen men armed with box-cutters managed to turn the world upside down, maybe you should reconsider.

I certainly wouldn't underestimate their drive to expand further in the world: their buddies in AQ have managed to produce a magazine called "Inspire," and it's in English.

No, I mean providing an alternative, better choice for the people. The Taliban can't exist without any kind of popular support.

While the Taliban can't exist without popular support, they do exist. Which, as you suggest, means that they have popular support. Hence the problem.

But, if you could, extrapolate on what a "better" choice would be? And what chance do we, as outsiders with a foreign culture, have at suggesting an alternative to people that, at least in some large number, PREFER the Taliban.

Well, considering less than 2 dozen men armed with box-cutters managed to turn the world upside down, maybe you should reconsider.

They didn't turn the world upside down as much as we did. Also, the plot involved more than two dozen people, but regardless, it was our overreaction, more than their actions, that turned the world upside down.

I certainly wouldn't underestimate their drive to expand further in the world: their buddies in AQ have managed to produce a magazine called "Inspire," and it's in English.

They actually have no such "drive." This actually creates tensions with al-Qaeda, and an exploitable rift. And the magazine is laughable, but still irrelevant to the aspirations of the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban in the hinterlands along the Durand Line.

Well, considering less than 2 dozen men armed with box-cutters managed to turn the world upside down, maybe you should reconsider.

They didn't turn the world upside down by a long shot. We did more of that ourselves (meaning the US), actually, after the fact.

It would be nice if we could eliminate the Taliban by giving the people a better choice in a way that wouldn't piss a bunch of other people off, and thereby make something like 9/11 more likely than it would otherwise be. I think your view is overly simplistic on that point, debbie.

We're stuck with imperfect alternatives, and leaving, though imperfect, may well be less so than staying, regardless of what we're trying to do over there.

Goddammit! Hitler, Hitler, Hitler!

Someone needs to take a chill pill. Ugh!

I'm not saying that a military war in Afghanistan is any sort of solution. My preference would be to bypass all the corrupt politicians and warlords and go directly to the people.

Great idea. Coulda been a winner circa 2002. Sadly, that horse is out of the barn.

considering less than 2 dozen men armed with box-cutters managed to turn the world upside down

19 guys knocked down two very large buildings, made a big hole in another, and killed not quite 3,000 people in the process. Including themselves.

Fortunately, that is not the same as "turning the world upside down".

Unfortunately, we decided that turning the world upside down was precisely the right response.

Long story short, the Taliban have never expressed any desire whatsoever to do anything above and beyond run Afghanistan and maybe parts of Pakistan. And even if they had the desire to do more than that, they do not have the resources to do so.

We might think they suck, and in fact there's a very good case to be made that they do suck, but they come from there and they have at least some level of support there. They're a lot more like the people they live among than we are, and we've managed to do such a weirdly crappy job in Afghanistan that they're able to present themselves as a reasonable alternative to whatever we offer.

A non-military approach consisting of nothing but humanitarian aid sounds great. Let's give Greg Mortenson, or better yet someone like him who's actually Afghan, a billion dollars to spend and call it a day.

Someone needs to take a chill pill. Ugh!

Agreed. That Hirohito guy can get pissy now and then.

While the Taliban can't exist without popular support, they do exist. Which, as you suggest, means that they have popular support. Hence the problem.

But, if you could, extrapolate on what a "better" choice would be? And what chance do we, as outsiders with a foreign culture, have at suggesting an alternative to people that, at least in some large number, PREFER the Taliban.

I don't know. It seems to me that the Taliban aren't particularly preferred; they seem to have bullied most of the people into submission. And without a better choice, those people will stay where they are. And by better choice, I mean projects that show there is a way out of their poverty other than opium and terrorism, and at the same time demonstrate that Westerners can be positive teachers and mentors. I'm sure you're familiar with Sarah Chasse (sp?), the ex-NPR reporter who's made it her life's work to get Afghan villagers engaged in productive, profitable, and self-sufficient businesses. What if a bunch of people like her took charge of a nationwide development initiative at the same time that developed nations set up public works projects and built dams, schools, etc.?

While I agree with whoever said it might have been nice had all this happened back in 2002, that doesn't mean it can't still happen. To just leave is to prove that the fundamentalists were right all along. Stick around and make things right, and maybe the people will find it possible to forgive us for so badly screwing things up. Better late than never.

They didn't turn the world upside down as much as we did. Also, the plot involved more than two dozen people, but regardless, it was our overreaction, more than their actions, that turned the world upside down.

I still say it was their actions that set everything in motion. There never would have been a war in Afghanistan without 9/11.

Russell:

They're a lot more like the people they live among than we are…

IIRC, The Taliban presented themselves as saviors from all the violence and chaos left after the Russian withdrawal. I doubt many people thought the Taliban would be as autocratic as they turned out to be. I don't believe the various "tribes" (Pashtun, Hazara, etc.) think of themselves as brethren.

The Taliban presented themselves as saviors from all the violence and chaos left after the Russian withdrawal.

The thing is, life was chaotic enough at the time that they could make a good case. Especially among people with whom they shared a language, religion, and culture.

We aren't going to eliminate the Taliban through a military effort. It's like thinking that you're going to send the Army to eliminate all of the wacko apocalyptic polygamist splinter Mormon groups out of the high desert west. You'll never do it, because the folks who live there -- wacko apocalyptic polygamist Mormons or not -- won't have it.

It took the FBI five years to capture Eric Rudolph. The dude blew people up, and he was a hero in the Appalachian backcountry. They wrote songs about him. He inspired a cottage industry in pro-Rudolph merchandise.

That's all in the USA. Transfer that to a mountainous moonscape on the other side of the world, different language, different culture, different everything. And with another whole country for folks to run and hide in.

Whether we like it or not, and whether we like them or not, the Taliban have a constituency in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They live there.

If you want to redirect our efforts to purely humanitarian aid, I think that's great. You will need to live with a lot of that aid being wasted through corruption, and with a lot of folks doing hands-on work in country getting killed.

If the Afghans don't want to live under the Taliban, they will need to kick them out. We can't do it.

If the Afghans want good government, they will have to create it. We can't set it up for them. We tried, and we ended up with Karzai.

Our interest there was, and is, in preventing AQ from having a base of operations. There are 100 AQ left in Afghanistan, down from tens of thousands in 2001.

I don't think we're going to get any closer to "victory" than that.

Find some reliable Afghan NGOs and give them some training, some materials, and some money. Fine with me. But the military operation is chasing increasingly vanishing returns with an increasingly high cost in lives and money.

I wrote a long comment and it was eated by typepad.

But basically, what russell said.

I don't disagree with Russell either. I agree that a military operation is not the answer, but I don't think we can just leave the country in an ongoing state of chaos. Abandonment hasn't worked in the past; why would this time be any different?

I don't think we can just leave the country in an ongoing state of chaos.

Find some reliable Afghan NGOs. I say Afghan NGOs because it will make it slightly less likely that they'll end up dead.

Provide them with some training (if they need it), some material support, and some money. Or even a lot of money, just not enough to make them a target.

Keep the support in place for a good long time, like ten years or more.

Everybody else come home.

The problem is the word "can't" there. If we have no way to avoid leaving the place in a state of chaos, saying that we can't do so is meaningless. It's like me saying "We MUST fly to the moon tomorrow in our station wagon!" You can say it, but what's the point?

The problem with not having a military operation is that without it you can't do anything at all in a place like Afghanistan. I'm not getting the feeling that you understand what it's like to try to do anything that people don't want to do in a place where damn near everybody owns a gun and the private armies of warlords are the closest thing to law and order. Warlords aren't really interested in cooperating in a program of westernization and pacification. Being a warlord is about extracting loot at the point of a gun. The last thing any warlord wants is a civil society.

I agree that a military operation is not the answer, but I don't think we can just leave the country in an ongoing state of chaos. Abandonment hasn't worked in the past; why would this time be any different?

Well, as long as we can pull our troops out, I'm all for trying to help out in other ways.

Point of order re: abandonment. While many people point to the post-Soviet era as a case of abandonment, I'm not sure that's entirely the case. We were never really heavily involved in a humanitarian way in Afghanistan before. During that era, we provided arms to certain factions in order to usurp the Soviets.

After the Soviets left, and their puppet toppled, a civil war broke out. It didn't break out because we "abandoned" Afghanistan, and I'm not sure how we could have prevented it or stopped it by providing humanitarian aid during that period.

I'm not getting the feeling that you understand what it's like to try to do anything that people don't want to do in a place where damn near everybody owns a gun and the private armies of warlords are the closest thing to law and order.

Sigh. Jacob, I'm not sitting astride my glittery unicorn making ephemeral pronouncements based on some alternate reality. I have a very clear picture of what's gone on over the past 9 years. We went into Afghanistan with a lot of good will, and we've squandered every bit of it. It's appalling just how badly Bush/Cheney mishandled the war. But that's still no excuse not to do the right thing. And just picking up and clearing out -- basically leaving the country worse off than when we entered it -- would be immoral.

Eric, I thought Charlie Wilson et al. made promises to the mujahadeen about support and development after getting rid of the Soviet Union, but maybe I'm mistaken.

Continuing a military occupation of Afghanistan and continuing to regularly kill Afghan civilians is also immoral.

Staying in Afghanistan without a military occupation is impossible.

debbie,

Problem is, the mujahedin started fighting with each other. So we would have likely had to pick sides. Which would not have ended well.

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