Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Reality in Afghanistan

Here's a nice insight into the conundrum that is Afghanistn. This is from the Thomas E. Ricks blog The Best Defense:
Here is a great exchange between an American officer and an Afghan elder recorded by the estimable David Wood:
. . . Instead of answering directly, the old man burst into a tirade. "We are in the middle!" he cried. "We can't say anything to you, and we can't say anything to them." What he meant: Americans push education for girls. The Taliban forbid it.

Biggs handed him a stack of cards, each bearing the location and phone numbers for the local police. "If you have trouble, call these numbers," he said.

Nabib reacted with alarm. "But what if they ask about these?"

"Hide them," said Biggs.

"But they search everyplace -- more than you," said Nabib.

Aha, said Biggs. "So there are Taliban in the village!"

"Being really honest, yes, definitely they come sometimes. But we can't tell you where they are," the old man said. "After sunset they come. We don't come out of our compounds. We are living in fear."

"We have no power to face them or you," he complained. "We are just like a soccer ball being kicked by both sides."

"We are not here to kill insurgents or anyone," said Biggs. "We are not here for you to join our team, but just to deliver government and security to your village."

The old man snorted. "They are also telling us this same speech, that they are here to protect us," he muttered.
The great tragedy of most wars is that they hurt those they are supposed to help more than they hurt "the enemy". The idea that the West is going to "save" Afghanistan is ridiculous. My preferred technique is benign neglect, i.e. leave them to their own devices but if another attack comes out of Afghanistan, then blast them like the US did in Oct-Dec 2001. This idea of "occupying" such a backward region with such a long history of petty fighting is misdirected. It is a quagmire. The only thing to do when in a quagmire is to get out and get away.

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