Answering the Taliban Surge


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“The Pentagon report on Afghanistan of April 28th reveals that the number of districts sympathetic to or supportive of the insurgency has increased to half — while not one supported the government! The other half of the districts are neutral. “The majority of people are on the fence,” the report says, with a modest increase in the number of Afghans who feel confidence in their government.

The Pentagon’s assessment of the insurgency is that “Its operational capabilities and organizational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding.” It also admits that the “strength and ability of the shadow government to discredit the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan Government is increasing.” Despite the troop increase, NATO forces and the current Afghan government are losing ground….”

Author: Peter G. Cohen, author of www.nukefreeworld.com
Published in: Huntington News Network in West Virginia (home page: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/)
Date: May 8, 2010

For the full article:
Answering the Taliban Surge
(747 words)
by Peter G. Cohen

The Pentagon report on Afghanistan of April 28th reveals that the number of districts sympathetic to or supportive of the insurgency has increased to half — while not one supported the government! The other half of the districts are neutral. “The majority of people are on the fence,” the report says, with a modest increase in the number of Afghans who feel confidence in their government.

The Pentagon’s assessment of the insurgency is that “Its operational capabilities and organizational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding.” It also admits that the “strength and ability of the shadow government to discredit the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan Government is increasing.” Despite the troop increase, NATO forces and the current Afghan government are losing ground.

At this point there are 133,500 international service members in Afghanistan, of which 75% are American. The training of the Afghan army and police is proceeding slowly. The N.Y. Times review of the report says that corruption, incompetence and threats make it uncertain whether a person detained by the police will be held, prosecuted or sentenced. To pay for the American military participation in Afghanistan, the President has asked Congress for an additional $33 billion, with another $20 billion now being discussed.

The Decision. It is obvious from this report that we are not winning the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The primary problem is security, which neither NATO forces nor the Afghan army have been able to provide after nine years of war and hundreds of billions of dollars. While al Qaeda seems to have left the scene, the Taliban fundamentalists, nourished by a thriving poppy crop and a corrupt government in Kabul, are extending their brutal control.

Eventually, perhaps, the United States can defeat the Taliban, paid for with the much more money and lives. For the Afghan people, at war since the Soviet invasion in 1979, more soldiers, more war, more destruction and death could mean the total collapse of their society—and ultimately, they have never lost, historically.

The American people still have not been told why we are fighting over there or what ‘victory’ will look like. The idea that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan would invite the return of al Qaeda is quite unlikely. Without a clear and attainable goal, pouring more people and money into this poor and distant land makes no sense. The fact is that we have exhausted our national treasure and our military, in what seems to be a meaningless war.

The present American military budget including funding for Afghanistan is over 5.25% of GDP while the world average national military budget is less that 2.5% of GDP. This huge military budget is distorting our national life and causing us to reduce investments in our children and the nation’s future.

A Possible Answer. It is urgent that we find a way to get our forces out of Central Asia. NATO was created during the Cold War for military defense against Soviet aggression. It has no legitimacy in Central Asia, and neither does the United States. Yet to merely withdraw and leave Afghanistan to the Taliban would be a cruel injustice to the people of that sad country. It could also create a political vacuum that could invite domination by a nation in the area.

The United Nations, on the other hand, was created to avoid war and to solve the world’s shared problems. The UN could be invited to replace NATO in Afghanistan. To persuade the UN to take on this difficult assignment, the U.S. could volunteer to increase its contribution to cover a portion of the cost. Many agencies of the UN are more experienced in nation building than we are and the UN could call on Muslim nations to supply troops that might be more understanding of Afghan customs. Imagine spending just a fraction on the UN of what we save by withdrawing our own forces.

Ending our war in Central Asia would reduce the dangerous drain on our resources, allow our military to rest and retrain, and focus our energies on rebuilding America for the 21st Century. The dreadful expense of war and its military thinking have robbed our children of the care, education and facilities they need to build a strong America. We must not allow an unreasoned fear of retreat to prolong this costly war. The way to end it is for our Representatives in Congress to refuse to authorize the $33 billion supplement for its continuation.

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Peter G Cohen, artist, activist and veteran of W.W.II, is the author of www.nukefreeworld.com.