(Blog stats are collected so authors know which posts generate most interest. According to my stats, readers are more engaged by allegories and concrete helps and resources. As dessert, it suits me fine; but sometimes, we have to eat broccoli. Ergo, Afghanistan.)
A few months ago, I posted a poll which asked respondents to suggest a US course of action in Afghanistan. Granted, only 16 people cast votes (it was early days) but for interest’s sake, the most often selected option was to employ our troops “to improve infrastructure (schools, hospitals, roads, internet, etc.).”
There was one vote to “maintain current troop levels,” one to “discontinue our military presence in Afghanistan,” and one to “maintain current troop levels but improve dialogues with affected nations in the region.” Six voted to “use troops to build or improve infrastructure. (Schools, hospitals, roads, internet, etc.).” There were several comments which remarked on Afghanistan’s “empire-killing” history. Mine was the only vote for encouraging “the sale of Afghanistan’s poppy crop to pharmaceutical companies.” (I’ve moderated that opinion and think we should encourage the sale of poppies to a newly-constituted Afghani pharmaceutical industry.)
In recent days, Pakistan has agreed with the Taliban to a virtual partitioning of the Malakand District in the Northwest Frontier Province which borders Afghanistan. The Malakand is a political division with 592 square miles which means Sullivan County, NY is roughly 1.5 times larger. The number of people living in the Malakand (2004-2005) is nearly half a million more than the 76,000 in Sullivan. The partition effectively places the District under Sharia Law. (See: CIA and Census demographics.)
The Chief Minister of the Northwest Frontier Province said permitting the jurisdiction of Sharia Law would fill the hole left by lack of access to Afghanistan’s judicial system.
Accordingly, the argument goes, the de facto partitioning provides a legal framework in which to address land loss, destruction of crops and the plight of orphans, among other things.
Apparently, if we want women to have the vote, go to school and be able to live with the same rights as their fathers, brothers and husbands, Afghanistan must be able to spread the rule of secular law.
“The United States — using unmanned drones — has carried out several airstrikes inside Pakistan on suspected militant targets, including one on Monday that killed at least 15 people, Pakistani sources said. Such airstrikes, which sometimes result in civilian casualties, have aggravated tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan.” (CNN)
For nearly ten years in the 1980s, the Soviet Union’s resources were drained by its failed attempt to control Afghanistan. That failure was encouraged by an international boycott of the USSR and thousands of tons of US armaments and other aid to the mujahidin. (Wilson Center)
When the Soviets finally exited, the US anticipated the Afghan government would collapse within a year. Besides being dependent on USSR food aid, Afghanistan’s gas resources and consequent revenues had dried up.
Decade after decade, it’s been open season on the people of Afghanistan. In power struggles between foreign governments, warlords and religious extremists, the Afghani people have been bombed, starved, enslaved, brutalized, imprisoned, beaten and burned. Villages have been destroyed. Crops have been wiped out. This is the carnage of war. It doesn’t count the cost of natural disasters in a nation unable to mount a concerted emergency rescue effort.
After the Soviet withdrawal, the US government tossed around the idea of providing farm equipment, fresh water augmentation, schools, hospitals and transportation. For the most part, those ideas fell by the roadside.
Though only sixteen respondents answered the poll, the consensus was that we must engage the area in diplomacy and help provide the means by which Afghans can achieve independent growth and security. We are currently on track to increase our troop levels from 36,000 to 60,000. (Reuters) The majority of poll respondents agreed those troops should be used to help Afghans build schools and roads, grow food and generally, achieve the aims our government considered twenty years ago.
Over the past several months, the few interviews conducted with US soldiers portray a force with too few weapons, too few personnel and too little support to respond effectively to “actionable intelligence.”
It seems to me that if sixteen citizens understand we’re on the wrong track, that President Obama must.
You can join me in leaving a statement at the White House contact site.