Yes, with the 40-45,000 additional troops that General McChrystal wants, we could win a short-term victory against the Taliban, at the cost of several thousand casualties over the next three years. But what then? Exactly how long is the United States willing to leave a garrison force of 50-100,000 in Afghanistan to enforce the so-called peace? Five years? Twenty?
Nor can we depend on the Afghan security forces, whose budget will be nearly four times the GDP of the entire country.
The Canadians, it seems, are being much more honest about this than the Americans, as The Independent reports:
It is instructive to turn at this moment to the Canadian army, which has in Afghanistan fewer troops than the Brits but who have suffered just as ferociously; their 130th soldier was killed near Kandahar this week. Every three months, the Canadian authorities publish a scorecard on their military "progress" in Afghanistan – a document that is infinitely more honest and detailed than anything put out by the Pentagon or the Ministry of Defence – which proves beyond peradventure (as Enoch Powell would have said) that this is Mission Impossible or, as Toronto's National Post put it in an admirable headline three days' ago, "Operation Sleepwalk". The latest report, revealed this week, proves that Kandahar province is becoming more violent, less stable and less secure – and attacks across the country more frequent – than at any time since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. There was an "exceptionally high" frequency of attacks this spring compared with 2008.
There was a 108 per cent increase in roadside bombs. Afghans are reporting that they are less satisfied with education and employment levels, primarily because of poor or non-existent security. Canada is now concentrating only on the security of Kandahar city, abandoning any real attempt to control the province.
Canada's army will be leaving Afghanistan in 2011, but so far only five of the 50 schools in its school-building project have been completed. Just 28 more are "under construction". But of Kandahar province's existing 364 schools, 180 have been forced to close. Of progress in "democratic governance" in Kandahar, the Canadian report states that the capacity of the Afghan government is "chronically weak and undermined by widespread corruption". Of "reconciliation" – whatever that means these days – "the onset of the summer fighting season and the concentration of politicians and activists for the August elections discouraged expectations of noteworthy initiatives...".
Even the primary aim of polio eradication – Ottawa's most favoured civilian project in Afghanistan – has defeated the Canadian International Development Agency, although this admission is cloaked in truly Blair-like (or Brown-like) mendacity. As the Toronto Star revealed in a serious bit of investigative journalism this week, the aim to "eradicate" polio with the help of UN and World Health Organisation money has been quietly changed to the "prevention of transmission" of polio. Instead of measuring the number of children "immunised" against polio, the target was altered to refer only to the number of children "vaccinated". But of course, children have to be vaccinated several times before they are actually immune.
The Independent also captures the change in NATO [which means "America"] policy in Afghanistan, which has gone from the traditional mission creep toward downright mission vacillation or even mission du jeur:
Colin Kenny, chair of Canada's senate committee on national security and defence, said this week that "what we hoped to accomplish in Afghanistan has proved to be impossible. We are hurtling towards a Vietnam ending"....
Only Obama, it seems, fails to get the message. Afghanistan remains for him the "war of necessity". Send yet more troops, his generals plead. And we are supposed to follow the logic of this nonsense. The Taliban lost in 2001. Then they started winning again. Then we had to preserve Afghan democracy. Then our soldiers had to protect – and die – for a second round of democratic elections. Then they protected – and died – for fraudulent elections. Afghanistan is not Vietnam, Obama assures us. And then the good old German army calls up an air strike – and zaps yet more Afghan civilians.
But perhaps President Obama is beginning to realize the depth of the hole he has dug for himself.
He is now vacillating on the commitment of additional troops for Afghanistan, with the White House refusing to say when he will make a final decision, while at the same time our Bush-era military leaders [SecDef Gates, Admiral Mullen, Generals Petraeus and McChrystal] are growing increasingly impatient.
Meanwhile, NATO troops [most of whom are Americans] and Afghan civilians continue to die.
I understand the calls that will come from my friends on the right, not to abandon our troops, not to make vain the sacrifices already made, not to cut and run.
But here's the unpalatable truth: even if we give McChrystal 45,000 more American troops, and he executes his plan to perfection, thousands more Americans will be killed or wounded over the next three years, and within a decade the situation in Afghanistan will be back to where it was before 2001. Afghanistan is not a failed state, it is a non-state. Since World War Two we have operated under the delusion that the only possible social organization in the modern world is the nation-state with a strong central government. It's not, and in many cultures it is not even the preference of the people.
Outsiders since Alexander the Great have been trying to change that reality in Afghanistan for over 2,000 years, with a uniform lack of success.
It is not worth another American of Afghan life to discover we are not exempt from the major rules and forces of history.
It is not morally acceptable to remain quiet while President Obama vacillates and more Americans die in a war where even winning will not mean winning.