A SIGNIFICANT APPOINTMENT May 17, 2009Posted by wmmbb in CENTRAL ASIA.
The Afghan-Pakistan War is now Obama’s war.
The Independent in their “leader”, otherwise in the plain everyday English of these parts, an editorial argue:
Since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001, which occurred more easily and less bloodily than some had feared, it has been difficult to see a clear path to a stable and peaceful future for Afghanistan. Yet there are reasons for hope over the longer term. The change in the US administration is the most fundamental. President Barack Obama cannot hope to transform the situation overnight or even over his first 100 days. But he has turned the focus of US policy towards Pakistan in a way that offers more possibility of progress than pretending that the resurgent Taliban can be “defeated” in one country. The situation in Afghanistan is also very different from that in Iraq, in that foreign troops and the US in particular, are not regarded as hostile to anything like the same extent.
A question we are not suppose to ask: How on earth did the “Taliban” morph into an existential threat to the American Empire, or if you will the Military Industrial Complex, or anybody else? Some commentators have seen the Pashtun resistance to foreign occupation, and to the corrupt Kabul Government infused with the Tajik Northern Alliance tribal influence, as more Pashtun that Fundamentalist Muslim. So which genius decided to take on the largest of the tribal groups of the Afghan tribes (representing 42% of the population)? When the killing game is afoot let us not be concerned about facts.
The one thing that is clear is that air strikes are a counterproductive tactic – as they are across the border in Pakistan, where unmanned US drones alienate the civilian population.
The problem with air strikes is that they are an attempted short cut. There is, in the end, no alternative to patient work on the ground, civilian backed up by military, to weaken support for the Taliban. The appointment of Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal as senior US commander in the country has been interpreted by some as precursor to such a strategy.
As Obama’s military adviser Jones pointed out, not without imperial arrogance since the so-called President of the Republic demanded they stop, to not use air strikes would be like fighting with one arm tied behind their back.
As for The Independent’s judgment on McChrystal, Tom Hayden, via The Nation, disagrees seeing a different, less honourable, war about to unfold:
His rise can only mean an intensified campaign of secret–and dirty–warfare in the remote villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Specifically, Tom Hayden quotes page 380 of Bob Woodward’s book The War Within:
. . . in which the author describes a top-secret operation in 2006 that targeted and killed insurgents with such effectiveness that it gave “orgasms” to Derek Harvey, a top aide to Gen. David Petraeus and longtime tracker of Iraqi dissidents. The secret program was led by McChrystal, then a lieutenant general, using signals intercepts, informants and other tools of what McChrystal calls “collaborative warfare” through Special Access Programs (SAPS) and Special Compartmented Information (SCI.) McChrystal, according to the New York Times, conducted and commanded most of his secret missions at night. These missions were consistent with the proposals of Petraeus’s top counterinsurgency adviser at the time, David Kilcullen, to revive the discredited Phoenix Program used in South Vietnam.
But let us not forget more recent history in the new Obama War in Afghanistan. Patrick Cockburn observes in The Independent:
It is astonishing to discover that the same small American unit, the US Marine Corps’ Special Operations or MarSOC, has been responsible for all three of the worst incidents in Afghanistan in which civilians have been killed. Its members refer to themselves as “Taskforce Violence” and the Marines’ own newspaper scathingly refers to the unit as “cowboys”.
The US military commanders in Afghanistan must have known about MarSOC’s reputation for disregarding the loss of life among Afghan civilians, yet for 10 days, they have flatly denied claims by villagers in the western Afghan province of Farah that more than 100 of their neighbours had been slaughtered by US air strikes.
Everything the US military has said about the air strikes on the three villages in Bala Boluk district on the evening of 4 May should be treated with suspicion – most probably hastily-concocted lies aimed at providing a cover story to conceal what really happened. Official mendacity of these proportions is comparable to anything that happened in Vietnam.
The expectation is more of the same. Perhaps the lies will be better. Perhaps Obama like Lincoln is awaiting his Grant, in which scenario McChyrstal, not Petraeus might be the next US President.
Howard Zinn, at AlterNet, provides the historical perspective and concludes, I suppose fairly, the President Obama is afterall a politician, which is not a bad thing, but he is gaming the system, and to do that well you have to understand the system as it is, not as it might be. The power of imagination,which can shine a light for the future, Howard Zinn suggests lies with the people.
Tony Karon at Rootless Cosmopolitan suggests that McC’s mission is the find the dead body of ObL and presumablely rebury him on the Washington Mall – with plaque.
Jason Soon, who follows these economic issues, suggests that neo-liberalism has been given the thumbs up by the Indian electorate. I keep wondering why in the light of the global financial crisis would such “failed” policies be even considered.
UPDATE: 2 June 2009
In their editorial, The New York Times has argued that General McCyrstal confirmation for the new assignment in Afghanistan should not be just a pro forma one, but that his record needs to be “rigorously questioned”. It will be very surprising if the confirmation is not made.