Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not So Swift Afghan Policy

This week Russian military forces conducted operations in Afghanistan...say what? The news of the joint American-Russian military operation against a drug target in Afghanistan was interesting to say the least. Only those in the corridors of power would know why this particular drug operation was targeted or why the Russians of all people were involved. There must be a very good reason. Question is: "Does the means help the ends?"

Think for a moment that it was only just over a two decades ago that the Russians left Afghanistan thus ending their nine year occupation of that country. It took the Russians only two days to capture Kabul, but nine years to realize they could not hold it. They suffered 25,000 dead and 37,000 wounded depending on which set of numbers you believe. Nothing compared to the massive attrocities inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan. Estimates of Afghan deaths are between 1-2 million people. 1.2 million people disabled. 3 million mamed or wounded. 5-10 million people fled to Pakistan or Iran - one third of Afghanistan's pre-war population. A further two million displaced internally within the country. As mind boggling as those numbers are, consider the destruction of the country itself. Irrigation systems, crucial to agriculture all but destroyed by Soviet aerial bombing. Water systems poisoned. Villages, towns, cities destroyed and depopulated. In other words, the Soviets/Russians layed Afghanistan to waste.

Consider then how the Afghan population must have felt when Russian troops entered their territory in force for an organized military operation - and as guests of the Americans. The Taliban must have been doing cart wheels at the sheer magnitude of the publicity this presented to them. A recruiting tool unmatched since the first Soviet invasion. Unbelievable. You have to think that at the highest levels these decisions must be well thought out, and sanctioned. The pros must out weigh the cons. Yet that is hard to see or believe in this case.

Certainly if you are the Russians, read: Putin, you are happy to be flexing muscle back in the old neighborhood. You can go in, get out, and suffer relatively little expense. It's a hint of "what we could do, should we choose to." A little macho strut - not unlike some of the other macho goings on in Russian politics prior to the next Presidential election. However, this time everyone has egg on their face.

Our alliance, NATO, has been battling for control of Afghanistan now for some nine years. The stated objective has been to win the hearts and minds battle with the Taliban for the proverbial soul of the Afghan people. The stated purpose of our occupation being to help rebuild Afghanistan and create a viable democracy for the benefit of its people. And then we invite the Russians in? The people that layed waste to the country and within living memory. The Afghan President was dumbfounded and embittered. Easy to understand why when you consider he is the one that must explain this to his people.

It is really a complete breakdown of intelligence to allow such a slap in the face to the Afghan people. It is the height of insensitivity to allow Russian soldiers across the border and into a country that they so recently committed such atrocities to. It almost begs the question: "Are they trying to win the war, or are they trying to amp it up?" Is such a small, and relatively insignificant raid worth undoing nine years of work, and legitimizing the Taliban in the eyes of those undecided or leaning Afghans? Don't the Afghan people deserve better, and more sensitive care at our hands than that? We believe in upholding to them a different standard than the cut throat, barbaric world that has been much of their lives. And then they bring in the Russians. You really have to feel for those people.

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