Does anyone really think that a continued U.S. and NATO presence will actually achieve anything significant in Afghanistan? Will an additional 40,000 soldiers defeat the Taliban or will it only lead to more American deaths? It seems that a continued presence in that war-torn nation will only bring grief and death while U.S. and NATO troops continue to try and reign in the Taliban, which can only be compared to the debacle in Vietnam, where trying to track down the Viet Cong and the NVA could only be compared to trying to herd thousands of cats.
I believe that General McCrystal believes that the Taliban can be defeated but at what cost? We have yet to see a plan that will accomplish this. The situation in that mountainous land where the Taliban appear, kill a few soldiers and damage military equipment and then disappear is shockingly reminiscent of the situation in Vietnam. Peak US strength in Vietnam in April, 1969 was 543.400. We lost that war. We also tried to win “The hearts and minds” of the people in that war and we never succeeded. Will we repeat the same behavior in Afghanistan and expect different results?
The war is in its eighth year and we are losing ground. The majority of Americans don’t support ramping up the war effort. We are in unprecedented times financially. The manufacturing base of the United States has been eroding for almost two decades. We have become a service economy; the only robust area of the manufacturing sector is oddly enough, the military weapons sector. Do our leaders expect this war will lead to a type of federal jobs program? Our military spending accounts for almost half of the military budget of the entire planet. We will spend just about a trillion dollars this year on our military. The defense industry is definitely not experiencing lean times.
The problem with military spending is that once the money is spent, there is no return on our investment. Military equipment has a bad habit of getting used up in short order and it isn’t usually recycled. When a tank or an airplane outlives its usefulness it goes on the scrap heap. Munitions are made to be destroyed. A cruise missile costs in the neighborhood of $569,000. An F-18 costs $54.7 million. The unit cost of the Army’s UH-60L Black Hawk is $5.9 million. The cost of a new M1A2 tank is approximately $4.3 million. War is an expensive business. Despite threatened cuts at the Pentagon, Boeing’s military business–including f-15 Strike Eagles, Patriot and Harpoon missiles, Apache ,Longbow and Chinook helicopters, P-8A Poseidon antisubmarine aircraft–is still in good shape. Last year it accounted for $32 billion, 53% of revenues, and $3.2 billion, or 82%, of operating profit. (Forbes September 2009). I could go on but I think I made my point.
While most of this article has been about hardware, the human element cannot be ignored. We lost 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam. It stands to reason that the more soldiers we send to Afghanistan, the more casualties we will suffer. The civilian deaths in Iraq have been calculated to be from 300,000 to 1.3 million depending on who is reporting. The U.S. military does not keep a tally. Besides civilian deaths and military combat deaths, depleted uranium exposure, PTSD, and crippling injuries add to U.S. casualties. Just like Agent Orange in Vietnam, the military refuses to acknowledge the harmful effects of DU, such incidents as birth defects and crippling bone loss. Let’s hear those comments saying depleted uranium is as safe as aspartame. We all know how safe that is. Since Rumsfeld pushed it through the FDA, citing flawed studies on monkeys in 1984 when he was President of Searle Pharmaceuticals, cancerous brain tumors increased by 800%, but that’s probably just a coincidence, right? We all know that our government only works in the peoples best interests.
Speaking of the American peoples best interests, ridding the Afghan nation of the Taliban means that we are fighting them over there so that we don’t have to fight them over here. It’s funny; I seem to have heard that phrase before. No matter, whatever. I also seem to remember that before we sent our military folks into Afghanistan, the Taliban offered Osama Bin Laden’s head up on a platter if we formally charged him with crimes. Somehow that never came to pass and now we are desperately fighting not only al Qaeda, in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the Taliban. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these the very same Mujahedeen that we financed to fight Russia? Sure does get confusing, can’t tell the players from one another over there. Maybe we should provide them with uniforms so we could tell them apart.
Let me get everything straight so I don’t criticize the Obama Administration unfairly. The reason that we are trying to eliminate the Taliban is because they don’t treat women very well. I can understand that, they probably treat them as badly as the Saudi’s (our number two military aid recipient) treat their women. The Taliban also interfere with the Afghan government’s bribes and kickbacks for services and their blind eye towards opium production (90% of the planet’s supply). I also remember something about a proposed oil pipeline. Let me mention Pepe Escobar’s article from the Asia Times titled U.S. Growing Arc of Instability:
“Most of all, the underlying logic remains divide and rule. As for the divide, Beijing would call it, without a trace of irony, “splittist”. Split up Iraq – blocking China’s access to Iraqi oil. Split up Pakistan – with an independent Balochistan preventing China from accessing the strategic port of Gwadar there. Split up Afghanistan – with an independent Pashtunistan allowing the building of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline bypassing Russia.”
Al Qaeda, since they are no longer funded by the CIA, is our #1 enemy. Osama Bin Laden would get a sovereign nation from which to launch their attacks on America and the rest of the “free” world if we send our troops home.
All of this confusion has me wondering, as I’m sure it gives President Obama pause also. I’m curious as to whether or not the U.S or any other NATO member state has attempted to negotiate with the Taliban since they offered up Bin Laden? The current leader of Afghanistan is no stranger to “”the art of the deal” In 1997, UNOCAL led an international consortium – Centgas – that reached a memorandum of understanding to build a $2 billion, 1,275-kilometer-long, 1.5-meter-wide natural-gas pipeline from Daulatabad in southern Turkmenistan to Karachi, via the Afghan cities of Herat and Kandahar, crossing into Pakistan near Quetta. A $600 million extension to India was also being considered. The dealings with the Taliban were facilitated by the Clinton administration and the ISI. But the civil war in Afghanistan would simply not go away. UNOCAL had to pull out. In this geo-strategic grand design, the Taliban were the proverbial fly in the ointment.
It would be in the best interests of all concerned to lay their cards out on the table. If I’m sensing things correctly, after a stalemate in Korea and a loss in Vietnam followed by a totally senseless war in Iraq, the American people are in no mood to bluff or be bluffed.
Read Tim Gatto’s new book Complicity to Contempt