Friday, March 27, 2009

Enduring Freedom

Enduring Freedom

Go To Original

In Afghanistan, this is the problem, because everybody holds a piece of that mirror, and they all look at it and claim that they hold the entire truth.

- Mohsen Makhmalbaf

There was the battle of Mazari Sharif, and the battle of Qala-i-Jangi, and the battle of Tora Bora, and the massacre at Dasht-i-Leili, and the Tamak Farm incident and the slaughter of a wedding party in Uruzgan Province.

There was the Damadola airstrike in Pakistan made by US forces, and there was the Battle of Lashkagar, and the battle of Panjwaii and the Shinwar massacre. There was the battle of Chora, and the Baghlan sugar factory bombing and the battle of Musa Qala.

There was the Kabul Serena Hotel attack, the Kandahar bombing, the Gora Prai airstrike, the Sarposa Prison attack and the bombing of the Indian embassy. There was the battle of Wanat, and the Uzbin Valley ambush, and the Azizabad airstrike and the Angoor Ada raid into Pakistan again.

There was Operation Anaconda and there was Operation Red Wing. There was Operation Mountain Thrust, and Operation Medusa and Operation Mountain Fury. There was Operation Achilles and there was Operation Eagle's Summit.

All of this was, and remains, Operation Enduring Freedom. All of this was, and remains, America's war in Afghanistan.

Our war in Afghanistan began almost 3,000 days ago, on October 7, 2001. Our war in Afghanistan has lasted longer than World War I, World War II, the Civil War, the Korean War, the first Gulf War in Iraq and the second Gulf War in Iraq. If we are still fighting in Afghanistan a year from now, the war will have lasted longer than the American Revolution. Children who were born on the day the war began are now halfway through grammar school.

All the bad economic news and the turmoil in the financial and housing markets have America looking inward these days. We rarely hear anything about Iraq anymore, and even less about Afghanistan. For the record, and to bring everyone up to speed, the following events have taken place in Afghanistan during the last 72 hours.

Taliban fighters killed nine police officers. Three Australian soldiers were wounded. Pakistan's intelligence service was accused of aiding and abetting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Two Afghani farmers were killed by NATO troops. A bomb killed ten civilians in eastern Afghanistan. A Canadian woman held captive by the Taliban was made to plead for her life. Two separate bombings in southern Afghanistan killed 11 people.

All told, it's been a quiet week over there. That is about to change.

President Obama will soon be announcing his administration's plans for the future of our conflict in Afghanistan. Reportedly, this announcement will include the deployment of 17,000 more US soldiers Obama promised during the campaign, and will also reportedly include the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops, as well. "President Obama will deploy as many as 4,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, beyond the 17,000 he authorized last month, as trainers and advisers to the Afghan Army, according to a senior Pentagon official who has seen the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy Obama will unveil Friday," wrote The Washington Post.

"Since the United States invaded Iraq six years ago," reported the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday, "its attention, effort, and military know-how has tilted toward the Gulf. Perhaps as soon as Friday, President Obama is expected to shift that focus, announcing a new strategy for Afghanistan and the neighbor with which it is entwined, Pakistan. Yet the challenges presented by Afghanistan are an order of magnitude greater than they were in Iraq - involving a state with virtually no rule of law, a government rife with opium-fueled corruption, and an insurgency spanning two nations and entrenched in some of the world's most inhospitable terrain."

"President Barack Obama insisted on Sunday that military force alone would not end the war in Afghanistan," reported Reuters on Sunday, "and suggested a U.S. 'exit strategy' could be part of a new comprehensive policy he is expected to unveil soon. Obama, in an interview on CBS's '60 Minutes' program, previewed in broad terms his administration's review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy based on recommendations from senior U.S. officials and consultations with allies."

For the last seven years, the war in Afghanistan has been a collective effort shared among the United States and several other countries by way of NATO. That also appears to be changing soon. "After years of often testy cooperation with NATO and resentment over unequal burden-sharing," reported the Washington Post on Thursday, "the United States is taking unabashed ownership of the Afghan war. Even as the U.S. military expands its control over the battlefield, the number of American civilian officials will also grow by at least 50 percent - to more than 900 - under the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy Obama will announce as early as tomorrow, according to administration officials. American diplomats and development experts plan to spread into relatively peaceful western and northern regions of Afghanistan that until now were left to other NATO governments. New U.S. resources and leadership also will be brought to bear over critical issues such as counter-narcotics efforts and strengthening local government institutions."

"The Americanization of the war is visible in the turbulent south," continued the Post's report, "where the regional NATO command, led by a Dutch general, with Dutch, British, Danish and U.S. troops, faces the primary Taliban threat. Most of the additional U.S. troops will deploy there, and dozens of C-130 transport aircraft land at the Kandahar airfield every day with pallets of supplies. In a dusty parking lot not far from the main runway, more than 200 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, await the supplementary U.S. troops. When they arrive, there will be more American personnel at the Kandahar base than at the current largest U.S. facility - at Bagram, north of Kabul, the capital. 'This will become an American headquarters,' one non-U.S. military officer in southern Afghanistan said of Kandahar. 'They're going to have almost three times as many troops as any other NATO member here. And that's going to mean they'll be in charge.'"

Is the Obama administration simply working with the hand it was dealt by George W. Bush, or are the same Bush administration mistakes about to be committed all over again? Norman Solomon, writing for Truthout on Tuesday, noted, "We desperately need a substantive national debate on US military intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the Obama administration says that the problems of the region cannot be solved by military means, the basic approach is reliance on heightened military means. And so, with chillingly familiar echoes, goes the perverse logic of escalating the war in Afghanistan. 'Strategic patience' - more and more war - will be necessary so that those who must die will not have died in vain."

However this all shakes out, one thing is certain: Both the United States and Afghanistan are likely going to be Enduring Freedom for a long time to come.

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