Mucking around in Afghanistan

Those who are more interested in foreign policy than I am are welcome to comment; I’m just going to throw this out there because I found it interesting. It’s from a group called the Institute for the Study of War:

Most protests in Afghanistan over the past week have not been spontaneous or independent spates of anti-Americanism, tracking done by analysts at the Institute for the Study of War shows. Instead external actors, insurgent groups and Afghan political factions aiming to harm their local rivals have orchestrated most violent protests.

“If the current protests were a burst of anti-Americanism, we would expect them to be occurring in areas where the Taliban has traditionally been strong and Americans are large in number,” wrote research analysts Paraag Shukla and Isaac Hock. “But this is not the case.”

In provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar where U.S. and coalition forces have concentrated their efforts, protests have been limited and non-violent. In eastern provinces where insurgent groups including the Haqqani Network are still influential, such as Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar, protests reflect a history of violence orchestrated by insurgent groups and Afghan rivals to President Hamid Karzai. Iranian state media and religious figures have incited protests in two western provinces.

The protests started following the accidental burning of Islamic religious texts at Bagram Airfield on Feb. 20. Since then ISW analysts have mapped the spread of violent and nonviolent protests and have updated a timeline of statements by U.S., Afghan and insurgent officials on the response. Karzai’s statements condemning the Koran burning in particular stirred controversy in the U.S.

“Karzai initially released a statement denouncing the Koran burning incident, and it appeared that he would use the situation to further push the U.S. to hand over prison control to the Afghan government, a key element of the strategic partnership agreement that is currently being negotiated,” Shukla and Hock wrote. “However, once it became clear that violent protests had occurred in multiple locations and caused civilian casualties, Karzai called on the population to refrain from resorting to violence.” (Emphasis mine.)

Remember, this is the incident for which President Obama profusely apologized but two American troops were murdered in its wake anyway.

Yes, there is a sentiment for “an eye for an eye” but it’s beginning to appear that we are in more of a “quagmire” in Afghanistan than we were in Iraq. If the ISW study is correct it seems like we’re only getting involved in a civil war, and if that’s the case either one of two outcomes is possible:

  • We should intervene every time there is civil strife in a nation; or
  • Until we determine the exact national interest, we should attempt to do as little as possible and let them fight it out.

Our current President has a mixed record in the first regard, getting involved in Libya and Uganda but not in other African or Asian nations which seemingly endure constant turmoil. One could argue that the Libyan adventure was limited to ousting Moammar Gadhafi, a mission which was achieved, and that we sent only a tiny amount of personnel to Uganda to hunt for Joseph Kony, leader of the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army – so would both fall under the second category. Perhaps this could be the start of Obama’s war for oil, but I doubt many on the Left would chastise him for it.

Indeed, one could argue that there’s not a lot of compelling national interest in Afghanistan but consider the staggering amount of mineral riches locked beneath its rugged terrain. Moreover, there’s no doubt that China, which has all but cornered the market on some of these rare earth minerals, would want a piece of the action in a neighboring country. They’ve been accused previously of helping the Taliban through an Iranian proxy.

As it stands now, though, our involvement in Afghanistan – which Obama and other Democrats originally supported as the “good war” in comparing Iraq and Afghanistan – is beginning to wind down anyway, as troops were supposed to be out of the country by the end of 2014. So we’ve made it into the Millennial Generation’s Vietnam, although we haven’t yet seen the embassy evacuation.

It’s ironic that now, nearly 40 years later, the Communist Vietnamese government has liberalized trade to such an extent that a Department of Commerce website now calls the nation “the next frontier for U.S. business in Asia!” Whether the Taliban will ever be so accommodating to its former enemy remains to be seen, but it’s likely that the civil war we seem to be entangled with in Afghanistan will end just as badly for the Karzai regime as the Vietnamese conflict did for South Vietnam.

America, the great abandoner. Next time we need to be in it to win it.