Monday, September 07, 2009

Why are we still in Afghanistan?

With a dubious election process set to return Karzai, a puppet of the drug lords, we really need to wonder why our military people are being exposed to the incredible dangers this country presents. By we and our I refer to the non-Afghan combatants in that country.

It is seldom I agree with Canada’s PM, Harper; but this did accord with reality:

“The insurgency in Afghanistan will never be defeated only by maintaining an international troop presence in the country”, he said in a U.S. television interview last March, adding: “Ultimately the source of authority in Afghanistan has to be perceived as being indigenous…” CBC

Looking for justifications is an interesting exercise, though ultimately useless. We know Bush’s public justification:

The stated aim of the invasion was to find Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members and put them on trial, to destroy the whole organization of Al-Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban regime which supported and gave safe harbor to Al-Qaeda. The Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between terrorist organisations and nations or governments that harbor them.

It seems we have a problem right there. Pakistan has been the launching pad for terrorism. It has also been the scene of major terrorist deaths in that region. Yet here we are tied down in bloody conflict, in a narco-state and blithely ignoring the country displaying the greatest threat.

However our political leaders are now floundering as they try and justify this conflict to voters. Britain, France and Germany unveiled proposals on for an international conference on Afghanistan later this year in order to press Afghans to take more responsibility for their own country. That is, they want out.

General Stanley McChrystal, is seeking a closer partnership with key allies, including Australia, who have troops in southern Afghanistan. Well PM Rudd isn’t saying much just now, but one of his first foreign actions was to front NATO with that same proposal. We Aussies aren’t part of NATO and Rudd was ignored back then.

Having just read William Stephenson A Man Called Intrepid Wikipedia I’m reminded that truth is often the first casualty of war. The book itself was written as a preemptive strike, in the mid 1970’s when official war documents were due to be released. It was a justification for retaining covert operations groups. For this reader nearly every paragraph raised the question; which part of that was truth and which a lie?

However, a repeated theme through the book was information being given out on a ‘need to know’ basis. It was repeated a number of times that political leaders apart from Churchill and Roosevelt did not need to know, it also asserted that those actually in the from line of war didn’t need to know.

In today’s terms that would include General McChrystal, and down to the rest of the brave men and women daily facing the war on the ground; as well as presumably various national leaders trying to find justifications for war weary voters. The history of covert operations since WWII should be ringing alarm bells now.

In Vietnam drug trafficking became a source of funding for ‘black operations’ and transferred into personal wealth generation for some in the system. They are no doubt, now, powerful forces purely through wealth. But it is time to stop and expose those who use their obscene influence for narrow personal gain.

If our presence in Afghanistan can actually produce more positive benefits than negatives I’m all for it. My fear is that the political leaders who launched this adventure have gone, but the covert operations behind it persists, probably without the knowledge of any of the current decision makers. Poppies, or perhaps more correctly Opium, has returned as the major product of this land since our ‘compassionate’ action began.


Cartledge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lindsaylobe said...

Hi Cart
Afghanistan is such a difficult conflict to read. I think the lack of co ordination from participating countries; ineffective nation building through the provision of infrastructure ( to replace the drug trade) and particularly poor intelligence with indiscriminate bombing stifle any real progress.

Achieving an improved outcome seems increasingly forlorn.
Best wishes

Cartledge said...

Lindsay, thank you. Sorry I've been slow responding.