You may have missed it among all the protests and occupations, but last week marked the 10th anniversary of one of the longest wars in American history, the war in Afghanistan. Many of the soldiers now fighting that war were in grade school when it started. And both the US and NATO acknowledge that the goals for the war remain far off, a decade after the initial invasion. Hundreds of billions of dollars get spent every year, lives are lost, and yet we are running in a kind of molasses, unable to either improve the situation to the liking of the policymakers or just end the charade and leave.
When Stanley McChrystal is saying things like this, for example, the policymakers should probably take the hint that this whole decade of war thing is not the greatest idea:
The U.S. began the war in Afghanistan with a “frighteningly simplistic” view of the country, and even 10 years later lacks knowledge that could help bring the conflict to a successful end, a former top commander said Thursday.
Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations that the U.S. and its NATO allies are only “a little better than” 50 percent of the way to reaching their war goals.
Of the remaining tasks to be accomplished, he said the most difficult may be creating a legitimate government that ordinary Afghans can believe in and that can serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.
So we stumbled in blind, lack the knowledge to finish the job, and find that the hardest part may be creating a legitimate government, something we’ve been trying to do for ten years. Yeah, that sounds pretty close to “this won’t work” territory.
Not that anybody cares about routine abuse anymore, but just to introduce that into the discussion, it’s worth recalling that the reason the leadership we put in power in Afghanistan cannot win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people probably has something to do with going around and torturing them.
Suspects are hung by their hands, beaten with cables and in some cases their genitals are twisted until they lose consciousness in detention facilities run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan national police, according to a study released Monday by the United Nations here.
The report provides a devastating picture of the abuses committed by arms of the Afghanistan government as the American-led foreign forces here are moving to wind down their presence after a decade of war. The abuses were uncovered even as American and other Western trainers and mentors had been working closely with the ministries overseeing the detention facilities and funded their operations.
Acting on an early draft of the report seen last month, NATO stopped handing over detainees to the Afghans in several areas of the country.
This wasn’t a selective report, they interviewed half of all the detainees of the Afghan intelligence service. So, to recap, we trained these security forces and now they engage in brutal torture. We built the government and now they steal elections and fail to represent the public. Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that the results of the training reflected incidents that have come out of the US government in recent years!
Remember that the entire purpose of nation-building in Afghanistan was to create a lasting civil society that would speed our exit. We’ve instead created a monster.