Afghanistan remains the forgotten war, yet, in
an eerie lockstep with Iraq, it seems to be following a distinctly Bush administration-style
path toward "the gates of hell." While almost all attention in Washington and
the U.S. media has been focused on the president's new "surge" plan in Iraq
– is it for 21,000 or 50,000
American troops? Just how astronomical
will the bills be? Just how strong will congressional opposition prove? Just
how bad, according to American intelligence, is the situation? – Afghanistan
is experiencing its own quiet
surge plan: more U.S. (and NATO) troops, more military aid, more reconstruction
funds, more fighting, more casualties, heavier weaponry, more air power, more
bad news, and predictions of worse to come.
The repetitive and dismal headlines, often tucked away in back pages, tell
On the fighting:
Kills Up to Seven in Afghanistan"
Militants Killed in West Afghanistan"
'Kills 30 Taliban'"
Over 1,000 Afghan Civilians Killed" ("More than 1,000 civilians were killed
in Afghanistan in 2006, most of them as a result of attacks by the Taliban and
other anti-government forces in the country's unstable south, a rights group
the Taliban Off Nipple Hill – Again"
End to Assaults Facing Royal Marines in Helmand" ("Another day, another
attack. Yesterday the barrage of mortars, rockets, and rifle fire began raining
down on the British base at Kajaki at just after six in the morning….")
Retake Town" ("Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan have taken control
of a town which British troops had pulled out of after a peace deal with local
On calls for intensification of the military struggle:
to Increase Forces in Afghanistan"
to Step Up Efforts to Control Afghan Border: General"
Lawmakers, Back From Afghanistan, Say More NATO Troops Needed"
On the repetitively dismal tale of "reconstructing" Afghanistan and on drugs:
Rebuilding Hit by 'Violence and Waste'" ("The international body established
to coordinate Afghanistan's reconstruction effort marked its one-year anniversary
on Wednesday by admitting it was struggling to make progress in the face of
rising violence, waste, and poor administration.")
Girls and Women Traded for Opium Debts" ("On 4 November 2006, Nasima, 25,
a member of a local women's council, grabbed the AK-47 from the policeman guarding
the council meeting in the Grishk district of southern Helmand province and
killed herself. She had had enough of the daily beatings by her husband. Like
many other women in Helmand, Nasima was given away by her family in 2005. Her
father owed a huge amount to an opium dealer….")
On predictions of more and worse to come (with faint hopes of better sooner
U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Expects Rise in Suicide Attacks in 2007" ("The
incoming commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan said Monday he expects Taliban
militants to launch more suicide attacks this year than in 2006, when militants
set off a record 139 such bombings….")
Expects Offensive, Says Taliban Beaten" ("The Taliban will launch an offensive
within months once the snows melt, but they are effectively a beaten force,
according to the outgoing head of NATO forces in Afghanistan….")
So goes the repetitive, if ever deepening, tragedy of our other war – and
under such headlines lie massive tragedies that seldom make the headlines anywhere
like the plight of Afghanistan's "liberated" women (as recently vividly described
by former humanitarian aid worker and author of Kabul in Winter, Ann
Jones), who remain "by custom and practice, the property of men," capable
of being "traded and sold like any commodity," despite all the hoopla about
their improved status offered by the Bush administration.
In the case of Afghanistan, the question remains: What ever made the top officials
of the Bush administration think that they could succeed in conquering and occupying
Afghanistan, when so many others from Alexander the Great to the imperial British
and the imperial Russians failed so dismally at the same task?