Remember it was initially to capture Osama Bin Laden. Experts say he was about to be captured but then Bush and company decided to go after Sadam Hussein diverting resources from Afghanistan to Iraq.
Meanwhile Osama managed to build a substantial infrastructure in Afghanistan. The defeated Taliban too managed to resurrect itself challenging once again the official Kabul government.
Often, though not always, it appears Al Qaeda and Taliban work on common objectives to get the US out of Afghanistan. The official Kabul government is as corrupt and rotten as any seen in a bad tiresome movie replayed on TV too many times. And so we are where are are. Read this in today's NY Times
September 6, 2009
From Baby-Sitting to Adoption
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
On Aug. 29, this newspaper carried a front-page headline that should make your blood boil: “Karzai Using Rift With U.S. to Gain Favor.” The article said that Obama officials were growing disenchanted with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, whose supporters allegedly stuffed ballot boxes in the recent elections, while Mr. Karzai struck deals with accused drug dealers and warlords, one of whom is his brother, for political gain. The article added, though, that in a feat of political shrewdness, Mr. Karzai “has surprised some in the Obama administration” by turning their anger with him “to an advantage, portraying himself at home as the only political candidate willing to stand up to the dictates of the United States.”
If this is how our “allies” are treating us in Afghanistan, after eight years, then one really has to ask not whether we can afford to lose there but whether we can afford to win there.
It would be one thing if the people we were fighting with and for represented everything the Taliban did not: decency, respect for women’s rights and education, respect for the rule of law and democratic values and rejection of drug-dealing. But they do not. Too many in this Kabul government are just a different kind of bad. This has become a war between light black — Karzai & Co. — and dark black — Taliban Inc. And light black is simply not good enough to ask Americans to pay for with blood or treasure.
This is the most important and troubling fact about Afghanistan today: After eight years of work there, we still do not have a reliable Afghan partner to hand off to. And it is not all our fault. Lord knows, Iraq still has problems. The outcome there remains uncertain. But the reason Iraq still has a chance for a decent future is because a critical mass of Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites were ready to take on their own extremists and hold reasonably fair elections. The surge in Iraq started with key Iraqi communities wanting to liberate themselves from their own radicals. Our troops helped them do that.
The strategy that our new — and impressive — commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is pursuing calls for additional troops to create something that does not now exist there — a reasonably noncorrupt Afghan state that will serve its people and partner with America in keeping Afghanistan free of drug lords, warlords, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. His plan calls for clearing areas of Taliban control, holding those areas and then building effective local, district and provincial governments — along with a bigger army, real courts, police and public services. Because only with all that can we hold the support of the Afghan people and avoid a Taliban victory and a return of Al Qaeda that could threaten us. That is the theory.
And it may, indeed, be the only way to go, but we should have no illusions: We’re talking State Building 101 in the most inhospitable terrain and in one of the poorest, most tribalized, countries in the world.
As the military expert Anthony Cordesman, who has advised the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, explained in The Washington Post recently, it requires “a significant number” of U.S. reinforcements and time to do what the Kabul government has failed to do, because it remains “a grossly overcentralized government that is corrupt, is often a tool of power brokers and narco-traffickers, and lacks basic capacity in virtually every ministry.”
To put it another way, we are not just adding more troops in Afghanistan. We are transforming our mission — from baby-sitting to adoption. We are going from a limited mission focused on baby-sitting Afghanistan — no matter how awful its government — in order to prevent an Al Qaeda return to adopting Afghanistan as our state-building project.
I recently looked back at Stephanie Sinclair’s stunning 2006 photograph in The Times of Ghulam Haider, an 11-year-old Afghan girl seated next to the bearded 40-year-old man she was about to be married off to. The article said Haider had hoped to be a teacher but was forced to quit her classes when she became engaged. The furtive sideways glance of her eyes at her future husband said she was terrified. The article said: “On the day she witnessed the engagement party. ... Sinclair discreetly took the girl aside. ‘What are you feeling today?’ the photographer asked. ‘Nothing,’ the bewildered girl answered. ‘I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?’ ”
That is the raw clay for our state-building. It may still be worth doing, but one thing I know for sure, it must be debated anew. This is a much bigger undertaking than we originally signed up for. Before we adopt a new baby — Afghanistan — we need to have a new national discussion about this project: what it will cost, how much time it could take, what U.S. interests make it compelling, and, most of all, who is going to oversee this policy?
I feel a vast and rising ambivalence about this in the American public today, and adopting a baby you are ambivalent about is a prescription for disaster.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company