Before the Obama administration buys into General Stanley McChrystal’s escalation strategy, it might spend some time examining the August 12 battle of Dananeh, a scruffy little town of 2,000 perched at the entrance to the Naw Zad Valley in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
As President Obama and his advisors debate future troop levels for Afghanistan, a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) muddies the water on one of the most important issues in the debate — the effects of Afghanistan’s drug production.
There are currently more than 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, about 65,000 of which are American. U.S. General Stanley McChrystal is asking for more, perhaps as many as 45,000 soldiers. However, there is rising opposition to the war in the United States and several NATO countries. The Taliban now have a permanent presence in 80% of Afghanistan, up from 72% in November 2008, and are spreading their influence to the north. The recent elections have been marred by fraud, and it is still unclear how and when the problems will be resolved. Obama has a lot on his plate and hears many conflicting voices on what should be done. But what do Afghans actually think?
These pieces are part of a strategic dialogue on Afghanistan, as part of our new South Asia focus. You can read Ed Corcoran’s piece here and Erik Leaver’s piece here.
For years, the war in Afghanistan has been in crisis. But now with a failed Afghan election, the resurgence of the Taliban as a political power, NATO allies withdrawing from the battlefield, and Pakistan’s tribal areas under increasing influence from the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the situation looks worse than ever. Obama and his team are spinning their wheels trying to devise a policy to right the sinking ship, but the most sensible solution, for Afghans and U.S. citizens, is to start planning a way out.
The Obama administration consistently fails to learn the lessons of Vietnam in Afghanistan. It mischaracterizes the Taliban threat, has not deployed an adequate number of troops, and faces waning support from the public. Despite the hopelessness of the task, the administration continues its delusional policies.
The official results of Afghanistan’s presidential elections won’t be known for weeks. The ballots cast around the country need to be brought to Kabul — some by donkey and helicopter — and counted. Nevertheless, U.S. officials have rushed to celebrate the process, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen heralded the elections as "a testimony to the determination of the Afghan people to build democracy." This despite more than 75 reported incidents of violence throughout the country, an estimated 26 civilians and security forces dead, reports of more than a handful of districts where no one voted, and complaints about impermanent ink, intimidation, and other irregularities.
While the outcome of the Afghan elections won’t be known for a few days at best, (raw polling data collected by media outlets suggests Hamid Karzai winning 72% of the vote, with his closest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, at 23%, although the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission has received 225 complaints about voting irregularities since August 20) senior members of the Obama administration deemed the August 20 presidential and provincial council elections in Afghanistan the “most important event of the year.” But Malalai Joya, a member of the Afghan Parliament, thinks otherwise. “This election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by and for the West.” Whoever emerges victorious, she has a point, and the Obama administration should listen.
In this interview, IPS intern Daniel Atzmon discusses the situation in Afghanistan with Gyan Bahadur Adhikari (G.B. for short), who is the country director for ActionAid Afghanistan.
The contradictions and confusions in U.S. policy in South Asia were on full display during Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s recent visit to India. U.S. support for India, which centers on making money, selling weapons, and turning a blind eye to the country’s nuclear weapons, is fatally at odds with U.S. policy and concerns about Pakistan.