Saturday, February 20, 2010

War for the Long Term: Pak-ghanistan Update

CNN reports that despite NATO warnings to the Taliban to flee Marja in Helmand Province, resistance is somehow increasing:

British forces say Taliban resistance has increased in recent days, and that has slowed progress, despite strides.

On Friday, British officials said more than two-thirds of the Moshtarak clearance phase is completed. But British Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger said with that effort, "resistance in that area has increased. We did expect the enemy to up the level of resistance, and that has happened.

Like heck they expected that to happen.

CNN then describes the killing, almost murder, of an unarmed man:

Foreign and Afghan forces have taken pains to avoid civilian casualties in the operation. Civilian deaths and injuries during the Afghan war during airstrikes, raids and so-called "escalation of force" confrontations at checkpoints have undermined NATO efforts to get Afghans on their side.

But despite such efforts, such casualties have occurred in Moshtarak, with the latest coming on Friday, when coalition troops shot dead a man they mistook for a militant.

ISAF said the incident occurred in Nad Ali on Friday when an ISAF patrol thought he might have been carrying a bomb in a box.

"The patrol warned the individual by waving their hands, providing verbal warnings, and firing small pen flares into the air. The man dropped the box, turned and ran away from the patrol, and then for an unknown reason turned and ran toward the patrol, at which time they shot and killed him," ISAF said in a news release.

Later, troops discovered that there was no bomb material.

Meanwhile, this operation looks to be unpopular in Europe, per the post titled Dutch government collapses over Afghan troops (no quote as the title says enough; click through for details).

Other descriptions of the battle describe our allies as including drug kingpins. One can also get a sense of the great expense of battling Taliban who are on foot with jet fighters.

Meanwhile, the drone war over Pakistan is killing lots of people described as "militants". Let us hope that works out well for the U.S. One revenge act in America or on Americans overseas could be the result. On the other hand, perhaps this will be part of such a successful pincers movement that the capture of Messrs. bin Laden and Zawahiri will result. EBR reported months ago, after reading Pakistani reports and commentaries, that the Paks believe that their indigenous Taliban are equivalent to hillbillies and posed no existential threat to the government. That the Taliban are on the run in Pakistan is no surprise in these quarters. It certainly is a positive for the Afghan "mission", but the problem is that Pakistan is a real country and Afghanistan is a feudal society with sections of the population living in almost Stone Age-like conditions and where what we consider to be corruption is just the way it is. So in Afghanistan, the main question is who are we fighting for? We know who we are fighting against, but is that good enough in the long run?

Oneindia reports that:

Even as thousands of US and Afghan troops remain engaged in the first phase of the gruelling fight against Taliban in southern Marja, top commanders believe that "real challenge" lies ahead, and the offensive is just in its "opening act."

A week after the launch of Marja offensive, NATO commanders and civilian stabilization advisers are facing an even more daunting task: how to establish basic local governance and security in a place where there are no civil servants, no indigenous policemen and apparently no public buildings.

So there you have it. We are nation-building in one of the poorest, most illiterate, desolate parts of the world.
Meanwhile, all over America, malls and shopping districts are moldering, post offices are in disrepair, small employers are not feeling the Fed's love, universities are failing in their basic function of teaching, and all this is occurring while Federal debt is exploding and numerous other financial imbalances are at crisis levels in the public and private sector.

Is all this expensive, long-term effort in Afghanistan ultimately worth it?

We may find out.

How weird history can be. If someone had said 10 years ago that America would be going through an economic and financial crisis of its own doing while chasing Muslim fundamentalists all over the Hindu Kush and plains of Pak-ghanistan in order to get back to the normalcy that was taken for granted pre-9/11/01, one would not have been believed.

The story then was stocks for the long term. Now it is war for the long term. We can only hope that just as stocks faded, so will our wars.

Until chronic war on the periphery of "empire" ends, stagflation is a likely economic base case.

Copyright (C) Long Lake LLC 2010

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