ABC News has an informative report on Marja, Afghanistan titled In Afghanistan, No Direct Route to Success. There is important background information new to most Americans.
It was always unclear why this particular region was the site of attack. Except for being one of many sites of poppy cultivation, why did we care about Marja? ABC provides a potential answer:
Marja, by Afghan standards, is just an infant. When it was developed in the 1950s and '60s it was dubbed "Little America" because it was engineered and built by the US Agency for International Development. The system of canals and farm jobs it created were one way the U.S. sought to keep strategically-positioned Afghanistan in the U.S. column during the cold war. Today, the ownership of 50 percent of the land here is contested; a result of tribal infighting, landowners fleeing years of war, a lack of legal documentation, and poor management from successive governments.
Aha! The truth outs . . . but of course that story was omitted from the reporting of the brilliant military operation seizing central Marja. And how are we doing in reviving matters? Could be a lot better:
The canals, ignored for years, are now heavily silted and don't flow with enough water for fields that have multiplied over the years. In a sign of how broken Marja is some 60 miles of canals have been identified for dredging and cleaning but the specialized equipment isn't readily available and the price of such a project is exorbitant because of security concerns.
What has this non-victory cost us in human terms? A lot:
Marines of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines are finally departing Marja after a difficult seven-month tour. They fought their way into Marja under harsh conditions, clearing the area of hundreds of Taliban fighters. During the tour 10 Marines from the 1/6 were killed in action and another 214 wounded.
I am friendly with a gentlemen who served in a non-combatant position with the Soviets during their own Afghan War in the 1980s. He says that all the Afghans want is to be left alone. They don't want progress. They don't want money. They don't mind primitive living conditions. They just don't like foreigners. This is what he says. What does ABC report?
Sgt. Dawson considers success in Afghan terms. "Personally I think the locals aren't really that concerned with who wins. They just want to live their lives. If the Taliban wins they'll live by the Taliban rules. If we win they'll live by our rules."
Methinks Sgt. Dawson doesn't fully understand or doesn't want to understand. The people are, more or less, the Taliban. The Taliban are not the Arab al-Qaeda, who brought the calamity of the NATO invasion to a country that had just eliminated the Soviet presence and just wanted to go back to its traditional ways (which I am not praising!). But I believe in the Star Trek principle of non-interference with peoples who are not attacking us. The Taliban are, in Afghan eyes, the freedom fighters the U. S. is celebrating this holiday weekend, with support from their relatives across the imperialist-imposed "border" in the adjoining lands such as (principally) Pakistan.
More or less, al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan. And we can withdraw from Afghanistan and say that if they let al-Qaeda back, we will come back for real and control the country for real, on our own, not needing international approval, not fighting a limited war, etc. Perhaps they will listen; I would if I were they.
The Karzai gang is not worth an American life or dollar. Candidate Obama got things backward regarding the Iraq surge (he hated it and was more than OK with MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad re Genl. Petraeus) and his Afghan surge (a costly embarrassment to date, and now he loves Petraeus who really wants to be back in Tampa on his way to retirement rather than being demoted and exiled to Afghanistan).
The Obama surge in Afghanistan is and was a mistake. We need the troops to clean up the Gulf and help improve America at home in many ways. We need to spend our resources more wisely and humanely. The costs of printing and borrowing money to pay for this war far exceed the benefits (if any) from its prosecution. The world at large should see us only fighting wars of necessity, not wars of choice.
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