Blazing Afghanistan

Afghanistan has become a Mel Brooks movie.

President Hamid Karzai handpicked an election commission that threw the election his way. UN overseers declared the election was crooked and decreed that a runoff was required. Karzai didn’t want to face a runoff, but John Kerry and other U.S. officials talked him into accepting it.

Karzai’s opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, demanded that the crooked Karzai change the crooked election officials before the runoff, and Karzai refused. So Abdullah refused to participate in the runoff, and Karzai’s handpicked election officials canceled the runoff and declared Karzai the winner. The U.S. and other Western powers swarmed to decree Karzai Afghanistan’s "legitimate" president.

U.S. President Barack Obama said that it is time for a "new chapter" in Afghanistan’s history, "based on improved governance, a much more serious effort to eradicate corruption," and more joint training of Afghan forces "so the Afghan people can provide for their own security."

Then the corrupt Karzai government Afghanistan government rejected UN criticism of its corruption. The Foreign Ministry says criticism from the international community violates “respect for Afghanistan’s national sovereignty.”

What a crock of bull feathers. Afghanistan is an occupied country. Nobody respects its national sovereignty.

Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad reports that a big league dope deal went down between Hillary Clinton and the Pakistani military and intelligence dudes in which the Pakistani military and intelligence dudes offered to broker a deal with the Taliban. In exchange, according to Shahzad, Hillary agreed to blow off Hamid Karzai opponent Abdullah Abdullah and somehow talked the Indians into removing troops from the Kashmir region so the Pakistanis could focus on pounding the Taliban in the Swat Valley. This supposedly will give us a graceful way of bowing out of our AfPak troop commitment. That’s an incredible tale that has a gnat’s antler’s chance of being true.

We’ve been fed leaks that President Obama is maybe going to go along with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s demand for more troops, but a hot-off-the-presses story from Germany’s Der Spiegel indicates maybe otherwise. U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones expressed decided skepticism toward McChrystal’s agenda. "Generals always ask for more troops," Jones said. "Take it from me."

With regard to Afghanistan, Jones said, "You can keep on putting troops in, and you could have 200,000 troops there and the country will swallow them up as it has done in the past." This bodes well for the decision process that is taking place in the White House. It suggests that Obama may not let the Pentagon steamroll him the way it steamrolled Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam.

The Shazhad story sounds crazy, but it’s crazy enough to make sense.

If one assumes that the White House has changed its mind vis-à-vis Afghanistan – that Obama has come to his senses and realizes the Afghanistan conflict is not a "war of necessity" – then it would take a dollop of skullduggery to skulk out of it.

The Jones interview with Der Spiegel is unlikely to be a chance media encounter. Jones has kept his cards close to his chest throughout his tenure as national security adviser. What little he’s said about the AfPak situation has been anti-hysterical. In early October, he told CNN “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban, And I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger – imminent danger – of falling.”

That was in clear contrast to the falling-sky picture of Afghanistan that McChrystal and his supporters have been painting. (We need more troops now, now, now or all will be lost. Pish.)

Rumors abound. McClatchy reports that Obama is leaning toward sending 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. That’s a lot fewer troops than the 80,000 McChrystal supposedly has asked for as his "low risk" option, but it’s still 34,000 troops too many.

Any effort at conducting counterinsurgency in support of the Karzai regime will be a farce. No matter how much lipstick the Obama administration tries to smear on him, Karzai has been exposed as a tinhorn slob who has family ties to CIA payoffs and the Afghan drug trade. Putting one more G.I. in harm’s way to back Karzai would be a national disgrace, and pouring one more penny of national treasure into Afghanistan would be asinine.

Obama should forget about his second term. He needs to do the right thing now. There’s no "winning" in Afghanistan. Sending a half-million troops there won’t accomplish what McChrystal’s after, a nation-birthing project that will bring Afghanistan from the middle ages to the 21st century sometime around the dawn of the 22nd century. Escalating the war in Afghanistan would be the worst possible course of action our nation has ever taken, even worse than our foolish entanglement in World War I.

Our best move, by far, would be to follow the course of action Shahzad suggests we may be taking: bribing Pakistan’s military and intelligence service into negotiating with the Taliban and hunting down what little is left of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, and bringing our troops home. That’s not a pretty solution, but it’s the best one available, and sometimes you have to let reality have its way.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.