And, there is no strategy.
Now, it's like mammoths in a tar pit trying to extricate themselves.
Today, in Iraq, the US had to send their forces back into Balad, a town which they had turned over to the Iraqi security forces just over a month ago. One can only imagine what Balad looked and smelled like after what is now a civil war erupted in the streets and ethnic cleansing left over 100 bodies laying in the streets for days.
Afghanistan is just as bad and unless some drastic measures are taken, it can only get worse. The failure of the US-led coalition which toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan five years ago to consolidate and secure is directly responsible for the conditions in that country today. The headlong rush into Iraq, ignoring the potential for Afghanistan to erupt, was more than a simple distraction; it was the abandonment of the source of a legitimate problem for the pursuit of an ideological agenda in a country which was being contained.
And, the problem simply re-emerged, like a festering boil that will not go away because the proper treatment is not applied.
Bush and Blair are directly at fault. Now, British commanders returning with their troops from the field are not holding back. Brigadier Ed Butler provided a scathing assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.
The battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan could have advanced much faster had it been tackled with the urgency required when the mission started more than four years ago, he said.That is general-speak for "It wasn't over in 2002 and you (Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld et al) should have damn-well kept your focus on the real problem. Now we have a helluva mess to clean up and its going to take a lot longer than you think."
"We could have carried on in 2002 in the same way we have gone about business now," he said. "Have the interim four years made a difference? I think realistically they have."
In fact, Butler predicts it will now take 20 years to secure Afghanistan. That's a fair assessment from a commander who's been on the ground at the head of a force which took a severe beating.
Then we have Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor making statements like this:
To avoid wearing out his troops, Canada’s defence minister is proposing to limit combat troops to one deployment in war-torn Afghanistan, if possible.Too late, asshole. I know people who are already there for a second tour and will likely end up returning for a third. And, O'Connor is putting a lot of stock in a recruiting initiative.
Gordon O’Connor told the Commons defence committee Wednesday that with a little luck and good planning, the army won’t have to ask soldiers to return again and again to battle Taliban insurgents.
“There are exceptions in some support trades, but we should have enough people, if we do our recruiting right, to get us through to the end of February ’09 without committing large numbers of troops back there again,” he said.
I would like to know how many more new battalions O'Connor estimates he can extract from the Canadian economy. If the plan is to maintain the current Canadian strength in Afghanistan for even 10 years he'll need 40,000 new recruits for the Afghanistan campaign alone. That's more than the special force recruited for Korea in the 1950s.
Of course, O'Connor is also on a mission from Washington, pleading with NATO countries to send more troops and have the national caveats lifted from those who are there. Most of those countries have been instransigent, believing involvement in Afghanistan was what was described to them - a stabilization and reconstruction mission.
"I've started the process of talking to ministers of defense to see ... if we can get these other countries to remove their caveats and to provide more troops," O'Connor told Parliament's defense committee.Except that they're not buying it. The French and Germans have refused to move troops south. They know what happened. The US and British failed to complete their mission, no matter what line they tried to feed NATO, and they're not about to step in to clean up a mess created, for the most part, by the Bush and Blair administrations' rush to play the game of conquest in another country not even remotely connected with the Afghanistan situation.
"The basis of NATO is that we're all in the operation together and we all have to help each other. ... we would like more support from those who are deployed in the west and the north," he said.
Then there are the countries who are just flat-out refusing to commit anything more to any part of the operation. Norway simply said, "No". They could probably have said more, but "NO" carries a lot of weight, and why pour salt into that wound.
The long and short of it is that the situation in Afghanistan is a direct result of the unnecessary invasion of Iraq.
The destruction of both countries, the civilian casualty rate and the failure to provide a secure stable environment from which to rebuild their shattered nations is the fault of that smirking little prick occupying an oblong room in a building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. It's the fault of the people who put him there and it's the fault of western leaders who followed him.
As Billmon says:
We did this. We caused it. We're not just callous bystanders to genocide, as in Rwanda, but the active ingredient that made it possible. We turned Iraq into a happy hunting ground for Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. If Iraq is now a failed state, it's because of our failures.And, if you think Afghanistan isn't related to the unbelievable and desperate situation in Iraq, I challenge you to show me why.
Now, there is a real problem. To abandon Iraq now would cast it into a civil bloodbath that would mirror the worst genocides of the past three decades. Not to mention that all that oil would likely become trapped and out of reach. And that, after all, was why the US invaded Iraq in the first place. (Unless you believe Cheney isn't really running the Bush administration).
It's all the true definition of a quagmire. We're all stuck with no way out and it is the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan who are paying the price.
There is a solution and the generals and defence ministers know what it is. The problem is, they know they cannot sell it to their citizens.
Put the appropriate numbers of troops on the ground and bring the whole mess to an end. Divisions in place of battalions. Ten times the number of troops then are presently there. The conundrum is, the US can't do it without a draft and Britain, Canada and the Netherlands can't do it at all.
It's either that or, get out completely, identify the new targets as they emerge and be prepared to have to fight them in the future. At least that's a strategy and it's a lot more than what exists in the halls of power now.