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JAD_333
05 Apr 11,, 17:15
Tracking the war in Afghanistan from afar is usually a matter of leapfrogging from one tightly focused incident to another. Occasionally, the media gives us a broad view of military developments, but rarely does it give us a sweeping report of the flip-side, business, economics, social progress, etc. Peter Bergen took on that task recently and he finds that here one can find room for optimism for post-war Afghanistan.

Does Bergen's report confirm or alter your outlook for Afghanistan's future?



Why Afghanistan Is Far from Hopeless
By Peter Bergen Thursday, Mar. 17, 2011

In winter, a noxious fog sometimes descends on Kabul that is so acrid, you can actually taste it. It's a toxic brew of fumes from traffic jams and thousands of charcoal fires, and it's a testament to the fact that in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, Kabul's population has gone up sixfold, from 500,000 to about 3 million.

This gets to the paradox of Afghanistan today: despite the enormous level of government corruption and the Taliban's resurgence in parts of the country, there is another story here of Afghan recovery and progress. But this story is not well understood by many Americans, 6 out of 10 of whom now oppose the war in Afghanistan. (See how lowering the national deficit will change the world.)

Consider that under Taliban rule there were only a million children in school. Now there are 6 million, many of them girls. During the Taliban era, the phone system barely existed; now 1 in 3 Afghans owns a cell phone. Basic health care has gone from being a luxury to being available to most of the population, and annual economic growth is over 20%.

These kinds of advances explain why 6 in 10 Afghans in a poll last fall said their country is going in the right direction. The positive feelings Afghans have about the trajectory of their country seem counterintuitive given Afghanistan's deep poverty and feckless government, but they become more explicable when you recall what life under the Taliban was like. The Taliban incarcerated half the population in their homes, massacred thousands of Shi'ites, hosted pretty much every Islamist terrorist and insurgent group in the world and were pariahs on the international stage. Simultaneously, they presided over the collapse of what remained of the economy. And before the Taliban, there was civil war and rule by warlords; before that, a communist dictatorship; and before that, brutal Soviet occupation.

No wonder that 6 in 10 Afghans today have a favorable opinion of the U.S. military presence in their country. They understand that the U.S. is a guarantor of a future that is somewhat better than the Afghan past. They are not, of course, expecting Afghanistan to be turned into a central Asian nirvana, but they are hoping for more security and prosperity, and there is reason to believe they are right to do so. The war in Afghanistan still claims far fewer victims than the war in Iraq, a conflict widely believed to be all but over. Last year about 4,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by warring factions, while in Afghanistan, which has a larger population than Iraq, some 2,800 civilians died in the conflict. That makes the death rate of the Afghan war 9 per 100,000. (The murder rate in Washington is 22 per 100,000.) (See how motivated youth will change the world.)

The Taliban are getting squeezed where it hurts. The southern province of Helmand is the linchpin of Afghanistan's opium trade and a region where the Taliban once roamed freely. Now it might as well be Marine-istan, so effectively does the U.S. control most of it. A recent BBC poll found the proportion of Helmand residents who say their security is "good" has jumped from 14% to 67% since 2009. And in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, the religious warriors have been pushed out of key districts. The International Council on Security & Development, a think tank that has done field work in Afghanistan for years and is generally critical of Western policy, released a report last month that concluded that the U.S. troop surge in Helmand and Kandahar had improved security significantly.

This makes the prospect of "reconciliation" with elements of the Taliban more plausible. Insurgents do not make peace deals when they think they are winning, but they might if they begin to think they are losing. Richard Barrett, the U.N. official responsible for monitoring the Taliban, says, "I have heard of 12 different initiatives designed to engage the Taliban in talks." And such initiatives are pursued with a large national consensus that this is the right way forward; more than three-quarters of Afghans favor negotiations with the Taliban.

President Obama has also shifted the calculations of the Taliban by announcing that American combat forces will stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, a sea change in U.S. policy that has surprised the Taliban and even dovish members of Obama's Cabinet. When Obama announced the surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in December 2009, he said they would start withdrawing in 18 months. Vice President Joe Biden subsequently opined, "In July 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it."

Extending the deadline is enormously important. The fact that there will be large numbers of American forces in Afghanistan for the next four years has major implications for all the players in the country. Taliban detainees have told their U.S. interrogators that the prospect of fighting for another four long years is sapping their morale. And more years on the clock will allow the buildup of a much larger and more effective Afghan National Army one that is more capable of resisting the Taliban while giving Afghan politicians sufficient time to organize to defeat the Karzai mafia, which now dominates the country. (See how collaborative consumption will change the world.)

There is also some real hope that Afghanistan's economy can be based on more than just international aid and opium production. In January, an obscure Pentagon office, the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, released a report about Afghanistan's mineral wealth. The 49-page study details the size and location of an estimated $900 billion worth of mineral deposits across Afghanistan, the fruits of "remote sensing technology" of satellites, buttressed by the work of geologists on the ground taking samples.

The Pentagon report concluded that Afghanistan could become a "world leader" in lithium, which is used in making batteries and other industrial processes, and it found a massive copper deposit just south of Kabul and next door to another giant copper seam for which the Chinese have already paid $3 billion for the right to mine. The report also identified substantial gold deposits; three months ago the Afghan government approved a deal brokered by JPMorgan in which Western investors will invest an estimated $50 million in a gold mine in northern Afghanistan.

With such potential wealth below the surface, Afghanistan can "become either South Korea or Somalia," an official in the Afghan Foreign Ministry explained to me. Afghans already lived through their own version of Somalia during the civil war of the early 1990s and the subsequent rule of the Taliban, who restored order at the price of imposing a brutal theocracy. They don't want more of that; fewer than 10% of Afghans in a number of polls hold a favorable view of the Taliban. There's nothing like living under Taliban rule to convince one that the group's promises of Islamist utopia here on earth don't pan out. Instead, Afghans want what everyone else wants: a slightly more prosperous and secure future. Slowly, very slowly, that goal is being met.

Bergen, a frequent visitor to Afghanistan since 1993, is the author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda and the director of the national-security studies program at the New America Foundation.

Read more: Why Afghanistan Is Far from Hopeless - 10 Ideas That Will Change the World - TIME (http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2059521_2059653_2059652,00.html) #ixzz1IfHFuBvG

Spider_Pig
05 Apr 11,, 18:08
Dear Sir,

a very valid point... do we have real judgments or are we trying to find outcomes which satiates our own thought culmination.

However, it will be a bit difficult to answer... if we don't rewind a little bit back... like when NATO hit Afg and then there is this transition period...

Point 1. Law an order... we live in a society where we expect Cops will still drive us back home and serve us coffee...

Point 2. Rights... I speak I feel is not right... about a movie maybe and I am held as a traitor

Point 3. Belief... I start believing in a religion and whole of a sudden when I say I don't believe a religion everyone points a gun at me

Point 4. What the hell does any religion say anything but peace and humanity when they put a full stop to those amazingly long books.


My question is simple... is it let them live now or live them on their own (and I am thankful for some reasons that US + NATO attacked happened)... however... can those kids still fly those kites? (Please watch KITE runner)... and can those women... walk like elegance what they are meant to be...

AFG is stuck.. only way we can help now... is not occupation... is not sympathy... and it's only one thing... it's let it bounce back

Go AFG go!!!

JAD_333
06 Apr 11,, 06:50
America treads a rocky road in most of its wars apart from the actual fighting. Most are PR disasters and not well accepted by the US public and, for that matter, most of its friends. Yet the US seems to leave something intangible behind that helps former enemies thrive and in time become friends. N. Korea is a notable exception.

The thrust of the article is that Afghanistan is not the wall-to-wall basket case that people from faraway may think it is. The warlords may find that staking a claim in their country's economic future is preferable to endless fighting.

Officer of Engineers
06 Apr 11,, 07:05
JAD,

Take the article and replace the words, paraphrasing "today's Americans" with "pre-1989 Soviets."

JAD_333
06 Apr 11,, 08:00
JAD,

Take the article and replace the words, paraphrasing "today's Americans" with "pre-1989 Soviets."

Forgive me for being ignorant, but what's the point? I'm too tired to think right now. Manana.

Wayfarer
06 Apr 11,, 11:38
Media coverage of the war has been so see-sawy that I fail to have any optimism whatsoever in these reports. They periodically churn out these reports every that either say the war is on the downhill or the Taliban are "almost defeated". They have been on the verge of defeat for the last 10 years according to the line the Govt and media feeds us. Frankly I am tired of this guesswork reporting, especially claims drawn together from highly isolated incidents are strung up as having some sort of strategic importance.

Officer of Engineers
06 Apr 11,, 13:45
Forgive me for being ignorant, but what's the point? I'm too tired to think right now. Manana.The point is that the Soviets also built hospitals, schools, damns, powerplants, irrigation and a lot of people benefitted. They still ran from Afgahnistan the loser.

JAD_333
06 Apr 11,, 15:52
The point is that the Soviets also built hospitals, schools, damns, powerplants, irrigation and a lot of people benefitted. They still ran from Afgahnistan the loser.

What about the differences?

Not invited in by a stooge government. Response to the 9-11 attack. Multinational involvement. Huge mineral deposits discovered. Chinese mining deals. Country awash in dollars. Different military strategy. No proxy like the US to thwart the war. A national government with near autonomy. Pakistan largely neutered in supporting Taliban. No broad-based coalition of Mujahideen. Effective cross-border attacks on insurgent leaders.

And perhaps most significant, Afghans had a taste of the Taliban and didn't like it.

Chogy
06 Apr 11,, 16:38
The thought of U.S. troops involved in Afghanistan until 2014 at a minimum is not encouraging. Despite the optimism of this report, I believe the most telling reports are those that deal with the ANA and the Afghan police.

It is freely acknowledged that these troops need training... a lot of training. That is not unexpected. What is surprising to me, at least - is the complete apathy of these men. They'd rather smoke hashish than train, they are utterly unreliable, can be bought off, desert in large numbers, and present a danger to those training them. And this is at least 8 or 9 years after the recruitment and training had started.

If the young men of Afghanistan do not care about the future of their own nation, then all of the coalition efforts will be utterly in vain. IMO, the Taliban takeover will be rapid, total, and the blood will flow freely as Taliban gangs take vengeance. :frown:

JAD_333
06 Apr 11,, 16:56
The thought of U.S. troops involved in Afghanistan until 2014 at a minimum is not encouraging. Despite the optimism of this report, I believe the most telling reports are those that deal with the ANA and the Afghan police.

It is freely acknowledged that these troops need training... a lot of training. That is not unexpected. What is surprising to me, at least - is the complete apathy of these men. They'd rather smoke hashish than train, they are utterly unreliable, can be bought off, desert in large numbers, and present a danger to those training them. And this is at least 8 or 9 years after the recruitment and training had started.

If the young men of Afghanistan do not care about the future of their own nation, then all of the coalition efforts will be utterly in vain. IMO, the Taliban takeover will be rapid, total, and the blood will flow freely as Taliban gangs take vengeance. :frown:

Reports are mixed.

This AP article is the latest I could find. It has a nice headline, but all things are relative, and when you finish reading it, you wonder how permanent the progress is and how any police force can improve when the Afghan government barely supports it.


By Deb Riechmann - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Feb 11, 2011 6:24:45 EST

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan Kandahar's police substation No. 16 is a small green metal building plopped on a patch of dirt.

While still primitive, Army Lt. Col. John Voorhees boasted of its progress when he visited one rainy day last week as a ragtag group of Afghan policemen some still in summer uniforms were lined up.

Outside the building, there are damp tents furnished with bunk beds. A tarp hung over an outdoor eating area. There was a latrine and even a ping pong table made of scrap lumber.

"I think we've moved from an F to a C or C-plus," said Voorhees, commander of the 504th Military Police Battalion, which is deployed in Afghanistan's largest city in the south. "They have hot showers, water, heated tents."

The substation is one of 16 that ring Kandahar to help keep the Taliban from getting into the city to launch attacks.

Afghan policemen and American MPs live together at all of them, jointly protecting their piece of the city of 800,000. Ten substations are housed in buildings. Two are under construction. Four still operate in tents or temporary quarters.

With hundreds more policemen on the streets, fewer insurgents are slipping into the city.

There are 1,600 Afghan policemen in Kandahar. That's 800 more than last year and the total is slated to rise to 2,100 by summer. They are partnered with 850 U.S. military policemen up from 170 MPs last summer.

[Click url to read whole article] Troops see progress in training Afghan police - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times (http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/02/ap-troops-see-progress-in-training-afghan-police-021111/)