Monday, 7 May 2012

Afghanistan - Mission Accomplished or Not

President Obama had his "Mission Accomplished" moment on the first anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's capture and death.  He secretly traveled to Afghanistan, met with troops, then went to Kabul to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement with President Hamid Karzai.

Prior to his trip to Afghanistan, the Obama camp put out an ad that touted Obama's success in killing Bin Laden, dubbed over with the comments of former President Bill Clinton, all but made Obama the hero and risk taker, while inferring that his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, would have reached a different decision.  Veterans groups were appalled releasing their own ad, which basically praised the brave men and women of Navy Seal Team six and the intelligence community with the slogan "Heroes don't brag." 

In his prime time address to the American people from Kabul, President Obama said in part:

"Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam – thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan Security Forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we have already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war."

Just two hours after the President's departure from Afghanistan, insurgents attacked a compound that houses foreigners in Kabul, demonstrating that the security in Afghanistan is not exactly what some in the NATO governing elite would like us to believe.

While the ability of Afghan Security Forces are being touted and praised by some.  In some military circles that ability and the commitment of those forces is being questioned.  The Taliban has been able to infiltrate security forces and there have been a number of incidents, which are known as green on blue fire that have killed NATO troops.  The most recent incident was on Sunday, when a Marine was shot dead and another wounded before returning fire killed the attacker.

Nearly 20 such attacks have occurred so far this year, including one in the Afghan Interior Ministry, which killed two NATO officers, leading to the death of 12 soldiers so far this year.  This has led to mistrust between NATO and the Afghans they are training.

The U.S. is also considering abandoning plans  for a consulate in the country's north because the building chosen was deemed too dangerous to occupy.  $80 million has been spend on the project despite  security deficiencies, according to a copy of a document drafted by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

The heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Diane Feinstein (D) and Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday and claimed that the Taliban is gaining ground in Afghanistan.

 “I think we'd both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger.  Karzai believes that the Taliban will not come back. I'm not so sure. The Taliban has a shadow system of governors in many provinces. They've gone up north. They've gone to the east. Attacks are up.”said Feinstein.

Representative Mike Rogers agreed with her and elaborated on additional reasons that demonstrate for what he considered the  Taliban's increasing strength.

 “This is a huge problem. And what we have found is maybe the policies, the announced date of withdrawal, the negotiations with the Taliban, have worked against what our endgame is here.  we ought to have a hard discussion about saying, listen, war is when one side wins and one side loses.”

NATO leaders have been determined to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible, mostly due to  pressure of a war weary public.  A CBS report yesterday revealed that there has been a U.S. program for several years, which released high level insurgents from  U.S.-run Parwan detention facility near Bagram north of Kabul.  The CBS report reads:

"As the United States has unsuccessfully pursued a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program has quietly served as a live diplomatic channel, allowing American officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips in restive provinces where military power has reached its limits."

Releasing prisoners from Guantanamo requires congressional approval, while it does not from Bagram.  Enough said.

Add to that the revelation made by the former Vice Chief of the Army, General Jack Keane, which reveals that the President knew about the location of Bin Laden as early as the Summer of 2010, the Mission Accomplished moment has to be questioned.

What seems to be the facts on the ground, is not necessarily what is told the public in NATO capitals or Washington.   Almost 2000 American troops have died in Afghanistan and are still dieing.  Add to that almost 16,000 wounded and it is not hard to tell that the sacrifice of American blood has been significant.

Afghanistan has not been called the "Graveyard of Empires" for nothing.  This mission is far from accomplished and one has to agree that we ought to have a hard discussion on this war.  Either get serious about winning or get out.  Enough of the rhetoric.

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