Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Commentary—Afghanistan—The Exit Door?

 Every once in while it is a good idea to stop for a moment and look at a world map. I found myself away from my daily anchor — home and my desk top computer, and the volume control on the television set in the home I was visiting was broken. For a long moment, this all produced a senior moment seizure– I lost my internal vision of a world map. In particular, I lost those counties in the world where there is the constant drone of violence. It was a very uncomfortable senior blank page.

What I was trying to do, because of a three sentence news spike I had overheard, was to have a clear, arm’s length view of Afghanistan, and its unending cascade of violence. It is there that American boots have been mired in its mud for far too long. What triggered my thinking was I had just learned that an Afghan had infiltrated an army camp and opened deadly fire on American troops.

Over the years, our government has attached different –supposedly catchy phase names — to the various groups of our soldiers sent to that and other countries. I immediately ignore them as being inane, mindless and really not inspiring. They are not and do not change the real facts on the ground. U. S. soldiers have just been killed by enemy fire within a supposed safe military compound.

By taking command of an I-pad, I was able to look back at our long history in Afghanistan. What became vivid was last 320 months of our presence there. That number – 320 months translates into 15 years — stood out in bold letters. I was stunned. To put that number in perspective: a child of 10 at the start of that war would now be an adult of 25.

Forty plus years before our 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, this then not very know nation, began its slide into chaos beginning initially with civil wars, then a political vacuum filled by our Cold War enemy the Soviet Union (who was then defeated on the battlefield), along with our own international indecisiveness and political nativity and finally our headlong rush into a black-pit-no-exit war. A war that now enters its 16th year.

“War” by definition means death.

Our present administration has abdicated its decision making process to the generals and admirals with regard to the scope and dimensions of our involvement in this war, and not our civilian leaders who have always been the historical-constitutional designated leaders of this nation, As with all our military decisions today, the Commander-in-Chief has delegated this responsibility.

In 2001, on the front page of every newspaper and magazine, was pictured a recognizable thin, bearded man in white flowing garb, always holding an assault rifle.  Osama bin Laden. It was in April of 2001 that our then president spoke to the nation and told us that we had demanded that the Taliban, in Afghanistan, extradite Osama bin Laden and oust the al-Qaeda from their nation. All the requests were denied, and the US then launched, on October 7, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom with the UK at our side. We went to war to save the Afghan people.

Ten years later Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Three years later (2012), NATO finally devised an exit “strategy” (not withdrawal) from Afghanistan with the Americans announcing, in 2014, that its major combat involvement would cease at that year’s end. But! In early 2017, we have 8,400 American troops that remain in that war torn nation as “military advisors” for counterterrorism operations. Unofficially, the number of our troops stationed there is closer to 10,000. And, as I write this commentary, the US has announced deployment of 1,500 troops from Fort Brag this week, with an additional 3 to 5 thousand troops sent in the months ahead to shore up our military position. The Pentagon announcement also indicated that the troops deployed will be stationed closer to the fighting zones, as the fourth combat fatality this years was confirmed by the Pentagon. Reason, more boots on the ground forces are needed to carry out more strike missions. This new turn of events comes on the heels that ISIS has declared war on the Taliban. All this without any “formal plan” for the US to leave Afghanistan.

 Operation Enduring Freedom has cost America 2,346 lives on the battle field and 20,092 with injuries that will not fade with time. The cost in dollars in relationship to lives is a meaningless calculation. General Nicholson, the commander of the “Resolute Support and US Forces”, views the battle field, at this moment, a “stalemate”. Why do we remain there?

According to the US commander of our forces in Afghanistan, there are about 800 ISIS solders holding out in the southern part of the country that are waging “a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence” against the Afghan people.

Let us be very clear, our being in Afghanistan is not in any sense similar to our assisting the governments of France or England in their fight against the terrorism of ISIS in those countries. Afghanistan can best be described as a largely illiterate, feudal nation of competing tribes with pockets of Islamist militants and no real central government as we understand that concept. The reality on the ground is with ben Laden dead, Al-Qaeda has moved to other countries for its safe haven, and it is the Taliban who now controls more territory, as I look at the map, than it had before our invasion.

The American people have spent 800 billion dollars on that—the longest war in American history. And we have been unable, because we are incapable of building a central government from a country of competing tribes. Around the world there are ISIS strongholds of men and women willing and capable of committing themselves and their bodies to their cause. Does that mean, with our generals in Washington now in command, we are to engage in an armed struggle with each of those separately staged ISIS groups? I think not. If we leave now the terrorist will regroup and attack? This argument is true around the world, and that cannot be a reason for us to say in that unstable nation.

Our initial thrust for the 2001 invasion was to be rid of ben Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that was accomplished.

So why are we still there? We “won”. Didn’t we?

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Global Incidents and Commentary

• The Syrian government and its opposition were considering a ceasefire for a religious holiday beginning on October 26. The ceasefire had been proposed by the UN and Arab League envoys. But almost immediately the government indicated that the cease fire would probably fail because it claimed there was unified opposition leadership to sit at the opposite end of the negotiation table. Then today the UN special envoy to Syria said that the government agreed to a ceasefire and that “some” opposition armed groups agreed “on principle”.
• The American Civil Liberties United has filed Freedom of Information requests to gain additional information about the American drone program in addition to learning about the alleged drone killing of an American teenager. The claim is that the program and the killing has been kept under a veil of secrecy that is unnecessary to the national security of the United States.
• A mixed bag: The first half of the story is that while new data recently released by the IEA paints a picture that the US and EU sanctions against Iran have been quite successful and have impacted that nation’s oil industry the collateral effect has been that tanker insurance has been crippling for Iran. In addition, Iran’s national currency has lost 40 percent of its value in the last month. As this Editor learned at a presentation at New York University from a U.S. Under-Secretary of the Treasury, the crippling restriction placed upon Iran’s banking and currency system has prevent Iran’s central bank from operating in the world banking system.
The other portion of the mixed bag is revealed in an article in The Atlantic by Charles Recknagel. “The U.S. and European Union have to be very careful in not shooting themselves in the foot about it (the fiscal sanctions), because the global economy remains quite sensitive right now and quite vulnerable to any kind of immediate price shocks.”
• Reuters reports: “Violence is returning to what has long been the most tranquil region of Afghanistan, where fears of a resurgent Taliban are as stark as the ragged holes left by the bombing of two ancient Buddha statues in cliffs facing the Bamiyan valley. Bamiyan had been seen as the country’s safest province due to its remote location in the central mountains and the opposition of the dominant local tribe, the Hazara, to the Taliban.”
• Inside Politics reports: United States Representative Peter T. King a New York State Republican (Editor’s note: who generally speaks in hyperbole ) and happens to have the press at his command because he is the Chairperson of the House’s Homeland Security Committee announced that al Qaeda is a greater threat now than it was before the terrorist attacks September 11, 2011. He went on to say that this was the consensus of most intelligence experts. Editor’s Note: Two things must be noted: first, the Congressman said “intelligence experts” not the US intelligence government, and second his remarks were broadcast on CNN a day before the second presidential debates. One has the right to wonder aloud.
• Steve Emerson’s blog noted that a senior Muslim Brotherhood official denied that the group’s leader called for a holy jihad against Israel even though “strikingly similar language” remains on their website. All this precedes the arrival in Jerusalem of the newly appointed Ambassador from Egypt to Israel who, when presenting his credentials (after an absence of almost 2 years of any ambassador rank person), alleged that all is well between two old friends and agreements between the two nations will be upheld.
• In an area of the world that we in the West rarely looks at the latest news is that Russian security forces have killed 49 alleged rebels in the North Caucasus region.
• A snap shot of Africa reveals that in Nigeria, Islamist militants have once again launched a deadly attach against that country’s soldiers in the north east. While the Argentinean government has older more that 300 of its sailors to evacuate a ship that had been seized by the authorities[/column]

Commentary: The Indiscriminate Use of the Word Terrorism

The second presidential debates raised the issue –whether intentional or not—of the meaning of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist attack”. Clearly, the President utilized the word “Terrorism” and the counterattack, after the debate in the spin room, was to try to limit its definition. The more important issue today is not that semantic game that took place in the debate but the indiscriminate use of the word “terrorism” in general.

Let me start from an excerpt from the Washington Post: “Americans were shocked to learn that the prime suspects were not foreign terrorists but men from the nation’s heartland. The plot was not hatched in Beirut or Baghdad but possibly in the backwoods of … by a paramilitary cel (The suspects) are products of Middle America.”

These words were written 17 years ago in 1995, by Dale Russakoff and Serge F. Kowalski, both then staff writers for the Washington Post. This long article is chilling more so because it was two Americans with terrifying and unpredictable cunning, who after planning for an extended period of time, heaped violence of horrific proportions on other Americans. Their sheer brutality brought alarming headlines across the entire nation. Some of their victims were adults but many, far too many, were children playing in a day care center when the defendants bombed the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This was not a hate crime. The targets were neither black nor Hispanics nor “foreign” looking. The defendants were not racists.

The two killers sought and intentionally murdered citizens of not some distant nation but those who were born and lived within their own country. The incident became domestically and internationally known as “The Oklahoma City Bombing”. No prior set of domestic violence in anyone’s recent memory could have predicted or even explained a domestic act of violence as catastrophic as the Oklahoma City bombing. Until that date one could have predicted how the average reader would have defined domestic terrorism. But to create the mental imagery of such an event was unheard of. We were well aware of and thought we understood the nature of international terrorism. Until that time it was an act of violence far from our shores, attributed to people who hated Americans, American interests and ideals. And then, while not directly articulated, the purveyors of that violence “weren’t Americans…they were foreigners”. Domestic violence of the nature of the Oklahoma City bombing—killing of one’s own —-was an anathema and so much more because of what appeared as a normal or accepted relationship between those killed and the killers.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the two main actors in The Oklahoma City bombing were from middle America—as describe in the Washington Post article– two “kids from the heartland of America” who met in early adulthood, became obsessed with guns and the enemies of the American way of life, as they envisioned both an enemy and what was to them the “American way of life”. Then a historical event occurred that monopolized the headlines for days across America: The firestorm in Waco Texas and the shootout between federal agents and the followers of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians that left 80 dead. Both adults and children. The attack against the Branch Davidians was touted by many as “instigated” by federal officers—the United States Government— thought by many as oppressors who declared war on innocent people and whose self defined individual freedom had been encroached upon not by some foreign entity but the federal government.

That event propelled McVeigh to define who he was and what steps he had to take to defend his country and his sense of individual rights. The question for him was: who was the “wrongdoer” at Waco, and the answer to him was simple and straight forward: The federal government and all it stood for. This conclusion easily fed into his obsession to protect his guns and their use. It is reported that he became enthralled and spelled bound by the Battle of Lexington, which as history has taught us, was the firing of the first shots that began the American Revolution for individual freedom from the tyrannical King of England.

The question then becomes how should we characterize or define McVeigh and Nichols? They were not part of a lynch mob in some southern state, they didn’t ride through some slum of a city with a poor immigrant population and throw handmade gasoline bombs, they weren’t high on some potent drug and shot-up a high school prom that they had been denied access to, they weren’t two malcontents who lost control of their emotions. And, equally important, they didn’t fit into any of the usual slots in our statutory criminal justice system. They were terrorists. They were terrorists who were born and raised in the United States. They did not go to some foreign land to learn the art of violence. They were not financed by any foreign nation, religion or foreign political entity. They did not even envision the total overthrow of the United States Government and its replacement, they were eager to “merely” change its structure and definition to fit a less authoritarian and dominating form. They sought a movement which they believed had to be imposed by force in order to attain their model of what they believed to be the original definition of individual liberty. They were terrorists. Terrorists who were born and raised in the United States, whose target was a “federal” office building filled with “federal” employees.

The problem in the ensuing years, as we became more accustomed to acknowledging the idea that terrorism in all forms exists, was the overuse of the word terrorism. With the least provocation, the word became an euphuism for anything and anyone who frightened us with violent behavior; we were thus “terrorized by terrorists”. In late 2002, what began as a robbery and a murder of three in Louisiana and Alabama and that initially produced no national headlines, culminated in screaming headlines of “terrorism” in Washington, the Nation’s Capital. During a three week period, following the murder in Louisiana and Alabama, people drove in fear in Washington and suburban Virginia. The headlines spoke of fear and terrorism, as random shots rang out, and one at a time, over 21 days, ten people were murdered and at least three others were critically injured by unknown sniper fire.

“Terrorism”, “terrorists” and “terror” were the three main words repeated over and over. All the television networks provided live coverage of each attack, with some broadcasts lasting for hours. The New York Times covered it extensively and as it was discovered later, most of its sensationalized reporting was fabricated to create the aura of a series of terrorist attacks. In truth, it was one man with a teenage accomplice that created the carnage. His aim was to cover his tracks. He had murdered his wife and was now attempting to create a picture that his wife had been a victim of a string of random killings. Did these killings terrorize the inhabitants of the Washington Beltway, and the answer is clearly: Yes. Did the killer attempt to create the aura of terror and fear? And the answer was clearly: Yes. But he was neither a terrorist nor can his acts be described as terrorism.

On August 5, a man walked into a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee and killed six people before he was seriously shot and, thereafter, committed suicide. The first words heard on the news were that there was a terrorist attack at a Sikh temple. It was reported that he thought he was killing Muslims. For hours after the attack and the death of the attacker, the local police, speaking to the worldwide news media, talked of and described the incident as an “act of terrorism”. It was not.

Whether it be the “white warriors”, or a “neo-Nazi white supremacist”, or an “Aryan Nations” member, or an individual connected to the “racial holy war” movement or any generic white supremacist interest group spread across the United States, they are not terrorists…domestic or international. They are racists. Yes, they have committed terrible atrocities by killing scores of people in a day care center or killing a Filipino American postal carrier or in a drive-by shooting in a racial holy war. Or even at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee. These killers were not terrorists, they are racist ideologues.

The word “terrorist”, alongside the misguided phrase “war on terrorism”, superimposed with the careless use of the word “terrorism”, has taken on meanings far beyond, not merely what is necessary, but what is misleading and dangerous for the proper platform to discuss how to approach the definition, interdiction and prosecution of certain acts of violence. There has been a world-wide proliferation of definitions for the word “terrorism”, and much of it depends upon who you represent and where you reside. It depends upon your religious bent and your political and cultural motivation. In addition, we—individually, in the media and by some law enforcement authorities, continually employ the word “terrorism” in a dangerously indiscriminately manner. Probably, what is more clearly understood, or should be, is what the word terrorism does not encompass what that emotional word embraces.

Richard Allan, The Editor