The US in Afghanistan: A Tale of Urination, Desecration, Extermination, and ... Posing with Corpses?
Afghans showing that they are not altogether pleased with a recent Koran burning incident at a US base in Afghanistan.
It appears that public embarrassments are becoming a monthly occasion for the US occupation in Afghanistan. In January, a video was released on the internet depicting four US soldiers urinating on the corpses of three dead Afghans. The purportedly unintentional burning of Korans at Bagram base ignited violent protests throughout the country in February. And last month, a US soldier was indicted on charges of killing 17 Afghan villagers in a macabre night-time massacre.
So what has April brought us from Afghanistan? No, it's not spring showers--and whatever it is, it is certainly unlikely to result in May flowers. It's eighteen photographs featuring US soldiers posing with Afghan body parts. Classy.
Earlier today, the LA Times published two of the eighteen photographs leaked to them by an anonymous soldier formerly with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C.. According to the Times, the service member released the photos in order to draw attention to "a breakdown in leadership and discipline" that "compromised the safety of the troops" in certain bases in Afghanistan. While the soldier was most certainly referring to the military in Afghanistan when he made this comment, I believe this is a fitting criticism for policymakers in Washington as well. That's because, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, policymakers in Washington continue to cleave to the notion that a continuing US presence in Afghanistan is in our national security interests--and, most absurdly, that this presence is a boon, not a bane, for the Afghan citizenry.
But the American people aren't so keen on an extended US stay in Afghanistan, nor are they so blind to Afghan opposition. A new Pew poll indicates that 60% of the voting population favor removing US troops as soon as possible. Meanwhile, a recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that only 22% of respondents think that most Afghans support what the US is trying to do in Afghanistan, while 62% believe that Afghans oppose what the US is trying to do.
In fact, a social media campaign waged last week by Team Obama indicates that the President and his people are well aware of the general malaise vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Among five "need to know" facts the Obama campaign released about Mitt Romney was that he "opposes the President's plan to end the war in Afghanistan" and that he "would leave troops there indefinitely." This sounds like an attempt to position Obama as the candidate who wants to end the war in Afghanistan--except his actual policy would do no such thing. The Obama administration has yet to release a plan for withdrawing 68,000 of the remaining 89,000 troops left in Afghanistan.
What we do know is that the end of the so-called "combat mission" in 2014 will not mark the departure of the final US soldier from Afghan soil. The administration is currently negotiating with the Afghan government to leave "thousands" of troops in the country indefinitely. While no specific numbers have yet to be released by the administration, a report last August in the UK's Telegraph indicated that the US hoped to leave up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024, which is about proportional to the number of troops the US left in Iraq after it declared the end of that combat mission in August 2008. And no, these troops won't be left behind in a similar situation to the troops stationed in, say, Germany or Japan. Reports from the military suggest that US troops will likely be engaged in some sort of counterinsurgency strategy, with some being left to protect gains recently won by US offensives. This sort of strategy has precedence from Iraq as well. So-called "support troops" in Iraq would engage in combat missions and were described as having a "combat capacity" by administration officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Thus, while it can be said that President Obama has a plan to begin to end the war in Afghanistan, he certainly doesn't have a plan for actually ending it. If you have troops who are combat ready in a country where there is a live insurgency, then they're going to wind up engaging in hostilities--and that means you are still in a war in that country. And these things that everyone finds so shocking--the desecrations, the conflagrations--well, they're going to continue happening. Sorry, Mr. President. And sorry, die-hard Obamaphiles. If Obama wants to be the candidate that runs on ending the war in Afghanistan, then he should put his money where his mouth is and actually come up with a plan for really ending the war, not just beginning to end it. And that's something his supporters who don't want an extended stay in Afghanistan ought to push him to do.
But there's even more we can do to help end the cycle of urination, desecration, extermination and occupation. Rep. Barbara Lee has a bill that would cut all funding for the war save that which is necessary for a safe and orderly withdrawal. We've set up a quick and easy way for you to tell your Representative to sign on to this bill right here.
In any case, the war is sure to continue at least another month. Will the US go five for five? We shall have to stay tuned to see what May brings us from Afghanistan.