America’s long, long Afghan war

February 4, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

Twenty years ago this month, the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan after a disastrous war that lasted nine years, seven weeks and three days. Barring military and political miracles, the United States will stay longer in Afghanistan than the Soviets did. Considerably longer.

Present U.S. plans to reinforce troops fighting a war that is, by most accounts, going badly, provide for up to 30,000 additional soldiers to be deployed over the next 12 to 18 months. By that time, the U.S. presence will almost have matched the Soviets’ stay and will exceed it by the end of 2010.

And if U.S. history is any guide, politicians running for the 2012 presidential election will describe the Afghan war as Barack Obama’s war because he switched emphasis and carried out a campaign pledge to draw down troops in Iraq and bolster U.S. forces in Afghanistan, now 36,000 strong.

Obama critics will complain about the Afghan war’s cost — probably around $70 billion a year — and demand an accounting on what it has achieved and when it will end. So far, nobody is venturing forecasts beyond “it will be long.”

General David Petraeus, the man credited with turning the tide of the war in Iraq, has spoken of Afghanistan as “the longest campaign of the long war.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicts “a long and difficult fight.”

By an ironic twist of history, Gates was instrumental in getting Soviet troops out of Afghanistan when he was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. supplied anti-Soviet fighters with cash, weapons and intelligence.

Now Gates is involved in getting more American troops into Afghanistan and it is not difficult to imagine that eventually the United States will face the same agonizing decisions the Soviets faced in the end. Gates, the only Bush White House cabinet secretary retained by Obama, wrote about exit problems from a war gone wrong for the Soviets in his 1996 memoir, From the Shadows.

He said that by 1987, the CIA had concluded the Soviets wanted out. “But tough decisions were still in front of them – how to get out, when and without losing face … I was truly convinced that the Soviets would have difficulty arranging a face-saving way out.”

They did get out, under an agreement signed in Geneva, and the last soldier to leave, Lieutenant General Boris Gromov, walked across the bridge that links Afghanistan with the Uzbek town of Termez on February 15, 1989. The war had killed about 15,000 Soviet soldiers and an estimated one million Afghans.

By early February, the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan stood at 644 and that of the NATO-led multinational coalition of the International Security Assistance Force at 427. Afghan casualties, both military and civilian, are a fraction of those of the Soviet war.

The Soviet and American wars in Afghanistan differ vastly in scale and purpose. Moscow wanted to prop up a Marxist government and at the height of its involvement, had a 115,000-strong force in the country. More than 600,000 of its soldiers served there and the invasion drew international condemnation, complete with a (partial) Western boycott of the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow.

In contrast, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was in retaliation to the mass murder of 3,000 people in New York’s World Trade Center and at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. That attack was carried out by members of al Qaeda, which had been given support and safe haven by the Taliban government of Afghanistan.

The American assault on Afghanistan initially dislodged the Taliban but failed to destroy al Qaeda or eliminate its leader, Osama bin Laden, whom George W. Bush had promised to catch “dead or alive.” Even with a $25 million bounty on his head, bin Laden has eluded capture and broadcast a new audio tape just a week before Obama’s inauguration on January 20.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have recovered and are steadily extending their influence with a permanent presence in more than 70 percent of Afghanistan, up from 54 percent a year ago, according to the International Council on Security and Development, a think tank based in London which closely monitors the war. NATO officials dispute that percentage but there’s no dispute that three out of four main highways into Kabul, the capital, are being harassed by the Taliban.

It is a situation that lends itself to General Petraeus’s oft-repeated dictum: “You can’t kill or capture your way out of a complex insurgency. The challenge … is how to reduce substantially the number of those who have to be killed or captured.”

That’s a task made more difficult by the fact that Taliban and al Qaeda elements can count on sanctuaries across the border with Pakistan and hot-pursuit U.S. air strikes into Pakistan carry the risk of destabilizing the fragile government there – the government of a nuclear-armed state.

Another complicating factor: Afghans don’t like outsiders to interfere in their affairs as successive invaders, from Alexander the Great to the British and later the Soviets, learned at great cost. In his memoir, Gates hails the departure of the Soviets as a great victory and adds: “Afghanistan was at last free of the foreign invader.”

That’s not how the Taliban see it, 20 years later.


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We went into this war in the right way at first by supporting the faction that looked like it would bring freedom to the Afghan people and help us kill or capture the masterminds of the September 11 attack on America. Most Americans supported President Bush on the original action and were proud of how quickly the initial objectives were achieved.
The war is dragging on for us because we are now doing the same thing Soviets did in the seventies, that is propping up a government that we helped get set up. We need to define victory, achieve it, and start an exit strategy. If we don’t do this; Afghanistan will become Obama’s Viet Nam and instead of him becoming the new FDR he will find himself the new Lyndon Johnson with a war he can’t win and doesn’t want.

Posted by Craig Coal | Report as abusive

Comparing the Soviet-era fighting forces to the modern US warfighting machine is not an apples to apples comparison. ’nuff said

I think Debussman also errs in legitimizing the Taliban. Does he think its appropriate to consider the opinions of a bunch of people trained to kill innocents in the Madrassas of Pakistan? The common Afghani would wish to see the Taliban ousted.

And let’s not forget what this is really all about: encircling Iran. Iran’s emerging nuclear influence directed by (deranged, fanatical, delusional, confused, or just insensitive if you lean left) Ayatollahs.

See, anyone can put words on paper.

Posted by Luke | Report as abusive

What all we have learnt from the history? Why can’t we apply that? I think I have a non-military option which can achieve the same US goal without investing heavily on military. It might cost even less than one tenth of the current cost, which we are spending right now — A success that would last for a long time. I can’t tell it all in one sentence. I volunteered with the obama team during the election for change. But the question is would the Obama team give ear to any suggestions? Would they care to know about it? There are achievable solutions in a shorter period of time.

Posted by Arjumand Akhtar | Report as abusive

The Soviet Union’s reasons for being in Afghanistan were territorial ambition and a concern about the spread of Islamic terrorism. The US has a slightly different reason for being there. Osama was trained there – with indirect help by the US, and used this country as his launching pad for his ambitious goal of building a Caliphate. A reasonable goal of the US is to prevent this country from becoming that Caliphate. This is similar to our apparently eternal presence in Germany, Japan and South Korea. The difference being that actual combat takes place in Afghanistan. Call it what you will, but the moment we leave, the Taliban take over and Osama or someone like him resumes a more frontal assault on the Western World. We cannot leave.

Posted by Guy Thompto | Report as abusive

Exit strategy? What exit strategy? There’s none, if you don’t count that proverbial last chopper lifting off from the US Embassy as one. And the next day thereafter, Osama bin Laden will be holding a press conference in Kabul.
Staying strategy? Again there’s none, at least within the realm of current rules of engagement. It’s either US/NATO force will keep taking unacceptable casualties, or inflicting casualties on such a scale that recent Israeli incursion to Gaza (aka Cast Lead) would look like child’s play in comparison. The problem is the same that dogged the Russians in the Eighties. There’s no defined enemy the regular army can engage and defeat. AK-47 is now as much a common detail of local costume as pants. The same “peaceful local peasant” that brought out tea and sweets when his village was visited by a large convoy with armor and helicopters buzzing overhead, would pull an RPG launcher from a hiding place when a lone Humvee passes by. The only way to secure an area is to carpet bomb it, then burn whatever remains with napalm, and then seed with land mines for a good measure. But this scorched earth approach proved too much even for not-so-scrupulous Soviets, and can’t be imagined under current NATO leadership.
Actually Russians were very close to making it when they deployed enough attack helicopters to patrol at least the major roads during daytime. But then Mr. Gates supplied Afghan insurgents with Stinger SAMs, and choppers became too vulnerable. Fixed wing aircrafts are not as vulnerable, but they are just too fast and fly too high up to spot insurgents hidden in the vegetation that is abundant in the mountains there. Most of those Stingers are unaccounted for and still pose a threat to NATO aircraft. Besides, if you have money you can buy Stingers or their Russian equivalent from illegal arms dealers, and the border control in Afghanistan is non-existent. And the money is literally growing in Afghan poppy fields.
In other words, Obama is in lose-lose circumstances. Bush could’ve solved it, but he blew his chance. If only on 9/12/2001 he issued an unconditional surrender ultimatum (that would’ve been surely immediately rejected by Taliban), and on 9/13/2001 nuked Afghanistan into one big smoldering hole in the ground, no one in the whole world would’ve said a word against it, given the fact that the WTC ruins were still smoldering. But that option is not available anymore. Whatever options exist now are all losing options.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

I’m starting to think that we need to be more aware of the overlapping issues that carry across the area from Egypt to India. The good news is that every strategic success will have positive knock-on effect. The bad news is that blunders will have similar negative reverberations. Now if we could just have a clear strategic success…

Posted by Winchester73 | Report as abusive


America needs to wake up, stop believeing what your told by your TVs & newspapers.
Sept 11 was arranged internally by the CIA and FBI etc, to further establish your dept of homeland security (just like hitler) and to remove the taliban from the afgan office as they had abolished the US run opium trade. Since then Afgan now supplies 80% of the worlds herion whith profits going to US based companies. And we all know about the WMDs…so they are not there? why are you still there inflaming the sectarian violence and the oil companies getting back no-bid contracts for the iraq oil.

Now you mention the cost of all this???
160 billion on 1 year worth of war on terror…Hoe many american civilians die each year as a result of this? less than 100….No heart disease kills nearly half a million americans a year. And your government spends 3 billion on it.

We all need to wake up to this empire that rules the world via debt. It all starts with the american people breaking away. Once your leaders loose their popular opinion from their uneducated population the empire will fail.
At the moment you all have no trouble supporting the killing of innocent persons, children and even your own people.
Most of the people in the world know this bar americans, and you are the people with the power at hand to save everyone including yourselves and your children and so on.
All we ask is that you learn to think for yourselves. Its not a big ask, you are always emergent and knowledge will set you free, not in the propaganda/democatic sense, it is the divine principal of our species and it is up to you and you only to grasp it.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

As Bush said take the war to the enemy and keep the enemy busy there. The moment we leave, the Jihadists will take over and they, regardless of survival of Osama, with the help of Iran and other groups (indirectly funded by Saudis) prepare attacks on US and other secular nations. They will embolden fundamentalist elements in muslim countries. Currently, Iraq and Afghanistan are the two playgrounds which are like beehives for jihadists, the moment they become unemployed they will be sent out on new missions: may it be in Thailand/Philippines or Spain/France, not to mention UK/ US. Pakistan will be Talibanized if Afghanistan falls (in the hands of Taliban).

This is a new global reality, no easy way out of this quagmire. Global sacrifices are needed to live with and ultimately root out the fundamentalism and terrorism. No quick bilateral agreements will help any one country out of this abyss, ‘unless, one changes ones way of life’. A collective, sustained and multipronged attack will yield results, that too after a prolonged effort. Glad Russia wants to help.

Posted by AzadDP | Report as abusive

Mr. Debusmann: Alexander to America everyone invaded had won the wars with Afghanistan- however,they could not live here with this civilization that had embraced stone age irreversibly.You are right 20 yrs later they remain same.

Posted by AzadDP | Report as abusive

people should not be afraid of afghanistan or pakistan or iran . No onne wants to go out and kill anyone . Everyone wants to live in a peaceful world and enjoy prosperity . We need to help these countries that have been in turmoil with education and financial assistance and bring them industrial solution thus providing them with jobs and a sustainable economy. We do not need people like AzadDP spreading fear and hate towards these countires and alienating them . We need to unit as human race and help one another not attack and kill . We need more love and time . We need to welcome everyone into global village regardless of race, culture and religion . Not everyone will be the same and we should not anticipate same colours . AzadDP you need to be banned from here for spreading hate against humanity.

Posted by vancity | Report as abusive

It’s interesting to read Muslim viewpoints of the war in Afghanistan. I welcome their comments. That is part of living in a free society. It is regrettable that there is a war, and that innocent people are hurt, but America is not an easily defeated power once we have been dragged into a conflict. Muslims do not understand what a terrible and committed enemy America can be once properly motivated. We do not go away without a few million deaths on the part of the “winner” (ask Vietnamese people if they feel like they “won”).

The Taliban and Al Qaida are pure evil and need to be destroyed whatever the cost. We have the same capacity for total commitment to military action as the Soviets did. We will stay in Afghanistan for another decade or two to straighten the place out.

Buying up all the opium and destroying it or sending it to the legitimate market would be helpful. Building a real border with Pakistan would also be a good idea. Another good idea would be putting some kind of chemical sensors in place in satellites or predator drones that could detect the labs used to make heroin so we could bomb them. Getting rid of Karzai and his cronies would also be helpful.

I hope Obama reads this.

Posted by Bob Johnson | Report as abusive

C’mon Bob!!!
Think for one second about what you are saying! It is the very reason there is so much disproportional hatred toward Muslims, and disproportional hatred towards the US! While some of the things you said are entirely valid (I don’t support people or groups who kill innocents to make a political statement), Al Qaida and the Taliban ARE NOT AT ALL representative of the Muslim people. That is equivalent of saying that Billy Graham and Timothy McVeigh are representative of Christianity as a whole! And to those people who believe that the Afghan people hate us or love us, you are just as guilty! Not all of America supports this war, just as some people support it. Opinion is divided among the people. I’m not saying what options are best, or even that there is a good option, but recognize that blanket statements like these are what causes and ads to the existing tensions.

Posted by C’mon Bob! | Report as abusive

There were multiple reasons for entering Afghanistan.
1. al Qaeda was being protected by the Taliban
2. The Taliban was reducing opium production
3. Afghanistan is strategically located for many reasons
4. It was the prelude to Iraq.

It has been shown that al Qaeda was involved with 9/11. How far covert entities of the US black world were involved, I do not know. The Fact the US has not captured Osama and broken the back of al Qaeda tells me the US was not really that interested in doing that and has other motivations. A big one is the CIA Opium revenues. The other was access to Iraq, Syria, and Iran oil fields. I think it was very convenient that we dropped Afghanistan and marched into Iraq on the segue Saddam Hussein was in league with al Qaeda and to make this worse he had WMDs. Both of which were proven later to be false. But the US was instrumental in getting BP, Exxon and Chevron access to Iraq oil fields and a side bonus was we freed up the opium pipeline through Iraq that was controlled by the Hussein boys. Now Afghan opium up 600% could flow freely out of the Middle East. To date Bush didn’t fulfill his promise to bring in Osama and now the US is left with a military debacle in the Middle East. Generals hate admitting they couldn’t get it done so more reasonable heads need to look at the costs of continuing this blunt force approach. The CIA have not deemed it necessary to remove Osama and the only people who know about the $25M on his head are those that can’t get at him. Maybe $50M would inspire someone to take action?

I am still of the opinion that the costs of continuing this operation are to high. If you want to stop Islamic terrorist groups, you take away their funding. When the US gets serious about these Islamic terrorists, they won’t be able to by a bb gun much less stinger rockets and will no longer be a threat. The War on Terror is a sham. It should be the War on Terror Support. Take away the Drug, Oil and Protection money they get and you bankrupt them. They have no resources they can draw on. The have no country where they can mine ore and build military weapons. They are thugs and like the thugs of early 20th century US can be taken down by cutting off their funding. Obama does not need to send more troops. We need to change tactics.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

Fact! The USSR did not invade Afghanistan because of Imperialism or even to prop up a puppet Communist government in Kabul. Sorry, that is simply not true.

The primary Soviet objective was to prevent the spread of Muslim Fundamentalism to it’s southern Islamic Republics (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan).

The ‘Stans’ loyalty to the Central Soviet had traditionally been a source of doubt for Soviet politicians, and they were concerned about how the Stans could interpret the overthrow of a Communist Regime in Kabul by Muslim Fundamentalists.

One could even argue that, deplorable as the invasion was, the USSR never really had any options other than to invade Afghanistan. And even here, we need to tread carefully. It was not an invasion, per se. The Kabul Government requested assistance from the USSR.

At this stage, your Western value system will compel you to burst into a response, but wait…

It would be wrong to apply the Western notion of ‘goverment’ and ‘society’ to Afghanistan… then, and now. The Afghanistani’s simply do not deliberate these concepts in the same way as we do.

So, that means that Petraeus is right: “You can’t kill or capture your way out of a complex insurgency.” This is not a continuation of the “hearts and minds” axiom of common insurgencies. Here, we need to *change* the hearts and minds. That doesn’t mean that Afghanistan should become the next State of America, but that we should assist the Afghanistanis in finding a viable and and stable social structure that works for them.

That means… less soldiers and more engineers, doctors, teachers, consultants. We need to build, not bomb. We need to give them access to information, health, prosperity. We need to give them alternatives. Afghanistan MUST become a political nation… not this fragmented anomaly based on religion, where borders count for nothing.

We must turn life in Afghanistan into something that the Taliban cannot compete with.

Regarding Iran (and the ‘encirclement’ of it)… Iran have drawn a dividend from the War on Terror. So far, we have cunningly removed it’s competition for regional supremacy by ousting the Taliban and invading Iraq. We will be done in the region when both of these countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), can act as natural counter-balances to Iran’s regional aspirations. If we don’t, the future instabilities in this region will make our past experiences look tame by comparison.

Posted by Quintin | Report as abusive

This is for Luke, AzadDP and others who seem utterly ignorant. Have you ever been in that part of the world for any period of time? Met the locals, talked to them, and seen how they live their lives?

Saying that “modern US warfighting machine” cannot be compared to the “Soviet-era fighting forces” misses the comparison from Alexander the great through all invaders to the Soviets. None of them survived for long in terms of ruling the Afghans. What makes us think that we will be the first?

First and foremost, no one likes foreign invaders, not the US, not the Russians, not the British, not the Vietnamese, not the Iraqis, more so not the Afghans etc. Secondly, most people get up in the morning the world over to go to work to provide for their families, and want betterment for their children. Now, there are nuts everywhere, and it is insane to treat a whole society or a religious group based on the actions of a few nuts. For instance, the US prisons are full of about 2 million Christian killers, rapists, pedophiles, drug dealers, financial crooks etc. That means 1 in 142 is in a US prison according to official data ( tistic/a/aaprisonpop.htm). But, that doesn’t make all US Christians bad, and most people want to live their lives peacefully. Thirdly, the US has to stop this notion of trying to control everything in the world, and stationing its troops in scores of countries. The ideals of justice, freedom, self-determination and self-preservation are universal, and not a monopoly of the US or Europe. We must not attempt to take them away from others.

In terms of alternative strategies, I look at the $10 billion a month we are spending in Iraq for keeping our troops alive and out of harm’s way as “eating, s***ting and shooting money”. All this money is going pretty much to waste, other than feeding the military-industrial complex and the Haliburtons and Blackwaters of the world. If we used the same money for development projects, such as for roads, electricity, water, hospitals and schools etc., we would make a tremendous difference in the lives of the locals. Just like everywhere else in the world, once people have economic opportunities they get focused on building their lives and bettering the future of their families. Similarly, the tens of billions wasted in Afghanistan and Pakistan could have been easily spent on development projects, say building roads, schools, hospitals and communication infrastructure in the tribal areas. These basic enablers of human dignity and commerce can do wonders. We simply cannot kill every last opponent in the world. There are more born every day.

Posted by Imran | Report as abusive

Amazing that no one wants to look into the root cause of this issue. Everyone is jumping in to treat the symptoms. Debusman is absolutely right on, foreign policy issues in US have become short term and policatical. Bush started the wars without analyzing the long term impact. They (al qaeda) hurt us, so we’ll hurt them back….and hence this cat and mouse game started. No one wants to back out for egomaniacal reasons. We are the most powerful nation on the earth and the president is the most powerful man in the world, so we cannot backoff and must continue to fight. What no one cares about is that the innocents on both sides are the losers. Al Qaeda hurt us, but we are going after Afghan population, innocents and culprits alike, no time to think, just bomb anything that moves and can be seen from the satellites. When we do kill innocents, first deny it, erase the proof and if caught make a story that it was a “Collateral damage” of fighting the bad guys as stated by Albright once.

I think it is time to take a step back and really think about “why do they hate us”. Its not that 1.5 billion Muslims are crazy and just want to hate America. In fact on the contrary most of the 1.5 billion are peace loving and only a fringe minority is violent. US government is spending most of the funds on fighting this fringe minority instead of building relationship with the peace loving majority.

Muslims are stupid nor dumb, they fully understand what is happening and why it is happening. Once US government addresses these three critical issues, I think majority of the Muslim population will change their view of America.

a. Our unequivocal support of Israel. Even though we all know very well the state of Israel is formed by stealing the lands from Palestenians. So we should either become sincere broker of peace or stop supporting all abuses by Israelis
b. Our support of dictators in all Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, etc. You name a Muslim country we have dictator propped up as our puppet. We have got to stop, let the people take care of them.
c. Respect democratically elected governments as people’s will. We want people to elect governments based on our likes. For example Hamas was elected by Palestinians, but we don’t recognize them..same thing with Iran, etc
d. Stop medeling in other’s affairs, just like we don’t accept anyone commenting or influencing in our affairs we should respect boundaries and get our nose out of other’s businesses

Lastly, I don’t think Muslims hate Americans. Muslims hate American ruthless American governments. Irrespective of who the president is in recent times, all of them have one thing in common, they all have bombed and killed innocent Muslims around the world using a flimsy excuse.

Posted by Ram Gupta | Report as abusive

Three step plan to american victory: 1. Stop calling it the “war on terror.” Terror is tactic, not an enemy.
2. Quit pretending God is on your side. The Taliban know better.
3. Suffer the children. Every child killed or maimed is a dragon’s tooth sowed in tomorrow’s battlefield.

Posted by GJ Tryon | Report as abusive

I do not disagree with Quintin & Imran, but, how do you intend to protect these people? Prior to making big money these thugs depended on kidnappings and protection rackets to fund their little operations. All these educated people come to move this country into the 21st century would be prime targets. And what about the common people themselves. We open schools and as the girls walk to school some fanatic throws battery acid in their faces. That is just one example of the way fundamental Islamic society feels about the equality of women. How do you bring such a fundamentally different culture into the modern world? I agree, it is not at the end of a rifle. However, it is a daunting task. Western Freedom ideology does not even resemble what these societies call freedom. I admit I have not lived or ever visited anywhere in this region. I read and try to understand. Am I wrong? Would the common person in Afghanistan embrace a secular government, a republic, whose purpose is to protect basic fundamental rights while granting all the freedom to practice their religion as long as it didn’t infringe upon another’s basic rights while it handled matters of local and foreign interest?

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

No wonder the soviets were in Afghanistan for territorial purpose.I don’t believe we had any cause other than Bush’s scaring the American people and prolonging its grips on the power.

Posted by Khanzada | Report as abusive

After 5 yrs, with just concluded election, there is a ray of hope for Iraq’s political process to travel a steady path. This is what needed in Afghanistan: stable government and security to its citizens’ physical well being (from violence), then the war will be over for US. Country building will follow in a peaceful manner. On the other hand if the successful political process becomes a short lived honeymoon making way for radical take over, the war will resume for Iraqis/ Afghans and others in the neighborhood…

Posted by AzadDP | Report as abusive

B Free and Vancity

read a few muslim scholors’ postings on Hudson Institute’s website.For example, writers like Husain Haqqani and Tawfiq Hamid will explain it all.(

Posted by AzadDP | Report as abusive

Afghanistan is not a simple problem, there’s plenty of issues to be solved there before this country can aim at democracy. Is democracy the answer to all problems ?
I am convinced than yes but not sure this applies in countries like Afghanistan, at least not now.

Plenty of tribes and since the soviet invasion, plenty of warmongers, weapons widely spread within the population. It’s plain simple, if you dont have a gun, your none, that’s what I saw and was told when I was in Kabul. Opium and all sort of “traffiking” (alcohool, drugs, ammunition, guns, etc…) complicates the situation too, without mentionning the talibanization or pashtunization of a large part of the population and the officials systematic corruption.

We can change governments but not a people culture and there’s no doubt that any political solution will come from the afghanis themselves, many are ready after so much blood was spilled throughout the country. But there are evil forces that will require time before peace and prosperity comes.

Posted by wiz | Report as abusive

Bush Sr was “dirty trick agency” i.e CIA’s director; so
he played “dirty” tricks; and he taught his kids also to
play dirty tricks; add Gates to his kids; that makes a
“dirty dozen” because Gates is also ex-CIA. And you donot
know how vengeful muslim people in general and Afghanistan people in particular can be. Afghans are
brave and proud people; they will take revenge for every
member thay have lost; So Afghan war is going to last for
a century unless US runs with their pants down.Either way
Afghans will be considered winners becz due to war cont-
uing, they can get billions of US$ and produce opium etc
and US running away from war will bring return of Talibans and more problems and more opium having no more
fear of US etc. So it’s a no win situation for US.
Blame it on Bush Sr the boss of dirty tricks agency CIA.
I’m neither accusing anyone nor I’m afghan or muslim;
If anything I’m 100% anti-muslim.I’m just giving my views to the readers of reuters. The best course would
have been to vacate Isreal,evacuate all Jews from Israel
and re-settle them in US; there are hardly 5m of them;
it won’t take the trillions(that war has costed) to re-settle those 5m in such large country like US where land can come so cheap and give back whole of Israel to Arabs;
that would havebeen more cost effective solution. But it
seems too late becz having so many of their kins killed
muslims are vengeful; US has killed millions overseas
in Vietnam,Cambodia,Iraq,Liberia(it was US sponsored war,
I noticed US submarine discharging rebels there around
20 Jul 1990 I lost all my investments in Liberia due to
USA and became penniless) As said before Muslims will
take revenge;there is NO END to it. Afghan war is going
to cost trillions not billions. Do any reuters readers
think Obama or anyone wants tobe pres of US just to
milk billions for himself by under the table tactics?
Did Bush officials loot,burn the treasury and run?? 09/02/04/americas-long-long-afghan-war/

Posted by jjmk4546 | Report as abusive

[…] One indication of what’s to happen can be seen with a glance at Russia’s little foray into Afghanistan in the 1980s — once in, the old USSR found it hard to get out. This commentary from Reuters: […]

Posted by Lonely Afghan Dilemma — Obama’s Daymare : Compatible Creatures – War & Politics & Life | Report as abusive

Remember “Charlie Wilson’s War”?. Afghanistan could become Obama’s Vietnam despite the fact that not all factors involved keep similarities. Barren plateaus, frigid temperatures and the Bin Laden trail instead of Uncle Ho. The U.S. might be stuck there for decades.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

Israel is the most dangerous country in the world… Israel will push America and Europe into Wars many
times for her own security… It was Israeli agency Massad who provided the false intelligence over Iraq. That has cost us 7000 US solders and over trillion of dollars plus and deep recession that could turn into depression….

NOW Israel wants to attack Iran that could not only destroy American economy but also create a hell for us in Afghanistan and Iraq.. We need to keep this monster in checked it’s the most Savage and Barbaric
country on the face of the earth….

Posted by speakamerica | Report as abusive

We should learn with every experience, even the ones that we weren’t directly involved with. Obama has loads of things to learn reading books about Soviet’s War or just listening to the stories that his General can tell. Otherwise, he will become George Bush III.

Posted by Luiz Felipe | Report as abusive

There is no Taliban! Only more of those of who are ill-informed…we shoudln’t even be there if the only explanation of why we’re there in the first place relates to our retaliation to 911.

Posted by Alan Upbeat | Report as abusive

“The best course would
have been to vacate Isreal,evacuate all Jews from Israel
and re-settle them in US; there are hardly 5m of them;
it won’t take the trillions(that war has costed) to re-settle those 5m in such large country like US where land can come so cheap and give back whole of Israel to Arabs;”
– Posted by jjmk4546

“Israel is the most dangerous country in the world… Israel will push America and Europe into Wars…”
– Posted by speakamerica


What would you suggest? Dismantle the state of Israel? Ever thought how practicable it is to dismantle a state that presumably is armed with nukes, maybe even H-bomb? And while the nukes are just presumed, their resolve to go to immeasurable length to protect the state doesn’t need any additional proof, as well as the fighting capacities of IDF. Israel is not Serbia or Georgia or Iraq, there’s no chance of a short small scale victorious war. The cost of such a war will be prohibitively expensive, and besides it will be so much like Holocaust 2.0 that no Western leader would be willing to bear political costs thereof.
Even if we imagine unimaginable – that the gov’t of Israel agrees to close the shop in exchange for resettlement and financial compensations, it will be prohibitively expensive. On the plus sides, we get 5M+ westernized, generally well educated population, but let’s look at the liabilities. Housing (good neighborhoods in major cities or middle class suburbs, no slum please!), jobs, professional and English training, middle class level income while in training (could be years), compensation for lost property – the bill will run into trillions. Anything less than that would make even that hypothetical discussion in Knesset a non-starter. And considering that locals who were dealt a lesser deal in life would demand the same (rightfully so), and start anti-Semitic riots if refused – it would require either handouts on the same level to yet more people, or increased police protection of the newcomers around the clock, or probably both. Altogether it would cost more than all the bailouts, stimulus packages, and Bush Jr. wars would seem chump change in comparison. Think US Treasury can print the money without limits? Think again.
How about that: resettle Arabs from Gaza, W.Bank, and Israel in Arab countries? Since the living standard of Arabs is generally lower than that of Israelis, and their real estate is worth less, sometimes even less than nothing (how about a pile of rubble that requires a cleanup before the land can be used again?), the whole thing will be an order of magnitude cheaper. And since they’re mostly uneducated laborers there will be no retraining. Nor language training is necessary – they already speak Arabic. And since the local are/will be just as poor, no envy, no riots. In other words, no more expenses after the relocation.
Israel has no claim on land across Jordan River, nor Jordan and Egypt claim any land that comprises Israel and PA now. Syria remaining the only country having territorial dispute with Israel can be much easier silenced or bought out (most likely a good carrot/stick combo will do). And Lebanon goes as Syria goes.
This solution would be the cheapest. It also would be the most stable because it is based on natural geographic boundaries. Too bad it doesn’t look politically correct.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

We, the American people, need to realize Afghanistan is as much of a waste in time and materials as Iraq. All we’re doing is typical American military nation-building, it’s failed everytime recently and it’ll fail again.

There’s 2 ways to win the war on “terror”

1.) Stop allegiance immediately with Israel and when they do something inhumane and stupid (daily, hourly, constantly) we actually denounce it rather than patting them on the back behind closed doors.

2.) World War 3

Obviously you know which option I’d choose.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Excellent question regarding the protection of specialists, B.Free. As always, the devil is in the detail. Still, the answer is a tactical, rather than strategic one.

This war will be won by taking baby steps. Every time that an Afghanistani is exposed to the 21st century, be it to the information, education, health, agricultural methods, whatever it may be… we drive a nail in the coffin of the Taliban. The Taliban cannot survive in a prospering, informed society.

On the other hand, kill the fighter, and his sons will take up arms in his place. It is a Hydra. The more enemy you kill, the more enemy you have. Before you know it, every Afghanistani is your enemy.

It is frustrating… and we can talk about ‘nuking’ and the re-enactment of the Diaspora, et al. But I’m pretty sure that there are still innocents in all these conflicts. It would be a shame on Democracy if we had to go down in history as the greatest tyrants of them all, purely because the task that faces us, is arduous.

Posted by Quintin | Report as abusive

“There’s 2 ways to win the war on “terror”

1.) Stop allegiance immediately with Israel and when they do something inhumane and stupid (daily, hourly, constantly) we actually denounce it rather than patting them on the back behind closed doors.

2.) World War 3″
– Posted by Michael


Too bad the choice was already made for you and it’s not what you’d prefer. The WW3 has already started, you just don’t know that.
If you think WW2 started in 1939 in Poland you are mistaking. It started in 1933 when Hitler was elected Reichskanzler. The rest was predetermined by that single event.
Besides selling out Israel to appease the Arabs and Muslims would not work, just as selling out Czechoslovakia in Munich 1938 to appease Hitler didn’t prevent from the actual combat starting in 1939.
You may not want to fight any wars, but they are already waging the war of Jihad regardless of your wishes, even regardless of you knowing it for fact.
But you rightly noticed that nation building is an exercise in futility. In that part of the world the only freedom they value is the freedom to kill anyone who does not belong to whatever particular flavor of Islam this individual considers right. Not exactly a good foundation to build a Western style democracy upon.
The only way to win is to cut the flow of money that fuels Jihad. To that end, firstly we need to stop relying on Middle Eastern oil. I am not suggesting the way to energy independence here – it’s the topic of another discussion. And secondly, we need to stop drug trafficking. When the world of Islam loses those streams of money, it will again become irrelevant for world history and politics, just as it was for centuries before the oil was discovered in Arabia. And then nobody would care what they’re doing in their lands – or maybe care enough to visit them as a tourist hungry for some exotics.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

A tiny part of the State Dept. employs Americans to teach English to poor teenagers in 50 third-world countries. Given that there is absolutely no military solution to Afghanistan’s problems, as was learned by Alexander the Great, the British & the Soviets, we need to be more creative. First we should immediately commence an aerial spraying program to eliminate the cultivation of poppies. Then, throughout the Middle East, with considerable publicity, we should send tens of thousands of English teachers to completely change the closed-mindset of the vast numbers of young Muslims who are only told of how evil America is. Once these kids learn new ideas and openness, dramatic change will easily and necessarily follow.

Posted by Old Bookman | Report as abusive

The time line for the planning of the September 11 attack took place during a Democrat Administration, and many more than the 3000 people who died directly have been affected. The rest were victims of chemical warfare by the debris from the boiling point of the building that is around 500,000 civilians who may be affected by the mass poisoning it is an known unknown.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

NB: I admit that I do NOT know if Drug Abuse is against the Natural Law and hence ipso facto prohibitive. Ditto the State of Israel. But these are vital questions, as also is that of Nuclear Power; no genuine national debate has been allowed, but the rather discouraged — that is what I DO know.
________________________________________ _______

There is only occupied Palestine and the war on drugs to account for Afghanistan at this point.

Israel need merely set its boundaries at some reasonable level, exploit the Negev from Elath to Tel Aviv as a manufacturing and transit hub of raw materials and finished goods — with a good railroad that takes containers en masse.

Afghanistan need only regulate, tax, harvest, export drugs on the free market that we harp on all the time — and prosper and be done with the matter. (Anybody ever hear of the Opium Wars, hello?!) I am sick of my monthly prescription medication costing the State several hundreds of dollars. (It does; I’m not kidding — and thousands who have no prescription plan either become poor or become alcoholics over the incredible suffering of Chronic PAIN.) There simply is no rational cause for the opiod monopoly. Period.

The US need only de-criminalise & tax drugs — earning billions to finance health care and drug prevention progammes.

Then we shall be done with the causes of this war!

Those who say no, but it’s really a Jihad to rule the world into forced conversion to Islam know nothing at all about it! Hello; have you ever travelled in Moslem countries? I have; I know. Palestine is their holy land, the land of their father Abraham PBOH — their values are life, land, and a religion which means nothing outsdide of Arab speakers because its holy book is written and spoken Arabic — which cannot satisfactorily be enjoyed other than by Arabic speakers, Josuf Ali’s wonderful translation and notes not withstahding! Ever here of mantras? Their holy religion is a living song which can only be appreciated fully in Arabic — they know it and they are willing to live and let live outside of their ancient pale (the forays unto the gates of France and Austria no longer fueled by the other factors which made conquest attractive — the same thing that ran the Viking forays: slaves, furs, and gold, jewels & ivory.) Anybody who thinks otherwise does not know history and the traditional spoils system of warfare.

Period; problem solved!

Anybody want to name the two sticklers?

1) Israeli indecision as to her premanent borders — or, how to get the maximum land with the minimum potential non-Jesish voters;

2) the legions of policemen & lawyers whose livilihood depend upon the ‘War on Drugs’, and oh yes, the pharmaceutical industry! Every single cohort of those legions have to be paid off, somehow, as if there isn’t already enough real sickness and crime to spread around the largesse …

Oregon, USA

PS: The abstemius historical gentleman, Jefferson Davis, once was asked to support a Texas prohibitionist league; he poitely declined, citing the far worse malady of government intrusion into private life and the loss of individual liberty and human cost of police statism. Who today ever recals the great men of history, the Washington who warned against foreign entanglements, and the Jefferson who warned that democracy cannot exist without the fear of God? Time to quit babbling about the supposed faults of the great men of our history, and to start to profit by their lifetimes of observation, strong and pure character, and intelligent reasoning.

When a State ceases to protect individual liberties, but to license them instead — where men are considered subjects without individual liberties except such are permitted them by license — then has not the American Revolution ceased to bear fruit in her own birthplace?

Oh, that’s right, I forgot — “we” don’t
believe in those things any more — go try to reconcile Kosovo with South Ossetia; or unravel the one-China prevarication.

Posted by Brooks A. Batson, NP | Report as abusive

the problemn in the afghan war is based in history,until there is a national unity(not tribal or clan), sides will change like the wind. the dope crop is the major export.also name 1 islamic country that is free.history has proven all the above,from africa to the middle east until nations have a national and not an ethnic identity they will never achieve peace.also pakistan is not the friend we believe(a grave foreign policy mistake)regionally india would be the only perferable partner in the region.the true meaning of islam is “death to all” who do not follow their medieval way of life.until they show the world different i will die with this belief

Posted by ron break | Report as abusive

Without breaking international treaties, and without starting wars think about what type of benefits the U.S. economy would get from the salaries of the overpaid executives…
All wars were started because of national interests, 1st world war, 2nd world war.
The banking systems started growing with the willful sinking of the Titanic, the creation of terror by the past administration….and the implosion of the World Trade Towers is now demanding the guillotine…..or send them to Guantanamo.
The money saved on “Interest Wars” can produce miracles in the U.S. while maintaining the role of “most powerful” – leading nation in the world.
Only by loving your neighbor as thyself things will change….but I guess that is impossible…….(I am talking neighbors within the U.S., not Mexico, not Canada etc.)

Posted by Uri | Report as abusive

Read this report:

RAW network in Afghanistan destabilizing Pakistan

According to informed sources Indian intelligence officials working in the disguise of diplomats in Embassy and Consulate in Afghanistan have set up a vast network to destabilize FATA, Northern Areas and Balochistan engaging dozens of Afghan-Indians, drug dealers and Afghan warlords. Consulate

According to sources several agents hired by the RAW but captured recently in FATA, Waziristan and Southern Eastern areas provided extensive details claiming that the Indian had managed to penetrate deeply in collaboration with Indian allies in the region.

According to one spy who was recently killed by Taliban an Indian intelligence official named as C.R. Garg working as Attaché and P.S. to Indian Ambassador in Kabul had recently offered as much as US$2000-3200 per foreigner killed in Pakistan.

The spy was given a telephone number for urgent contacts. Another Indian senior official named as Malkit Chand also working as Third Secretary (Education) & Director (Indian Cultural Center) was engaged in transferring Pakistani Baloch students from Afghanistan to India for special training and financial assistance. Bloch students particularly the children of Bloch refugees are being offered up to US200-300 per month if they agree to proceed to India.

Chandra Mohan Mishra a Third Secretary at Indian Embassy in Kabul and J. Baby working as an Attaché (Technical) also held several meetings with Baloch militants during mid-2008.

Other Indian intelligence officials engaged in financing and sending Pakistani youths from tribal areas to several other Central Asian states and Middle East are posted in Consulate General of India, Mazar-i-Sharif are Dinesh Behari working as a Consul and D. N. Dutta working as a Vice Consul in Mazar-i-Sharif. Two spies recently arrested in tribal areas were carrying Thuraya satellite phone numbers 00-873-763095858 and 00-873-763095867 and 0700501385 which belonged to Indian intelligence officials inside Afghanistan.

Another Indian agents Sanjay Asthana working as Vice Consul in Habibabad, Jalalabad was in touch with his “assets” using phone/fax number of 0797638744.

An Indian official based in Herat, Manohar Gangesh working as Consul and posted at the Indian Consulate. He was in contact with local agents who organize secret meetings and trainings for so-called Islamic militants.

A militant leader claimed that he discovered the telephone number of a senior Indian intelligence official Raju Balakrishnan working as a diplomat and Vice Consul in Herat 0799427738 from the possession of a recently captured spy after his detailed interrogation.

According to a reliable sources early this year Indian agents working as Muslim militant leaders by the name of Yasin Khan (Original Indian name Amat Verma) and “Nasir” identified as “Santosh” were operating a massive network of terrorists in Jalalabad while another so-called “Islamic militant leader (original name Sudesh ) was also had been operating in Khost. Local Afghan commanders, drug dealers and military commanders of foreign country were well aware of their activities but overlooking the covert operations against Pakistan.

According to a reliable sources early this year Indian agents working as Muslim militant leaders by the name of Yasin Khan (Original Indian name Amat Verma) and “Nasir” identified as “Santosh” were operating a massive network of terrorists in Jalalabad while another so-called “Islamic militant leader (original name Sudesh ) was also had been operating in Khost.

Local Afghan commanders, drug dealers and military commanders of foreign country were well aware of their activities but overlooking the covert operations against Pakistan.

Posted by speakamerica | Report as abusive

Here is last 20 years history of Afghanistan, and the solution lies within this writeup.
1. Who is Al-Qaida? Former Arab fighters that USA (CIA & ISI) organized, trained, funded and supported, were bought from Arabian countries to Afghanistan to fight USSR in 1980-90, and we ‘created’ the word ‘Jihad’ to motivate muslims from the world to fight our proxy war against Soviets. Next….
2. Who are Taliban? Former Afghan nationals and Pustun warlords (called Mujhadin in Afghan-USSR war) that we trained, funded, organized to fight, just as stated in (1). We gave them Stinger missiles and training to shoot down Soviet aircrafts.
3. Who are Northern Alliance (now US Allies)? Former allies of USSR- Gen Dostum, who supported Soviets against US allies.

When Soviets saw their disaster, they bailed out in a hurry after the collapse of their economy. End lesson….

So, talk to your old allies (Taliban and ‘Al-Qaida’), it is time. You cannot teach ‘our-way-of-life’ called democracy which is just 200 years old to the entire world people who also have their own ‘way-of-life’ which is 2000 years old. So we can have a decent exit out of Afghanistan. Instead of trillion dollars and body bags, we can spend 20 Billion and create a reliable friend in Taliban and non-Taliban government.

Since the landing of airliner in Hudson river, we now understand that it requires a expert to take a jet-liner gliding at 200mph into a river that is 500 yards wide. So how high-jackers who were novice pilots, managed to put three jet-liners into 50 yard wide buildings with 100% accuracy is a trillion dollar riddle. So one theory is that it was a false-flag operation by some US allies in Middle East, who motivated US to start war on ‘Axis-of-evil’ namely Iraq, Iran & Afghanistan. By the way it was Israel who fed US wrong intelligence on Iraqi WDM’s, so now we know who could have been involved with neo-cons.

Now if USA stops giving $2 Billion/year arms aid to Israel, it will chop their fangs and motivate them to start looking for borders to settle in peace. We have a biased media misinforming US public. Have we ever tried to look at alternates instead of ‘attacking’ and creating terror. Like Clinton said “Let US example be the power, instead of use of US power as a example. It is time to talk to people we made enemies through implementation neo-con enforced Bush policy.

It is time Obama takes back the Presidency of USA from Israeli think-tanks. It is time we make decisions to make US a friendly world leader instead of a hated bully as perceived by the world during the last eight years of Bush’s “Shock & Aw”

Posted by Tariq J Qureshi | Report as abusive

It is pretty simple. We help throw the Russians out and now they along with their new found friend in China will do the same to us and why not? None of these two countries and by proxy Pakistan wants USA smack in their back yard. The Indians are the only one in the area who wants the USA to succeed and Afghanistan to prosper and be a counter weight to Pakistan.

To achieve any success in Afghanistan, I strongly believe it is extremely important to neuter Pakistan by removing their nukes and in doing so, by default, the Chinese will also be neutralized. Pakistan will not be able to the Chinese bidding effectively, which is to create havoc in Afghanistan and destabilize the only true friend of USA, India in the area.


Posted by Naresh | Report as abusive

American public in general is decent and caring,but their politicians (5% of their total population)are worst. It is money making business to have a war. Korean war, Vietnam war, Elsalvador war, Iraq war and now Afghan war. If one calculate it with meagere estimate it will reached between 4/5 trillion dollars. Today their country does not have enough money to provide financial support to their economy which has touched down the bottom and greatly victim of all these wars.

A humble request to American public, just impressed upon your politician to stop wars and work for the benefit of human causes. For example peoples not have enough food in Africa, peoples not have enough shelters in Asia, peoples of Europe do not have enough enegy to survive cold and snow and last but not least Americans not have jobs to feed their families.

Posted by Al Baloushi | Report as abusive

Commentators on Afghanistan are muddy headed about the issues and protagonists. Afghanistan has problems of Corruption and poor Governance coupled with a fractured polity. The real issue is violence funded by Drug money and coordinated by America’s most favoured ally Pakistan’s Intelligence agency ISI. ISI has patron – client relationship with Taliban and other assorted Terrorist groups which has inhibited the Pakistan Government from pursuing,prosecuting and convicting them.

Solution is simple – spray the poppy crop and no aid to Pakistan till they destroy the Terrorist infrastructure. There is ample evidence to declare Pakistan a Terrorist state so USA has to call the bluff and refuse to succumb to blackmail. Pakistan desperately wants to control Afghanistan to shift their Terrorist training camps there. Giving Aid to Pakistan is akin to giving Opium to a junkie.

Continuing a failed strategy is living in false hope. The Taliban battle is control of the mind but solution is to cut the source of Funds. Nuclear Blackmail has gone too far.
No poppy,no Aid !

Posted by goldchest | Report as abusive

[…] Generation Gap SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Afghanistan: Lessons Unlearned”, url: “ hanistan-lessons-unlearned/” }); […]

Posted by Afghanistan: Lessons Unlearned | The Ruth Group | Report as abusive

So let me get this straight. We’re going to succeed where every other foreign invader has failed. And we’re doing this because???

Everybody seems to think that we had cause to invade Afghanistan in 2001. We didn’t. We had cause to capture a handful of people who masterminded the 9/11 attack. You don’t do that with armies. Armies are good for massive destruction and taking control of territory. To catch people you need police, undercover agents, special operations groups.

So after 7 or 8 years we haven’t caught bin Laden and we continue to do the same thing. Somebody needs to tell Washington that the only thing where you can do the same thing over and over and get different results is Windows.

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

To goldchest and other pro-spray commenters:

Crop eradication by spraying has been the central plank of the U.S. “war on drugs” around the world. The problem with that approach is that is simply DOES NOT WORK. Richard Holbrooke, Barack Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had it exactly right when he wrote the following about the Afghan poppy eradication program:

“The … program, which costs around $1 billion a year, may be the single most ineffective policy in the history of American foreign policy. It’s not just a waste of money. It actually strengthens the Taliban and al Qaeda, as well as criminal elements within Afghanistan.”

The Reason is simple: Tens of thousands of farmers depend on opium poppy for their livelihood. You destroy the crop, you make not only one enemy, the farmer, but the entire family and extended family who depend on him. There’s much talk, as part of the ill-conceived war on drugs, about crop substitution. Destroy the poppy and let the Afghans grow wheat or fruit or tomatoes. Sounds good in theory but doesn’t work in practice because there is no agricultural infrastructure – roads, credits, fertilizer – etc. for traditional crops.

So, eradication is the absolute worst you can do if you want to pacify Afghanistan.

Posted by Rufus | Report as abusive

One of the most effective ways to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to legalize psychoactive drugs such as heroin. Legalization would lower their cost and remove much of the profit from growing the raw materials.

In addition, legalization is the right thing to do for drug-dependent Americans. We can then start treating drug addiction as an illness instead of as a crime.

Posted by David Levner | Report as abusive

Everyone everywhere knows the cure for the violence and costs of illegal drugs is to end illegal drugs. The ONLY way to do that, as with prohibition, is to make the legal. Being legal, the crime almost vanished, as with alcohol. There will always be some illegal drugs. There are still moonshiners making “illegal” booze. But the number of drug addicts, like the number of alcoholics, will remain constant just like it always has. About 1.8% of the population is going to be drug addicted, legal or not. It’s the way it works, unfortunately. But we can save literally billions of dollars a year and devote that to treating those addicts instead of wasting it on non-productive prisons, excess cops, etc. ONLY America has a profit making prison system. The strongest opposition to legalizing drugs are those who make money off it. Prisons, cops, lawyers, etc. It was the same way with prohibition, except then we didn’t have for-profit prisons spending millions in advertising to assure us this way is the best, even though it’s plain it simply doesn’t work. Like prohibition, ending the illegality ends the crimes and wont change the drug addicts one bit. It just makes sense.

Posted by robert1234 | Report as abusive

Historically, nobody was able to enforce the rule of law in that region of Afghanistan. However, neither has there been the weapons and sensor technology currently available. IMHO, Mr. Obama has use the tenets of Sun Tzu in conjunction with modern technology to overcome this terrorist religious organization.

Maybe that will be via drone strikes, but I believe that correct application of force to solve this issue must come from within. The citizenry of Afghanistan must be willing to experience pain and shed blood to be rid of this terrorist religious organization. They are the ones that must in the end, say no to the Caliban. We are nothing but infidel occupiers until they do.

Posted by Al Reaud | Report as abusive

Obama’s war in Afghanistan makes no sense. He himself has said that he is having a difficult time coming up with a mission that won’t be subject to mission creep. George Bush accomplished our mission there and that was to deny Al Qaida the use of Afghanistan for Al Qaida training bases. That was accomplished and we can continue that with UAV’s and missiles. We hung around on the ground to give the Afghanis a chance to create a better government than the Taliban, but if the Afghanis are unwilling to fight for their freedom then let them live in a Talibani Hell. It is time to pull out. Instead Obama wants to send in more troops with no known or coherent mission. That is a formula for disaster. But then Obama has no experience at anything, much less a Commander in Chief. Afghanistan will be Obama’s Vietnam. Unfortunately he will waste billions in America’s resources at a time when we need the money here at home and he will waste the lives of many men better than himself, our servicemen.

Posted by Wayne | Report as abusive

Uh, the writer “forgot” that it’s been – for quite some time – a NATO operation, although the U.S. contributes the largest number of troops.

Americans are well aware of the anti-U.S. sentiment that is rife in the Limey and Aussie Mainstream Media…

Shortsighted. Predictable. Droll. Biased.

Posted by Chris Long | Report as abusive

9 Feb 209 Pakistan is in this game for money; it will take money and yet do nothing.Can any of reuter’s readers
tell where all that money given to Musharaf ended up?
Better attack Pakistan and flatten it overnight AND totally; then give it to UN to administer it; that will make it easy to go into pakistan northwest to kill the
Taliban. Or better get out of it with americans\'(GIs) pants down and run run run. Or it is going to cost another $5trillion and get no where and you have another
recession and another bailout packages that US politicians seem to love,it seems to be more than their
bread and butter because atleast 30% of it seems to be
skimmed out do you think??, And that is a lot lot money
for politicians. Do you think US politicians don’t
take bribes?? Or it just does not surface?? But that
$5trillion or $5trillions etc donot mean anything for
US; it is just piece of paper that the foolish people of
the world are fond of collecting and US seems to take
comfort in it.

Posted by jjmk4546 | Report as abusive

The United States should just make it legal and buy up all of the drugs produced in the narco-states. The US could spend FAR LESS annually by purchasing all of the drugs produced and selling it as morphine or other pharmecuticals/drugs. The sooner we end the war on drugs, the sooner people can stop dying. Buy up all of the opium products from Afghanistan and the Taliban and al Queda would run out of money. Its the same story with the war on drugs in South America. Indigeonous people are dying because of a failed policy and we should abandon the war on drugs. The war on drugs and terrorism have ties and are also not completly linked however..

Posted by Harold | Report as abusive

Destroy the poppies. Grow food instead. If anyone starts to threaten the farmers, then arrest them. Kill them if they resist.

The drug industry is the single problem in Afganistan. The money reaches the hands of the government. The thugs control the farmers through fear. The drugs become money to fund terrorism.

This is why we need more soldiers, as well as more UN assistance to help build up the country.

If you can provide the Afgani people with a mosques, hospitals, farms, and the ability to protect their family from thugs, the war is won.

Posted by Spooky | Report as abusive

Most of the contributor have accused Pakistan as main hurdle in bringing peace into Afghanistan. Those who do not familiar with the area should not comment. Some of you have suggested that ‘Pakistan should be bombed and flatten’

Dear friends, Pakistan is not a carrot or cucumber. It is a nation of 160 Million peoples and have enough arsenals to reply any aggressor in appropriate manner.

We are the people who fought USSR and breaked it up into 17 or18 new nations. If any one is thinking it is so easy they should try and wait for their own demise.

Posted by Al Baloushi | Report as abusive

legalize and tax drugs worldwide. we can then drop the unnecessarily expensive war on drugs and have one less stupid obstacle to tackle here. whose with me?

Posted by Vishal | Report as abusive

A better way and maybe the only way to stop the war in Afghanistan is for the U.S. and others to sit down with the Pukhtoon (Pushtoon) tribes of all denominations living in Southern part of Afghanistan.

To include the Pushtoons of the Pakistani tribal areas, namely, North and South Waziristan, will definitely not hurt either.

I am a Pushtoons. On an individual basis as well as on a Pushtoon national basis, they are more receptive in a positive way if you want to sit down to talk ‘with’ them and not ‘to’ them. Otherwise, for Pushtoons, it is always an eye for an eye.

They will not leave you alone until they are finished or they finish the invaders. History confirms that. They still exist and they will but the invaders would be finished.

Sit down with them and talk. Of course, the U.S. has all the military power on earth, but that has not solved anything in this world.

General David Petraeus is an excellent commander but more than that, he is an excellent negotiator with a Ph.D. in communications. That, in reality, has reduced tension in Iraq. He acted more as a diplomat than a military commander.

Humans have always responded positively when offered to negotiate and negotiate in peace. Guns and carrots both work but what we need now is more carrots than guns.

Bernd Debusmann is right onto something. Keep up the good work. One thing I want to say about the author himself is “In the article, a couple of places, I get the feeling that the author wants to be explicit about what the U.S. and others should do but has not done so.”

Posted by Shafi | Report as abusive

I agree with Al Baloushi … People are speaking from their asses…. Pakistan has one of the most experience army in the world they have fought three wars with India and India had to pulled back half million of its army from Pakistan borders just few years back because they know its not a joke to attack Pakistan… Reality is Pakistan is the most reliable and dependable friend of USA.
Pakistan has lost over 5000 soldiers fighting Taliban and Islamic nut cases. Its cost in trillions to fight insurgency we know it from Afghanistan and from Iraq. Pakistan is fighting Indian founded insurgency within its boders for four years now….few billions that we have given to Pakistan are not more then lolly pups and popcorn.. we are handing out three billions to Israel every years for 30+ years and what we are getting in return just the headace …..

Posted by speakamerica | Report as abusive

Read just 1 book to understand the Afghan situation:-
Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.
You will figure out how the US and Pak spy agencies ran the covert war to kick out the Soviets.
But also the tensions between the CIA and ISI on how the funds were being utilized (Most of the funds went towards financing the Pak nuke).
The US was then constrained by the fact that Pak was the only place where it could have waged the war from since Iran had just had the revolution.
Again, today it seems the US is falling into the same trap and relying too much on Pak to get supplies in for the war. If the US can get different supply lines through Central Asia with Russia’s help, then I think Pak’s influence on Afghan affairs will lessen and the Afghanis can have better control over their country.
US needs to learn from its mistakes committed 20 years ago.

Posted by sbyuhofs | Report as abusive

I have a solution to this problem that works for everyone. Joe Biden recently said that Afganhistan should be the “world’s responsibility”. How about lets scrap that idea and make Afganhistan “Afganhistan’s responsibility!!” Barack Obama’s foreign policy is just like Bush’s except that the new theatre of war is in Afganhistan. How would you all like it if the Taliban came to the U.S. and told us how to live? That is how they feel in their country too folks. Just leave them alone!!

Posted by kcmoney1470 | Report as abusive

I’m sorry but they only way for the U.S win to this war is to reduce their military presence and increase the rebuilding and helping the poor. You want the people to trust you, you want the people to know that you are their for them. Bulid hosiptals empower local leaders, build schools. The more good the U.S can do the better and then the people will not consider them enemies.

Posted by Dude | Report as abusive

Could we not just seal the Afgan penninsula, not letting anyone in or out, no imports, no exports, nothing. I am sure that this is not the answer but it makes as much sense as going in and killing people or trying to win their hearts and minds. These people are looking forward to the next life – they don’t care about this one.

Posted by Joe Mixon | Report as abusive

The outside foreign invaders listed form an exclusive and notorious club of superpowers that have arrogantly marched into the tribal regions around the Hindu Kush only to stumble out years later bloodied and sobered. The only member of this club to gain anything like a decisive victory over the Afghan resistance was the Mongol Horde (utilising as they did a brutal moral flexibility with regard to civilian life that is not politically viable today.)

Alexander, the British and the Soviets all discovered that state-of-the-art technology and tactics alone were utterly incapable of providing the desired strategic results.

I understand that Mr Obama is a student of history – he will be aware that the US and ISAF operations will probably last generations, not years, and that even the conclusion of the Taliban as a force will not mean an end to resistance.

The most likely strategic outcome is the devolution of governance back to the tribal elders and withdrawal of frontline troops. The bigger question is how long do we, the West, hold the line – maybe fifty or a hundred years is acceptable against the backdrop of a War on Terror – and will the relatively-informed democratic peoples of the 21st century continue to sign up to this policy every term?

Posted by OldFriend | Report as abusive

afgahnistan is the American ‘Masters’ of War’s (Bob Dylan Circa 196’s something) Vietnam !
its a money making industry. why’s and whereefore’s don’t matter, just as in veitnam. as long as the US administration keeping spending tax dollars on war goods.

$70 Billion a year?! we could, with a hard bargainer get ’em down to $20 Billion just to buy the crop and burn it or toss it into an ocean, outer space or indeed sell it back to them. just like the british in the opium wars, now there’s a government who knew about horse trading!!!

Posted by gerry newby | Report as abusive

The USA is going the way of the Roman Empire. The Federal government is bankrupt. The interest on just the stimulus package will be $350 billion a year or so.

The USA cannot afford the battle. We are the foreign invaders, resented by many. The only rational course is to draw down the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and end our military campaigns in both countries. Will Obama see that? Only time will tell, and time is short.

Posted by Buckley | Report as abusive

Pull all troops out of all conflicts now,
Your strategies are floored. Spend more time thinking about your enemy. Your two biggest battles are the war on drug traders, and the power struggles with the oil nations, who just happen to use religious fundamentalists to fight their battles.
What you need to understand is it is all interelated, it is all about power. Drugs, Guns, money , & religion are all used as ways and means of gaining power. So these are the things that you need to fight, not the foot soldiers in their own lands. You can’t win that war.
However the way you can beat these fundamental problems is by beating them in your own backyard. You must make the oil nations redundant. Don’t buy their oil, use only renewable energies. You drain their funds you crush their power. You don’t need to shoot at them, they will shoot each other. You can’t change religion, but a democracy can legislate it into submission, they are generally harmless anyway if they are bound by the correct laws. The drug traders need to simply be put to death. No jail, no second chance, just death is the only long term deterant. You must remember that most of these people are not of sound mind, and would steal from & even kill their own mother to gain power. The earth is better off without these people period. They can not be rehabilitated. Their may be hope for thier children. Unfortnately this is the only answer, and if we all want to live in a safe world then we all must rise up against these animals who steal,rape, kill, not only people but the worlds defenceless wildlife. Read the current stories about Sth American drug lords, you will be apalled.

Posted by Brad | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, U.S. foreign policy is periodically reset by a new Administration filled with people who have little historical memory and even less experience. The professional cadre of experts at the State Department are order-takers under new management who answer to the political advisers in the White House. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, the U.S. is reaping what it sowed many years ago by teaming up with the Islamic militants in order to counter Soviet power in Central Asia and protect access to energy supplies.

Posted by Steve Davies | Report as abusive

Simply put: we must remove the straw in our own eye before trying to remove the straw from other people’s eyes’. By bringing our troops back we save billions of dollars, a portion of these we can use for humanitarian purposes on those same nations and win their hearts not their hatred.
But let’s recreate the haven that we were for the freedom lovers of around the world. We have come to a day and age that we are not even free in our own country, subject to security and safety laws that are ludicrous. How far have we come that we can not even bring a nail filer or mouthwash for travel, but over a million illegal immigrants, not counting smugglers cross the border each year full of drugs and guns.
The US Government have lost their focus, or are focusing on the pockets of a few people that do not control the economy, remember that a dollar in a million homes moves more people than a million dollars in a single home.

Let’s be smart….

Posted by Vincent | Report as abusive

This is in answer to jjmk4546,8th Feb 8, 9.52pm who asked ‘Pakistan is in this game for money; it will take money and yet do nothing.Can any of reuter’s readers
tell where all that money given to Musharaf ended up?

Here is the answer:
USA & Nato has spend $2-4Billion/month in Afghanistan in the last 100 months, that is $2.4 to $4 Trillion, for ZERO output.

According to General Musharraf in his interview on CNN he gave accounting of $ 10B over the last 8 years or so.
1. $5B over 100 months ($1M/month for rental of 3 airfields in Pakistan for exclusive use of US).
2. $2.5B over 100 months for transport of ALL supplies from Karachi to Afghanistan for US and NATO forces.
3. $2.5B over 100 months for misc others which includes I assume payments for all people captured in Pakistan who were Al-Qaida as we call them, including less then 50 helicopter gunships used to fighting ($5M/piece).

So US has NOT done any favor to Pakistan, instead Bush’s ‘War-on-terror” has destroyed Pakistan and bought the Afghan war into Pakistan’s central towns.Remember:
1. Afghan-USSR war send in 5 Million refugees into Pakistan.
2. 5000 Pakistan military soldiers including Generals have been killed fighting the combined insurgencies in Tribal areasm which are run-off of the Afghan war that Pakistan has nothing to do with.
3. Taking US lead, India has put over 20000 agents on Afghan border who with Hamid Karzai’s government have destabalized Pakistan by creating insurgencies in Baluchistan through Baluch Liberation Army, Head Quartered in Tel-Aviv (check it out on Goggle).
4. Pakistan corrupt political leadership and Gen Musharraf were blackmailed after 9/11 into supporting US war, that has created mess in Pakistan, as the Pakistan forces are not “mercenaries”. They know they are fighting a un-just war against their own brothers and families in FATA and Waziristan.

Do you know what is the cost for each US solider fighting in Afghanistan ($25,000/piece!). Would to like to pay Pakistan for 100,000 soliders deployed on borders the same amount. Mathematically that comes to $25B/month or 2.4 Trillion/year?

So since now we know the accounting of $10B given to Pakistan, and also what it costs to fight in Afghanistan, it is for US public to decide, what to do to force Omaba, to un-do what Bush did.

By the way some senator asked why does Pakistan needs F-16’s? The answer is for the same reasons Israel used in Gaza just 25 miles from their airbases!

Our analyst have estimated that US/Nato needs 525,000 soliders to control Afghanistan. First is do we have 525,000 soliders? By that estimate the body bags will also increase statistically to 52,500. DO we want our children to die for there ZERO-SUM cause launched for some-one else.

Logically, why are we fighting in Afghanistan? For Al-Qaida and 9/11 that the world seems to believe was a false-flag operation created by one of our most trusted allies in Middle-East (Go to You-tube and look for 9/11 video’s and debates).

Please do remember this war is the unfinished war of Aghan-USSR days. Its time to stop saber rattling. All it costs is $20B-50B in 5 years to stabilize Afganistan. You do the maths its 50B Vs $10 Trillion over next 5 years.

Posted by Tariq J Qureshi | Report as abusive

Hi, from Moscow. Yesterday I saw RAMBO in Afganistan film. It is so interesting how people’s perception changes. Look at the episode when RAMBO was saved by brave Madzhahets from bad bad Soviets. Looks a little strange now, isn’t it. Good luck, guys! You certainly better than Soviets and succed in Afgan. By the way you don’t need any advise…You smarter!

Posted by Nikolay | Report as abusive

We all know its going to be the next viet nam, there is atleast 5 more years there.
All the best to the army and the civilians.

Posted by legend of mir | Report as abusive

I strongly doubt the US will have much, if any, success in Afghanistan. I would expect within 2yrs they should pretty much be fighting their losing battle alone. They have now been in Afghanistan for 1oyrs and counting, and what has happened? Some 3,000 people – not all American – died on September 11, 2001. That was 9yrs ago but the US is still trying to “avenge” itself upon…who? The Afghan peasants whose livelihoods have been destroyed, towns bombed, infrastructure shattered and life expectancy greatly reduced? First the Soviets and then the Americans…it would be funny were it not so utterly saddening.

Of greater concern is the ongoing destabilization of Pakistan and the very strong possibility that jihadists may get their hands upon nuclear weapons. This seems to escape everyone. There is a greater possibility of this happening than the US bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan, but then who listens to us? We’re just voices in comment boxes on articles strung across the ether of the internet. What’s more, even when American citizens complain against these wars which are now entering a decade, their government does not listen to them.

One more thing concerns me: that a once-great nation like the United States has become just another Empire-building enterprise running roughshod over others because it values competition over co-operation. This translates to: “We have the power. We simply must use it. It is our GOD-given right to use it, therefore however we use it is also right. We are gods.” I assure you dear readers, la ilaha illallah, there is no god but GOD. I am reminded of the song October by the Irish band U2 whose lyrics run as follows:

“October, and the trees are stripped bare, from all they wear, what do I care?

October, and kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but you go on…”

May GOD deliver us from evil. Mashallah

Posted by arman | Report as abusive