Last fall and winter, it was a staple of "warblogger" rhetoric that
comparisons between operations in Afghanistan and the quagmire of
Vietnam were bogus; that what we had in Afghanistan was an operation
of limited scope (roll up al-Qaeda and eliminate its support), whose
success was clear for all to see. And if anyone disputed that, well,
it must be western self-hatred.
With that in mind, two recent headlines:
rule as darkness descends". In other words, they'rrree
Remember that a key to the remarkably quick success at ousting the
Taliban was the remarkable willingness of their troops and regional
commanders to switch sides --- they didn't seem to have any loyalty at
all to the Taliban regime. Well, the people there don't seem to have
any more loyalty to what followed:
- THE villagers of Darwazagi are used to unexpected
visitors. American, Australian and Canadian troops have all passed
through and they are greeted with polite smiles and offers of
"Have you seen any al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters," they ask. The Pathan
tribesmen shake their heads and watch as the Allied troops leave.
After dark, a motorbike with its headlight extinguished roars into
the village as a Taliban official arrives for an evening of meetings
and instruction of the faithful.
If a patrol arrived, the mullah would melt into the hills before
returning to sanctuary in Pakistan. The villagers would say
nothing. The soldiers might ask the villagers if they had received any
visits. They would almost certainly say no.
Then again, the Bush administration's hard-nosed grown-up aversion
to touchy-feely stuff like "nation building" might have something to
do with that:
Other Afghans, who once held out high hopes for change with the
arrival of the new foreign "invaders" have been simply disappointed
that there has been little or no improvement for the local
population. Even the Russians, many of them contend, provided more
benefits to the villagers here.
Haji Sher Khan, a chief in a nearby district who works out of a
building that once served as Afghan King Zaher Shah's hunting lodge,
said: "When the US troops arrived, we were so happy to see them that
our people stood in line to greet them, but since then we have seen
nothing but their hunt for al-Qaeda."
As might the United States' continued inability to deal with
asymmetric warfare, particularly at night (even though night fighting
to be an American strength):
"They are like cockroaches," complained US Major Brian
Hilferty. "They won't operate in the open where we can catch them,
but only come out at night."
No parallels to Vietnam here.
But so far, that's just the Taliban, exploiting local instability
and the resurgence of local warlords for the sake of their own
propaganda, which is how they came to power in the first place. What
Which brings us to another headline which recently caught my eye:
and Qaeda believed plotting within Pakistan.
But one of the Bush administration's early coups was getting the
Pakistani government to promise in helping to root them out from its
territory --- even the tribal border region with Afghanistan, which
they don't ordinarily claim to control. Provided that they aren't
preoccupied with other
things, of course.
(One of the keys to that deal, on the other hand, was a promise of
increased access to American markets, particularly in textiles. But
the grownups in the Bush administration reneged on that, raising
tariffs, because the deal was less important than protecting some
Carolina Congressmen. Gee, do you think we could offer more trade
assistance as an incentive in trying to cut some kind of deal with
Is this Vietnam? No. But the job's not finished, and shows no
signs of wrapping up anytime soon. The appearance of a quick,
smashing success in this conflict was, at least in part, an illusion. And
even if there weren't regional complications like Kashmir, it would
still show signs of getting a whole lot messier...
(Scotsman link via Grim