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Opinion

March 8, 2018

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A long war

The California Democratic Party has called for defunding the Afghanistan War, apparently the first state party to do so – in the war’s seventeenth year. At their San Diego convention last weekend, California Democrats adopted a platform advocating “ending air strikes in Afghanistan, ... a timetable for the withdrawal of all Americanmilitary forces and military contractors” and opposing “further appropriations for such operations except those necessary for safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops.”

Now the hard part – persuading the state’s congressional delegation to actually stop voting continued funding for a war that cannot be won; a war that creates more enemies than it eliminates, now confronting enemies – like ISIS – that didn’t even exist before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; a war that is a boondoggle whose final costs will run to the trillions of dollars; a war whose bombing campaign, according to the UN, killed more civilians last year than at any time since they started tallying the dead in 2009. Viewers of Ken Burns’s recent PBS Vietnam War series may have experienced a sort of deja vu in reverse when they encountered the ever-receding ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ theme that persisted throughout that war’s torturous history.

Here too, we have continuously been assured that this war could be won. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld even asserted that it was already won when he announced that major combat operations were over in May of 2003, although Lieutenant General Dan McNeill, then commanding ‘coalition forces’, did acknowledge there were regions that were ‘a little bit messy’. So messy that in 2008, his successor, General David D. McKiernan felt compelled to insist “we are not losing in Afghanistan”. In 2010, commander General David Petraeus declared our strategy “fundamentally sound”. In 2013, commander Gen John Allen expressed “optimism and a very real sense of knowing that wewill be victorious”. His successor, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr spoke of “the inevitability of our success”. And now President Donald Trump, in many ways the perfect leader for this venture since facts are largely irrelevant to him – as are his own past statements. Although he called for an end to this war in 2013, he has now sentmore troops back into the country, which will bring their numbers to about 15,000. Bombing levels have doubled under his administration.

Where some breakthrough to realism was achieved last year when past NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis actually admitted that “We will never ‘win’ militarily in Afghanistan, nor can we kill our way to success,” Trump now rejects negotiations and says, “We don’t want to talk to the Taliban.” This despite the fact that our own government acknowledges that “43 percent of Afghanistan’s districts are either under Taliban control or being contested,” a figure onemust assume is, if anything, on the low side. So here we go again – General John M. Nicholson, current commander ofwhat’s officially called Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, now declares, “With the policy decision announced by President Trump, the Taliban can’t win. It sets the conditions to get to a peaceful resolution of this conflict”. The problem, as he sees it is that “We only had 140,000 troops for a period of about 18 months in a 16-year war ... we drew down too far, too fast”. The goal now is to bring Afghanistan to “a manageable level of violence”. He thinks this will take about five years. A stalemate is assured – in the war’s twenty second year! This article has been excerpted from: ‘California Democrats Call for End to Seemingly Endless Afghanistan War’. Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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