Friday, October 2, 2015

The fall of Kunduz is no surprise

The Taliban's taking of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz is not surprising. As I wrote in Above the Din of War, the Taliban has controlled 75 percent of the country since 2009.

While no one wants to report it, the government has had only a marginal control of the major urban areas.

In my extensive interviews with Afghans, their frustration with US and NATO forces was loud and clear.

Why, they asked, can't the combined forces of the world's most powerful countries defeat the untrained, ill equipped, ragtag Taliban? They concluded that these foreign forces didn't want to, and preferred to keep the country in a constant state of war.

But the answer was even more simple. The US took it's eye off the ball back in 2003 and invaded Iraq, stayed for a decade, and accomplished nothing but completely destabilizing the Middle East.

Back in Afghanistan, the Taliban regrouped and came back. They were also able to take advantage of most Afghans' disgust with a grossly corrupt government lorded over by Hamid Karzai, who with his friends and family, drained the country dry.

The Taliban is now flexing their muscles.

This will be the theme during the coming years until they finally overwhelm an Afghan government that few like or respect. Afghanistan will eventually be fragmented much like it was prior to the US invasion.

I argued in my book that the focus on Afghanistan has been on the military, not development of the civilian side.

Everyone looks at the military to win, stabilize, or whatever.

Meanwhile, Afghans wonder what happened to the billions (trillions?) of dollars spent there over the past 14 years. Their lives have not improved.

They're victims of endless attacks from both sides, truly caught in the middle. Many argue that if "peace" means getting rid of the US and a return of the Taliban, they'd prefer that to the current situation. I don't blame them. At present, they have little to look forward to but more bloody war.

More western troops isn't going to change that.

If the west focused more on improving the economy and lives of average Afghans, rather than more soldiers and weapons, Afghans would feel very differently.

The bottom line is that you can't win a war without the support of the local populace. The policy makers and the military know this, but aren't doing anything about it.

That's why I find it hard to argue with Afghans who think the west only wants endless war. America fights wars. Sadly, anything else is secondary.

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