Word on the street is that Obama will send 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan. He really stared McChrystal down, eh? It’s expected that he’ll make a public announcement on Tuesday; i’m sure it will be a fine speech. He’ll talk about freedom and how important it is to defend it. He’ll have tough words for Hamid Karzai and corruption in Afghanistan. He’ll tell us that this is all necessary so that the terrorist bogeymen don’t come back and kill us all at the mall. And most importantly, he’ll tell us that this “surge” is temporary; it will facilitate the development of the Afghan National Army and provide security until that body can take on the job of defeating the Taliban.
That is, Mr. Obama will produce grand words that will, hopefully, mask the taste of bullshit. There’s a video going around the internet that you should watch so that you have the right visual for the moment our President tells you about developing the Afghan Army.
I don’t know about you, but i laughed and laughed. The attitude towards all that spliff smoking by the US servicemen was the funniest bit. Close to thirty years ago, the Americans almost certainly would have been happy to smoke with the Afghans. Of course, the US lost that time didn’t we? We’ll lose this one too, so as those soldiers might have said, “It don’t mean a fuckin’ thing.” I’d also imagine that plenty of Vietnam vets might say that they could dispatch their soldierly duties just fine while blazed. The problem probably isn’t the hash.
The problem might be what the Afghan commander hinted at, the Afghan army is getting the bottom of the barrel…which happens to be filled with high-on’s.
The young Afghans who want to be a warrior have plenty of other opportunities, opportunities that don’t require being screamed at by some cracker. There are private armies, with the possibility of making some money on the side in all the activities that private armies do for funding. These guys are bringing down $120 per month for doing America’s dirty work.
We’ve heard about the $10 a day Taliban, by my math that works out to around $300 per month. If everyone is shooting at pretty much everyone else, which outfit would you join? Who do you think is going to be around the longest? These guys have joined the lowest paid militia in the country; don’t be surprised that they’d rather be getting high.
I see another problem. While i understand that Afghanistan’s multi-ethnic character means multiple languages, there’s no reason that the American trainers couldn’t give simple commands in at least one of them…after eight years. Not only is the ANA expected to defeat the Taliban on half Taliban pay, but they get to do it while taking EFL classes.
We’re spending billions to “win” in Afghanistan and rebuild it like some shining city on a South Asian hill but we don’t bother teaching the trainers to speak any of the Afghan languages? Ya wanna know why we’ll never achieve our stated goals in Afghanistan? Because learning Pashto, Urdu or Dari (even Arabic) is not required of every US soldier deployed to Afghanistan.
There are finer examples — at least a few prepared for public consumption — of cooperation between US forces and the ANA. Relations between the two appear to be much better, but the American interviewee’s also seem like they’re trying to remember their lines. We can safely assume that there are units, officers and soldiers in the ANA who know what they’re doing and do it well. There are not, however, 90,000 of them. There will not be 260,000 of them any time soon.
Besides Someone cooked the books documenting Afghan National Army strength. and, high turnover continues to climb. There is very little chance that the ANA will be ready to take over the role of thrashing the Taliban and keeping al Qaeda on the other side of the mountains. 34,000 more US troops are unlikely to change the prognosis much…especially if they have to teach 28,000,000 people English first.
I really hope that i’m wrong. I really hope that Mr. Obama will not give the speech he’s hinting at, but… Don’t be surprised by, “So that the Afghan army can step up, and we can stand down.” Don’t be surprised when the Afghan army doesn’t step up. Feign shock when the generals keep coming back for more troops, right up until the day we scurry off with our tail between our legs. Unless the President comes through with a shocker (or he has yet another strategy review), we’re in this goat rodeo for the long haul.