Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Afghanistan: It's Always The Context You'll Want To Keep Your Eye On.

"Western skeptics of today´s Afghan mission should make no mistake: unlike those earlier conflicts, the international community´s objectives in Afghanistan align closely with those of the Afghan people. The Taliban cannot win by popular consent — polls regularly show that only 5-7 percent of Afghans support them or their aims. That is why they terrorize civilians through the threat and use of violence — including concerted attempts to sabotage the Afghan elections — and only sustain their campaign through revenues from illegal narcotics, financial support from fellow extremists overseas, and military training by Al Qaeda’s foreign legions. Put bluntly, the Taliban can only prevail if the international community loses its will to help the Afghan people build a functioning state and society governed by law rather than the barrel of a gun."

- Dan Twining, the German Marshall Fund.

"Bravery is not an American monopoly. Most allies report many soldiers volunteering to return to Afghanistan despite the increased violence. A Canadian officer who lost his leg in a roadside bomb attack in 2007 recently returned to Kandahar, in his words, "to do good." Dutch soldiers engaged in the dangerous Uruzgan province since 2006 have none of the uncertainty about their mission that marked those who were accused of failing to stop the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. . . [but] no foreign political leader can persuade his or her parliament or public to rubber-stamp a strategy 'made in the U.S.A.' "

- Leo Michel and Robert Hunter, in the LA Times.

Thanks, Leo and Robert. Just the other day I mentioned that if it's just about fighting for the Yanks, then to hell with it.

Peter Galbraith, ever vigilant about his reputation, is manufacturing more exculpation for himself in an op-ed for the New York Times, but he nonetheless gets some important things right. Afghanistan's Elections Complaints Commission, routinely described as merely a "UN-appointed" body, is rather more than that: "While the United Nations appointed three of the commission’s five members, it is truly an Afghan institution regulated by a law that Mr. Karzai signed." It is also the very body that Galbraith should have trusted to do its work. Instead, he wanted UN grandstanding. The ECC did its work. Thanks again, Mr. Kippen.

Some cheeky context in which to situate Galbraith's protests: "Galbraith is intimately involved in Kurdistan and has never uttered a peep about the human-rights abuses and corruption ongoing there. He has never spoken about Barzani family members on the CIA payroll, or Barzani family members involved in drug and weapons smuggling. Why not? Since I posted on the issue last, Galbraith has confirmed to the Norwegian business daily Dagens Naeringsliv what he denied to the U.S. Senate: that he took money from Barzani (and Talabani) in addition to the oil interests which he also has sought to keep secret."

Apart from the daily acts of Taliban savagery - a few UN workers slaughtered here, a few innocent townspeople slaughtered there - The NYT's eminently-reliable Dexter Filkins is causing an unholy ruckus over his report, weakly supported as it is by various unnamed former and current American officials, that the CIA has been rather too cozy in its intrigues with Ahmed Walid Karzai. Some say Ahmed Walid is "on the payroll" (there's that phrase again). Others say he's merely some kind of "landlord" and a recruiting sergeant for some local hard boys the CIA has found useful. The context is of course that Ahmed Walid, the president's brother, is supposed to be some sort of drug kingpin, which even the always-sensitive John Kerry is getting tired of being told.

A confession: A clandestine "Kandahar Strike Force" composed of slightly brutish Afghan gunmen who are perhaps insufficiently inclined to the delicate sensibilities of the American Civil Liberties Union yet vaguely responsive to the suggestions of certain characters in the otherwise unremarkable suburb of Langley, Virginia, is not something I find altogether displeasing at the moment. What with the context of this sort of thing and all.

With our commander in chief, here's our captain, Simon Mailloux, mentioned in dispatches, in that LA Times essay by Michel and Hunter. Mailloux may be without a leg, but he's by no means lacking a backbone or a moral compass:


Blogger kellie said...

In his narrative of the election, Michael Semple is very supportive of Galbraith. I'm in no position to judge, but found his account compelling.

For added interest he touches on a 1916 story in passing.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Thanks for the link, Kellie. I've wanted to take the time and go through Michael's talk; I will now, and will get over my boredom with Rory to do it.

At the end of the day, my difficulty with Galbraith is not whether he was right or wrong in his criticisms and observations, but rather whether he was helpful to the process. I believe he was not helpful, and was actually quite unhelpful, making a dangerous distraction of himself at an hour when allegations of "foreign influence" were doing their dirty work especially effectively. He has also slandered the thousands of honest and decent Afghans who have been working for the IEC for horribly low pay in desperate and dangerous conditions, which hasn't warmed me to him after my visits with the IEC in Afghanistan last year. Back then, the Galbraith School was arguing for a cancellation of the elections altogether. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and for all his complaints, Kippen's ECC and its brave and brilliant staff won the necessary outcome of a runoff by unglamorous and exacting labour. That is what we need more of.



11:03 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/29/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

9:33 AM  

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