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Not to Forget the War in Afghanistan July 4, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in World Affairs.
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Since President Obama’s escalation of troop levels in Afghanistan in March, much discussion has ensued around the world and around this blog, especially in this post: Underestimating Our Afghan Summer

And many developments in Afghanistan have ensued. Here is what I do know:

– Since his inauguration, President Obama has authorized 21,000 more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

– The president correctly believes that the troops deserve a straightforward answer to the question: “What is our purpose in Afghanistan?” And his response was this:

“So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

– In relation to the increased troop levels, the number of “security incidents” has also increased sharply, rising over 1,000 for the first time in May, 2009. This is a 43% increase over the same period in 2008. The bottom line: it has been the most intense fighting season so far experienced, according to the UN Security Council. This has been an expected development.

– “The first major operation launched with the additional troops ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama is devised to clear Taliban havens across a strategic southern province — and then, in a marked departure from past practice, to leave clusters of Marines in small bases close to the villagers they were sent to guard and aid, according to senior military officers.” From this article.


Today, the NYT reported that Russia has agreed to let American troops and weapons bound for Afghanistan fly over Russian territory. Though the New York Times considers this an “achievement,” it’s hard to know whether this development is good or bad; it may be good for US – Russian relations, but bad for US – Afghani relations, and certainly bad for the Afghans and Americans dying by our prolonged and heightened involvement there.

– On a similar note, Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament ratified an agreement recently to allow the US to maintain operations at an airport that has become a key support base and transit hub for the troops in Afghanistan. (Hard to tell if this is good or bad?)

– The Department of Defense has identified 707 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the death of the following American on Tuesday: Terry J. Lynch, 22, Sgt., Army; Shepherd, Mont.; 10th Mountain Division. (FYI, 4,308 have died in Iraq.)

Probably more than 20,000 Afghan civilians have died as a result of the war between the US and the Afghan insurgents. A good NYT article on this note…

– Afghanistan has an upcoming election on August 20th. Current president Hamid Karzai is likely to be reelected.

So that’s what I know. There is way more that I don’t know. And I have one question: At what point do US casualties like Terry Lynch, and increasingly frequent Afghan casualties, convince policy-makers that fighting a guerrilla-style war in Afghanistan’s Helmand province is not keeping the US and the world safer, but rather is resulting in greater insecurity?

Annnd, If you only follow one link in this blog post, it should be this one: http://www.cfr.org/publication/19738/security_council_meeting_on_complex_situation_in_afghanistan_june_2009.html

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