That Other War
Just before Christmas I had the chance to visit Afghanistan and Iraq, and to meet with some of our folks deployed to those countries. I thanked them for their service, and for all they've done to bring freedom, stability, and peace to a troubled part of the world. Afghanistan a little over four years ago was in the grip of a violent, merciless regime that harbored terrorists who plotted murder for export. There is still tough fighting going on in that country, some of it in very rough terrain, high in the mountains and along the border areas. But our people are getting the job done, together with coalition partners and an increasingly strong and professional Afghan military. And Afghanistan is a rising nation -- with a democratically-elected government, a market economy, and millions of children going to school for the very first time. It's impossible to overstate all that our coalition has achieved in Afghanistan -- and when our forces return home from that part of the world, they can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives.
Just makes you feel all warm inside, doesn't it? Yessiree. Wait a minute-- what's this? A story by someone on the ground in Afghanistan? Let's see here...
Only ninety-eight US troops died in Afghanistan last year; but the ratio of US casualties to overall troop levels makes Afghanistan as dangerous as Iraq. While Iraq's violent disintegration dominates the headlines, Bush touts Afghanistan as a success. During his recent visit, the President told Afghans that their country was "inspiring others...to demand their freedom."
But many features of the political landscape here are not so inspiring--for example, the deteriorating security situation. Taliban attacks are up; their tactics have become more aggressive and nihilistic. They have detonated at least twenty-three suicide bombs in the past six months, killing foreign and Afghan troops, a Canadian diplomat, local police and in some cases crowds of civilians. Kidnapping is on the rise. American contractors are being targeted. Some 200 schools have been burned or closed down. And Lieut. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the senior American military officer here, expects the violence to get worse over the spring and summer.
Even in the once relatively stable northern and western regions of the country, foreign military bases and patrols are coming under sporadic attack, while civilian traffic faces a sharp rise in violent banditry. One security monitoring organization said they had seen a fourfold increase in such crimes over the past year.
Another patented BushCo. success story! (Thanks to Mil Apodos, master of the rubber turkey, for the Cheney link.)