Sunday, February 24, 2008

The impossible situation in Afghanistan

An eye opening story from the front lines in Afghanistan in the Sunday Times Magazine from reporter Elizabeth Rubin who spent much of the fall in the Korengal Valley and elsewhere in Kunar province alongside soldiers who were making life-and-death decisions almost every day — decisions that led to the deaths of soldiers and of civilians.

The article speaks about how it has been impossible to wage war against the Taliban without killing civilians. Civilians play to both sides but now are mostly aiding the Taliban:
The insurgents regularly use civilians as shields, children as spotters and women as food suppliers. NATO killing civilians is great propaganda for the Taliban. At the same time, to Afghans with little technological sophistication, the scale and impersonality make the accidents seem intentional. Many are convinced the Americans are deliberately bombing them and even deliberately aiding a Taliban comeback.

The story also comments on US soldiers heavy use of psychiatric prescription medication like Prozac to deal with PTSD and extremely long tours of duty with very little time off, being pushed to their physical and psychological limits:
The soldiers were on a 15-month tour that included just 18 days off. Many of them were “stop-lossed,” meaning their contracts were extended because the army is stretched so thin. You are not allowed to refuse these extensions. ... Capt. Dan Kearney told his dad, “My boys are gonna go crazy out here.” The army sent a shrink...“I’ve got too many geeking out, wanting to go off the deep end and kill people,” he said. One of his lieutenants wanted to shoot every Afghan in the face. Kearney shook his head. He wished he could buy 20 goats and let the boys beat and burn them and let loose their rage. “I’m balancing plates on my goddamn nose is what I’m doing,” he said. “All it’s gonna take is for one of these guys to snap.”

Worst of all, with all the incredible amounts of money being spent, our soldiers still have to scrounge for supplies:
They felt eclipsed by Iraq. As Sgt. Erick Gallardo put it: “We don’t get supplies, assets. We scrounge for everything and live a lot more rugged. But we know the war is here. ”

If only we kept our eye on the ball - Afghanistan, instead of an incredibly draining venture into Iraq, we could have defeated the Taliban. Now, the Taliban is stronger than it has ever been and thanks to the incompetence of the Bush administration, our military is stretched to the breaking point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


We are winning in Afghanistan. Harmid Karzai is still alive.