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The Hell Hole of Afghanistan
The frightening images of a rising death toll caused by suicide and roadside bombings, disturbing sights of fighting men and women returning home to America and their grieving loved ones, in body bags are enough to make our stomach churn. Seeing that Iraq and the many thousands of returning dead, maimed or crippled in that conflict are still fresh in the nation’s mind. Many old enough to remember the ghost of Vietnam, an American modern military nightmare silently whispers not again. We are not yet completely out of Iraq, and while that still is fluid, the Afghanistan conflict adds to the misery many leaders and military heads now accept is an impossible war. Some go as far as to question the validity of our war strategy and the decision to go in, recalling the Soviet Union went in and left with egg on their face. Why did President George Bush think we could be more successful where the Russians fail?
The American people accept the consequences of war, men and women know the dangers they faced when they put on the uniform. People wear the uniform proudly, to many a kind of badge of honor, the highest sacrifice to serve and die for their county. But will a people now steeped and growing in distrust about the reasons for going to war, accept the consequences of an unjust war? Will the almost automated response, “we fight them there to avoid fighting them here, on our streets”, settle the mind of the skeptics? Out of Afghanistan comes daily news of more and more atrocities enough to blow the mind of the uninitiated. Will the American military defeat the Taliban or will this be another Vietnam, with us coming out with multiple body bags and a hollow victory? Will we escape this hell hole which is Afghanistan with pride in our arm forces, and leaders?
Just this week the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, echoed a called for a complete revamp of military strategy in the country. This came after a sweeping review of military operations and by making this call, he acknowledges that the present approach to the war is a disastrous one. Many before him have been calling for a changed policy, sighting the growing power of the Taliban's while support for the Kabul government decreases. Nevertheless, many in and outside the military have been suggesting for some time that there needs to be much better coordination of effort in Afghanistan. Commentators say changing the emphasis from charming militants to capture the hearts and minds of the Afghan people should be a top NATO priority.
General McChrystal describes the present policy of NATO as comparable to a bumbling bull attacking a matador's cape, progressively exhausted to ultimately being destroyed. The recently appointed general will advise President Obama on the options of sending additional troops which would increase the 108,000 NATO troops already in the country. The American military confirmed two more of its soldiers were killed in an explosion recently. Also a further two British soldiers were killed recently, showing that the death toll in this Afghan war is on an international scale. The figure does not make it any easier to swallow in America but, this to the British has made worse what is already the deadliest year for foreign troops since the 2001 invasion. These latest casualties took the total number of UK service personnel since operations began in 2001 to 210. The men were killed in a blast while on patrol north of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, known as a Taliban heartland and where the heaviest fighting is concentrated. .
The British are not expected to announce any major changes in the number of its troops personnel in Afghanistan, whatever happens with his US counterpart. The British military is indicating that they have effectively increased their contributions by maintaining the extra number of troops sent to Afghanistan this year to help with the yet undeclared elections. Despite those negative misgiving about the conduct of the war general McChrystal is also sending out a positive message that despite the lost ground, victory was still possible. He is quoted as saying, "The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort." Some indication is that the general has lost no time as he already begun to implement the new war strategy, charging NATO forces not to fire or drop bombs if there is a risk of civilian casualties. He also indicated another milestone shift in focus from a policy of poppy crop eradication which is known alienate farmers, to attacking traffickers. Another part of the change strategy is that of encouraging the international forces not only to train Afghan forces but operate alongside them in the war arena.
The US military has some 63,000 personnel in Afghanistan, with another 5,000 planned to joined that number. However some US military strategists are suggesting that US would need to deploy from 7,000 to 40,000 more troops to make a visible difference in Afghanistan. But sending more troops would be politically difficult for the President, in light of dwindling support in the US for the war. People in the corridors of power involved with the Afghanistan conflict doubts that the recent presidential election makes a difference especially with questions continue to be raised about the legitimacy of the war. Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president, is said to have a strong lead over the top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah in the recent yet undeclared polls. Karzai had 45.8% of votes counted, while Abdullah stands at 33.2%, with ballots from almost half of the country's polling stations counted. Karzai will need 50% of votes to avoid a runoff.
Whatever the outcome of the elections, whoever wins the final tally there are still suspicions about their capability to give Afghanistan the radical leadership and chance it needed. To solve this tricky problem many commentators are openly calling for talks with the Taliban. However with so many different factions that is the Taliban it’s going to be tough diplomacy and finding a frontrunner that is willing to lay down his arms. Obviously they will have to find someone that commands a wide following within the group and influential enough to make a lasting peace deal. Can the war in Afghanistan be won solely by military means? I think not, send our soldiers home from this hell hole!
The hell hole which is Afghanistan
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