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August 4, 2010

U.S. war in Afghanistan

Scott Stockdale

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Although U.S. Government officials are doing their best to downplay the leaking of 90,000 pages of raw intelligence by WikiLeaks website, the real impact is going to be felt in the details.

Reports have surfaced for years about Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) support for the Taliban, but government officials have managed to hide the true extent of this support, and thus the implications for NATO troops.

The documents indicate that Pakistan allowed ISI officials to meet with Taliban leaders to plan attacks with al-Qaeda, against U.S. soldiers.

As late as January 2009, retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, who ran ISI in 1987 – 1989, met with Afghan Taliban leaders and three “older” Arab men – presumably al-Qaeda members.

Leaked documents show that the Afghan government - NATO's supposed ally - is critical of U.S. policy. Afghanistan National Security Council issued this statement: “With regret ... our allies did not show necessary intention about the external support for the international terrorists ... for the regional stability and global security.”

With this clear indication of a decided lack of trust between NATO and Afghan officials, how can these same Afghan officials be trusted to fight the Taliban alone, in a year, or two or three or four, depending on whose timetable one is following?

Leaked documents indicate continued widespread corruption among Afghan government officials, as well as the propensity for Afghan troops to flee under fire.

And this is while thousands of western troops are overseeing them.

Why do western governments– particularly U.S. government officials and it closest ally in the conflict, the Canadians – think this situation is going to improve after western troops are no longer there to oversee the Afghans?

A more likely scenario would be Afghan officials hedging their bets by making deals with the Taliban, as Pakistan has been doing all along.

Meanwhile, throughout this nine-year war Pakistan has received, and continues to receive, billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

As recently as last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Islamabad to announce $500 million in aid to Pakistan. In essence, U.S. taxpayers are funding an organization that is responsible for numerous NATO casualties, but President Obama and his officials think this is just a cost of doing business, and so do those in Canada who support the war.

U.S. officials  claim, and probably are, putting pressure on Pakistan to stop ISI officials from cooperating with the enemy, but this cooperation continues, leading one to conclude that the U.S. is either unwilling or helpless to do anything about it.

But what does this mean on the ground where the troops operate?

A series of leaked reports claim U.S. Intelligence delivered folders and folders full of intelligence about Pakistan-based insurgents planting roadside bombs inside Afghanistan.

Although these reports contained the names of insurgents, their locations and aerial photographs and map coordinates of their hideouts, nothing was done.

This means that many NATO troops have died or been disabled, and will continue to die, because no one is willing to stop these identifiable insurgents from planting IED's with impunity.

But we're supposed to take comfort in the fact that U.S. officials are aware of the problem.

Thus it's not surprising that three more U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan, raising the July death toll to 66, the deadliest month of the 9 year war. June had been the previous high with 60 killed.

Leaked documents indicate that U.S. military officials know the Taliban have used heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles to kill its soldiers, as well as at least one Canadian soldier, aboard a U.S. helicopter; but until now they kept this a secret.

Afghan insurgents used similar heat-seeking missiles to inflict heavy casualties and turn the war against Russia, leading to its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.  Like the roadside IED's that kill the majority of western troops in Afghanistan, NATO forces seem to have no solution to heat-seeking missiles, so officials chose to keep the problem quiet and take the casualties.

Meanwhile, supporters of the war admit that the war is not going well; but insist that this justifies a buildup of more and more troops and the suffering of more and more causalities, before turning the war effort over to an ally which documents show is rampant with corruption.

The leaked files also suggest Osama bin Laden is alive and playing a key role in directing the war in Afghanistan.

Moreover, while in Pakistan last week, Ms. Clinton said she believes bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the country.

This is despite the fact that the U.S. has had no reliable intelligence on bin Laden since 2002.

However, it's long been a staple of American propaganda to create a villain who is a threat to us all and must be conquered by the “good guys,” just like in the cartoons and movies.

This is something that resonates with the public – unlike the more arcane concepts involved in fighting a war on the other side of the globe.

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