Our Afghanistan Failure Was Led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

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Common Dreams

Our Afghanistan Failure Was Led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

The Washington Post on 28 December 2013 headlined "Afghanistan Gains Will Be Lost Quickly After Drawdown, U.S. Intelligence Estimate Warns," and reported that, "The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration."

The three reporters there (Londono, DeYoung, and Miller) did not cite anyone for blame in this, other than CIA Director David Petraeus, for his having demanded his agency "to consult more closely with commanders on the ground," so as not to produce intelligence estimates that would be discouragingly pessimistic. "The directive was seen by some [at CIA] as an affront" to their independence.

This former general did not want the generals in Afghanistan to face morale problems among their troops. It's an understandable concern for a general, but not at all appropriate for a CIA Director. Petraeus, it seems, simply didn't understand that depressed morale among the troops, if it exists, is something that should be simply reported in an NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), but should not be a concern that would guide the writing of it – what it reports.

Petraeus was an extremely poor pick to head the CIA, but he was the man that President Obama himself chose to do this job.

Of course, the CIA is no longer under Petraeus's control, and the new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan is not being challenged as to its independence: to the contrary, it is said to be "grim."

***

However, the problem with Obama's Afghanistan policy actually started early in this President's Administration.

Obama had run for the White House promising to escalate the war against Afghanistan’s Taliban and Al Qaeda, and this is a promise that he kept, even though President Bush had already lost that war, by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in order to fight in Iraq, and then by abandoning the Afghan people to their corrupt aristocracy or “warlords.”

Obama was thus now embarking on a policy to take upon himself the blame for Bush’s failure, to try to salvage that failure; but, instead, he made it even worse.

The U.S. was now backing a corrupt government, which was able to win re-“election” only by massive ballot-box stuffing. For example, on 2 September 2009, Dexter Filkins in The New York Times headlined “Tribal Leaders Say Karzai’s Team Forged 23,900 Votes,” and reported that in one district, Shorobak: “The ballot boxes were taken to Shorobak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz [the district’s governor] and other tribal leaders said, local police officers stuffed them with thousands of ballots. At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai. ‘Not a single person in Shorobak District cast a ballot — not a single person,’ Mr. Bariz said,” because Karzai’s brother “detained the governor of Shorobak [Mr. Bariz], and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election eve.”

Of course, George W. Bush wouldn’t have had any concern about theft of an election, except that it shouldn’t have been done as crudely as this – so obviously. But Obama? Obama simply continued on, with his escalation in Afghanistan, as if America’s troops’ constituting an alien invading “Christian” army in an impoverished Muslim country didn’t matter – not even if the only way to keep the puppet leader in power was at the butt of guns and tanks, such as here.

Even if Obama possessed tact in dealing with Americans, all that he seemed to offer the citizens of a place like Afghanistan was boundless faith in raw power. That’s how he acted, at any rate. The Taliban were a curse, but so were the occupiers – and the occupiers were aliens. In a tribal culture, this means a lot.

On 26 January 2010, Eric Schmitt headlined in The New York Times, “U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans,” and he reported that, “The United States ambassador in Kabul [Karl Eikenberry] warned his superiors here [in Washington] in November that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan ‘is not an adequate strategic partner’ and ‘continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden,’ according to a classified cable that offers a much bleaker accounting of the risks of sending additional American troops to Afghanistan than was previously known. ... ‘Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable,’ he wrote Nov. 6. ‘An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependence, at least in the short term.’” Eikenberry warned that Karzai “and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further.”

President Obama ignored his envoy’s warnings and advice.

Obama continued to pursue his war in Afghanistan, despite its having degenerated, from this moment forward, into a military occupation propping up a corrupt Afghan aristocracy. Of course, the United States is itself increasingly becoming also a corrupt aristocracy or kleptocracy, instead of the democracy that it originally (and long) had been; and perhaps Obama would never himself have become President if he were seen by America’s conservative aristocrats as being a real threat to them; so, Obama was already compromised, at least at home. He was treating the Afghan people as if they would accept domination by a regime imposed by a “Christian” nation thousands of miles away.

If Obama were smart, he wouldn’t have done this; he would have told Karzai that either Karzai would accept a re-do of the “election,” run this time by Afghans overseen by the U.N. or by some other neutral international body, or else the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan and fight Al Qaeda in the same way it was fighting them in Pakistan, via drones. Obama didn’t choose that path; perhaps he was thinking that corrupt aristocrats were running the U.S. acceptably well, and so Karzai could do the same.

Obama had been informed; he knew that propping up the despised crook Karzai was building hatred of America among the Afghan people; he couldn’t fail to have known that by staying unconditionally in Afghanistan the U.S. would become viewed by Afghans as a Christian occupier of millions of Muslims – as being an alien military occupier.

But, despite this fact’s being obvious, Obama's U.S. remained unconditionally in Afghanistan, even after Karzai blatantly stole his "election."

Here’s one reason Obama should have known better: Right after Obama’s own re-election, Jamie Reno headlined at The Daily Beast, on 15 November 2012, “The Real Scandal of David Petraeus Is Afghanistan,” and he noted that, Lt. Col. John L. Cook, a former Army intelligence officer and senior adviser to the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan, who oversaw the Afghan National Police, said in his 2012 book Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure, that after Karzai stole the 2009 “election,” he should have been abandoned by the U.S., and that from that moment onward, U.S. troops in that country were putting their lives at risk for nothing. Cook blamed Petraeus, because that was Petraeus’s policy, but Obama approved of Petraeus’s approach, and backed him, notwithstanding opposition from Vice President Biden and others. Lt. Col. Cook blamed Petraeus, simply because, in the military, as in the aristocracy itself, credit goes only upwards, and blame goes only downwards; and Obama was the master here, and Petraeus was merely Obama's chosen employee, so he could take the blame for the failure; but the real blame lay at the top, with President Obama himself.

This was his policy, and Obama strongly backed his Republican general, and even promoted him to run the CIA.

Cook described Afghanistan as being profoundly corrupt, and his superb book opened by saying: “Afghanistan is riddled with corruption, from top to bottom. ... President Hamid Karzai has built a family-run, nationwide, interlocking criminal enterprise.”

Obama backed that operation; and, so, America was now spilling blood for it.

Whenever the U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan, the U.S. would be hated and despised; this would be no victory for anyone but the Taliban.

***

Throughout this period, President Obama's U.S. Secretary of State was, of course, Hillary Clinton; and, whereas there was reported to be disagreement about Afghan policy from Vice President Joe Biden, there was none reported from the Secretary of State. To the contrary: She made America’s Afghan policy even worse:

On 26 July 2009, Marisa Taylor bannered at McClatchy Newspapers, “Why Are U.S.-Allied Refugees Still Branded as ‘Terrorists?’,” and she reported that “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] is working with other agencies, such as the State Department, to come up with a solution” to the routine refusal of the United States to grant U.S. visas to translators and other local employees of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan who wanted to move to the U.S. and who had overwhelming reason to fear retaliation from anti-Americans in their home countries after we left. The State Department did nothing. 

Then, Human Rights First headlined on 13 August 2009, “Senator Leahy on ‘Material Support’ Bars,” and reported that, “In a powerful statement submitted for the Congressional Record on August 5, 2009, Senator Leahy (D-VT) reaffirmed his commitment to ‘restore common sense’ to the bars to refugee and asylum status based on associations with what the Immigration and Nationality Act defines as terrorism,” which was “written so broadly” that it applied even to “children who were recruited against their will and forced to undergo military training, doctors (acting in accordance with the Hippocratic oath) ... and those who fought against the armies of repressive governments in their home countries.”

The State Department failed to act. On 2 February 2013, the Washington Post bannered “Alleged Terrorism Ties Foil Some Afghan Interpreters’ U.S. Visa Hopes,” and Kevin Sieff in Kabul reported that, “As the American military draws down its forces in Afghanistan and more than 6,000 Afghan interpreters seek U.S. visas, the problem is threatening to obstruct the applications of Afghans who risked their lives to serve the U.S. government.” What kind of lesson is this teaching to interpreters and other local employees of the U.S. missions in unstable foreign countries? Helping the U.S. could be terminally dangerous.

Thus, both at the White House and at the State Department there were leaders who treated the people at the bottom -- the Afghan public, and especially the few among them who accepted employment from U.S. corporations and even from the U.S. Government itself -- as being not even worthy of note, much less of protection.

This is the way an aristocracy treats its serfs. Somehow, the United States has now gotten leaders like that. Those leaders have sown the wind, and we shall be left to reap the whirlwind, when the Taliban retakes Afghanistan, and our friends there get slaughtered. It’s not the type of “lesson” that a democracy would be teaching to a long-oppressed nation – and to all other such nations throughout the world, that might be considering whether to support our friends, or our foes.

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