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Informed Comment

Top Ten Myths about Afghanistan, 2010

Juan Cole

A group of Afghans outside a market in Bamiyan province, Afghanistan, on June 8, 2008. Public opinion polls show that support for the U.S. military is only slightly higher than support for Osama bin Laden. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

10. "There has been significant progress in tamping down the insurgency in Afghanistan."

9. Afghans want the US and NATO troops to stay in their country because they feel protected by them.

  • Fact: In a recent [pdf] poll, only 36% of Afghans
    said they were confident that US troops could provide security. Only
    32% of Afghans now have a favorable view of the United States over-all.

8. The "surge" and precision air strikes are forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

7. The US presence in Afghanistan is justified by the September 11 attacks.

6. Afghans still want US troops in their country, despite their discontents.

5. The presidential elections of 2009 and the recent parliamentary elections were credible and added to the legitimacy of Afghanistan's government.

4. President Hamid Karzai is "a key ally" of the United States.

3. Shiite Iran is arming the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-hating Taliban in Afghanistan.

  • Fact: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told
    Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini last February "that
    intelligence indicated there was little lethal material crossing the
    Afghanistan-Iran border." This according to a wikileaks cable.

2. Foreigners are responsible for much of Afghanistan's fabled corruption.

1. The US is in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda.

  • Fact: CIA director Leon Panetta admitted
    that there are only 50-100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan! The US
    is mainly fighting two former allies among the Mujahidin whom Ronald
    Reagan dubbed "freedom fighters" and the "equivalent of America's
    founding fathers:" Gulbaddin Hikmatyar and his Hizb-i Islami, and
    Jalaluddin Haqqani and his Haqqani Network. These two organizations,
    which received billions from the US congress to fight the Soviets in the
    1980s, are more deadly and important now than the ‘Old Taliban' of
    Mulla Omar. The point is that they are just manifestations of Pashtun
    Muslim nationalism, and not eternal enemies of the United States (being
    former allies and clients and all). Hikmatyar has roundly denounced

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