Thursday, November 19, 2009

Afghanistan: Morale Down, US Payments To Insurgents Up

IT SHOULDN'T BE A SURPRISE TO ANYONE - especially after the massacre at Fort Hood - that soldiers in the US military are under strain. US troops have now been in Afghanistan for 8 years and have no real progress to show for it. Their commander, Gen. McChrystal, says that they're going to lose if they don't get tens of thousands more troops, and their president can't seem to make up his mind whether to follow the general's advice or not.
The conundrum of an occupation that is unravelling bit by bit is not only clear from a recent report (see video below) of Afghan insurgents over-running a US base - a common sight now that the US has abandoned rural Afghanistan. It is also painfully obvious from the recent article in The Nation magazine that revealed the US is actually paying insurgents to protect its supply trucks... from insurgents.

It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. "It's a big part of their income," one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents.
The decomposition of US and NATO resolve and the lack of any obvious way to win against a people who have defeated more empires than perhaps any other, has inevitably infected US troop morale. As this article on ABC News reports, a US Army study has found that less than six percent of troops in Afghanistan report that their units have high morale. That's a drop from over 10 percent in 2007, itself a painfully low number. Many of these soldiers have now served two, three - and some even five - tours of duty in Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan now rivals the Revolutionary War and Vietnam as the longest American war in history, but military experts say the war in Afghanistan is different in one key way.
Unlike the other long wars, this one is being fought by an all-volunteer force. That means it's the same group of people who keep going back and doing the job.
Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry said in an interview with USA Today that the US and its NATO allies will be in Afghanistan for another four or five years, meaning more tours of duty for an already tired military force. And four or five years, while a long way off, is itself unlikely, with many NATO forces, including the largest non-US forces like Canada and Britain, getting set to leave in the next year and a half. At the same time, even formerly peaceful provinces, like Kunduz have seen a rise in fighting. Much of Kunduz is now under Taliban control and NATO and US supply transport through this province - itself a diversion from the increasingly impassable Khyber Pass route from Pakistan - faces constant harassment. This is the province where German troops ordered in an air strike in September after insurgents hijacked a fuel tanker, leading to the deaths of at least 125, dozens of them civilians. The situation has deteriorated steadily since then. The world - and US soldiers and the people of Afghanistan in particular - await Obama's decision on an increase in troop deployment.

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