First, for some background on the troop decision facing Obama, you should read Dexter Filkins NYT Magazine account of the scene on the ground in Afghanistan. There’s a lot there, but the basic idea is that if the US is going to “win” in Afghanistan, it needs to make a much bigger effort to build up civil society, and present an American-backed government as a credible alternative to the Taliban, and to do that will require tens of thousands of more troops than we have there now.
But even that probably won’t work. For one thing, nothing ever works in Afghanistan for foreign powers. It’s a gigantic trap, and compared to Iraq it’s way, way more fractured.
Beyond that, though, we’re obviously doing a terrible job on the perception front. Last night it was revealed that Hamid Karzai’s brother, a big opium guy, was on the CIA’s payroll. Lovely.
And that’s just the big picture stuff. On the ground, Afghanis are convinced that the US and the Taliban are actually in cahoots.
Asia Times: This story, in one form or another, is being repeated throughout northern Afghanistan. Dozens of people claim to have seen Taliban fighters disembark from foreign helicopters in several provinces. The local talk is of the insurgency being consciously moved north, with international troops ferrying fighters in from the volatile south, to create mayhem in a new location.
Helicopters are almost exclusively the domains of foreign forces in Afghanistan; the international military controls the air space and has a virtual monopoly on aircraft. So when Afghans see choppers, they think foreign military.
“Our fight against the Taliban is nonsense,” said the soldier from Shahin Corps. “Our foreigner ‘friends’ are friendlier to the opposition.”
For months or even years, rumours have been circulating in Afghanistan that the Taliban are being financed or even directly supported militarily by the foreign forces.
Is there any reality to that? Doubt it, but who the heck knows? And all that really matters is that it’s a rumour that’s out there.
Anyway, you have to appreciate Obama’s position. He probably knows there’s no hope that the hated US can really build a state in Afghanistan — that’s a tough thing to do in societies that are way more advanced — but he can’t just cut and run and the status quo isn’t acceptible either.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.