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Robinson writes: "I'm at a loss, even after President Obama's surprise trip to the war zone. The president's televised address from Bagram air base raised more questions than it answered. Let's start with the big one: Why?"

The war has taken its toll on the troops. (photo: David Leeson/Dallas Morning News)
The war has taken its toll on the troops. (photo: David Leeson/Dallas Morning News)

War Without Reason Why

By Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

04 May 12


how of hands: Does anybody really understand the U.S. policy in Afghanistan? Can anyone figure out how we’re supposed to stay the course and bring home the troops at the same time?

I’m at a loss, even after President Obama’s surprise trip to the war zone. The president’s televised address from Bagram air base raised more questions than it answered. Let’s start with the big one: Why?

According to Obama, “the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al-Qaeda could never use this country to launch attacks against us.” I would argue that U.S. and NATO forces have already done all that is humanly possible toward that end.

The Taliban government was deposed and routed. Al-Qaeda was first dislodged and then decimated, with “over 20 of their top 30 leaders” killed, according to the president. Osama bin Laden was tracked to his lair in Pakistan, shot dead and buried at sea. To the extent that al-Qaeda still poses a threat, it comes from affiliate organizations in places such as Yemen and from the spread of poisonous jihadist ideology. Al-Qaeda’s once-extensive training camps in Afghanistan have long been obliterated, and the group’s presence in the country is minimal.

That smells like victory to me. Yet 94 American troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan so far in 2012, U.S. forces will still be engaged in combat until the end of 2014, and we are committed to an extraordinary - and expensive - level of involvement there until 2024. Why?

Of the U.S. troops who died this year as a result of hostile fire - as opposed to accidents, illnesses or suicide - at least one of every seven was killed not by the Taliban but by ostensibly friendly Afghan security forces.

A report by military and political behavioral scientist Jeffrey Bordin, commissioned by the Pentagon last year and now classified, concluded that “the rapidly growing fratricide-murder trend” of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police against U.S. and allied troops reflects “the ineffectiveness in our efforts in stabilizing Afghanistan, developing a legitimate and effective government, battling the insurgency [and] gaining the loyalty, respect and friendship of the Afghans.”

Policies such as nighttime raids, in which civilians have been killed, and incidents such as the burning of Korans by allied soldiers have generated increasing resentment in a country that has never taken kindly to foreign occupation.

These friendly-fire killings are not just isolated incidents, the report says, but a “continuing pattern” that is leading to a “crisis of trust” between allied and Afghan forces. Unless there is reform of “profoundly dysfunctional Afghan governmental systems and key leaders,” the report predicts, “any efforts in developing a legitimate, functional and trustworthy Afghan army and police force will continue to be futile.”

It should be noted that U.S. commanders in Afghanistan strongly disagree. They express confidence that the Afghan army is becoming a much more competent and professional fighting force. But they acknowledge that the process requires time and a continuing commitment of troops and funding.

As Obama knows, however, polls indicate that Americans are weary of this war. He told the nation Tuesday night that 23,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of the summer. This will reduce troop levels to about 65,000 - still far above what Obama inherited in 2009. By the end of 2014, Obama said, “the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.” But how many Americans will remain? And, again, why?

At that point, Obama said, we will leave behind just enough personnel to support the Afghan government in counterterrorism operations and provide continued training for Afghan forces. At present, however, we’re in the midst of a counterinsurgency campaign of the kind that takes decades, at best, to succeed. If we’re going to switch to counterterrorism in a couple of years, why not just make the switch now?

Another question: Obama said we will establish no permanent bases in Afghanistan. But the agreement he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai gives the United States continuing use of bases that we built and intend to transfer nominally to Afghan control. What’s the difference?

The United States has agreed to support Afghanistan’s social and economic development and its security institutions through 2024. Does this sound like nation-building to you? Because that’s what it sounds like to me.

“Tonight, I’d like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan,” Obama said Tuesday. We’re still waiting. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

+29 # erogers 2012-05-04 15:18
In 2004 the United States Geological Survey and Afghan Geological Survey put teams in the field with security provided by Marines. Trillions of dollars in rare earth deposits and metals have been located in Afghanistan. Much of the rare earths are in the highly contested Helmand Province. That is why we are in Afghanistan. Even Khan knew their were riches in Afghanistan. Soviet geologists did the first definitive studies during their time in Afghanistan. Those reports were discovered in Kabul. Now the question is: who will provide the security for all those mining companies that will flock to Afghanistan to do the mining? Who will pay for all the needed infrastructure to get to those deposits? Lots of questions, no answers. That is why Mr. Obama is not telling us how we will leave or when. We will have a major force of "security personnel" in Afghanistan for a long time. Sound familiar? Sound like Iraq? You can read the full report at:
+13 # John Locke 2012-05-05 07:32
erogers: Absolutely correct...and also the Opium fields and the rich drug trade...the CIA are guarding those fields even now and they are off limits to our GI's they are not allowed to be destroyed...the producing acerage has multiplied since we invaded Afghanistan
+2 # doneasley 2012-05-06 02:50
Quoting erogers:
We will have a major force of "security personnel" in Afghanistan for a long time. Sound familiar? Sound like Iraq?

There's always more to our "wars" than meets the eye. When Bush stood on the 9/11 rubble and declared, "the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon", I took him at his word - that he was going after Osama and al Qaeda. You may remember that there was an argument about whether we should send a small police force or our entire military. As usual the neo-con hawks won out and we sent the entire military. In late 2001, we had Osama trapped at Tora Bora and, for reasons never explained, he magically disappeared. We then switched our attention to the Taliban, treatment of Afghan women (they shouldn't wear those hot burqas), building schools, roads, water and electric systems, and, oh yes, Iraq. Osama was no longer important. Being a land-locked nation, Halliburton (or is it Cheneyburton) and other private contractors had to ferry supplies overland from Pakistan. It's estimated that it takes $1 Million per year to maintain one military person in Afghanistan. Between this invasion/occupa tion and the one in Iraq - not "wars" - we were soon spending $2 Billion / month. And there are idiots telling us we're not spending enough on our military!

But in the end, after 10 years of flailing about, it was a small group of Navy Seals that killed bin Laden. Couldn't we have done that from the get-go?
0 # barbaratodish 2012-05-04 18:33
Perhaps war is an outlet for our young to get in touch with their dark sides, that have been made dark and violent by THE SOCIAL CONTRACT! Starting from birth, our young have been brutalized, first by being spanked into exixtence, then symbolically or actually bullied into youth and young adulthood by parental and then "in loco parentis" discipline. ("But it's for your own good"! the defensive older "human" robot sheeple recite unfeelingly.) Then the young that are not eliminated, emotionally eliminate themselves by "falling in line". "getting with the program" of numbness by distraction: sex, liquor, drugs or toxic parenting themselves, and so the cycle repeats, ad ininitum! The solution: instead of the drama and ego, transcend holocaustal, reparational, relative (and I don't mean the kind of blood "ties"- or knots, for that matter) etc., BS! Instead everyone DO improv, better yet BE IMPROV, and/or alternative comedy! Shock yourself AND others into a new transcendant drama and ego free existence. Well, just keep enough drama and ego in reserve for life and death issues! lol
+11 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-04 18:55
"... Does anybody really understand the U.S. policy in Afghanistan? Can anyone figure out how we’re supposed to stay the course and bring home the troops at the same time?

I’m at a loss, ... "

Lots of people know -- lot of them right here at RSN, including the first commenter, erogers. He's at a loss? then why is trying to write an article. I guess because he is writing for WaPo and assigned to obscure things, and not allowed to just blurt out truth.

Washington Post?? Where every day is April first, and a bad joke. It's time to ignore these clowns and the corporate state propagnada.
+19 # RMDC 2012-05-05 05:27
Good points bluepilgrim -- Writers who work for the WaPo are deliberately ignorant. And that is because the WaPo would never print what we all know.

The US is at war in Afghanistan and will remain there until forceable driven out for the following reasons.

1. Heroin -- Afghanistan producees 95% of the world's supply of Heroin and the CIA is the exclusive distributor of the drug.

2. Control of Central Asia. Read Brzezinski's book, The Grand Chess Board. The US must have a stretegic control of the resources of Central Asia.

3. The military industrial complex. It needs permanent war in order to burn through about 1.5 trillion dollars a year.

4. Psychopathology . War is a pathology that deeply sick human beings force on others. Killing and torture are what a few sociopaths do and as a society we have no mechanisms for diagnosing and locking these people up. Cheney still lives free.
+5 # Milarepa 2012-05-05 00:06
Mr. Obama is simply postponing action by shifting it to the future. 2014, 2024 who cares. Meanwhile people are getting killed in Afghanistan. What, is Mr. Obama the Lord of Time? After ten years the US is still in Iraq. How about that huge chunk of land in Germany, there since 1945, owned in perpetuity by the US as a military base. No matter how or what you think about Mr. Obama, at the very least he always overestimates his ability, his power. Mainly he's been talking. JFK understood that he put his life on the line when he became President, and he accepted that. Mr. Obama may understand that too but clearly he hasn't accepted it. I think of him as the Great Wiggler.
+7 # Shea Brown 2012-05-05 05:10
I understand our troops are there, and will continue to be there to help protect the pipeline that will run through Afghanistaan to India, that will supply natural gas, to India, and the world. Read some Pepe Escobar. This is old news really. Pipeline. Deals are being made right now to give some of the profits to Putin for helping persuade different parties. The Caspian is full of natural gas, and right now there is no pipeline to get it out of there.
+13 # corallady 2012-05-05 06:13
Is it really "a war without reason"? I think not. We may not know all of the reasons, but one thing we know--how many so-called "defense contractors" can you name? You know, like Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin , BAE Systems, McDonnell-Dougl as, Boeing. There are at least a hundred of them, and they all want to make money. They are war contractors, not defense contractors, and they lobby the government to keep wars going so that they can swell their bottom lines. Between placating these companies and kowtowing to the big oil companies, the government has to keep the war machine rolling along. By the time we get out of Afghanistan we'll be in a war somewhere else; it's what we do anymore. We used to have a War Department in the Cabinet; that got changed to Department of Defense, but that's a euphemism for what we really do. What are we defending? We start wars. Why do we have almost 800 military bases around the world? For defense? I don't think so. The war machine is a devouring monster that has to be fed. Our "defense contractors" are all too happy to provide the "food."
+1 # dakersting 2012-05-05 10:49
You guys have taken the bait beautifully - having a nice discussion of all the lies they show on TV. We few who've been paying attention have, for decades, been warning "antiwar" elements (quite comatose, most of the time) that there will be NO END of Middle East wars as long as WE ALL keep silently (voluntarily) paying massive taxes (currently 8million a day) to finance the openly-declared ethnic-cleansin g of Palestine. As long as the Zionists among us keep demanding the "right of a Jewish state" to force itself into a multi-ethnic region - and as long as weak, Zionist-friendl y "antiwar movements" keep kowtowing to the hissy-fits of Zionist "peace activists" who claim that duly objecting to this open racism would "divide the movement" - our governments too will be dominated by Zionists (now "the neocons") and the demand for war will continue to outweigh objections to it. When the US invaded Afghanistan, the pretext was to "arrest Osama bin Laden," and we were shown his (genuine) video response, in which he said the OBVIOUS thing: that, as long as the American people keep financing the murder of children in Palestine they will continue to see increasing war in the Middle East and increasing loss of our own liberties. HE knew it's all about Palestine - the pilot-light of the whole conflagration - just as ALL Middle East leaders know. The corporations MUST make as much profit as they can from political realities; so it's easy to blame them - just as the Zionists want us to.
+6 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 13:35
Yes, zionism is terrible, but the US has been imperialists long before zionists ever thought to rise up out of the swamp (and were assimilated into the imperial machine -- first England and then elsewhere).

If there was no zionist Israel the empire would just invent one -- and in fact are doing similar all over the world with their divide and conquer and set up puupets policies. The zionists just play the game better than some others and know how to work the system to their benefit.
+5 # oldman68 2012-05-05 11:18
Does anyone care that more U.S. troops have committed suicide than killed in both wars. Thousand died from exposure to DU dust. Many more developed cancer.Since it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years the areas where depleted uranium was used are contaminated for a long, long time.500,000 Iraqi children born deformed because of this action by the U.S.military and it will continue.Image if you are a mother in America and your newborn child is born this way. This what our tax dollars helped accomplish.www. globalresearch/ depleted uranium
+6 # PoetForPeace 2012-05-05 11:23
The intention of the Corporate State of America is to use it's citizens to further the financial goals of the Military Industrial Complex. No mystery here! Been doing it all along. President Obama is just the currently approved government, corporate facilitator for global domination and empire! The fodder is both our citizen "servers" and those who suffer and die in the host countries for continuing predation and genocide! Simple! Nothing new except the boldness and technological advances for their task!
+1 # PoetForPeace 2012-05-05 11:24
RMDC: Good points, all.
+2 # Dick Huopana 2012-05-05 12:56
Look at a world map and you’ll see that Afghanistan has a lengthy eastern border with Pakistan and a lengthy western border with Iran. Pakistan has nuclear bombs and Iran may already have the capability to produce them. By maintaining military presences in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can, if necessary, more easily attack Iran from both the east and west if it makes moves that threaten to destabilize the Mid-East - like attacking Israel and/or disrupting the flow of oil from the region. Similarly, we and our ally, India, can attack Pakistan from the east and west if, for example, it threatens international peace with the use or sale of its nuclear weapons. The Pentagon probably also considers Afghanistan’s closeness to China strategically advantageous should we ever find ourselves militarily engaged with it.

In publicly addressing America’s foreign policy, it is probably unwise for Obama to discuss the above considerations and so they are masked with other rhetoric - like the Bush administration’ s use of the false WMD rhetoric to mask its intent to establish our current – and permanent - military presence in Iraq.
+2 # Dick Huopana 2012-05-05 15:01
Unfortunately, since Reagan became president in 1981, the government’s military spending has been constantly and significantly increasing and, because of our leaders’ addiction to deficit budgeting, has therefore contributed greatly to the current federal debt of $15.68 trillion. And since Reagan’s first inauguration, the debt’s interest has amounted to nearly $9 trillion which we can assume was also funded by borrowing and represents an equivalent portion of the current debt.

Clearly, then, we are engaged in an international military strategy which Americans and their leaders refuse to fund with adequate taxes. Instead, many, especially Republicans have been repeatedly and successfully demanding revenue-reducin g tax cuts. This strongly suggests that the greatest threat to America’s security is not terrorism; it is the government’s dangerously growing risk of fiscal insolvency.
+3 # corals33 2012-05-05 20:09

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