Stephen Walt writes about the recent outbreaks of violence in Afghanistant against American and other NATO troops (What the Quran burnings tell usForeign Policy 02/29/2012):
... the outburst of public rage at the idiotic burning of a bunch of Qurans actually tells you something very important about our Afghan campaign. It's not as if the news about this act suddenly swung lots of Afghans from being really fond of the United States to being really mad at us. Rather, news of the Quran burning was just a catalyst-the proverbial straw on the camel's back-that ignited resentments that have been building up for a long time.
The fact is: Nobody likes being ordered around by a tough and well-armed bunch of foreigners, and no amount of "hearts and minds" feel-good diplomacy can totally eliminate that fact. (And a lot of that COIN-speak was rhetoric intended as much to make the war sound more genteel here in the United States). That is one of the many reasons why the Obama administration was wrong to escalate the Afghan war in 2009, and why neoconservative supporters of the Afghan "surge" were as wrong about that as they were about the similar surge in Iraq.
In 2009, ... [commanding Gen. Stanley] McChrystal's new counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan overturned many doctrines the United States had brought to Iraq in 2003, and it expanded others developed after 2006. The strategy's celebrants, like [David "Bobo"] Brooks and [Max] Boot, might as well have been wearing pom poms as they jumped out of their Army Humvees to "report" on carefully choreographed displays of the civic training and trust-building that buzz-cut G.I.'s were supposedly bringing to Afghans. In truth, they were recycling premises and policies that had failed in Vietnam -- "strategic hamlets," "Vietnamization" of the war. They had failed even in the top-down art of America's own "War on Poverty" -- which Brooks and Boot had always disdained.
The biggest obstacle to the strategy in Afghanistan wasn't American liberals' failure of nerve, as conservatives seldom pass up a chance to insist. The biggest obstacle was the delusion that Americans could do for Kabul and Kunduz what we refuse to do for New Orleans or Detroit. [my emphasis]
Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse take on the current situation in Afghanitan in a long article, Blown Away: How the U.S. Fanned the Flames in AfghanistanTomDispatch 02/2/2012. They're not saying there's a light at the end of the poverbial tunnel. But they are saying the game is almost up for NATO in Afghanistan:
Despite its massive firepower and staggering base structure in Afghanistan, actual power is visibly slipping away from the United States. American officials are already talking about not panicking (which indicates that panic is indeed in the air). And in an election year, with the Obama administration’s options desperately limited and what goals it had fast disappearing, it can only brace itself and hope to limp through until November 2012.
The end game in Afghanistan has, it seems, come into view, and after all these fruitless, bloody years, it couldn’t be sadder. Saddest of all, so much of the blood spilled has been for purposes, if they ever made any sense, that have long since disappeared into the fog of history.
Hopefully, the original reason for the intervention, the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, haven't been entirely forgotten. American intervention should have focused on striking concentrations of Al Qa'ida fighters, the real Al Qa'ida of 2001 lead by Osama bin Laden, not the phantom image we've been chasing for years now. Getting stuck into a protracted war in Afghanistan and Pakistan was a really bad idea.
Scott Horton joins in with a similar outlook on the future of NATO's Afghanistan mission (The Afghanistan DilemmaNo Comment 02/29/2012):
Republican critics have flailed about in response to these developments, instinctively attacking President Obama over his apology for the acts of desecration against the Koran. These rebukes reflected the usual election-year triumph of politics over common sense ... These same Republican critics are also committed to keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan in seeming perpetuity, without a clear deployment strategy or clear objectives. Their attitudes reflect the enemy the Taliban claims to be fighting: Christian crusaders, driven by a hatred of Islam, who want to occupy Afghanistan and treat it as a subjugated province.
There is no obvious fix for NATO’s operations. In the end, the effort will simply wind down, leaving a menacing security environment for the contractors who planners anticipate leaving in place in Afghanistan for some time. The result will be an environment that is welcoming to only one foreign party: Pakistan. For years, key figures in the Pakistani military have pursued a strategy of keeping their support networks in Afghanistan alive until Western forces quit the field. They expect to reassert themselves and perhaps convert Afghanistan once more into a satellite state. This depressing scenario seems increasingly likely to unfold. [my emphasis]