Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Devastating Secret Documents on Afghan War Tell Us What We Already Know

By Barry Rubin

A whistleblower has released thousands of documents on the war in Afghanistan. What do they tell us? Three things we already know, in fact all of which have been written about on this blog for the last year.

First, the war is not winnable in the framework put forward by the Obama Administration. The idea of reforming Afghan society, creating a strong and honest central government, and building a powerful military while winning the hearts and minds of Aghans isn't going to work.

The goal should be the far more modest one of keeping the Taliban and revolutionary Islamist groups from gaining power, which can be achieved by supporting a range of forces in the country, unfortunately often corrupt and undemocratic ones.

Second, a lot more civilians are being killed than we hear about. War, especially this kind of war, makes that unavoidable. The difference, of course, is that the U.S. and its allies kill civilians by accident; the Taliban kills them on purpose and follows strategies intended to get civilians killed.

This is precisely what has happened for Israel in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip but the world--and often Western countries--want to pretend this is something peculiar to Israel rather than inevitable under these conditions. Indeed, Israel does better at avoiding civilian casualties than does the United States and European countries involved in such conflicts. If this was admitted, the UN dictatorship-led condemnations, the misled boycott movements, and all the rest would disappear.

Third, the documents reveal that Pakistan's government, and certainly the army and intelligence, have been working with the Taliban. Despite receiving billions of dollars of U.S. aid, Pakistan has generally protected al-Qaida and the Taliban while sponsoring terrorism against India.

To a large extent, Pakistan is on the other side in the current international conflict. It fights the Taliban only when the local branch of that group threatens the regime itself. The government shields terrorists, helps Iran on obtaining nuclear weapons, and even actively assisted in India's equivalent of September 11, the Mumbai attack.

All of these points were clear using analytical methods and publicly available sources. They have been, however, largely ignored. Now that so many internal U.S. government reports saying the same thing have been made available, reaching these conclusions should be unavoidable.

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