Monday, April 12, 2010

The task is impossible

The United States leadership has asked its troops in Afghanistan to do the impossible. There is no way to win a fight in which no one is on your side. Suppression in a place that you do not intend to occupy forever is futile and ineffective. The Soviet Union with much less restrictive rules of engagement was unable to subdue the population of Afghanistan. The nature of War makes the task of winning hearts and minds just as impossible.

Witness this morning's tragic events near Kandahar. Young coalition soldiers, in an extremely violent area, that almost exclusively does not speak their language, nor share their cultural reference points, are going to be trigger happy. In a situation where the fear of kill or be killed is omnipresent, it is inevitable.

Early this morning unidentified western troops fired on a passenger bus outside the city of Kandahar killing four civilians aboard and injuring eighteen others. The bus rapidly approached a military convoy from behind. Many of these soldiers serving in Afghanistan have lost friends and comrades to suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices. When the Afghani bus to did not respond to their Western gestures by which they meant stop; flares, flashlights and hand signals, the soldiers opened fire with deadly effect.

Just hours later three would-be suicide bombers launched an abortive attack on an intelligence-services compound in the city. No wonder coalition troops are so edgy. Two of the bombers died with out causing harm, the third was wounded and is being interrogated. Not surprisingly, the Los Angeles Times reports that following the deadly civilian bus incident more hearts and minds were lost, "As word of the shootings spread, protests erupted on the city's outskirts. Witnesses said demonstrators burned tires on the main road out of Kandahar and shouted slogans condemning both the United States and President Hamid Karzai."

There is no such thing as a winnable war. Obama should own up to this reality and withdraw from Afghanistan posthaste.

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