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GORDON DUFF: AFGHANISTAN, LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES

A PROGRAM FOR REASSESSING AND MOVING FORWARD

By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor

This week an expose in Newsweek showed us that our new Afghan police force is hated, feared and helping arm the Taliban.  This was expected and has been going on for years.  American companies hired to perform the task of rebuilding this aspect of Afghanistan were doomed to fail from the beginning.  It isn’t the companies, it is simply that they were given the wrong task.  Afghanistan simply doesn’t work this way, we can’t put “one size fits all” pattern over a nation like this, ignoring its history and culture and expect anything but disaster.

One positive note, steeped in America’s own history came up.  Marines in Helmand found that their “occupation” is preferred to that of the Afghan police and central government.  For the most part, this is how Marines were greeted in Vietnam also.  Decent Americans, properly led and professionally trained, free to be human beings, not soldiers or crusaders can make a real difference, but only in the context of a policy that has “legs.”  That policy has to have these elements:

  1. Gun culture must be replaced by grass roots economic development
  2. Traditional tribal structures must be reconsituted and respected with a full role in government, economic development and policing
  3. The “mercenary” Army has to go, replaced by the existing compulsory service model that has worked for many years and has been the backbone of Afghan society, training young people for employment, supplying a mosaic for a nation state and serving no offensive or political purpose
  4. Drug production must end immediately.  That narcotics are a driving force in extending the occupation is one of the most poorly guarded secrets in the world.  Every nation whose population ravaged by these despicable substances needs to play a role, particularly Russia.  No terrorist group could ever do a tenth the damage of Afghanistan’s drug production.  This has to be a priority.
  5. A national police force must be trained on tribal/ethic lines.  Pashtu speaking Pakistani military/police, working with Afghan and American associations and joined by groups from other Islamic nations such as Jordan could begin a credible program in Afghanistan. 
  6. Bandits and warlords under the guise of Taliban who are not part of a broad insurgent movement need to be defeated.  Isolating these dangerous groups is a must, isolating and, if necessary, destroying.
  7. Longterm regional conflicts and alliances involving Israel, Iran, China, Pakistan and India must not be fought in Afghanistan using surrogate forces.  Some of the countries in this list are actively arming and training terrorists while the United States is looking away. 
  8. Rendition, imprisonment and torture outside accepted international law has to end.  It is time we admitted that these activities have taken on a life of their own, in fact as profit making businesses, and are not making the world one bit safer.

STOPPING DRUGS

The biggest threat Afghanistan poses to the world is narcotics.  Russia has paid an untold price from this problem, a problem also destroying the United States and Western Europe.  You only need to look at the drugs wars on the US/Mexico border, wars extending hundreds of miles north in cities like Phoenix, and understand the nature of the threat.  It must also be admitted that billions of dollars of narcotics are an enticement.  They are drawing criminal elements from around the world, many under the guise of “contractors” or NGOs and even diplomatic missions.  Drugs, money and arms combined with the chaos of war is going to poison any possible economic development or governmental reform.  Drugs must go first.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Groups within the Afghan diaspora are ready to return to the country, by the hundreds, and begin “low intensity” development toward a sustainable economy.  As Prince Ali told me, “we don’t need a 2 story home and SUV for every family, we need a 2 room house and a sytem of education, healthcare and an opportunity to build a life for every family.”

THE ARMY

Afghanistan has always had a system of compulsory military service.  This system was used, not only to unify the nation but it also trained soldiers in needed skills for civilian life.  It had become the backbone of the countries economic growth and national cohesion.  Replacing it with what is seen as a foreign dominated “Northern Alliance” army of Uzbeks and Tajiks, seen as paid mercenaries by Afghans, is ignoring a historical and cultural model.

AMERICA’S ROLE

85% of those the United States believes it must fight can, potentially, rejoin society once the cycle of guns, drugs and “foreign invaders” has ended.  America can help to rebuild the traditional Afghan society destroyed during the Russian occupation and allow a system that has worked for centuries rebuild the country with limited aid, costing less than 10% of the funds allocated for military operations.

America’s role should be broad regional stability leading to the elimination of the causes of extremism, poverty and ignorance.  The people are in place that are willing to work with us but currently most of them are either distrustful of the United States or openly fighting us.  If we can reassess our priorities, this can change.

 

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