America’s Failed War of Attrition in Afghanistan

House destroyed by US air strike

The Nation, November 22, 2010

by Jeremy Scahill

At the end of the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal this weekend, the leadership of the Afghan Taliban issued a statement characterizing the alliance’s adoption of a loose timeline for a 2014 end to combat operations as “good news” for Afghans and “a sign of failure for the American government.”

At the summit, President Barack Obama said that 2011 will begin “a transition to full Afghan lead” in security operations, while the Taliban declared: “In the past nine years, the invaders could not establish any system of governance in Kabul and they will never be able to do so in future.”

While Obama claimed that the US and its allies are “breaking the Taliban’s momentum,” the reality on the ground tells a different story. Despite increased Special Operations Forces raids and, under Gen. David Petraeus, a return to regular US-led airstrikes, the insurgency in Afghanistan is spreading and growing stronger. “By killing Taliban leaders the war will not come to an end,” said the Taliban’s former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, in an interview at his home in Kabul. “On the contrary, things get worse which will give birth to more leaders.”

Former and current Taliban leaders say that they have seen a swelling in the Taliban ranks since 9-11. In part, they say, this can be attributed to a widely held perception that the Karzai government is corrupt and illegitimate and that Afghans–primarily ethnic Pashtuns–want foreign occupation forces out. “We are only fighting to make foreigners leave Afghanistan,” a new Taliban commander in Kunduz told me during my recent trip to the country. “We don’t want to fight after the withdrawal of foreigners, but as long as there are foreigners, we won’t talk to Karzai.” Continue reading