Wednesday, October 25, 2017

AFG; a Dozen Years of ... well ... something

On my second round in the Afghanistan War, a dozen years ago at the Staff level this time, I began my evolving role in a multi-year effort on the Afghanistan War as both a USA and NATO officer.

Much of this speech last week at Columbia University by John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, was difficult to read in so many ways. I am afraid it has put me in a funk of unknown duration.

This could have been written a dozen years ago;
There’s only one problem, and it’s one that SIGAR has consistently identified in our work. These agencies routinely fail to coordinate with each other at the strategic level, let alone at the project level. This, to say the least, is problematic. If our long-term strategy in Afghanistan is to increase battlefield pressure on the Taliban, while at the same time helping the democratically elected Afghan government increase its legitimacy, then it would seem that DOD, State, USAID, and every other agency need to be working together.

Let me share two of the many examples SIGAR has come across. First, it’s no secret that a great deal of opium comes from Afghanistan, perhaps as much as 80 percent of the world’s total supply. The United States has spent over $8.5 billion since 2001 trying to combat narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan. Despite that massive expenditure, Afghan is producing opium at or near all-time record levels.

Given that the U.S. military has estimated that as much as 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding comes from the narcotics trade, one would think they would make the counternarcotics mission a priority. Yet, in Afghanistan, the Department of State has responsibility for counter-narcotics programs but is doing little.
If that didn't give me a case of the deep-dwell, time-traveling grumps - this did;
The vice-president Abdul Rashid Dostum, a strongman whose reputation vies with that of Hekmatyar, has formed a protest alliance including the foreign minister and a governor accused of running abusive militias. They met in Turkey where Dostum has lived since coming under investigation for the rape of a political rival.

Recently, the Guardian accompanied Hekmatyar as he strode into a mosque in a poor eastern Kabul neighbourhood to lead Friday prayers. His sermon revolved around politics. His party plans to participate in forthcoming parliamentary elections, but he has not decided if he wants to run for the presidency in 2019, he says.
No, I don't have a solution - I don't know if this is actually a problem. I think it is all just part of the terrain of the now.

As I go to slumber, my funk turns a bit rage-ish as I think again about the arrogance of the Bonn Agreement of DEC 2001 that set us on this COA in face of all history tells us about that miserable part of Central Asia. So much time, blood, treasure, and human capital invested in pouring water in to a bottomless well of nothing.

In the context of its time, it was what it was - but is why we are where we are now.

Fools. We were all fools.

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