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1 What, me worry?  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 1:35:34pm

We can't stay forever. They don't want us there anymore. We did what we aimed to do. That is kill many of Taliban and Al Queda, including Osama bin Laden. At some point, they have to get on their own feet.

Maybe one day, we will see the kind of protesting over upwards of 8,500 dead Syrians like was see over burning books.

2 Bob Dillon  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 1:42:26pm


The Panjway 16

15 March 2012

Are some in the American forces buckling under the pressure of war?

The mass murder in Afghanistan was predictable. Twice in the past three weeks, I published that it was coming. Why was I able to write this with sad confidence? I’ve spent more time with combat troops in these wars than any other writer: about four years in total in country, and three with combat troops.

About 200 coalition members have been killed or wounded from insider attacks. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is tantamount to being Taliban and has not bothered to apologize. Instead, Karzai whips up anti-U.S. fervor at every opportunity. Twice, Karzai has threatened to leave politics and join the Taliban.

Even our most disciplined troops — not the few problem troops — have lost all idealism. They have not lost heart for the fight. Mostly, they just don’t care. They fight because they are ordered to fight, but they have eyes wide open. The halfhearted surge and sudden drawdown leave little room for success.

We face a discipline collapse. The bulk of our force is solid — then there’s a small fraction, probably a sliver of a percent, who might be crushed by the pressure.

On Feb. 24, I published:

“As the prevalence of insider attacks rises, and we lose more troops to Afghan troops going berserk and murdering our people, it’s likely just a matter of time before a U.S. troop or troops turn the table and intentionally slaughter Afghan forces.

“That could lead to a meltdown. We are at risk of losing control of more than some people might imagine. There is only so much that U.S. forces will put up with before fringe U.S. combat troops start taking matters into their own hands. Believe me.”

The next day, I published, “If things keep going this way, my expectation is that it’s a matter of time before discipline breaks and the gun turns.”

The 16 murder victims, including women and small children, are Pashtun. Pashtuns live by a code called Pashtunwali, which they take as seriously as the Koran. Pashtunwali includes “nanawatai” (asylum), “badal” (justice/revenge), “tureh” (bravery, specifically protecting women, children and property) and “namus” (honor of women).

Pashtunwali commitment to “badal” makes the Hatfields and McCoys look like a schoolyard fight. Nor is this just a Pashtun thing. There is an annual bloodfest between the Hazaras and Kuchis. That feud should be cranking up again with spring.

Afghan feuds are famously persistent. Badal carries through the generations like DNA. A grandson not born today might take revenge for events decades before his birth. He may kill someone who also was not born at that time.


Karzai is Pashtun. He said, “This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians, and cannot be forgiven.”

Afghans will seek revenge and they will have it. This will lead to yet greater possibilities of another mass murder from our side. We are considering holding the trial in Afghanistan. Pashtuns don’t care about our justice system. They don’t even care about the Afghan government; they want blood for blood. We are being drawn into a feud.

3 CuriousLurker  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 2:02:21pm

re: #2 Bob Dillon

I've had several Pakistani Pathan friends who told me stories about Pashtunwali. I'd even say that, for many, their loyalty to it trumps Islam. The feuds can indeed last for generations, and pretty much any male is fair game for blood revenge.

One friend wasn't able to travel back home for years because his family was involved in a feud with another clan and they feared he wouldn't make it out of the airport alive. They finally managed to arrange a truce by having him marry a woman from the other group.

4 researchok  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 2:06:57pm

'Freedom is bought and paid for with the blood of patriots'.

We have done our share.

That doesn't make the tragic plight of Afghan women less significant, but we cannot do this alone.

If you are looking for a bad guy, look to Hamid Karzai. First and foremost, it was his nation to build. He allowed for the continuing repression of women.

To a lesser extent, the political powers that be here and in Europe ought to be condemned. It isn't as if we didn't know what was happening and it isn't as if we forced Karzai's hand. Instead, we filled it with cash.

5 ProMayaLiberal  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 3:36:46pm

re: #4 researchok

I'd blame Pakistan too.

6 Political Atheist  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 3:55:06pm

The question becomes are those women worth the continued fight? I'd bet they think so.

7 Decatur Deb  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 4:03:14pm

re: #6 Daniel Ballard

The question becomes are those women worth the continued fight? I'd bet they think so.

They are worthy, and tragic, but there is another question: "Can they possibly be saved by fighting?" There are a few billion people in the world who are a more hopeful target for the West's will and resources.

8 CuriousLurker  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 6:24:40pm

re: #6 Daniel Ballard

The question becomes are those women worth the continued fight? I'd bet they think so.

I know your heart is in the right place on this, but I have to agree with Decatur Deb. The Afghans have been fighting pretty much non-stop for 32 years straight at this point (since the '79 Soviet invasion). Their determination to continue doing so seems unabated. It's a nation that, due to it's geo-strategic location—not only in the center of what used to be the very important Silk Road, but also in what is today the crossroads between so many powerful regional forces—has been invaded many times over the millennia: by Greeks, Indians, Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets, Americans, etc.

It has been ruled by Turkic, Persian, Mughal, and Pashtun kings. It is and/or has been home to pagans (in Nuristan Province, also known as Kafiristan), Zoroastrians (under the Sassanids), Hindus (under the Kingdom of Gandhara), Buddhists (remember the Bamiyan Buddhas), Jews (possibly going back to the Babylonian Exile), Christians (under the Parthians and Sassanids), Muslims (both Sunni & Shia), and Sikhs (under the Sikh Empire/Khalsa), among others.

It flourished under some of its rulers, with cities like Samarkand, Bukhara, and Balkh being envied examples of civilization & culture in their heydays. Of course, all of that is so much dust in the wind now. My point is that it has an incredibly long & complex history that most of us who aren't historians probably can't even begin to wrap our heads around. The misery & ignorance we see there today is decidedly not the whole story, it's just the most recent chapter in a story that has been unfolding for thousands of years. [...]

Continued below as it it got to be too long for one comment...

9 CuriousLurker  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 6:31:15pm

Continued from #8 above:

Sadly, today's Afghanistan has far more widespread & deeply rooted problems than just the plight of women. There's the opium, warlords, ethnic & linguistic divisions and strife, poverty, the Taliban...the list goes on and on.

In addition, the literacy rate is extremely low—it was predicted to reach the improved rate of 28% nationally by the end of 2011 (even lower amongst females). Jack Kem, the deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, said in May of last year that it wasn't until January of this year that the literacy rate of the Afghan National Police was expected to rise to 50%. The National Police.

Try to imagine what your world would be like if only 1 in 4 Americans you met were literate, and only 1 in 2 of the policemen charged with your protection were able to read & write. All this on top of 30+ years of war, occupation by foreigners, and the tyranny of violent warlords & religious fundamentalists. You can't imagine it, nor can I—there's simply nothing in our personal experiences that equips us to do so.

Yet through all this, the women have survived.

We've done what we went there to do, to the extent that we can. We're not capable of completely eradicating the Taliban, and even if we could, there would be 1001 other problems to take their place. We need to get out of there—we're in wayyyy over our heads.

10 Political Atheist  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 7:11:00pm

re: #9 CuriousLurker

If we can't help, (and I certainly grant that point) who can? My head tells me I have no good idea. Getting our troops home would be fine, I just fear what will happen there next.

11 CuriousLurker  Thu, Mar 15, 2012 8:03:24pm

re: #10 Daniel Ballard

If we can't help, (and I certainly grant that point) who can? My head tells me I have no good idea. Getting our troops home would be fine, I just fear what will happen there next.

Other Muslim countries could help—if they could get their shit together politically—but many have their hands full at the moment, and those that don't are either too poor themselves or too busy living the high life to be bothered.

Aside from that? Maybe NGOs, but mostly it's up to the Afghans themselves, IMO. History has shown that they're quite capable of having a functional government and a literate, highly civilized society. It's going to take time and probably a lot of suffering & loss of life, but they'll eventually come out on the other side of this dark period.

I figure any people that were able to survive invasion by the Mongols can survive pretty much anything. In 21 years, from 1206-27, Genghis Khan wiped out no less than 11.1% of the world's population (obviously it was much less then than it is now, but STILL we're talking like 40,000,000 souls).

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