The Other War: Afghanistan

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"Remember Afghanistan? That’s the country that the British and the Russians were never able to subdue. It’s the place where the U.S. war on al Qaeda started, following 9/11. It’s the place where the United States fought the rebel Taliban but never defeated it. It’s the place where, each year since the U.S.-led coalition initiated operations, the Taliban has carefully rebuilt its forces, its political and religious influence, and, in particular, its opium trade, the source of so much of its funding," Ron Fraser wrote June 30, 2006, in The Trumpet.

Illustrative of this is the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced the end of Afghan combat on May 2, 2003, but on December 9, 2003, the U.S. military announced that it had "launched a major ground operation in Afghanistan in an effort to eliminate the remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban regime overthrown in 2001."

"While the eyes of world are on Iraq, the Taliban are reborn across much of this country and their al-Qa'ida allies are once more in the ascendant," the Independent (UK) said December 14, 2003.

June 2006: Operation Mountain Thrust

"The United States military is quietly carrying out the largest military offensive in Afghanistan since U.S. troops invaded the country in 2001," Brian Ross reported June 20, 2006, for ABC News.

The offensive which began June 14, 2006 [1]— named 'Operation Mountain Thrust'—"involves almost 11,000 U.S. troops and is focused on four southern Afghanistan provinces." [2]

"The Taliban has re-emerged as the Afghan government 'has created vacuums of power'," said one official. "Proceeds from the growing opium trade in the region has helped the Taliban obtain new weapons and pay local officials." Additionally, Taliban leader Mullah Omar "remains at large despite a $10 million reward offered by the United States. U.S. military officials believe he has established a safe haven in Pakistan, where U.S. soldiers cannot operate," Ross wrote.

2004: Re-emergence of Warlords and Opium Production

Retired Army Colonel Hy Rothstein, "who served in the Army Special Forces for more than 20 years, ... commissioned by the Pentagon to examine the war in Afghanistan concluded the conflict created conditions that have given 'warlordism, banditry and opium production a new lease on life'," Agence France Presse reported April 3, 2004, based on a news story in The New Yorker.

Rothstein "wrote in a military analysis he gave to the Pentagon in January that the US failed to adapt to new conditions created by the Taliban's collapse, the weekly magazine reported. ... 'The failure to adjust US operations in line with the post-Taliban change in theater conditions cost the United States some of the fruits of victory and imposed additional, avoidable humanitarian and stability costs on Afghanistan,' Rothstein wrote in the report. ... 'Indeed,'" he wrote, "'the war's inadvertent effects may be more significant than we think.'"

Rothstein said that the "'military should have used Special Forces to adapt to new conditions' and that the war 'effectively destroyed the Taliban but has been significantly less successful at being able to achieve the primary policy goal of ensuring that al Qaeda could no longer operate in Afghanistan.'"

The New Yorker reported that the "Pentagon returned the report to Rothstein with a request he cut it drastically and soften his conclusions ... 'There may be a kernel of truth in there, but our experts found the study rambling and not terribly informative,' Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Collins told The New Yorker."

December 2003: Fighting the Insurgency

The U.S. military has launched a major ground operation in Afghanistan in an effort to eliminate the remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban regime overthrown in 2001," CNN reported December 9, 2003.

"The United States military is now engaged in its largest operation against insurgents in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, involving the deployment of 2,000 of the 11,500 US-led troops in the country to violence-plagued sections of the east and south," Syed Saleem reported December 11, 2003, in Asia Times. "The offensive is codenamed Operation Avalanche, which carries with it the unfortunate connotation that the country is heading for a precipitous slide into complete chaos. And all the indicators point that way."

"General David Barno said US bases would be set up in the south-east, where the violence has forced international aid agencies to pull out," the UK's BBC reported December 21, 2003. "General Barno said that by March next year there would be at least 12 civilian-military units - Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRT) - operating in Afghanistan, including deployments in the troubled regions of Zabul and Oruzgan."

"The announcement by the commander, Lt. Gen. David Barno, amounted to an admission by the Americans that the 11,500 troops in Afghanistan have been unable to stop a constant stream of insurgent attacks that have undermined or slowed international aid efforts," Carlotta Gall reported December 22, 2003, in the New York Times. "The announcement also signaled a major shift in emphasis for the so-called provincial reconstruction teams run by the military, which have been helping mainly to provide emergency relief to Afghans and win the trust of the population. Now those teams will focus primarily on providing security in the southern and eastern areas of Afghanistan that have been most vulnerable to insurgent attacks this year."

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