~ I’ve been writing about Afghanistan for what seems like forever. Here are two posts, the first was written as the surge happened and our company participated in deployment of equipment to Afghanistan. The second reiterated how long the United States has been involved in Afghanistan. As the U.S. makes a hasty and long overdue exit, and the Taliban resumes control, one has to wonder about the human cost of U.S. engagement.
The War Machine Goes On
March 11, 2009
As I write this post, the military equipment moved from the depot to the coast continues its progress towards Afghanistan. There were hundreds of truckloads of vehicles and provisions moving out in a very large deployment over the past two weeks. We did not hear a lot about this in the mainstream media. If anything, this deployment would have gone on unnoticed, except for some of us in Big Grove.
For those of us who would rather see a world at peace combined with economic stability, we have been doubly disappointed. If the defense industry were to falter at this point, it would be another short circuit of an economy already on the fritz. The deployment to Afghanistan furthers the military spending, and while we agree that the influence of Osama Bin Laden and his followers should be neutralized, beyond that, it is difficult to see the importance of the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue.
So, as I drink morning coffee and turn down the heat to go into the office, I wonder how we can realize a sustainable peace in the world. With continued drought, famine, genocide and poverty, the global community is ripe for more conflict as populations move, oppressive regimes assert dominance and the United Stated assumes a larger role as “peace keeper” by these military deployments around the globe. In the words of John Lennon, “all we are saying is give peace a chance.”
An Iowan’s View of Afghanistan
December 11, 2009
When I hear people talking about the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan I shake my head. We should be marking the 30th anniversary of our Afghanistan policy because we have been engaging in Afghanistan’s affairs since at least 1979, when the former Soviet Union invaded that country.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan combined with the ongoing Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran, and the United States view of the importance of Middle East oil, complicated the presidency of Jimmy Carter. In his memoir, Keeping Faith, former President Jimmy Carter wrote about the threat of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, “A successful takeover of Afghanistan would give the Soviets a deep penetration between Iran and Pakistan, and pose a threat to the rich oil fields of the Persian Gulf area and to the critical waterways through which so much of the world’s energy supplies had to pass.” There were also American interests. UNOCAL, a US company, was seeking to build an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan at that time. For President Carter these were vital US interests and he felt it critical to address the Soviet aggression. As many of us remember, Carter was in the middle of his campaign for a second term, and believed that campaigning actively was inappropriate. Among other things, he canceled his participation in a nationally televised debate in Des Moines, Iowa and initiated a US boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Many of us remember President Carter as beleaguered by the challenges of Iran and Afghanistan.
In the end, President Carter forswore direct military action and implemented economic sanctions. The most notable sanction to Iowans may be the grain embargo of the former Soviet Union. His administration also decided to prop up what he called “Afghan freedom fighters.” According to Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls in their book, Bleeding Afghanistan, the Afghan freedom fighters were “seven Islamist ‘Mujahideen’ or ‘jihadi’ groups based in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.” These groups received monetary, military and logistical support from the United States and Saudi Arabia through a third party intermediary. This indicates indirect military action on the part of the United States interests during the Soviet aggression. According to Kolhatkar and Ingalls, U.S. military aid may have gone to a group called Makhtab al Khadimat, “a group that recruited and trained Muslim volunteers from Egypt, Algeria and other countries to fight in the Afghan war.”
Makhtab al Khadimat was founded in 1984 by the Saudi heir to a construction firm, Osama bin Laden. From the perspective of today, this all sounds too familiar, except that eight years ago, the United States intervened in Afghanistan militarily to remove a problem that it may have helped engender.
I hope the blood and treasure that we have invested in our engagement in Afghanistan serves as another reason the United States must get to energy independence. Our sons and daughters are fighting and dying in a country where our interest in oil blinded us to the values of Islamic extremists. As we were supporting the Mujahideen, and saying we could work with the Taliban, we failed to hear other voices in Afghanistan that called for an end to the Soviet occupation, but not a return to Islamic fundamentalism.
According to Zoya, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), during a recent Iowa City appearance, little has changed since the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. The United States continues to support Islamic extremists in the Karzai government. To the extent Afghanistan is about United States interests in oil, it is one more manifestation of our addiction to hydrocarbon fuels. We need the will to cure our addiction to hydrocarbon fuel.
I empathize with my friends who call for demonstrations over President Obama’s escalation of the troop levels in Afghanistan. I have participated in these demonstrations. At the same time, I have to ask, where were they during the first escalation earlier this year? Where were they in 1979?
What I know is that President Obama, more than any president in my memory, appears to have put together the elements of a comprehensive plan to resolve the issues related to war and our addiction to hydrocarbon fuels. If Obama can extract us from three decades of engagement in Afghanistan, he will have truly done something for peace in that region and for the world. Iowans should support President Obama on Afghanistan. He is doing the dirty work that his predecessors, beginning with Jimmy Carter, left behind.