Monday, September 03, 2007

Afghanistan, Occupation and Civil War

Most folks know Arlo Guthrie (that is to say the folks who know him at all) as the teenage hippie Vietnam war protester who wrote the legendary protest song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," later made into a movie that starred Arlo Guthrie himself.

Or they know Arlo Guthrie as the son of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie who wrote, among other famous tunes, "This Land is Your Land."

But Arlo Guthrie has had a long and extremely prolific career and is considered my many, including the Wizard, as one of the great singer-songwriters of any generation. He has released dozens of albums and performed in thousands of concerts around thew world.

By the way, Arlo generally refuses to ever sing "Alice's Restaurant" in concert, performing it rarely, but most notably in a sarcastic update attacking the Nixon Whitehouse. That version actually is available on CD and can be ordered through Amazon:
"Alice's Restaurant: The Massacree Revisited."

But I'm writing about Arlo today because while the press and public are mistakenly focused on relatively stable Iraq, we are actually losing the war in Afghanistan where al-Qaeda and the Taliban have more power, more land under their control and more success on the battlefield than any time in the last six years.

The Taliban engineered a gigantic moral and financial victory in the kidnapping and subsequent release of the Korean hostages. But victories are also happening on the battlefield in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Taliban might actually bring down both governments.
In an extremely detailed and thoughtful analysis, Karl F. Inderfurth writes in the
International Herald Tribune:

Controversy rages over the war in Iraq, but what about the so-called other war in Afghanistan, for which there is strong bipartisan support in the United States and in the international community? Is there a danger of losing in Afghanistan? The answer is yes.

Almost six years after U.S.- led military forces removed the Taliban and its Qaeda support network from power, major challenges are seriously undermining popular support and trust in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai: A resurgent Taliban and a growing sense of insecurity throughout the country, including Kabul; rampant corruption, ineffective law enforcement and a weak judicial system; a failure to provide social services, lagging reconstruction and high unemployment; a booming drug trade and too many warlords.

Mounting civilian casualties are turning Afghans against the nearly 45,000 U.S. and NATO troops in their country, provoking demonstrations and a motion in the upper house of Parliament to set a date for their withdrawal. These incidents also provide a propaganda windfall and new recruits for the Taliban.

Karzai has told U.S. and NATO commanders that the patience of the Afghan people is wearing thin. He said civilian deaths and aggressive, arbitrary searches of people's houses have reached an unacceptable level, adding "Afghans cannot put up with it any longer."

What we forget is that, like Iraq, Afghanistan is also an occupation. This isn't a conventional World War II style combat. We are occupiers and Afghanistan really hates to be occupied.

We need to study the history of Afghanistan to see just how difficult, or maybe impossible, our mission is in that country.

Arlo Guthrie knows. He performed a series of concerts in the old Soviet Union in the 1980's and even wrote a song for the abused and forgotten Russian troops who suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Afghan and Taliban "insurgents" under the leadership of a young heroic freedom fighter, Osama bin Laden.

With covert military aid coming from our own CIA, Osama bin Laden beat back the better equipped Russian occupiers, eventually dealing them an ultimate defeat that many historians believe did more to end Soviet dominance than the strength and opposition of Ronald Reagan and the United States.

Truly the defeat in Afghanistan was a defeat from which the Soviet Union never recovered. For more information about the soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 until 1989 and the role the defeat in Afghanistan played in the collapse of the Soviet Union start with this entry in Wikipedia .

Today NATO and the United States may well be looking at the second expulsion of occupiers from Afghanistan. In an article in today's

Now things are going awry in Afghanistan, too. The United States drove out the Taliban regime in order to deprive al-Qaeda of a safe haven. Nearly six years on, this aim has not been realised.

In large tracts of southern Afghanistan the writ of the elected government of Hamid Karzai does not run and Taliban fighters operate more freely than the NATO forces that prop him up. Worse, this hostile territory crosses the border into Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), home to some 3m people, where the writ of Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, hardly runs either. And now the general may be losing his grip on Pakistan as a whole. Far from being caught in a pincer between pro-American governments in Kabul and Islamabad, al-Qaeda and its fellow travellers have consolidated a stronghold that encroaches on the territory and may in time threaten the survival of both.

Guthrie's haunting "When a Soldier Makes it Home" (from the Mystic Journey album) chronicling the return of broken and beaten soldiers from Afghanistan may turn out to be more than an homage to the Soviet soldiers, but an eerie premonition of the returning American soldiers just a few years from now.

Throughout the centuries this has been the fate of those who dared to occupy Afghanistan.


"When a Soldier Makes it Home" along with almost the entire catalogs of Arlo and Woody Guthrie are part of the rotation on Wizard Radio. Because of today's journal entry, the rotation of Guthrie music will be substantially increased, including both versions of "Alice's Restaurant."


Vigilante said...

Thanks for posting on this, Wizard. Did you see General says troop shortage is hindering Afghanistan gains? This is the place where there is a crying need for surging.

Bob Keller said...