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By Joel Brinkley
Now it can be told:
What does this mean? The Taliban, obviously determined to return to power, will most certainly retake most of the nation. The hapless Afghan army will probably just run away. That's what it did almost as soon as the Soviet Union, the last foreign occupier, pulled out.
Does that mean the U.S. has simply wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and 2,000 American lives? Not entirely. The war's original purpose was to wreak revenge on al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks, to capture or kill its leadership and destroy its training camps.
That was accomplished. But in short order, al-Qaeda simply moved to other unstable states -- Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Algeria ... the list is long. The Obama administration's long-stated fear is that when Western forces leave Afghanistan, al-Qaeda might return. The Taliban would certainly welcome them back.
My view: Be our guests. It would be far easier to attack them in Afghanistan than in some of their other present locations -- particularly Pakistan. Now that al-Qaeda has bases all over the world, why is holding onto Afghanistan so important anyway?
In its new quarterly report, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, a federal agency
In February, American soldiers turned over a forward operating base west of Kabul to their Afghan counterparts. When they returned in August, the Americans found what they described as a "dismal scene." The Afghan soldiers hadn't kept up the generator and were down to three hours of electricity a day. Nearly all of their vehicles had broken down. They had no working night-vision goggles, so they were largely defenseless after dark.
Stories like that are rife. In one eastern base near the Pakistan border turned over to the Afghans this year, the new tenants allowed the place to run down so severely that they finally abandoned it and deserted. But they left behind their chickens; they had turned the water-well building into a chicken coop.
If Afghan security forces cannot maintain forward operating bases, they won't be able to defend most of the country. It's just that simple.
Not surprisingly, the Pentagon offered only qualified endorsement of the inspector general's report. "There are problems that do come up, and obstacles,"
That's a typically over-optimistic military statement. Can you imagine any Pentagon officer ever saying: "This is hopeless. We can't win."
"America's 'Can do!' response to the challenge" in Afghanistan "is admirable," the
By that, the commissioners were saying, U.S. military and civilian agencies almost never take into account whether the host country has the skills and financial resources to maintain a big, expensive project after the U.S. leaves, leading to "vast amounts of spending with little or no benefit."
Even with the discouraging experiences over the last decade,
In fact, the special inspector general noted, "the U.S. has surpassed its goals in procuring equipment" for the Afghan army, even though the Afghan army and police "do not have the capability to operate and maintain garrisons and training centers built for them."
The inspector general made the same point that the Congressional commission stressed: "Billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer funds will be at risk of going to waste."
What's so perplexing is that
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