Afghanistan's Heart and Minds

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In the wake of the shooting, Stephen Tankel, non-resident scholar in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and assistant professor at American University, discusses the US presence in Afghanistan, how our troops are transitioning their mission, and the affect on Afghan communities.

Comments [47]

*HOW* TO GET OUT NOW (part 2)

(Part II - continued from previous post)

4) Don't wait until the Afghan forces are "trained".

It takes less than 1 year to train US police or new army recruits.
They've had more than 10. If they were sincere, they'd
have been ready a long, long time ago. But it's far too lucrative
for them to keep us there (see 2 and 3 above), so they will NOT
be sincere. When we leave, they will learn very quickly anything they actually need to know but haven't learned yet (probably very little if
anything). If they don't, they'll die.

5) Manage our military leaders.

Nobody likes to "lose". Many of our current military leaders
have built their entire careers in Afghanistan - they've been
there for over 10 years - they cannot emotionally (or career-wise)
let go.

Unfortunately, they keep doubling down with OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES
AND TREASURE. This is the classic quagmire/escalating commitment
problem. They have to be ORDERED OUT - NOT ASKED WHEN THEY'D

The President - as commander in Chief - should TELL THEM - NOT ASK
THEM - When they WILL BE OUT. They should then be told to suck it in
and do what they're told. The PRESIDENT is commander in chief and
as soldiers it is their duty to obey to the best of their ability
the US Civilian leadership not to bureaucratically resist and
undermine the STRATEGIC decisions of their Commander in Chief.

The military is a master of tactics. The PRESIDENT'S JOB

Even IF we could EVENTUALLY "win" in Afghanistan,
STRATEGICALLY it would not be worth it.

It never was.


Mar. 13 2012 09:49 PM

Afghanistan is our longest war. It costs over $100 billion per
year. It harms our soldiers, it strains our alliances, and it
damages our international reputation. Afghanistan is CLEARLY
not worth it - it never was. Bin Laden was in Pakistan, not in
Afghanistan. He is dead. His supporters are on the run.
Invading and occupying Afghanistan - was NEVER worth it - throughout
recorded history from Alexander the Great to the Soviets to us.
The question is *HOW* DO WE GET OUT NOW.

1) Don't wait for the Taliban to approve.
We do not need a treaty - we merely need a PUBLIC STATEMENT

a) We're leaving now.
b) We reserve the right to continue anti-terrorism strikes
within Afghanistan against terrorists and their supporters
who threaten us - into the indefinite future.
c) This means we may conduct air strikes, drone strikes and
special forces raids as we believe needed.
d) We will try to minimize innocent Afghan casualties, however,
if anyone threatens to STOP or impede our anti-terrorist
strikes, we will destroy those targets.
e) If you don't like this, feel free to take it up with the
U.N. security council - we will veto it there.
f) If you don't bother us, we are delighted to leave you alone.

2) Don't wait for the current government to approve.

They won't. They are making a personal fortune from the funds we
pour into their country and make additional money from corruption
on all sides. All of Afghanistan probably never produced $1 Trillion
worth of anything in the past 50 years. (or perhaps EVER).
If necessary, they will secretly collude with the Taliban to keep
us there for longer.

They'd also rather have us fight their various enemies than
do it themselves. But while our soldiers die for them, they
will continue to treat us with blatent open disrespect.

3) It's their country and it's their culture.

Don't try to force our cultural values on their
thousands of year old back-water society.
It's their country and culture - AND it is NOT

They will no doubt go back to their unpleasant bigoted,
mysogynistic, xenophobic and ignorant ways.
If we want to get involved in humanitarian or missionary
work there are MANY MANY places in the world where our
efforts and resources would do FAR MORE GOOD, FOR FAR

How much good could say - $50 billion do for humanitarian
and educational efforts sponsored by charities and/or the UN
throughout the world ? Don't waste our time, money and blood
in Afghanistan.

(Ctd next post)

Mar. 13 2012 09:48 PM
tom LI

The Big Old Gorilla in the room - there is no gain whatsoever for the US to remain in Afghanistan. Not even the alleged access to oil, etc will ever pay off in any real way.

Anyone name one gain for the USA...? No one can. All the BS and cliches, and political speak are not gains...there are not even any ideological gains to be had. None!

Mar. 13 2012 06:36 PM
Bob from Brooklyn

Mr.Tankel was totally wrong, and continues with the disinformation when he said, "the Taliban regime was not ready to turn over Bin Ladin." The third most powerful leader in the Taliban, Deputy Prime Minister in 2001 Haji Abdul Kabir said, " the militia was willing to hand bin Laden over to a third nation if the United States offers evidence against him and halts the bombing." President Bush quickly rejected their offer.

This critical fact has been totally ignored by media in general, including so-called regional experts like Mr.Tankel.

Mar. 13 2012 12:39 PM

In order to kill, the human psyche MUST dehumanize the human beings it is forced to murder.

This inhumanity is it to be TOTALLY expected.

When empathy is suspended... chaos ensues.

Mar. 13 2012 12:27 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I am thankful that President Obama has not closed the Guantanamo facility.

Anyone who is outraged that President Obama has not closed Guantanamo can express their anger by voting for President Obamas opponent in November.

Mar. 13 2012 11:49 AM

Ed from New Jersey -

Our post 9/11, "smoke 'em out" policy in Afghanistan was an unmitigated disaster.

bin Laden was killed a decade later in a completely different country under a totally different president. bin Laden escaped from Bora Bora. That was and continues to be a failed mission.

We continue in Afghanistan because the military/industrial complex profits MIGHTILY from nation building.

Nation Building® adds to the bottom line at Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown & Root, Bechtel, Carlyle Group etc. etc.


Mar. 13 2012 11:40 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan also refused to give up the head of Al Qada, the late Osama bin Laden, but the Navy Seals in an expertly executed operation did what had to be done.

Mar. 13 2012 11:40 AM
Ed from New Jersey

The United States is in Afghanistan because they refused to surrender the heads of Al Qaeda after the attacks of 9/11. The response of the United States started out as a Special Forces operation that was limited and was meeting success. Because of political interference of both political parties the goal has grown into a nation building operation that is hugely expensive in time, money, and lives. For the United States the benefit seems to be zero. This is a region that no matter what we do or how much we invest into it, is going to fall into chaos because of internal fighting and regional power struggles that are going to happen once we leave.

Mar. 13 2012 11:22 AM
MC from Manhattan

The United States has a poor record of nation or lets be more accurate culture building outside of east asia. In fact the most stable muslim nations in and around central asia which pose the least threat to the world are all ex SOVIET nations. Read that again and remember it . It seems that almost every muslim nation that had a relationship with the British or the west in general and in turn the USA has caused problems for us. Regan should have let the Soviet Union modernize Afghanistan in the way that they did Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other central Asian nations. These nations are relatively stable, modern and not the source of political and religious strife. The problems of Afghanistan were caused by the US attempt to destroy what would have been the best thing for a modern Afghanistan, that it become like its CEntral Asian neighbors, Instead it has descended into the same bungled mess of a state with all the resentments that western, capitalist culture has wrought like Egypt, Iran Pakistan etc ....

Mar. 13 2012 11:19 AM

[Name that appeared here has been edited out by moderator]

You CAN NOT screen anyone for this horror!!!

Try killing and being in a constant state of threat, worrying that any moment you may be looking down at the ground where your brains lie, immediately after a highly trained Taliban sniper has put an Enfield .303 slug through your skull. A slug you never saw or heard from a shooter you never saw or heard.

How much of this can you endure before you crack???

Mar. 13 2012 10:55 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Before the Taliban takeover, women in Afghanistan were educated and worked, many in "the professions" & academia (at least in the cities). The current conditions are slightly improved from those that were violently imposed on the people, & many still oppose them. Even when the Taliban were in power, many women (& some men) risked their lives to educate girls secretly. No one should make blanket characterizations of an entire country.

Mar. 13 2012 10:52 AM

If you train kids to kill, then teach them the "rules of engagement," most will comply. But those who go over the edge, driven by god knows what horrors they have encountered, they will still be trained to kill.

Mar. 13 2012 10:41 AM

Ah... folks...

The original pretense of this debacle was to capture or kill bin Laden - the guy that perpetrated 9/11 (remember 9/11??).

Bin Laden is DEAD!

...and he wasn't killed in Afghanistan!!

WTF are we doing???

Mar. 13 2012 10:38 AM
cathy Ungemach from wayne, nj

I think that if we as Americans had someone from another country produce an act of terrorism (targeting and killing civilians) on our soil we would demand that that country leave our soil, we would demand that we be allowed to try that person in our courts (we have with the shoe bomber, underwear bomber etc.). Why should we be any different? If the shoe was on the other foot you can bet things would be handled very differently.

I thought that the reason we invaded Afghanistan was to capture a terrorist. We have done that and should leave. We have given much treasure and talent to this country and have created a nightmare. We should apologize, leave and do so immediatly. Once we leave that country we can begin the long journey of gaining the Afghanie people's respect and friendship.

Mar. 13 2012 10:34 AM

There is no "winning" in Afghanistan: Alexander the Great discovered this a millenium ago; the British Raj tried twice and failed; the Russians couldn't do it and it destroyed their empire; and we are filled with hubris if we think anything will be different for the Americans. Offer political assylum to every Afghan who has worked with us, including all women who had the temerity to go to school, accept the inevitable, and make as quick an exit as is safely possible.

Mar. 13 2012 10:31 AM

Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 28.1%
male: 43.1%
female: 12.6% (2000 est.)

Mar. 13 2012 10:29 AM
CL from NYC

Several callers and commenters have remarked that it is unclear what the real mission is in Afghanistan. I think that is the operative question, and the inability of anyone to provide a convincing answer is scandalous. The time has long since passed when the US activity in that country seemed to make some sense.

Mar. 13 2012 10:29 AM
MC from Manhattan

This caller complaining that we have to apologize is really clueless.... this time we actually grabbed 9 year olds by the hair and shot them in he mouth...Joseph .. if foreign troops broke into your home and did that to you or your relatives you would not be making such a comment you should be ashamed of your self . To be so insensiive is disgusting.

I think this act wil be remembered for centuries and is part of a group of actions that are echoing thru the Balkins for hundreds of years ... this act is literally an evil nightmare from which there is no recovery....

Mar. 13 2012 10:29 AM
bernie from bklyn

this is not even a war. i don't what it is but it's not a war. every american soldier that dies in afghanistan has not died as a hero protecting america, as they are disillusioned into thinking, but as a pawn for some politicians to keep their racket going. i can't imagine being a family member of a us soldier that has died or is maimed for life from this debacle. waste of life on both sides. sorry all you ra-ra-ra people, but there are no heroes here. zero.

Mar. 13 2012 10:28 AM

not 10% but very low...

Mar. 13 2012 10:28 AM

The CIA World Factbook reports that literacy in Afghanistan is about 28%.

To the caller who says "let them . . ." -- we're in _their_ country.

Mar. 13 2012 10:27 AM

Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 28.1%
male: 43.1%
female: 12.6% (2000 est.)

Mar. 13 2012 10:27 AM
christopher brunt

The entire discussion about the tragedy of the killings of civilians by the american soldier never asks a bigger question. Every single instance , and there's been many, of deaths of civilians, burning Korans, torturing and indefinite detentions should be seen as something that our elected leaders have decided long are fine and acceptable.
From the day we went in until today, our country has done a few things. Invaded a country, occupied a country and justified the destruction and deaths as OK. Our leaders understand that these instances of children and others being killed are inevitable. Therefore by saying, hey, we have to do it, there is no other way, then those inevitable crimes are justified. Our leaders are the invaders, the occupiers and eventually the criminals

Mar. 13 2012 10:26 AM

Ron Paul 2012, pure and simple

Mar. 13 2012 10:26 AM
john from office

We cannot build up this country because they are shooting at us and want to go back to the middle ages. Lets leave them to resolve their own house.
Build homes for them??? how is that possible when the taliban wants a primative society.

Mar. 13 2012 10:24 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Get OUT! Now. We should never have been there in the first place, and there is nothing good that be gained for either country by remaining any longer.

Mar. 13 2012 10:23 AM
Lin from NYC

What ever happen to the United Nations?

Mar. 13 2012 10:23 AM

The chaos we unleased...I want that on my tombstone...back to the expert you have on...has he ever worked for a living?

Mar. 13 2012 10:23 AM
Erik Simon from Nyack, NY

Some of us opposed the Afghan War before it began because history taught us that there was no way to effect any positive outcome. This notion of the country going to ruin when we leave is the same delusional thinking that has kept us there for ten years. It passes as sage international thinking, but it's simply delusional. Yes, things will be awful when we leave, but they will be awful if we stay, and they were awful before we got there. We need to simply acknowledge that we cannot change anything.

Mar. 13 2012 10:22 AM

awesome liberal caller...give them a start rebuilding there country?...high comedy.

Mar. 13 2012 10:21 AM
Thomas Walther from NYC

Not all agreed with the Afghanistan war. Some suggested to look at the terror of 9/11 as a crime. I do recall that these voices suggested to respond with a police action, not a war.

Mar. 13 2012 10:21 AM

These kinds of atrocities should not be a shock to anyone.


Pissing on bodies, killing innocents, guys going nuts... what do we really expect??

The idea that the process of war can somehow be "normalized" with "proper" rules of engagement is absolutely absurd. ABSURD.

I am not justifying anyones behavior, here. The point being, this is what this horror of war produces.

In some respects, I do feel the soldier that perpetrated this heinous crime is also one of the victims of a much grander insanity.

It's NOT ok to slaughter anyone nor is it ok to force young people into extraordinarily horrific circumstances where they go insane!!

This is on our COLLECTIVE conscience. WE ARE ALL GUILTY for allowing this psychosis to perpetuate.

Mar. 13 2012 10:19 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

No matter what someone thinks about the initial invasion of Afghanistan, it looks like VP Biden was always the most prescient about how to handle it; to wit, as an "anti-terror" operation (for lack of the better term), not a complete exercise of foolhardy nation-building a la Pres. Bush. Brilliant!

Mar. 13 2012 10:18 AM

Nice clip of Obama blowing smoke out of his arse...and then some egghead think tabker to explain war to us. Amazing. When can we bring the troops home?...Tomorrow. So we can stop AL Qeda by killing people? My god this is insane. Al Qeda is there (or anywhere) because of our imperialistic foriegn policy. Great caller on now. Why logical rattional's my gut feeling are part of the problem if you don't agree...Africa next. Wide spread support...ya for 2 weeks. All is lost.

Mar. 13 2012 10:18 AM

In 2001, 2, 3 I was against the US responding to 9/11 with war because it was a use of money that needed to be spent on infrastructure and US business competitiveness instead, and also that soldiers abroad would lead to unforeseen disasters that would sooner or later actually guide the direction of the war.

A decade later I don't feel like I've been proven wrong! Has anybody asked Bush what he thinks?

Mar. 13 2012 10:16 AM

Folks, please remember the WNYC posting policy, which asks you to remain civil and refrain from personal attacks. Thank you.

Mar. 13 2012 10:14 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Reminds me of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, which was another nail in the coffin of US public opinion regarding staying in the war at that time as well.

Mar. 13 2012 10:13 AM

@ john from office

Thanks. Same to you. Just goes to show -- people on opposite sides can talk.

Mar. 13 2012 10:10 AM

Time 2 go...!

Both, the USA™ out of Afghanistan AND john from office back to the bin.

Mar. 13 2012 10:06 AM
john from office


Very well stated, point taken. Life and your view depends where you happen to be born. Example Israel or Gaza, your perspective will differ. Well stated and a good come back, not a put down. Thank you.

Mar. 13 2012 09:55 AM

WNYC -- little typo

John from office -- Let's turn around your thinking.

"While the actions of the Taliban are wrong, let's not forget that the United States has killed tens of thousands in Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands in Iraq.

I am shocked as the reaction of the people of America; life is so cheap that the burning of a flag rates more reaction than the death of 100,000 people. They are numb to death after [war since 1948? War on Muslims since Bill Clinton? War on every continent except Antarctica? . . . take your pick]"

So, John from office, why wasn't Mohammed Atta just "a sick person" in need of help? Was he also a victim? After all, we know -- conclusively -- that he was intensely moved by the Israeli attacks on civilians during Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996.

Why, when Americans commit atrocities, do so many in the US rush to explain why they were troubled? Why they were really 'victims'?

Mar. 13 2012 09:42 AM

This story is the tip of the ice berg. Afghan men women and children have been murdered by americans for 10years now.Dead children is nothing new to them.At least this story succeeds in disgracng the uniform.My bet is this american was angry that after iraqis threw us out of iraq he realized that we wasted lives and treasure being there.By suceeding in throwing us out the iraqis won.By murdering afghan civilians including children he wanted to show his ability to dominate them -something we did not do in iraq-as they threw us out.The only way to rxpress his desire to dominate was to murder defenseless people.PTSD-a eupymism for anger that we lost in iraq as he did not have a green light to murder more people then he did in iraq and a realization that he was manipulated into believing we could and would dominate them or "turn the place into a parking lot".PTSD - a politically correct eupymism for anger that you can't commit genocide when you invade a country and that guess what-people fight back when invaded.That not one journalist questions why his name hasn't been released is more indictation that even the "free media" is not so free.

Mar. 13 2012 09:08 AM

Don't worry, sfwthnhrw. Once John finds out the soldier in question was black he won't support the killing spree any more. The guy's your typical "racial republican". When a white guy goes on a mass murder rampage then he probably just needs counseling, but if Afghans actually fight back against a brutal occupation then "life is cheap".

I used to think Malcolm X was being wacky when he said he respected Klansmen for at least being honest about their racism but as I get older I think I'm starting to understand what he was getting at.

Mar. 13 2012 08:26 AM
John from office

So I guess I dont have a right to an opinion. I should just shut up? Classic "progressive" thought.

Mar. 13 2012 08:01 AM

oh john from the office,
shut-up! You're such an idiot! Go back under your rock you fool!

Mar. 13 2012 07:54 AM
john from office

While the actions of this American soldier are wrong, lets not forget that the taliban kill scores of civilians over the years. Where was the press coverage and the hyper analysis? This soldier was obviously a sick person and needs help.

I am shocked at the reaction of the people of Afghanistan, life is so cheap that the burning of a book rates more reaction then the death of 16 people. They are numb to death after 30-40 years of war.

Lets get out of there ASAP, and let them fall into the dung hole they deserve. I care more about the sick American, than the "victims", he is also a victim in this case.

The "Elder" will get paid for the lives of his family, blood money will be paid, and everyone will move on. Every one but the BBC and NPR that will run with this story for the next month.

Mar. 13 2012 07:38 AM

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