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Remember Afghanistan?

Discussion in 'Channel Zero' started by TEARZ, Mar 31, 2004.

  1. TEARZ

    TEARZ Guest

    Bush's Gamble on the Afghan Front

    by Linda Bilmes
    March 30, 2004
    Reprinted from the Financial Times


    The US occupation of Iraq continues to dominate the headlines, with the one-year anniversary bringing protesters on to the streets across the world. But inside the White House it is Afghanistan, not Iraq, that is increasingly viewed as critical to regaining the foreign policy initiative with voters. With the Afghan elections now rescheduled to take place in September, the US is gearing up to spend whatever it takes to make its three-year effort in Afghanistan look successful.

    Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 the war has largely sunk from the US public's view. But it continues to absorb huge amounts of military effort and budgetary cash. There are 13,500 US soldiers in the country and a further 35,000 military support personnel outside it. The US has just begun another big offensive, Operation Mountain Storm. Unlike its predecessor, Operation Mountain Blizzard, it was launched with full fanfare, including a trip by Colin Powell, secretary of state.

    Just how much is being spent in Afghanistan is unclear. The mountainous terrain and the absence of transport infrastructure make it about three times more expensive to keep a soldier on the ground there than in Iraq. The Bush administration has gone out of its way to conceal the magnitude of the campaign by burying its military appropriation deep within the Iraq budget supplementals and "reprogramming" slivers of leftover money from other programmes. In an unusual move, President George W. Bush's two supplemental military budgets since September 11 2001, totalling Dollars 152bn, gave the administration complete discretion to spend the money either in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The Defense Department is not required to provide a breakdown of funding for each operation. However, informed guesses put the total cost of US operations in Afghanistan to date as high as Dollars 40bn. The country has also claimed a fifth of US military fatalities in the war against terrorism. That cost looks set to escalate. The recent assassination of Mirwais Sadiq, Afghanistan's aviation minister, underlines the vulnerability of the Karzai government. In the face of a resurgent Taliban, the US military is redoubling its efforts to hunt down the leadership on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

    The political calculus behind this in Washington is clear. There is no silver bullet in sight for Iraq. At best, the political and security situation there can be stabilised between now and November's US presidential election; at worst the transitional government will descend into bickering and the country will slide towards civil war. The Bush administration simply cannot afford to have both Iraq and Afghanistan portrayed as quagmires - particularly given that it must go back to Congress this year to request at least another Dollars 50bn to pay for them. Given finite budgetary resources, the best political returns might now be had from betting a little more heavily on Afghanistan.

    The pay-off could be big. By capturing Osama bin Laden and ploughing enough money into the country to enable President Hamid Karzai to hold elections in the autumn and assert some sort of democratic authority, it might just be possible to turn the war into a foreign policy success. Moreover, it would be a success untainted by doubts about weapons of mass destruction or about its relevance to the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.

    Another big plus is that the military campaign in Afghanistan enjoys broad international support. Nato already has nearly 8,000 soldiers from 30 countries on the ground under a UN-mandated force. The Security Council unanimously renewed this commitment on March 26. This week, Mr Powell and Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, will be together in Berlin, joining foreign ministers from around the world at an international conference on Afghanistan.

    The timing of the shift towards Afghanistan is critical. On September 11 this year, US voters will be focused on the presidential election and on the question of whether the US is safer now than when the World Trade Center fell. Karl Rove, Mr Bush's chief political adviser, would sorely like an Afghan success story by then. To hedge its bets, the administration is accompanying its build-up in Afghanistan with aggressive lobbying for Nato, aiming to announce a bigger role for the alliance at the Nato heads of government summit in Istanbul this June.

    The Afghan campaign has long been eclipsed by events in Iraq. Over the next six months, however, Afghanistan will be coming back into the light.

    Linda Bilmes, an assistant secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton, teaches government and budgeting at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government
  2. BROWNer

    BROWNer Guest

    it's kind of (not)funny how success is measured
    in the west, in political terms instead of just normal
    life terms..whatever that means.
    good read hombre.
  3. villain

    villain Veteran Member

    Joined: Jul 12, 2002 Messages: 5,190 Likes Received: 2
    true poppy production in afghanistan has increased because the taliban were putting it down. this certainly is a problem for hamid karzai's exertion of authority in afghanistan. Why just last week the SECOND aviation minister was assassinated! The thing is, the united states and europe are afghanistans biggest customers for the opiates, often second hand through pharmaceuticals such as morphine and percosets etc.

    Also the hype about the surrounding of a senior al queda member turned out to be false. It was actually a chechen terrorist leader who escaped through a tunnel... Quite alot of terrorist leaders out there. A wonder why we are in Iraq. Oh wait snap they got oil of course! I think what bush really wanted out of afghanistan was that pipeline to the failed enron project at the dabhol powerplant. Got to put enron out of business, got the pipeline and the powerplant, got iraqs oil.... bush is making a killing. Multikillionare....

    Any shift of focus back to afghanistan seems a politically motivated act for canards of approval of this administration. And if Bush gets reelected on this we can expect another full 4 years of bullshit cause he won't be cleaning up his act to try and get reelected the last year cause he can only have two term...
  4. mental invalid

    mental invalid Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 11, 2001 Messages: 13,050 Likes Received: 8
    did something go down with the board while i was away??
  5. Vanity

    Vanity Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 11, 2000 Messages: 7,673 Likes Received: 6
  6. villain

    villain Veteran Member

    Joined: Jul 12, 2002 Messages: 5,190 Likes Received: 2
    I beleive it's warlords to the north that control most of the poppy. It's vital to their economy and the general well being on afghanistan since they are self sufficient and karzai is functioning basically off aid money (and who knows how long that will last?). Karzai has had to bend to the power of these warlords... in fact many of them are embedded in the interim government. That aviation minister that was assassinated recently was the son of one of these "poppy warlords".

    There is alot of shit going on there in northern afghanistan and it's not going to clear up so easily for an election ceremony in september. And I highly doubt that the poppy will be stopped, more like regulated. Besides if they stop the snake, the tiger will triumph.