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Great Reads: The Way Out of Afghanistan

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By HVpolitics on January 4, 2011

If you want to read a great piece about the Afghanistan war and what we need to consider in order to get the hell out of there, check out The Way Out of Afghanistan in the New York Review of Books.

It’s written by Ahmed Rashid, who may or may not be the former host of NBA Inside Stuff and the husband of Mrs. Cosby. Or maybe he’s the Pakistani author of “Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia and Taliban.” Not sure which.

It’s a truly important piece because it discusses what the national news media and this (and last) administration won’t discuss publicly: what needs to happen on the ground in order for United States troops to withdraw from the region, and for the progress we’ve made not to be reversed when we do. It’s a necessary conversation.

Rashid’s look provides a seriously buzzkill for anyone who thought we might get out and leave the Afghan region in a state of peace and prosperity. Some highlights:

“In Kabul the foreigners breathe a little easier after several months with no suicide attacks. Kabulis say that the protective blast walls and concrete barriers that line the streets are now twenty feet high, suffocating them and eating up their road and living space.”

“The attrition rate from the Afghan army is still a staggering 24 percent per year. Some 86 percent of soldiers are illiterate and drug use is still an endemic problem. The Afghan police are even worse. (As a recent report on 60 Minutes showed, they are plagued by elementary incompetence, illiteracy, and corruption that make the creation of an adequate police force one of the country’s most intransigent problems.) Although 80 percent of army units are working with NATO units, no single Afghan unit is ready to take responsibility on its own in the field. Afghan forces are only in command in Kabul, but this is largely because there is a sizable NATO presence there.”

“Thus the key question for General Petraeus is not how many Taliban he kills, but whether the bare bones of an Afghan state—army, police, bureaucracy—which have been neglected so badly in the past nine years, can be set up by 2014. Moreover, can Afghan leaders, including the President, win the trust of a people who have put up with insecurity, gross corruption, and poor governance for many years?”

“The major problem is Pakistan. All three major Taliban factions have been based in Pakistan for nine years, receiving official and unofficial support, sanctuary, funding, and recruits; yet three successive US administrations have been unable to stop the Pakistan military from continuing that support. The December 16 strategy review avoids direct criticism of Pakistan for failing to crack down on Taliban and al-Qaeda bases. However, two classified intelligence reports given to the President in late November cited Pakistan’s hosting of sanctuaries as a serious obstacle to US objectives.”

Rashid then lays out a 10-step plan for peace that’s achievable and attainable. Rashid says it’s the only plan that will yield successful results for the “end state” that develops when we leave the region. Otherwise, as we all have feared for almost 10 years, the war will have been fought for nothing.

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