In Afghanistan, Tread Cautiously by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (FEBRUARY 23, 2009)

President Barack Hussein Obama’s “surge” is frought with dangers, writes Dr M. Manzoor Alam.

The US president has ordered an increase of 17,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is about 50 percent of the number of existing NATO forces in that beleaguered country. This is more a continuation of the Bush policy than a break from it, as expected by a world tired of Mr Bush’s wars.

This increase (in American parlance, “surge”) will begin from immediate effect. Mr Bush’s surge in Iraq is said to have worked. Hence, the logic goes, Mr Obama’s in Afghanistan, too, would work. Such expectation is possible only when you ignore the fact that the two countries are unlike each other in virtually very respect. The only common factor is Islam.

We should not, however, be surprised as Mr Obama had committed himself to bringing greater military pressure on Afghanistan (and Pakistani areas bordering it) in his presidential campaign itself. He said he would pull out his forces from Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan-Pakistan. We are seeing that policy being put into practice.

Thanks to America more than half a million Iraqis are dead either directly because of the invasion or because of the forces unleashed by the invasion. The reason for which the war was started (the existence of WMD in Iraq) turned out to be a brazen lie. Even before that half a million Iraqis, mostly children, died because of starvation and lack of medicine, a situation created by America-led sanctions.

Increased military activity in Afghanistan would mean more Afghan deaths, not necessarily more peace. That also has the potential to turn Afghanistan into a Vietnam, as admitted by former US President Bill Clinton.

Mr Clinton has said it (Afghanistan turning into a Vietnam) is “theoretically possible, but unlikely”. The point, however, is that any number of foreign troops and military equipment is not enough to pacify the situation. America will have to be just (and look just) to Muslims including Palestinians (Muslim and Christan) for the resentment against it to cool. Use of force will only foster resistance.

All said and done, the latest move vindicates George W. Bush’s alter ego Carl Rove’s assertion a few days before the inauguration of the Obama presidency that it would be a continuation of the Bush legacy, not a break from it.

It turns out to be exactly that, a continuation of the Bush legacy, the proposed withdrawal from Iraq notwithstanding. In any case a troop withdrawal from Iraq is due as there is nothing left to destroy there. On the other hand, Afghanistan-Pakistan have a lot left to be levelled, a lot of more people to be killed. So much for the hype about change in America.


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