“Afghan strategy needs review”

Today’s musing by the Irish Times Editor on the US government’s grand intervention in Afghanistan is a quick lesson in subservience to power.

The entire context of the editorial is fixed within the conceptual frame prescribed by the Pentagon, the war is a “counter-insurgency”, where Afghans are the insurgents and the invading foreign troops are the counter-insurgents.

The current military approach is opposed by European and US critics, not because “the Afghan people do not want us there,” but on the grounds that it is believed to be “unachievable” or, according to the more optimistic Editor, just “difficult to achieve.”

In much the same way “Soviet leaders and commentators criticised and debated, not the fundamental +illegality+ of the invasion, but the merit of the +strategies+ for achieving its goals” during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan:

“Soviet Chief of General Staff Ogarkov argued in 1979 (before the invasion), that the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was “inexpedient” because the initial invasion force of 75,000 was insufficient to the task, which was to “stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.” It was “impossible to achieve this goal with such a [small] force”, he claimed. (Quoted, Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, 1991, p.59). General Gareev, a top Soviet advisor to the Afghan armed forces, argued in his memoirs that “from the military point of view, it was perhaps more advisable to conduct a more massive and powerful invasion of Afghanistan”. (Gareev, 1996, pp.45-46)” [Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens,
INVASION – A COMPARISON OF SOVIET AND WESTERN MEDIA PERFORMANCE]

The US plan, we are told, “combin[es] aggressive forward engagement with a campaign to win civilian support through social and community programmes and trying to limit civilian casualties.”

So we are to believe US objectives amount to subduing the resistance (simply branded ‘the Taliban’) and attempting to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the locals, as if there were no great US strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan other than undermining the Taliban (who will eventually be bargained with) and building a few schools.

Which is funnily enough exactly what the Soviets were up to too, as Pravda explained:

Military personnel constantly echoed government claims that intervention was required “to help the hapless Afghan people to defend their freedom, their future”. (Krasnaya Zvezda, January 5, 1988)

[Image via Wiki]

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