Obama expands — not just extends — US war on Afghanistan

It’s worth noting that Obama’s “decision” authorizing US troops’ role in Afghanistan in 2015 is not merely an extension of war he promised to end this year; it’s also an expansion, as US forces are now given new powers, allowed to kill new targets and use new weapons:

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

As Marcy Wheeler writes,

Virtually simultaneously with the decision to permit American forces to be more involved with the Afghan government, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reversed Hamid Karzai’s ban on night raids — and also renamed them “night operations.”

The Times has more on that here:

Nazifullah Salarzai, Mr. Ghani’s spokesman, said that the American and NATO missions in 2015 would be governed by the security agreements the Afghan government has signed with the United States and with NATO.

Neither agreement precludes the possibility of joint night raids.

Some Afghans are worried about resumption of the raids.

The Taliban will be going into other people’s houses, and the Americans will be behind them again, and there will be losses again of women and children when Taliban shoot from people’s houses, and in reaction the foreigners will bomb or kill them,” said Haji Abdullah Jan, a local shura leader in the Maiwand District of Kandahar Province. “I am not in favor of night raids because we have experienced such huge losses from them during those past years.

Nevertheless, headlines have largely said that Obama merely “extended” the US’s role, implicitly focusing on the limited, less surprising, less interesting aspect of Obama’s hypocrisy.

 

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Yes, it’s newsworthy that he made it a campaign issue to withdraw troops by 2014’s end, signed a security deal permitting US troops’ presence there until 2024, and is now widening their role in 2015.

But more attention is needed to just how much wider the US role will be, and what the fallout in Afghanistan will entail.

The Los Angeles Times baldly justified the bellicose expansion, with the headline, “Obama confronts need for broader U.S. military role in Afghanistan.” Their story begins, “President Obama’s decision to authorize a wider U.S. military role in Afghanistan next year was a pragmatic one, a recognition that as much as he would like it to be so, the fighting in Afghanistan is not over.” Poor Obama. One of their “sharelines” is “A suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed 45 is a stark reminder of the challenges the U.S. still faces” — isn’t this a stark reminder of the challenges Afghanistan still faces? Or should every problem be seen as one for US dollars and weapons to solve, rather than one deserving of our empathy, apology, and support?

More to the point, what are US troops accomplishing in Afghanistan? Certainly not US policymakers’ stated goals. One item the US is spending money and troops on in Afghanistan is beating back poppy production. As I’ve noted, the US has spent $7 billion on that front, and while poppy cultivation levels hit an all-time high in 2013, private security companies profiting off of US drug war measures certainly don’t consider that a “failure.”

The major stated goal, though, is counterterrorism, and US stated goals and reality don’t match up yet again. The Washington Post reports that “terrorist attacks are rising sharply”:

Last year saw the highest number of terrorist incidents since 2000, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index released by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Worldwide, the number of terrorist incidents increased from less than 1,500 in 2000 to nearly 10,000 in 2013. Sixty percent of attacks last year occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

globalterrorismchartWaPoAs the Post notes,

The report suggests that U.S. foreign policy has played a big role in making the problem worse: “The rise in terrorist activity coincided with the US invasion of Iraq,” it concludes.

ABC anchor Cecilia Vega asked, “About 800 airstrikes so far against ISIS. Why isn’t this working?” As FAIR pointed out,

There were more than 29,000 bombs dropped on Iraq in just the first month of the invasion in 2003, along with a massive ground invasion. Yet this devastating violence did not “work” to eliminate resistance to the US occupation. The same could be said for Afghanistan.

Maybe it’d be more interesting for news outlets to look into the discrepancy between US goals and outcomes, rather than the predictable hypocrisy of US politicians.

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Obama expands — not just extends — US war on Afghanistan

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