As Americans, including President Obama’s top advisers, tensely debate whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, Afghans themselves are having a similar discussion and voicing serious doubts.
In bazaars and university corridors across the country, eight years of war have left people exhausted and impatient. They are increasingly skeptical that the Taliban can be defeated. Nearly everyone agrees that the Afghan government must negotiate with the insurgents. If more American forces do arrive, many here say, they should come to train Afghans to take over the fight, so the foreigners can leave.
“What have the Americans done in eight years?” asked Abdullah Wasay, 60, a pharmacist in Charikar, a market town about 25 miles north of Kabul, expressing a view typical of many here. “Americans are saying that with their planes they can see an egg 18 kilometers away, so why can’t they see the Taliban?” [continued…]
In early October, as President Obama huddled with top administration officials in the White House situation room to rethink America’s failing strategy in Afghanistan, the Pentagon and top military brass were trying to make the president an offer he couldn’t refuse. They wanted the president to escalate the war — go all in by committing 40,000 more troops and another trillion dollars to a Vietnam-like quagmire — or face a full-scale mutiny by his generals.
Obama knew that if he rebuffed the military’s pressure, several senior officers — including Gen. David Petraeus, the ambitious head of U.S. Central Command, who is rumored to be eyeing a presidential bid of his own in 2012 — could break ranks and join forces with hawks in the Republican Party. GOP leaders and conservative media outlets wasted no time in warning Obama that if he refused to back the troop escalation being demanded by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander overseeing the eight-year-old war, he’d be putting U.S. soldiers’ lives at risk and inviting Al Qaeda to launch new assaults on the homeland. The president, it seems, is battling two insurgencies: one in Afghanistan and one cooked up by his own generals. [continued…]
In recent weeks, President Obama has been contemplating the future of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. He has also been touting the effects of his policies at home, reporting that this year’s Recovery Act not only saved jobs, but also was “the largest investment in infrastructure since [President Dwight] Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.” At the same time, another much less publicized U.S.-taxpayer-funded infrastructure boom has been underway. This one in Afghanistan.
While Washington has put modest funding into civilian projects in Afghanistan this year — ranging from small-scale power plants to “public latrines” to a meat market — the real construction boom is military in nature. The Pentagon has been funneling stimulus-sized sums of money to defense contractors to markedly boost its military infrastructure in that country.
In fiscal year 2009, for example, the civilian U.S. Agency for International Development awarded $20 million in contracts for work in Afghanistan, while the U.S. Army alone awarded $2.2 billion — $834 million of it for construction projects. In fact, according to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, the Pentagon has spent “roughly $2.7 billion on construction over the past three fiscal years” in that country and, “if its request is approved as part of the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill, it would spend another $1.3 billion on more than 100 projects at 40 sites across the country, according to a Senate report on the legislation.” [continued…]