Tony Karon writes: “Just don’t talk about the war!” was the motto evinced by John Cleese’s comic British innkeeper Basil Fawlty when entertaining German tourists at his establishment. The same motto seems to have been embraced by both candidates in the 2012 U.S. presidential election — and not simply because it’s difficult to detect significant differences on their policies for ending the longest war in America’s history. Neither President Barack Obama, nor Governor Mitt Romney can offer the electorate the prospect of a plausible outcome in Afghanistan that won’t leave many Americans wondering what was achieved in 11 years of a war that this week claimed its 2,000th American combat casualty. Opinion polls routinely find a substantial majority of Americans opposed to remaining militarily engaged in Afghanistan, which may be why the bipartisan consensus envisages most U.S. troops coming home by the end of 2014, handing security responsibility to the Afghan forces whose training and mentoring is rapidly becoming the mission’s prime focus. The Taliban won’t be defeated by the time the U.S. leaves, in other words, and it takes a leap of faith to envisage Afghan security forces finding the political will to fight the Taliban on behalf of a widely discredited Afghan regime once the U.S. leaves — and that was before the emergence of what the U.S. military calls a “systemic problem” of uniformed Afghans turning their weapons on their U.S. and NATO mentors. Afghanistan, for U.S. presidential campaign purposes, is a huge downer.
At least 40 times this year alone, U.S. and NATO soldiers have been killed by gunfire from allied security personnel in ostensibly safe bases. And the scale of of “green-on-blue” violence — although the Pentagon now prefers “insider attacks” — is difficult to determine, because such attacks are only reported when Western personnel are killed.
Insider attacks, deemed a “systemic problem” by the Pentagon, have already killed 23 Americans this year. And the vulnerability of Western troops is expected to actually increase in the coming months as a combat mission continues its transformation into one that deploys smaller groups of U.S. and NATO troops to mentor Afghan forces, exposing them to greater risk of attack from uniformed Afghans. [Continue reading…]