Taliban Getting Stronger, As US Public Support for Afghanistan War Collapses

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is getting weaker over time, and the Taliban are getting stronger, according to Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Matthews says that there will be a lull in the winter, but insurgent operations will pick up in the spring. As NATO allies draw down (many have announced their intention to leave the country), the US will likely need more troops to replace the departing European ones and to confront the growing insurgent challenge, she says. She does not think Afghanistan will emerge as a political issue in the next presidential race.

A recent CNN poll found that only 35% of Americans support the US military mission in Afghanistan, and 63% oppose it. Even among Republicans, where there is a slight majority in favor, some 44% oppose the war! And, 56% of Americans think the war is going badly. Since Americans like a winner, that statistic is perhaps the most deadly for the Obama administration and the Pentagon. As recently as March, 2010, the country was evenly divided and a majority thought that the war was going well. But note that March was just after the Marjah campaign in Helmand province, which created a press image of activity and progress, and there was talk about a big offensive in Qandahar. But Marjah was not the quick victory Americans had hoped for and the Qandahar campaign is a far subtler and less dramatic affair than had been envisioned last spring.

But in postmodern warfare, it doesn’t seem to matter if the public supports the war or not.

Meanwhile, discouraging news that in Baghlan Province some 10 insurgents have gone back and forth between peace talks and rejoining the insurgency. Failure of the government to follow through on promises made to the fighters accounts for their rejoining the opposition.

In a recent paper at Chatham House, Kate Clark argues that lack of social justice and bad government policy are driving the increasing insurgency.

13 Responses

  1. Even though there are different views on the war among the public leaving Afghanistan now would definitely have a number of disastrous consequences for the future of the country. Now it is clear that the government’s visions about an earlier withdrawal were simply unrealistic.

    • There are other possibilities. Such as: our forces are not accomplishing their mission and cannot do so. The task itself (not well defined, but let’s let that slide) may simply not be possible. It’s not like any other country has successfully invaded, occupied and built up Afghanistan. The mission-creep that turned a man-hunt/punitive strike into 10-15 years (maybe more?) of “nation-building” means that victory is harder to achieve – IMO impossible. We are now fighting an indigenous movement composed of or at least supported by a majority of the population. That is emphatically not a recipe for success. Our troops are, as far as I can tell, basically fighting the Pashtuns.

      Given that, “don’t pull out now, things might get worse!” isn’t really convincing. I understand it, as I once bought into it. But if you really think it through, that means you can *never* pull out of a situation like this, ever, unless you win. If things are going badly, you must stay, stay, stay that course. That, IMO, is *exactly* what Al-Qaida wanted from the beginning (Iraq was a bonus). Those nutjobs seriously believe they brought down the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and figure they can do it to us too. They’re wrong about that, but they can do us a fair amount of harm at very little cost to themselves (tons of cost to the locals, but they don’t really care about that).

      It’s true that withdrawl likely will have negative consequences. But so does staying. The question is which is the better (least bad) path. 9 years in, I think the answer is clear.

    • “leaving Afghanistan now would definitely have a number of disastrous consequences for the future of the country.”

      All right, I’ll bite: how about sharing your list of “disastrous consequences” with the rest of us?

      And which “country” were you referring to? Notagainistan? Or the US of A, that would maybe have a little challenge re-absorbing, without a psychotic break or even more apparent moral and fiscal bankruptcy, those hundreds of thousands of US and contractor military personnel who have been fighting a “war of cognitive dissonance and illusion” and have absorbed and internalized quantities of pain and hatred and grief, and rashers of revenge, and passed out of the body of ordinary civilians into that Band of Brothers that is so much stronger even than Republican party discipline?

      • 1. The ISI and Saudi backed Taliban would wage a war again on Afghans, and if its like the last time thousands will perish and Kabul, having been reduced to rubble several times already and now just rebuilt would once again be destroyed. Also, it would kill millions of people who would not receive medical aid. They murder health care workers, and won’t let any woman work. The infant mortality rate, and the maternal mortality rates, already one of the world’s highest would go off the charts. The Taliban hate science and polio shots. It would also mean a return of the Opium era, where billions of people are fed their addictions from Afghanistan, and since only 12% of Afghanistan land is suitable for agriculture, once again the world will have to feed the Afghans as the did the last time they were in power. Of course too, the will finish the final solution on the Hazara, be bold enough to retake the Swat Valley and more of Pakistan, and destabilize the other stans to the north. Last of all, they would return AQ to the land, and force feed the Sufi Afghans a repellent form of extremest Islam, and set upon the world well trained and financed terrorists.

        • Russ, you got a great future writing action novels “with Tom Clancy.” So much fiction in so few words…

          US arable land is 18%, and shrinking fast with all the Red development. The world does not feed the Pakis or the Haitians or the Sudanese. Ah hell, your hypothetical horribles are really scary simple BS. Go read Schroen’s “First In,” and I am sure the professor could suggest some other background that the stuff that comes out of Rupert Murdoch’s arse and the muzzles and other orifices of the “conservative think tanks.” Yah, “we” just gotta stay the course, wouldn’t be prudent to do a 1973 again — after all, “we” fucjked up Cambodia in pursuit of geopolitical gains against the “gooks,” so I guess Jane Fonda is toblame for Pol Pot, just another one of those sneaky revandhist reactionary bastards like Dickless Cheney, who get their noses under the tent flap and then tear the place altogether up before “moderates” know what hits them. (I believe it was #2 buckshot that nailed that lawyer “friend” of Cheney’s?)

          “and set upon the world well trained and financed terrorists.” And where are the Talibanners going to get their terrorist money and training? from the CIA or NSA or other Unnamed US State Security Agency? from the Israeli equivalents?

          Go grind your teeth in righteous patriotic Game of RISK!-World of Warcraft rage.

          BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLsheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

        • In the spring of 2001, George Bush gave the Taliban $43 million as a reward for virtually eliminating the Afghan poppy fields. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were being given refuge in Afghanistan at the time. The CIA had determined by March of 2001 that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the October, 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen which killed 17 sailors. America was just fine with the Taliban then.

          Google “mini-skirt Kabul” and you’ll find photos of women wearing mini-skirts in Kabul in the early 1970’s. It was Jimmy Carter and his backing of the mujahideen that threw Afghanistan back into the stone age.

  2. Even with the incompetence of the Karzai government, only a hand full of Afghans actually prefer the Taliban to be rulers again, especially minorities and women.

  3. Interference empowers militants – and the industrial military “security” complex. This in turn provides the justification – and drive – for further meddling. These condescending neoliberals are the one who really need meddling with.

    One day the cretins that rise to their bait on all sides will get wise to them.

  4. >> some 44% oppose the war! And, 56% of Americans think the war is going badly.

    Small rhetorical nitpick… Let me rewrite this sentence in an equivalent manner: “Some 44% (of Republicans) oppose the war! And 44% of Americans do not think the war is going badly.”

    In the first case you want us to be impressed by how big the number 44 is in context A. In the second case you want us to be impressed by how small 44 is in context B.

    Trouble is, it’s hard to think of a number as being both big and small regardless of context. No doubt you’ll say that context is everything: 44 is a big number among Republicans and a small one among all Americans. But why? Because Republicans support the war. But that’s consistent with the number 44 so your first use of 44 adds nothing of value unless we know the changes and certainly cannot by itself be regarded as either big or small.

    Again, as I said, just a nitpick. Overall point is interesting.

  5. I’m curious: Is there actually a monad, a unity, an entity that can accurately and honestly be called “the Taliban,” or is the phrase just one of those convenient and deluding reifications and personifications and hypostatisations that make up so much of the Language of Policy?

    I don’t doubt that the US (“NATO”) military invasion will eventually result in some coming-together of some significant fraction of the people in what we arrogantly call “Afghanistan,” simply to kick out another Common Enemy so they can get back to their usual and comfortable-to-them lifestyles and feuds and such. It might even be under the banner of something called “the Taliban,” if the warlords and leaders and “commanders” of that nomenclature can get it together to become the organizing attractor against the US as a Common Enemy.

    But I wonder, from the perspective of one who gathers and sifts all kinds of information and evidence, and offers mostly dispassionate highlighting and analysis of What’s Going On Over There, is there a “the Taliban” to be “getting stronger?” Or is it just that GIs and CIA/contractor drone-gamers have killed, robbed and raped too many non-“militant” (or whatever the current approved War Department/MSM moniker is today) civilians, kicked in too many doors, done too many stupid and vicious and paradoxical deals, so that what used to be honorable, when it was called “resistance,” is hardening?

    Not, as you know, that this matters. Not when a trillion-dollar enterprise, hidden in its own self-generated “fog of war,” will go on about its business, willy-nilly, while the “patriots” at home who pay for all this still believe or are misled in enough numbers to keep the tax and Chinese-provided dollars flowing, and all those rosy promotions in rank, and all those sexy, unauditable, accountability-free weapons and tactics…

  6. None of the “western”, NATO, US leaders seem to care at all about the poor country of Afghanistan,only about their troop losses, their reelections, the continuation of a completely unnecessary and dangerous international warmaking machine which should have been abandoned when its “enemy” disappeared twenty years ago. STOP NATO (read the posts on this site).
    Stop US imperialism!

  7. All of the reasons for our continued presence in Afghanistan that are advanced by our government are patently ridiculous. The government lies.

    What are the real strategic reasons for our presence?
    They may involve military encirclement of Iran, a pipeline for natural gas, a secret agreement with India, etc. But whatever the reason(s), if they are not known to the public there can be no informed discussion of war costs and withdrawl dates.

  8. There is no support for any of our current wars. These poll numbers are only valid so long as it is “someone else’s kid” who is participating.

    Implement a draft and the most ardent war supporter would become engaged in militant opposition.

    Iraq & Afghanistan have revealed an America that lacks empathy.

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