Bomb Kills 25 in Afghanistan; 15 British, 2 US Troops killed in past Week; Blood-Drenched Warlords Return to Gov’t with Impunity

I can tell by various web metrics that you guys are not interested in the Afghanistan story. You should be and I am going to parse it today anyway. It is one of the advantages of being non-profit that I write what I want and you can read it or not as you like. But really, you should be following this war.

AP reports that: “A truck filled with explosives that police believe may have been destined for Kabul blew up on a highway Thursday, killing 25 people — more than half of them children walking to school.”

Having suffered 8 troops killed in Afghanistan in 24 hours, Britain has now seen more troop deaths for the British army in that country than in Iraq. 15 British troops have been killed in the past 9 days, and UK PM Gordon Brown warned that British troops were in for a difficult summer there.

British commanders maintain that part of the problem is a lack of helicopter gunships.

My guess is that if these sorts of losses mount, Brown will come under enormous pressure from the public and from his own back benchers to break with President Obama and withdraw from Afghanistan. There is even some question as to whether the UK can afford to maintain the sort of military required for such large-scale foreign adventures. Canada has announced that it will withdraw its troops from that country by 2012. US news organizations will have little noted the helicopter crash that killed 2 Canadian troops last Monday.

It is bad news that President Hamid Karzai has brought the old Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam back into government, especially since he was implicated in a massacre of Taliban prisoners of war in 2001. Note that Karzai is bringing back another warlord with a lot of blood on his hands, Muhammad Fahim, as his vice president. Karzai, in fact, appears to want to turn his government into warlord central. What does that say about Karzai?

2 US troops were killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb, the Pentagon has announced. More roadside bombs have been being detonated each month this spring and summer in Afghanistan than in Iraq. In fact, in June 3 times more roadside bombs were set off than in Iraq.

The Pentagon says that the US has lost 657 men in Afghanistan, two thirds of them to hostile fire. This number is an under-estimate of the US sacrifice, since it does not include the wounded, including the severely wounded.

US commanders are now thinking Afghanistan may need 270,000 soldiers to keep internal peace, not just the 134,000 that NATO is now committed to training. The goal might be 400,000 police and army altogether. Not only would the training and standing up of such a massive force cost rather more than the some $7.5 bn. a year the Obama administration had budgeted for Afghanistan, it is hard to see how the Afghan government could afford such a huge security force. It would likely cost several billion dollars a year to maintain, and Afghanistan’s whole annual budget is only a little over a billion dollars a year (the gross domestic product is only $9 bn., and a third of that is probably from poppies made into heroin.) These plans doom Afghanistan to be a welfare queen in the world community for decades, and they also risk throwing the country into more violence, not less, since its fractious tribespeople have never dealt well with having a strong central government (Afghanistan is not like Iraq, folks).

Much of what Michael Schwartz warns about with regard to long-term neocolonialism in Iraq could be applied to Afghanistan, as well.

The Pakistani military’s campaign against the Taliban in the Swat region has produced over a million displaced persons, who are often having difficulty collecting the promised government aid:

Aljazeera English reports on the sometimes fatal dangers awaiting journalists attempting to report the battle against the Taliban on the Pakistan side.

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