Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Iraq 16, Afghanistan 2

"The administration has been negligent and irresponsible and has allowed the terrorists to reconsolidate themselves. And I don't understand how they have the gall to claim that they are the party of national security."
-- Barnett Rubin, The World, Sept. 11, 2006
Iraq - 16, Afghanistan - 2. That's the actual score for the number of times George W. Bush mentioned each of those countries in last night's shamelessly political speech about 9-11. Yet, he blithely skipped over the admitted fact that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9-11.

Other mentions from the Bush speech:
  • New York City - 1
  • World Trade Center - 1
  • Ossama bin Laden - 3
  • al Qaeda - 3
  • NYC firefighters - 3
  • NYC police - 1
And one more...the Taliban, who allowed al Quaeda shelter and training camps in Afghanistan before the 9-11 terrorist attacks: -1. (That's a minus 1.)

Said Bush last night:
"So we helped drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan."
He was lying, again.

Says reality:
"From just a few hundred guerrillas last year, Taleban commander Mullah Dadullah now claims to have 12,000 men under arms and control of 20 districts in the former Taleban heartland in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan. There is also a strong Taleban-al-Qaeda presence in the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan."
Military losses are mounting in Afghanistan. As the Boston Globe reports, "The insurgency-wracked country is locked into its worst bout of fighting since the US-led ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001 for hosting Osama bin Laden."

Yesterday, perhaps the most accurate and incisive commentary on the terrorist bills coming due because of the Bush administration's gargantuan incompetence in failing to wage the right war at the right time came from Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin, senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. Rubin has just returned from Afghanistan and was interviewed on "The World" news program yesterday (click to hear the audio).

There is no official transcript yet, but in half the time Mr. Bush's deceptive and misleading speech took last night, Rubin reported that "in Afghanistan every trend is going in the wrong direction."

Here's an informal transcript of the rest of the interview, as best we could transcribe it:
[Rubin]: Security is much worse. People believe corruption is much worse. Those two things together have had a very negative impact on economic activity. People have much less confidence in the government, they're much more hostile to the coalition, and in general they have much less confidence in or faith in the future.

And the Taliban, on the other hand, are quite emboldened and feel that they are winning. Al Qaeda has reestablished itself in a sanctuary across the border in Pakistan, and the Bush administration has shown itself to be quite soft on terrorism by coddling the government in Pakistan which has allowed them to do so by endorsing the agreement with the terrorists in Waziristan.

[Interviewer]: Okay, there's a lot to take up there. Let me first ask you about the Taliban specifically which you say is accelerating. What's gone wrong?

[Rubin]: What's gone wrong is what people like me have been saying from the very beginning: the administration let bin Laden get away because they didn't want to commit the troops. They immediately diverted their attention to Iraq, took the intelligence operatives out of Afghanistan. They did not invest in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. They did not invest in building up of the government of Afghanistan. They opposed extending the International Security Assistance Force to provide security throughout the rest of the country -- thereby allowing warlords who are drug traffickers, who have been aided by the United States to conslidate their hold over the country.

So, exactly what people like me and others were predicting in early 2002 has now come to pass. It's no surprise to anyone who observes that country quickly. The administration has been negligent and irresponsible and has allowed the terrorists to reconsolidate themselves. And I don't understand how they have the gall to claim that they are the party of national security.

[Interviewer]: You sound angrier than usual when you talk to [sic] about Afghanistan.

[Rubin]: Yes. That's because I just came back from there on August 8 and on August 5th I interviewed the governor of Paktia Province, an old friend of mine for more than twenty years who was assassinated yesterday by suicide bombers who came across the border from Pakistan in the sanctuary that they have established because of the negligence of the Bush administration.

[Interviewer]: Is --

[Rubin]: A good friend of mine was assasinated yesterday, and that could have been avoided. And a lot of other things could have been avoided if we had done the right thing several years ago.

[Interviewer]: Is part of the blame to be assigned also to the government of Afghanistan itself?

[Rubin]: Certainly, but there's only so much responsibility that the weakest government in the world can assume. It has almost no, you know, revenue. The U.S. ambassador has a discretionary fund for each province in Afghanistan. His budget for every -- for each province is greater than the discretionary budget of the president of Afghanistan for the entire country. So if the U.S. ambassador has just a personal discretionary fund that is 34 times larger the fund of the president of Afghanistan, who are we going to say is more responsible for what goes on there?

[Interviewer]: Can you tell us more about your friend who was killed by a suicide bomber?

[Rubin]: His name was Hakim Taniwal. He was a professor of sociology at Kabul University. He fled the country in the mid-1980's to join the resistance against the Soviets and I met him in Peshawar in 1985. I interviewed him on August 5th. He was -- is -- a man of peace. He's a man who understood the tribal politics of the area. He said to me we should invest in peace not in fighting. He had plans for trying to bring the Taliban in his area over to his side. He understood that there was someone right across the border who used to be the Taliban governor of that province who was plotting against him. And he was trying to, he said he wanted to move away from solving problems by guns. He wanted the Taliban to establish their own party in Afghanistan and compete democratically. And he said the most important thing is to provide people with employment and benefits so that they would have something to do rather than fighting.

[Interviewer]: And is --

[Rubin]: And now he's been killed.

[Interviewer]: In that last point, is there something the United States could do there in terms of providing people with employment and benefits?

[Rubin]: Well, of course. In order to employ people you need to invest. You need to invest in electric power, in agriculture, in the rule of law, in managing water -- all those things which we did not do for five years because we thought, as in Iraq, that when you march into the capital and get rid of the government, then it's all over. You have an election, and then you have a democracy. That is not true. Now, all that failure of investment, failure to provide security, has caught up with us. The terrorists have reconsolidated themselves and the Taliban are stronger than ever.

[Interviewer]: Barnett Rubin, at a time like this when you clearly have a personal feeling about what's going on there, is there some way that you can see through to honoring what your friend stood for when you said he stood for peace and a peaceful Afghanistan. Where does that leave you besides just looking in from the outside at this point?

[Rubin]: The Afghan government has a number of proposals that, again, require funding from others to establish a system for paying elders in every district to have some kind of relationship with the government, helping them to estabish community policing. That's extremely important. We need to pour money into building electric power and we need to reverse the perception that the United States is abandoning Afghanistan. Most of all, we need to assure -- You see, the Taliban and al Qaeda -- well, the Taliban at least have a safe haven in Pakistan and the president of Pakistan admitted this in Kabul the other day. We have to stay on that and be sure that Pakistan eliminates the command and control of the Taliban, which is functioning without being molested by the Pakistan government inside Pakistan. And we have looked the other way at that for five years, now. And that has to stop.

[Interviewer]: Barnett Rubin, we're sorry for your loss. Thank you for speaking with us.

[Rubin]: Thank you.
Corrected name 9-12

No comments: