On February 15, 1989, Bill Keller, who was then the Moscow bureau chief for the New York Times (he is today The Times’ executive editor) wrote: “The last Soviet soldier came home from Afghanistan this morning, the Soviet Union announced, leaving behind a war that had become a domestic burden and an international embarrassment for Moscow. […] Lieut. Gen. Boris V. Gromov, the commander of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, walked across the steel Friendship Bridge to the border city of Termez, in Uzbekistan, at 11:55 A.M. local time (1:55 A.M., Eastern time), 9 years and 50 days after Soviet troops intervened to support a coup by a Marxist ally. ‘There is not a single Soviet soldier or officer left behind me,’ General Gromov told a Soviet television reporter waiting on the bridge. ‘Our nine-year stay ends with this.'”
Today–Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010–the American occupation of Afghanistan markes its 3,338th day, one day more than the Soviet occupation, with no end in sight. The Graveyard of Empires is living up to its reputation. American pretensions are not.
- Afghanistan Study Group
- Offshoring War: How Obama—and Those Moments of Silence—Insult Military Sacrifice
- Firing McChrystal Isn’t Enough. Fire the War.
- “Pacific” a Sequel To Exalt War Passions
It was al-Qaeda’s hope to imprison the United States in an endless, hopeless war, just as the Soviet Union had been. A-Qaeda succeeded beyond expectations. Al-Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan. Hasn’t been since the early days of the way in late 2001. It’s safely settled in the Pakistani highlands of Waziristan and Balochistan, where the view of the American carnage is better. Al-Qaeda is the only clear winner. And the parallels between the Soviet and the American disasters in Afghanistan are, like the dead and maimed, piling up.
At its height the Soviet occupation had 115,000 troops deployed. There are now 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on top of 112,000 private contractors working for the Pentagon alone (thousands of them mercenaries). The Soviets lost 15,000 troops. Americans have lost 1,404 at last count, western forces as a whole have lost 2,231. That figure doesn’t include the number of foreign contractors and mercenaries. And of course, as always in war, it doesn’t compare with the loss of civilians, who never get as much attention: Just in In the first half of 2010, 1,271 civilians were killed, according to the United Nations.
This year American taxpayers spent $104 billion on the Afghan war. Here, according to the Afghanistan Study Group, is what that bought us:
- double-digit percentage increases (in a negative manner) in nearly all key areas of metrics and indicators, including a 58% increase in American combat deaths;
- an Afghan election more crooked than 2009′s stolen election;
- an increase in support for the Taliban;
- a dramatic increase in the instability of the previously, relatively, stable north of the country;
- a failure to deliver “government in a box” to Marjah or clear Kandahar City;
- the revelation that key aides of President Karzai are on the Iranian payroll;
- the near collapse of the Kabul bank;
- US intelligence verification of Pakistani support for the Taliban;
- disclosures of a massive increase in Coalition night raids and air strikes resulting in weekly tallies of dead Taliban that are somehow not matched by reports of decreases in Taliban operations, but rather by a nearly 60% increase in Taliban attacks; etc.
Robert Wright on Nov. 23 called the occupation “worse than Vietnam.” Unlike Vietnam, which did not make America more vulnerable to enemy attack, the Afghan occupation does: “Just as Al Qaeda planned, it empowers the narrative of terrorist recruiters — that America is at war with Islam.” There is no better recruitment video for jihadists. “And the cost of the Afghanistan war already exceeds the cost of the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined, even in inflation-adjusted dollars. At $100 billion a year (seven times the gross domestic product of Afghanistan) this war is feeding a deficit that will eventually take its toll in real, human terms. I encourage Tea Partiers and other fiscal conservatives to ponder the tension between deficit hawkism and military hawkism.”
Here’s a photo gallery of the human, and inhuman, sides of the conflict.