Friday, July 18, 2008

Afghanistan: from war to insurgency

The Afghanistan conflict, the original effort to extract revenge against those who perpetrated 9/11 (the Taliban, who made Afghanistan a haven and base for terrorists), seven years on continues unabated. In fact, it might be worse now than any other time since the American invasion.

A Wall Street Journal story discusses that, as part of the background of a story about US soldiers who develop relationships with native Afghanis. It is an interesting piece of reporting.

However, along the way, some mangling of the English language detracts from the story's narrative. Witness this clunky sentence construction: The Afghan war, begun as an effort to oust the Taliban regime and destroy its al Qaeda allies, has become a lengthy insurgency that senior coalition commanders say has taken a turn for the worse in many parts of the country.

The beginning effort was made by the US; the dependent clause (begun as an effort...) does not make it clear. Take that dependent clause out, and the sentence makes more sense.

Anyway, the important point is the war, both as it impacts Afghanistan and the US: In recent months, more U.S. forces have been killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq, where the overall level of violence has slowed. On Sunday, insurgents killed nine U.S. soldiers and injured 15 more at a U.S. base in Kunar, one of the provinces where Lt. Col. Kolenda's men are fighting. A few days later, U.S. troops pulled out of the base.

The war continues. The US is bogged down. When the US took a big hit, it pulled back. A very sorry state of affairs. Afghanistan is where the US should be pounding, and pounding hard, to fight terrorism. Fighting in Iraq takes away from that, and compounds things.

Senior Pentagon officers are pushing for more troop reductions in Iraq to free up forces for Afghanistan, potentially bringing more novices into the field.

The fascinating part of this article is how a particular US soldier approaches it.

Well ahead of the transition from Lt. Col. Kolenda's squadron to the Sixth Squadron, Fourth Cavalry Regiment, out of Fort Hood, Texas, the outgoing team emailed all of their records and papers to the new unit. Lt. Col. Kolenda and his men plan to squire the new commanders about the battlefield, introducing them to the people who will help them and to those who will get in their way.

Hearts and minds need to be won, if the insurgency is ever to be defeated. Now, technology adds a new dimension.

The Army also offers the troops an online reference source, Wiki-Afghan. It looks just like Wikipedia, except it's all about Afghanistan and much of it is classified. There are upwards of 10,000 articles, and any authorized soldier can click on an entry and add new information.

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