Sunday, October 7, 2007

Don’t Forget Afghanistan

I’m not sure how I missed it, but the U.N. released a report last week with disturbing news about the war in Afghanistan:
U.N.: Afghan violence surges

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)
-- Violence in Afghanistan has surged this year with suicide bombings inflicting an especially high toll on civilians, a new United Nations report says.

The report said Afghanistan is averaging 550 violent incidents a month, up from an average of 425 last year. It said three-fourths of suicide bombings are targeting international and Afghan security forces, but suicide bombers also killed 143 civilians through August.

"Suicide attacks have been accompanied by attacks against students and schools, assassinations of officials, elders and mullahs, and the targeting of police in a deliberate and calculated effort to impede the establishment of legitimate government institutions," according to the report, which was released in New York last week.

Our news media rarely covers the war in Afghanistan anymore. Not during all of the talk about the “surge” nor in all of the talk about troop withdrawals has anyone ever mentioned that the Afghanistan war, which seemed like such a sure thing a couple years ago, is spiraling out of control.

Last week, however, we did hear news about Afghanistan, and from an unlikely place:

‘The Kite Runner’ Is Delayed to Protect Child Stars

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3 — The studio distributing “The Kite Runner,” a tale of childhood betrayal, sexual predation and ethnic tension in Afghanistan, is delaying the film’s release to get its three schoolboy stars out of Kabul — perhaps permanently — in response to fears that they could be attacked for their enactment of a culturally inflammatory rape scene.

Executives at the distributor, Paramount Vantage, are contending with issues stemming from the rising lawlessness in Kabul in the year since the boys were cast.

The boys and their relatives are now accusing the filmmakers of mistreatment, and warnings have been relayed to the studio from Afghan and American officials and aid workers that the movie could aggravate simmering enmities between the politically dominant Pashtun and the long-oppressed Hazara.

I saw this story about “The Kite Runner” last week but didn’t blog about it because, frankly, I’ve grown far too cynical to see a story like this and not think there’s some kind of Hollywood PR campaign involved. Yes, even though I have stated many times that the Afghan war is being lost under our noses as we devote all our attention to the debacle known as George’s Iraq Folly, I didn’t entirely trust a report about a big Hollywood film release because, frankly, it’s about a big Hollywood film release and we all have learned about the bushels of bullshit that swirl around film launches.

Back in the summer our allies in the U.K. had this disturbing news about their Afghan operations:

British troops face decades in Afghanistan

British troops face a 30-year "marathon mission" against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the commander of UK troops in Helmand has warned.

Brigadier John Lorimer revealed the challenge facing personnel as he disclosed that the Taliban are beginning to change their tactics and have started to recruit fighters from foreign countries in increasing numbers.

[ ... ]

Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Telegraph, Brig Lorimer said: "This is a counter-insurgency operation which is going to take time. It could last a decade. The counter-narcotic problem, which is huge, could take another 25 years. The British ambassador has said it will take 30 years. He has often said that this mission is a marathon, not a sprint and he is absolutely right."

In all of our talk about the Great Glorious Surge®, Afghanistan is rarely mentioned. The Taliban, of course, is the regime responsible for the 9/11 terrorists, not Iraq. With all of this talk about troop withdrawal and which candidates support getting the troops out of Iraq sooner, I wonder why no one has asked about how things are going in Afghanistan. Are Americans ready to keep troops in Afghanistan for 30 years?

I’m not sure most Americans realize that our commitment to Afghanistan, which many of us consider a more worthwhile and justified engagement than the operation in Iraq, is as open-ended as the Iraq commitment appears to be. If we weren't otherwise engaged in Iraq, would we be able to subdue the Taliban in Afghanistan, uproot the lawlessness and bring democracy to that country like we're supposed to be doing in Iraq? Why is Iraq more important than Afghanistan? The Taliban is still training terrorists there, why do we let this go on? What deals have been made that we don't know about?

While we focus on Iraq, Afghanistan descends further into civil war and lawlessness. President Bush's ego demands success in Iraq, but what about Afghanistan? What about the regime that started it all?