…Who Needs Enemies?
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
–Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier
After I separated from the army in the fall of 1968, I joined the labor force and, like many ex-GIs, began a career, in my case happily short-lived, touring a number of America’s most menial professions, everything from removing commercial wastes to dipping steel into a phosphorous wash, the drippings from which eventually ate the toes right out of my old jungle boots; but my true avocation in those less than halcyon days of yore was bar-fly. Not much of a career choice, I grant you, but it was the preferred method of re-adjusting to civilian life for many veterans of our interminable soiree in Southeast Asia. As my hair lengthened and my attitude worsened, I whiled away the evenings after work imbibing shots and beers–many, many shots and beers. The counter-culture was in full feather, but I’d never been much of a pot head, and had given up the noxious weed entirely ever since some incoming had rattled my carelessly expanded consciousness months earlier. And I was by nature a fairly peaceable sort. I’d never absorbed much more of the Spirit of the Bayonet than had been required to complete basic training. Unfortunately, I could not say the same for my some of my reprobate bar room compadres, many of who displayed a disconcerting joy in initiating hand-to-hand combat sometime prior to last call—and, if there was no convenient enemy to whom they might take the fight, they were just as happy to take it to a convenient friend. You’ve got to watch your back, no matter the company you keep.
I recalled this lesson while reading of the latest tragedy inflicted upon our troops serving in that God-forsaken pile of rocks east of the Hindu Kush by our so-called ‘partners’ in the coalition against Islamic radicalism—8 soldiers and a civilian contractor disarmed, then murdered in cold blood by a Muslim Afghani pilot. According to The Army Times,
Those killed were trainers and advisers for the nascent Afghan air force. The shooting was the deadliest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces, or an insurgent impersonating them, on coalition troops or Afghan soldiers or policemen. There have been seven such attacks so far this year.
[…] Before the airport shooting, the coalition had recorded 20 incidents since March 2009 where a member of the Afghan security forces or someone wearing a uniform used by them attacked coalition forces, killing a total of 36. It is not known how many of the 282,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in these type of incidents.
Afghans have a long history of treachery in dealing with foreign forces. From Wikipedia:
On 1 January 1842…an agreement was reached that provided for the safe exodus of the British garrison and its dependants from Afghanistan. Five days later, the withdrawal began. The departing British contingent numbered around 16,000, of which about 4,500 were military personnel, and over 12,000 were civilian camp followers.
They were attacked by Ghilzai warriors as they struggled through the snowbound passes. The evacuees were harassed down the 30 miles (48 km) of treacherous gorges and passes lying along the Kabul River between Kabul and Gandamak, and were massacred at the Gandamak pass before the survivors reached the besieged garrison at Jalalabad. The force had been reduced to fewer than forty men by a withdrawal from Kabul that had become, towards the end, a running battle through two feet of snow. The ground was frozen, the men had no shelter and had little food for weeks. Of the remaining weapons possessed by the survivors, there were approximately a dozen working muskets, the officers’ pistols and a few swords. The remnants of the 44th were all killed except Captain James Souter, Sergeant Fair and seven soldiers who were taken prisoner. The only Briton to reach Jalalabad was Dr. William Brydon.
In the ‘Stans, yesterday’s friends are today’s enemies—and vice versa (For Soviet-Afghan political analyst Katya Drozdova, the Afghanistan war logs tell a familiar story of treachery):
[…] in many cases, the U.S. is dealing with the same cast of characters the Soviets did: former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Afghan insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.
“This underscores the relevance of Soviet history and the enduring challenge of this complex conflict where many of the key players from the past are still active, and many who were on our side are now our enemies,” Drozdova said … “insurgency is driven by ethnic and religious concerns as enduring motivators, and that the Afghans do not want foreigners – infidels – ruling the country, whether they are Soviets or Americans.”
And the Soviets reached the same impasse the U.S. now faces over education and women’s rights.
“Empowering women, education of children is good in our view, and in the Soviet view,” Drozdova said. “But it’s opposed fundamentally by Islamists and the tribal culture.”
Afghanistan is essentially what it’s always been, what it always may be–a medieval Islamic gangland. Cohering it into a modern nation is a fool’s errand. It’s time to bring the boys home.
The Murder of Our Soldiers In Afghanistan (John Bernard in Big Peace)
US Military: Schizophrenia Is The New Normal (Diana West in Big Peace)
Taliban not only danger to troops (Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today)
“Greetings From Afghanistan, Send More Ammo” – Fighting The Good Fight (In Flip-Flops) (Michael Kane, NY Post)