Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker
Since the Koran burning last month, U.S. troops urinating on the bodies of fallen Taliban fighters, and the killing of Afghan civilians in Kandahar by Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, seven Americans and two Britons have been killed by Afghan forces in Afghanistan, only compounding American voters sense of urgency to get out of this troublesome region, the sooner the better.
A New York Times poll published Monday showed just how disillusioned Americans have become over the war, with 69 percent of the respondents saying we shouldn’t be at war in Afghanistan, a marked increase from 53 percent just four months ago.
The poll also found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who held such a belief in November.
After 10 years of military engagement in Afghanistan, with a majority of U.S. troops scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of the 2014, many are beginning to question what has been accomplished in the region and whether the Afghans will be able to go it alone once the U.S. passes the baton to them less than two years from now.
If you happened to peek in on the Charlie Rose show recently (March 12th) and listened to the harsh assessment of the progress made in Afghanistan as put forward by Dexter Filkins, of the 'New Yorker' magazine, Lara Logan of CBS News, Jere Van Dyk of CBS News, Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation and Zalmay Khalilzad of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, you might have come away not only disappointed by the lack of progress, but also deeply cynical wondering exactly what the U.S. forces have been doing in Afghanistan for the last 10 years?
Filkins told Rose that as of last year, there was one (yes, you heard right, exactly one) Afghan battalion that can operate independently. ``It’s fiction to believe’’, Filkins told Mr. Rose, ``that the U.S. can leave Afghans to fight and function for themselves….what we’re really talking about is another decade before Afghans can operate independently.’’
And with the Afghan army unable to stand on its own two feet once the U.S. pulls out at the end of 2014, civil war will in all likelihood break out, most of Rose guests agreed.
If the U.S. doesn’t leave some kind of U.S. forces behind after 2014, Zalmay Khalilzad of the Center for Strategic and International Studies is convinced that the U.S. might only have to go back again. ``We have seen this movie before’’, Khalilzad said. ``Extremist groups will come and we (the U.S) would have to bomb Afghanistan from afar.’’
During the interview, Lara Logan of CBS News made the most compelling argument that it doesn’t really matter what has happened or hasn’t happened inside Afghanistan, the biggest problem is that sanctuaries still exist inside Pakistan, and according to Logan, ``the U.S. hasn’t removed the fundamental condition which gave rise to 9/11.’’
Logan additionally argued, persuasively I might add, that even 10 more years in Afghanistan would be counterproductive since it will more than likely only produce more isolated incidents, similar to the Koran burning and shooting of Afghan civilians. Those isolated incidents, Logan argues, albeit the exception rather than the rule, is nonetheless ``defining the U.S. image in the eyes of Afghans.’’ All the wells, schools and other infrastructure projects which have been built by the U.S. doesn’t matter, Logan says, `` because it doesn’t get reported.’’
So to hear Rose’s guests tell it, after 10 years, the U.S. has three huge problems remaining in Afghanistan: a dysfunctional (and corrupt) Afghan government, sanctuaries (extremists) remaining in Pakistan, and the Taliban just ``waiting to run out the clock’’, as Filkins described it, biding time, just waiting for the U.S. to withdraw so they can reclaim power in the region.
It was not a pretty picture as described by Mr. Rose’s guests.
Since the war is a decade old, I thought I would compile a statistical scorecard of the gains made by U.S. forces since the war began on October 7, 2001.
March 29, 2012
10 year scorecard: U.S. Presence in Afghanistan
How much money has the U.S. spent on Operation Enduring Freedom?
$413.2 billion from the Department of Defense and $25.1 from USAID (current dollars). There is also $4.2 billion in Veterans money devoted to Afghanistan to date, bringing the grand total to approximately $442.5 billion current dollars.
According to the Congressional Research Service, through the end of FY2011, the United States has provided over $67 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $39 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces.
How many casualties has there been in Afghanistan?
Total Deaths: Afghanistan only-1,794; other locations-109 with 3 DOD civilian casualties, bringing the total to 1,906 as of March 28, 2012.
How many journalists have been killed in Afghanistan?
Since the Committee to Protect Journalists began tracking this, 24 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan.
What’s the total number of foreign forces in Afghanistan?
Approximately, 131.000, including about 90,000 U.S. and 40,500 non-U.S. partner forces. (U.S. total was: 25,000 in 2005; 16,000 in 2003; 5,000 in 2002 (International Security Assistance Force, ISAF); totals were: 12,000 in 2005; and 6,000 in 2003.) U.S. forces are deployed at 88 bases in Afghanistan.
How big is the Afghan National Army (ANA)?
As of January 2012, about 176, 350 with 195,000 planned by November 2012. There are about 2,000 trained per month. 5,300 are commando forces, who are trained by U.S. Special Forces. ANA privates are paid about $200 per month; while generals make about $750 per month.
What is the approximate size of the Afghan National Police (ANP?)
As of January 2012, about 143, 000, with goal of 157,000 by November 2012. 21,000 are Border Police; 3,800+ counter-narcotics police; 14,400 Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP).
How many members of Al Qaeda still remain in Afghanistan?
According to General Petraeus, as of April 2011, there were less than 100 or so with a small number of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
How many Taliban fighters are there in Afghanistan?
According to both U.S. military and Afghan estimates in mid-2011, up to 25,000, although General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has gone on record as saying he believes the numbers are much lower. Other remaining factions include: 3,000-Haqqani and 1,000-Hikmatyar.
Approximately how many military attacks are there every day in Afghanistan?
Based on testimony from Department of Defense officials, there were more than 1,500 per month in 2010; compared to 800 per month in 2007; and 400 in 2005.
What’s the population of Afghanistan?
More than 28 million; the population of Kabul is 3 million, up from 500,000 in the Taliban era.
What is the literacy rate?
28% of population over 15 years of age: 43% of males; 12.6% of female.
What is the unemployment rate?
Unemployment rate is about 40%.
The percentage of Afghans who have access to health care?
65% with basic health services access-compared to 8% during Taliban era
Has the judicial or court system improved in recent years?
Since the fall of the Taliban, there have been 1,000 judges, including 200 women trained.
How many Afghans have access to electricity?
15%-20% of the population, with much of it imported from neighboring states.
How many cell phone subscribers?
About 6.5 million, up from negligible amounts during Taliban era.
Sources: CIA, The World Factbook; The Brookings Institution, Congressional Research Service, U.S. government official testimony.
Top 10 non-U.S. Donors to Afghanistan? ($ in millions)
European Union 2,880
Asian Development Bank 2,270
World Bank 2,140
Source: Afghanistan Ministry of Finance: Development Cooperation Report, 2010.
Coalition Deaths by Country:
New Zealand: 5
South Korea: 1
Source: iCasualties.org (updated March 28, 2012)
Key Players in Afghanistan:
Ethnic Pashtuns (pronounced POSH-toons, sometimes referred to as Pathans—pah-TAHNS), as the largest single ethnicity, have historically asserted a “right to rule.” Pashtuns are about 42% of the population and, with few exceptions, have governed Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai is a Durrani Pashtun. His cabinet and inner advisory circle has come to be progressively dominated by Pashtuns, both Ghilzai and Durrani, which has largely minimized the advisory input of the other communities.
Tajiks are the second-most numerous community, composing an estimated 25% of the population, and are the core of the “Northern Alliance” grouping that is opposed to but often works amicably with Karzai.
Many Pashtuns are said to be increasingly resentful of the Hazara Shiite minority (about 10% of the population) that is advancing economically and politically through education; the Hazaras have historically been looked down upon by the Pashtuns, who have tended to employ Hazaras as domestic workers and other lower and lower middle class occupations. These jealousies could have been a factor in the December 6, 2011, bombings of Hazaras in three cities, killing 60, while they were visiting their mosques to celebrate the Shiite holy day of Ashura. A Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, claimed responsibility—possibly in an effort to stir up sectarian conflict in Afghanistan. Afghan Shiite officials said such tactics would not work, as there is no inclination toward sectarian conflict in Afghanistan.
Uzbeks, like the Hazaras, are about 10%. The Uzbek community is Sunni Muslim and speaks a language akin to Turkish, as well as Dari. The most well-known Uzbek leader in Afghanistan is Abdul Rashid Dostam, who was allied with Soviet occupation forces but later defected and helped bring down the Communist regime in Afghanistan in April 1992. Because of their alliance with the Soviet Union during the occupation period, many Uzbeks in Afghanistan are leftwing and highly secular.
Source: Congressional Research Service
Web Sites to Keep in Mind:
U.S. Casualties (updated daily)
Military Casualty Information by Branch of Service: (Casualty information broken down by type and month)
Casualty Timeline (by month) from October 7, 2001 Through March 5, 2012
Afghanistan Map: National Geographic Society: