Troubled U.S. Afghan projects mushroom despite concerns … For years, U.S. officials held up Kabul's largest power plant project as a shining example of how American taxpayers' dollars would pull Afghanistan out of grinding poverty and decades of demoralizing conflict. But behind the scenes, the same officials were voicing outrage over the slow pace of the project and its skyrocketing costs … Despite expressing serious misgivings in internal memos and meetings, the U.S. agency that was overseeing the project more than doubled the plant's budget … McClatchy found that U.S. government funding for at least 15 large-scale programs and projects grew from slightly more than $1 billion to nearly $3 billion despite the government's questions about their effectiveness or cost. – McClatchy Newspapers
Dominant Social Theme: Once we get the numbers right – and spend enough – successful projects will follow.
Free-Market Analysis: What is going on in Afghanistan is increasingly unsupportable. Populations and countries have their own tendencies; ultimately they revert to them. Attempting to Westernize Afghanistan, an ancient, tribal society is likely a fool's errand and always was.
We have noticed, in fact, an increasing dysfunction, generally, when it comes to the Afghan war. The "surge" that was supposed to stabilize the country seems to promise results without achieving them. In reviewing current news, one comes across articles predicting increased NATO and American casualties, a mass killing of six Afghan intelligence officers and – most importantly – reports that Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Pakistan not been well received. Here's how it's being reported by One India News:
Pak warns US against "new great game" in Afghanistan … According to one source, who was privy to the meeting between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the visiting US Vice President Joe Biden, Pakistan … rejected the US assertion that certain elements were operating from areas along the Pak-Afghan border, and stated that in fact, the opposite was true, as weapons and financial support were coming into Pakistan, thus adversely impacting the security situation of the country … Pakistan urged the US to look for a pragmatic solution instead of trading charges, it added. Islamabad also conveyed to the visiting US Vice-President Joe Biden that it suited Pakistan neither politically nor strategically to open up any new war front in North Waziristan Agency.
The above report seems to us an important one. Despite the many stories in the Western press about Pakistan readying an assault on Pashtun tribal lands in North Waziristan, the US has now been informed clearly that such an invasion will not take place. The Taliban will continue to return to their "safe-havens," where Americans cannot pursue. The war is a mess. NATO brass reports with wonder and some frustration that the Taliban itself remains a remarkably stable fighting force with about 20,000 irregular soldiers despite the many casualties that the Taliban has taken and the virtual decapitation of much of its in-the-field leadership.
Of course the numbers must be put in perspective. There are several hundred thousand Western troops fighting in Afghanistan (if one includes mercenaries, apparently) but there are 40 million Pashtuns, the tribespeople that have occupied their lands in Afghanistan and Pakistan for millennia. It is certainly possible that while the Pashtuns may field 20,000 Taliban, the actually depth of the fighting force is a good deal larger.
Here at the Bell, we have never endorsed the view that the US and NATO are in Afghanistan for "oil" or other resources. The British tried desperately to subdue Afghanistan a century ago and failed. Ironically, Afghanistan ended up with a defacto partition between the Pashtuns that fought the British to a halt and the rest of Afghanistan. This is exactly what is being proposed by some American conservative think-tanks today.
Yes, the war in Afghanistan is clearly an operation of the Anglo-American elites designed to finish what the British started so long ago. Until the Pashtuns are subdued, that rocky land cannot be sufficiently Westernized and the larger globalist plans of the Anglosphere remain difficult to implement. Afghanistan unconquered creates a kind of sociopolitical black hole; it destabilizes countries around it and the ripples spread all the way to Africa. It provides a model for resistance and preserves a culture that is distinctly different than Western regulatory democracy.
While the fighting grinds along without any definitive breakthroughs, NATO and the Americans have done what they can to Westernize the culture where they can. Women's rights have been supported and expanded with an almost cult-like enthusiasm, a central bank has been formed and is holding auctions (sparely attended) and a large effort is being made to build a civilian policing force and a military one. Along with this comes the infrastructure effort (see initial article excerpt) that is to provide a further civic backbone. Here is some more from the article:
"The strategy at the moment is to try and spend our way out of this war," said Bob Kitchen, the country director in Afghanistan for the nonprofit International Rescue Committee, which is involved in USAID programs. "We should be spending less and demanding more." At the beginning of the Obama administration, U.S. officials scrutinized ongoing programs in Afghanistan with major reforms in mind. Their conclusion: The George W. Bush administration had failed in Afghanistan because it was distracted by the war in Iraq.
There was too much reliance on private contractors, the officials decided. Much more money should go directly to the Afghan government and its people. They also wanted programs to be scrutinized more thoroughly to see whether they were working. "We've taken some dramatic steps to demand accountability and to create stronger policies moving forward," said Alex Thier, the director of the USAID's office of Afghanistan and Pakistan affairs.
More and more from our point of view, Afghanistan resembles Viet Nam. The Westernization efforts are taking hold only grudgingly, the enemy has safe havens to escape to and the population at large – while not especially affectionate toward the Taliban – probably prefers it to Western invaders. What may prove a final, insupportable failure is the ramped-up spending that McClatchy is reporting. It is evident from this story that the US and NATO officials have taken a page from the World Bank and begun running aid through Afghan government officials. This is an incredible turn of events given the acknowledged corruption within the government.
We've long argued that the expense of the war would finally put paid to its more expansive efforts. The Anglo-American elites have been desperately trying to re-ignite Western economies, to little avail. One of the reasons, we believe, is because Western populations struggling with a Greater Recession are becoming steadily more disapproving of a foreign adventure that has cost something like US$1 trillion and counting.
It is harder and harder to make a case to a weary and dismayed population that the Western way of life as managed by the Anglosphere ought to be spread around the world at the point of a gun. Given the rising disenchantment with the war (surveys show Americans are increasingly against it), the difficult economic environment and the ability of the Internet to present a more even-handed picture of what is actually occurring in Afghanistan, we wonder how long the hostilities can continue at this level.
Most troublingly for the Pentagon, the inevitable disengagement from Afghanistan will lead to considerable finger-pointing and even infighting. It is also likely that the Afghanistan post-mortem will spill over into a discussion of the West's larger military posture including 1,000 bases around the world and an intel-industrial complex that spans the world. WikiLeaks, no matter whether it is a controlled operation or not, has already begun to raise considerable questions in this regard and it is likely the conversation will only evolve. As is often the case in these tragic military ventures, it is not a tenacious enemy that will provide the final blow but the relentless economic ruin that accrues from unecessary hostilities.