"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


July 1, 2010

Enough is enough.  The longest war in American history has also become the most absurd.  It's time to bring it to an end by negotiating a settlement with the more moderate Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

There are many arguments for this position, but the most obvious was suggested this week by Robert Baer, who used to work for the CIA.  Writing for Time magazine, he called attention to a congressional report released on June 22 that says the U.S. is paying $2.16 billion a year to protect the truck convoys supplying American troops in Afghanistan.

Paying a "protection racket," to use the report's language, is always a dubious proposition.  In this case a significant fraction of the payments are winding up in the hands of the Taliban, who use the money for their own ends.  Americans are feeding the hand that bites them.  Wait a minute—there's something wrong with that metaphor... Anyway, in Baer's words, "we're paying for the bullets and bombs that kill our own soldiers."

The 85-page report, entitled Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Across the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan and prepared by the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by John F. Tierney (D-MA 6th), has been posted on the web by CBS News.  To read it, as Baer says, is to realize "just how little ground we control in Afghanistan.  For lack of troops and an absence of Afghan government authority, we've had no choice but to outsource security for 70% of our logistic lines to Afghans we know almost nothing about."

Baer says that "[w]hat's just as amazing is that the Administration understands the problem and has done nothing to correct it."  Actually, U.S. forces have little choice.  The logistical problems foreign troops face in land-locked Afghanistan are daunting.  "Everything the military needs—fuel, food, ammunition—must come by air or over land" (Sunday Times of London, December 13, 2009).

So the more the U.S. fights the Taliban, the more resources the Taliban have at their disposal to fight back.  It seems that the irresistable force has met the unmoveable object—unless, of course, the U.S. would like to engage in genocide. That's the way the ancient Romans took care of Carthage.  At least Carthage was somewhere in the vicinity of Rome.

It's true that U.S. forces have another supply route into Afghanistan: Kyrgyzstan.  Too bad that that country seems to be in the process of disintegrating.

Baer concludes his discussion:  "Another reason this congressional report is worth reading is that it gives us a glimmer of just how blind we are in Afghanistan.  American military contracting officials haven't met the Afghan warlords protecting our convoys because they don't feel safe enough to get off base.  Which leads to another question:  If we know so little about the Afghans we outsource our supply lines to, supposedly our allies in the conflict, how much do we really know about the Taliban?"

Enough is enough.  Let's negotiate a settlement with the more moderate Taliban groups and start bringing U.S. troops home.  It's time to begin concluding the longest war in American history.



"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."