A Brief History of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - Politics - Utne Reader
U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. Testimony by Stephen D. Biddle. February 12, Download PDF. Testimony: Testimony by CFR fellows and experts. It's Complicated: The Relationship Between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and and formed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or key Taliban. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have a long and complicated history that must be told in order to better understand the sacrifices of our volunteer army.
Secondly, the Afghan government does not have a unified stance vis-a-vis peace talks with the Taliban. There are and have been internal elements within the Afghan government that oppose negotiations with the Taliban, and residual factional and tribal rivalries between senior officials intentionally ruin efforts by the government to reach a political settlement.
Ordinary Afghan villagers will also have an impact on peace talks. Villagers, sick of the corrupt and weak local governance favored the Taliban over the government in Kabul, but joined the militancy as a last alternative. Due to providing safe-sanctuary, Pakistan certainly has leverage to initiate the negotiation process but there are no indications that the Afghan Taliban will listen to Pakistan. Internal and political stability of the Afghan Taliban is contingent upon not negotiating.
In the meantime, by conditioning the success of peace talks on a commitment from Pakistan, the Afghan government is putting all its eggs in one basket. Afghanistan instead should also do its homework and undertake confidence-building measures to gain the trust of its people, address local grievances, and provide better living and governance to ensure an end to the Afghan Taliban.
Ahmad Nadeem Hekmatullah Azamy is research analyst at the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies CAPSa Kabul-based independent and policy-oriented think-tank, where he conducts research on peace, security, and development studies. These views are his own. Kazakhstan has an embassy in Kabul.
Afghanistan has an embassy in Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan has an embassy in Kabul. Afghanistan began diplomatic ties with Pakistan inwhen Pakistan became an independent state after the Partition of India. Controversies involving these areas date back to the establishment of the Durand Line border in which divided the Pashtun and Baloch tribes.
Although shown on most maps as the western international border of Pakistan, it is unrecognized by Afghanistan. The April Marxist revolution further strained relations between the two states.
In addition, the Pakistani government is already reaching out to China and Iran in search of new allies. There are many centers of power in Pakistan, which are often difficult to fathom or to criticize without creating diplomatic strains. General Kayani, who is the most powerful figure in Pakistan and has led the army sinceis now fighting to save his position and to respond to the outrage among the XI Corps commanders who are demanding that he get tougher with the United States.
It arrested more than thirty Pakistani informants who had helped the CIA in tracking bin Laden and ordered US military trainers to leave the country as a way to express its anger over the US operation. Both leaders want to end CIA drone attacks against militants in tribal areas.
The anger and disillusionment in the Pakistani army stem from the fact that the Obama administration decided against informing Pakistan in advance about the bin Laden raid.
Thus Pakistan was unable to detect or stop it. That bin Laden was living in Pakistan caused little outrage in a country that is more sympathetic to al Qaeda than to the United States. Yet other events caused the United States to reevaluate its support of Pakistan. This caused suspicion that such intelligence was being shared with the insurgents. That move, it is hoped, will cause the Pakistani army to fight militants more effectively.
It is indicative of the seriousness of the debate raging within the Obama administration over how to change the behavior of one of its key counterterrorism partners. In addition, Pakistan offers several strategic advantages, such as access to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf and the opportunity to be engaged in pipeline projects transiting to the ocean through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It also serves as a counterweight to the neighboring powers of India, China, and Russia. American policy needs and its ongoing differences with the Pakistan military have resulted in a very trying situation for US soldiers on the ground.
They are dealing with the Taliban, an organization that is widespread and unseen. Again, there are no clear perimeters or a front line for the fighting. As in Iraq, the battle is nowhere and everywhere.
Like JAM in Iraq, the Taliban is an underground government of local fighters who have established a civilian administration to complement their fighting activity.
- U.S. Department of State
- A Brief History of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
- It’s Complicated: The Relationship Between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban
They run schools, collect taxes, and adjudicate civil disputes in Islamic courts. Their combat is aided by intelligence and support networks that include villagers who inform them and provide shelter in tunnels where they can elude capture and receive medical care.
The members of the Taliban are able to disappear by slipping away in canals or village alleys. And their supporters give false information to US troops. Suicide bombers infiltrate seemingly secure areas, exploding their mortar shells that can strike soldiers that are sleeping, standing in a shower, jogging around an airfield, or at meetings—all moments when soldiers are not wearing their sixty-pound protective gear.
Local civilians who help Afghan and American troops are identified and assassinated by the Taliban, which operates a vast spy network. Taliban fighters harass Afghan and American forces and lead a campaign of intimidation against residents who cooperate with or even acknowledge the Kabul government. Dressing as civilians, they engage in ambushes, set up IEDs, and conduct mortar attacks. Often wearing the uniforms of Afghan soldiers or police, they blow up buildings housing members of the Afghan government and Allied forces.
Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited some of these schools, including those that Greg Mortenson has been building throughout the country, and voiced support for his work. It sought to combine efforts to provide security, create small reconstruction projects, and help Afghan government officers build schools and health clinics and create jobs.
To make matters even more difficult, President Karzai has been pursuing conflicting policies from the United States, and this led to tensions between the two countries. On the one hand, he supports US efforts to train the Afghan army and police, while on the other, he has opened secret negotiations with the Taliban. There are two views of the war, the one in Washington, where policy is made; and the one on the ground in the crucial provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, where many US soldiers would prefer a quick withdrawal because they find that the Taliban continually retakes areas they have cleared.
Thus, the war is one of conflicting stories one hears from the head of the US forces—General Petraeus—or a soldier crouching in a ditch outside a village.
Category:Afghanistan–Iraq relations - Wikipedia
As usual, the governments of the Coalition forces only talk about policy, the big picture of the Afghan war, not the travails that soldiers face in combat and that make the war so difficult to pursue. In JuneUS forces suffered their biggest toll in three years. Because of the security agreements between Iraq and the United States, American forces are restricted in their ability to act on their own to confront security threats. This creates a high level of anger and anxiety among the US troops who find themselves under attack but are unable to respond.
They are also reluctant to target Shiite militias since they are linked to officials in the Shiite-dominated government. To make matters worse, the flow of arms from Iran to Iraq has increased along with Iranian influence. Weapons smuggled from Iran are being used against American troops by Shiite militias.
Foreign relations of Afghanistan
Those discussions are focused on the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces and on domestic political considerations in Washington and Baghdad, and not on the safety of US troops.
Although the intention of the United States was to help create a democratic government in Iraq, power is rigidly contested on sectarian lines, a situation the de-Baathification policy helped to create.
The unequal response by Iraqi security forces to threats from Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups is a legacy of the sectarianism that the US invasion unleashed. Deadlock occurs frequently with each community unwilling to compromise. Many Iraqis believe that the de-Baathification policy and disbanding the entire military in Iraq helped fuel the insurgency that pushed the country into sectarian conflict.
Eight years after the United States—led invasion, there were still bombings and assassinations in Iraq almost every day. Yet almost everyone in Iraq regarded the United States as the arbiter even though Iraqi politicians ritually objected to its intervention, especially when it did not reflect their individual interests.
The continuing US presence created a very complex and often-contradictory situation. Special Operations Forces were sent there inbut their mission is top secret. Until they are finally withdrawn, they will still face an enemy, need to defend themselves, and continue to suffer casualties.
In Augustthe powerful Shiite, anti-American cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr threatened to have his thousands of followers attack any United States troops that stayed past the December 31,withdrawal deadline.
Worried about a potential backlash, Iraqi officials once tried to characterize American soldiers who would remain as trainers of the Iraqi military, not as combat troops. But American servicemen and servicewomen not only are involved in training but they also assist in Iraqi counterterrorism operations. While security is improving, attacks against US service personnel are still common. June was one of the bloodiest months for the US military over the past two years.
August 15,proved even worse, as forty-two coordinated attacks occurred across Iraq against civilians, security forces, and US soldiers. These widespread attacks compared with an average of fourteen attacks daily during this year and suggested that the Sunni insurgents, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, were growing in power.
The attacks occurred two weeks after the Iraqi government agreed to negotiate with the United States about the possibility of maintaining some troops in Iraq after the end of the year. A professor of political science at Baghdad University declared that the Iraqi security forces were more loyal to al Qaeda and to the Shiite militias than to the Iraqi government, and that the Iraqi army was not capable of protecting the country.
The United States will be leaving behind a country that does not have a representative government and is caught in the throes of a civil war. In addition, Iraq has aligned itself with Iran and Syria despite the uprising in Syria that has turned many Arab countries against it. Under these conditions, keeping a reduced number of American troops in Iraq does not bode well for Iraqi security. The decision was an unstated acknowledgement that the Iraqi government refused to agree to a key US condition for leaving American troops behind: The United States is also scaling back diplomacy in Iraq because of fiscal concerns.
For example, the State Department had a plan for contract workers for a police training effort; now the figure is close to There will now be ten Offices of Security Cooperation to manage the sale of weapons and training instead of the planned fifteen.
These results reflect the lack of interest in a Congress that is consumed with domestic issues. Even so, the war in Iraq will be a subject of contention in the United States for many years to come. Drawdown in Afghanistan In JulyPresident Obama announced that he would bring home thirty-three thousand troops from Afghanistan by September and withdraw the remaining sixty-eight thousand by the end of However, military leaders, including General Petraeus and retired admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly stated that they would prefer a slower withdrawal.
General Petraeus was the leading champion of a counterinsurgency strategy requiring a large number of troops. But much as in Iraq, the Afghan government appears unprepared to protect Afghanistan.
During the week that was supposed to be the beginning of a transition to Afghan control, Kabul, which was supposed to be one of the safest cities and was scheduled to be the first to carry out the transfer, became the scene of mayhem.
Many of the guests were provincial officials who had come to Kabul for a conference on transition. When the shooting started, instead of facing up the attackers, the police ran away from the gunmen and urged others to flee. How can they protect a whole country? It occurred in a valley crossing two provinces, Logar and Wardak, that are gateways to the capital, Kabul, and were liberated in the early years of the war.
This represented the greatest loss of American lives in a single day of the war. The Chinook attack demonstrated that the insurgents could entrench themselves anywhere they wished and that the Afghan government was weak, absent, and hated for its corruption.
In these areas, the Taliban cooperate with the Haqqani and other criminal networks. In these provinces, there is little expectation of the American and Afghan forces gaining the upper hand in the near future. For twenty hours the insurgents rained RPGs and small-arms fire. Suicide bombers gained access to buildings and were aiming for Afghan and Coalition soldiers. Political life in Afghanistan is conducted in ways that keep changing and are less than harmonious. For example, members of the Afghan parliament came to blows on July 7,as a majority began to discuss impeaching President Hamid Karzai, bringing the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
That court effectively stopped the normal workings of government for nine months. NATO insists publicly that Afghanistan is a viable democracy in formation; Western diplomats have remained silent.
He served as the center of the security and power structures in southern Afghanistan, and his death created a vacuum of authority in the important Pashtun region, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
According to Ahmed Rashid, who knew him personally, the death of Ahmed Wali Karzai meant that three critical efforts were at risk, the war against the Taliban, the drawing down of US troops, and the US efforts to negotiate with the Taliban and forge a peace agreement.
He helped US forces with strategic advice and his knowledge of the tribes, and he ran a clandestine Afghan special operations team for the CIA.
He was also the first prominent Afghan leader to start talks with the Taliban to attempt ending the war. Soon after, the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was also killed outside his office when a bomber blew himself up. It was a great loss for Kandahar because Ghulam Haider Hamidi had dreams of improving his city, hoping to help create excellent schools equipped with computers, housing developments, and well-regulated shops and parks.
Even though he lived through a bombing attack by the Taliban inhe felt that they were only half of the problem. He intended to try to eliminate the vast corruption at the heart of the Afghan government, including the entrepreneurs who won city contracts for lighting, produced inferior goods, and lined their pockets with the profits.
He had gone after the local power brokers who demanded their share of the opium trade, the military contracts, and the building projects. He wanted to expand the road from the city to the airport and install solar lighting. The Afghan government itself is not secure. This assassination may be the most significant of the war.
The seventy-member High Peace Council that had representatives of many different views was reaching out to senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan and attempting to persuade low-level Taliban leaders to join the government.
Rabbani traveled all over the country, establishing reconciliation councils in every province and even in neighboring countries. The United States has also made contact with the Taliban, hoping to gain momentum in the peace process. It has concluded that without strong Afghan involvement, peace will not be possible. This action will hamper the ability of the Afghan government to stay in power after the US withdrawal in In late Septemberthe chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces, Mike Mullen, went public, addressing the Senate and criticizing Pakistan as a difficult ally.
He stated what the US government has known for years, that the Pakistan army and the ISI had been shielding Osama bin Laden for at least five years and that they have long-standing ties with the Haqqani.
Thus US servicemen and servicewomen may be fighting in Afghanistan, but they are dealing with the involvement of other countries and with shifting political policies, as well as trying to gain the trust of village elders.
The village shura, or council, is caught between the Taliban and its own wish for economic aid from Kabul. They are running hospitals where Afghan children who were injured by IEDs are cared for, while they simultaneously fight the Taliban, the Haqqani, al Qaeda, and the Lashkar.
But talk among military officers has now turned from establishing a democratic Afghanistan to achieving a more practical and limited goal. Tactically, this means that US military units along the border with Pakistan, where the Haqqani cross unseen, are fighting these insurgents, and it is also placing more Afghan soldiers and police officers into contested areas.
These units jointly are also trying to prevent the attacks that have reached Kabul and prominent targets. A lieutenant colonel who commands a battalion used two companies to cordon off Charbaran Valley, one of the main routes used by the Haqqani to enter Afghanistan, and another to sweep the villages in order to prevent a spectacular attack in Kabul and gather intelligence as well.
But the valley, which fell silent after the insurgents managed only a small attack from outside the cordon, remained out of government hands as the company reached the other side.
What complicates the work of our service personnel even more are the ongoing rocket, mortar, and artillery attacks on forward operating bases positioned on the border with Pakistan in Paktika Province that have occurred since Maywhen a Navy SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden.
The attacks occur from insurgent positions just inside Afghanistan, as close as two hundred yards from the border, where rocket crews fire and then rush to Pakistan. US officers and soldiers know that the Pakistani military positions are less than a mile from insurgent firing positions and are certain that the Pakistan military is involved. They are frustrated and angry because they are limited in their ability to respond because of diplomatic relations between the United States and Pakistan.
When receiving fire from Pakistan, they are permitted to return far fewer high-explosive rounds. Attack helicopters and aircraft are less likely to fire ordinance the closer their position is to the border, even if it is on the Afghan side. Here again, US government policies must be continually reevaluated given the differences between the Afghan political system, Pakistan, and the United States, and the heroic efforts of American soldiers on the ground.
Over the course of ten years, the United States has lost 1, service members, and an additional 14, service members have been wounded. American audiences are suffering from war fatigue, and deep cuts in budgets by the media affect the way the war is covered in this country.
It is only in the past two or three years that the New York Times has begun publishing stories about returning veterans, although PBS has always ended its NewsHour program on a weekly basis with the names of the dead soldiers scrolling silently on the television screen.
A soldier returned to the United States with a member of his unit who had tuberculosis. When he was stationed at Abu Ghraib, tuberculosis broke out in the prison and infected a number of other soldiers. The higher management of the camp wanted to sweep it all under the rug.
The several insurgent groups besides al Qaeda that operate in Iraq are rarely mentioned in the press. Nor has the experience of soldiers who have seen their comrades blown to bits or who have piled dead and mangled bodies in their trucks. I just wanted to see some humanity in the news coverage. Our soldiers were no longer just statistics, and we could learn what was really happening in combat.
It’s Complicated: The Relationship Between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban – Foreign Policy
It included two full pages with the photos of soldiers who were killed in action in Afghanistan, with biographical information about these and other American casualties. The article included a color photo of an army helicopter arriving to evacuate soldiers wounded after their armored vehicle hit an IED in the Tangi Valley, Wardak Province.
It was both gruesome and heartbreaking. For the first time, a photo of six soldiers carrying a coffin of one of their buddies also appeared. There was also a video, accessible online, with interviews with the captain and other soldiers. It was a dramatic change in news reporting.Former Iraqi Afghan translators in Cville
Under the Bush administration, the display of photos showing coffins returning from the war in Iraq was prohibited. Journalists and newspaper editors were told that showing such photos would undermine the war effort and put the nation at risk. The media were thus used for political and social framing. And this is how a distance was created between our troops who were waging the war and the population at home.
The headlines were brief and far from the reality that soldiers witnessed and experienced driving in a Humvee, seeing their comrades with burns and multiple amputations.
They traveled in regulated transports that brought them only to carefully selected scenes, and they sent back images and narratives of particular action.