The American Midterm Election -- in Afghanistan
by Ann Jones
Afghanistan still awaits final results from the nationwide election held last month to fill the 249 seats of the lower house of parliament. Deciding which of the more than 2,500 candidates won takes time because the Electoral Complaints Commission that investigates voting irregularities, made up of five men handpicked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was swamped by more than 4,200 complaints. Last year, when Karzai himself ran for reelection, he busied himself with backroom deals, while his supporters were caught red-handed stuffing ballot boxes and having a good laugh. Every Afghan knew that the president who had been foisted on them by foreigners in 2001 was stealing the election. Yet the international community, led by the United States, proclaimed the process if not exactly “free and fair,” at least “credible” — which is to say: Hey, what’s a little fraud among friends? With that experience so fresh in memory, the current Electoral Complaints […]
How Permanent Are America’s Afghan Bases?
by Nick Turse
Some go by names steeped in military tradition like Leatherneck and Geronimo. Many sound fake-tough, like Ramrod, Lightning, Cobra, and Wolverine. Some display a local flavor, like Orgun-E, Howz-e-Madad, and Kunduz. All, however, have one thing in common: they are U.S. and allied forward operating bases, also known as FOBs. They are part of a base-building surge that has left the countryside of Afghanistan dotted with military posts, themselves expanding all the time, despite the drawdown of forces promised by President Obama beginning in July 2011. The U.S. military does not count the exact number of FOBs it has built in Afghanistan, but forward operating bases and other facilities of similar or smaller size make up the bulk of U.S. outposts there. Of the hundreds of U.S. bases in the country, according to Gary Younger, a U.S. public affairs officer with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 77% house units of battalion size (approximately 500 to 1,000 […]
How Old Will You Be When the American War State Goes Down?
by Tom Engelhardt
When you look at me, you can’t mistake the fact that I’m of a certain age. But just for a moment, think of me as nine years old. You could even say that I celebrated my ninth birthday last week, without cake, candles, presents, or certainly joy. I’ve had two mobilized moments in my life. The first was in the Vietnam War years; the second, the one that leaves me as a nine-year-old, began on the morning of September 11, 2001. I turned on the TV while doing my morning exercises, saw a smoking hole in a World Trade Center tower, and thought that, as in 1945 when a B-25 slammed into the Empire State Building, a terrible accident had happened. Later, after the drums of war had begun to beat, after the first headlines had screamed their World-War-II-style messages (“the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century”), I had another thought. And for a reasonably […]
Lost in the Desert with the GPS on the Fritz
by Andrew Bacevich
In January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s charge to a newly-appointed commanding general was simplicity itself: “give us victories.” President Barack Obama’s tacit charge to his generals amounts to this: give us conditions permitting a dignified withdrawal. A pithy quote in Bob Woodward’s new book captures the essence of an emerging Obama Doctrine: “hand it off and get out.” Getting into a war is generally a piece of cake. Getting out tends to be another matter altogether — especially when the commander-in-chief and his commanders in the field disagree on the advisability of doing so. Happy Anniversary, America. Nine years ago today — on October 7, 2001 — a series of U.S. air strikes against targets across Afghanistan launched the opening campaign of what has since become the nation’s longest war. Three thousand two hundred and eighty five days later the fight to determine Afghanistan’s future continues. At least in part, […]