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A Contagion of Killing in Afghanistan

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Posted on Aug 29, 2012
USACEpublicaffairs (CC BY 2.0)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 4)

It’s a situation that isn’t likely to be rectified by quick fixes, including the eerily named Guardian Angel program (which leaves an armed American with the sole job of watching out for trigger-happy Afghans in exchanges with his compatriots), or better “vetting” of Afghan recruits, or putting Afghan counterintelligence officers in ever more units to watch over their own troops.

The question is: Why can’t our leaders in Washington and in the U.S. military stop “struggling” and see this for what it obviously is? Why can’t anyone in the mainstream media write about it as it obviously is?  After all, when almost 11 years after your arrival to “liberate” a country, orders are issued for every American soldier to carry a loaded weapon everywhere at all times, even on American bases, lest your allies blow you away, you should know that you’ve failed.  When you can’t train your allies to defend their own country without an armed guardian angel watching at all times, you should know that it’s long past time to leave a distant country of no strategic value to the United States.

As is now regularly noted, the incidents of green-on-blue violence are rising rapidly.  There have been 32 of them reported so far this year, with 40 American or coalition members killed, compared to 21 reported in all of 2011, killing 35.  The numbers have a chilling quality, a sense of contagion, to them.  They suggest that this may be an unraveling moment, and don’t think—though no one mentions this—that it couldn’t get far worse.

To date, such incidents are essentially the work of lone wolf attackers, in a few cases of two Afghans, and in a single case of three Afghans plotting together.  But no matter how many counterintelligence agents are slipped into the ranks or guardian angels appointed, don’t think there’s something magical about the numbers one, two, and three.  While there’s no way to foresee the future, there’s no reason not to believe that what one or two Afghans are already doing couldn’t in the end be done by four or five, by parts of squads, by small units.  With a spirit of contagion, of copycat killings with a  message, loose in the land, this could get far worse.

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One thing seems ever more likely.  If your plan is to stay and train a security force growing numbers of whom are focused on killing you, then you are, by definition, in an impossible situation and you should know that your days are numbered, that it’s not likely you’ll be there in 2020 or even maybe 2015.  When training your allies to stand up means training them to do you in, it’s long past time to go, whatever your plans may have been.  After all, the British had “plans” for Afghanistan, as did the Russians.  Little good it did them.

Imagine for a moment that you were in Kabul or Washington at the end of December 2001, after the Taliban had been crushed, after Osama bin Laden fled to Pakistan, and as the U.S. was moving into “liberated” Afghanistan for the long haul.  Imagine as well that someone claiming to be a seer made this prediction: almost 11 years from then, despite endless tens of billions of dollars spent on Afghan “reconstruction,” despite nearly $50 billion spent on “standing up” an Afghan security force that could defend the country, and with more than 700 bases built for U.S. troops and Afghan allies, local soldiers and police would be deserting in droves, the Taliban would be back in force, those being trained would be blowing their trainers away in record numbers, and by order of the Pentagon, an American soldier could not go to the bathroom unarmed on an American base for fear of being shot down by an Afghan “friend.”

You would, of course, have been considered a first-class idiot, if not a madman, and yet this is exactly the U.S. “hearts and minds” record in Afghanistan to date.  Welcomed in 2001, we are being shown the door in the worst possible way in 2012.  Washington is losing it.  It’s too late to exit gracefully, but exit in time we must.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses the historically unprecedented nature of green-on-blue violence, click here or download it to your iPod here.

[Note: To read previous TomDispatch posts on green-on-blue violence, check out Death-By-Ally and Blown Away.]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt

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