Afghanistan: Never-Ending War


News & Views

Staff & Wire Reports



In this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, a group of Afghan National Army soldiers watch others participate in a live fire exercise at the Afghan Military Academy, in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

In this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, a group of Afghan National Army soldiers watch others participate in a live fire exercise at the Afghan Military Academy, in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)


In this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, Afghan National Army teachers inspect the accuracy during a live fire exercise, at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)


In this Nov. 1, 2018, photo, Afghanistan's former president Hamid Karzai speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)


After 17 years, many Afghans blame US for unending war

By KATHY GANNON

Associated Press

Tuesday, November 13

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans.

The United States has lost more than 2,400 soldiers in its longest war, and has spent more than $900 billion on everything from military operations to the construction of roads, bridges and power plants. Three U.S. presidents have pledged to bring peace to Afghanistan, either by adding or withdrawing troops, by engaging the Taliban or shunning them. Last year, the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” on a cave complex.

None of it has worked. After years of frustration, Afghanistan is rife with conspiracy theories, including the idea that Americans didn’t stumble into a forever war, but planned one all along.

Mohammed Ismail Qasimyar, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, wonders how U.S. and NATO forces — which at their peak numbered 150,000 and fought alongside hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops, were unable to vanquish tens of thousands of Taliban.

“Either they did not want to or they could not do it,” he said. He now suspects the U.S. and its ally Pakistan deliberately sowed chaos in Afghanistan to justify the lingering presence of foreign forces — now numbering around 15,000 — in order to use the country as a listening post to monitor Iran, Russia and China.

“They have made a hell, not a paradise for us,” he said.

Afghanistan is rife with such conspiracy theories. After last month’s assassination of Kandahar’s powerful police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, social media exploded with pictures and posts suggesting he was the victim of a U.S. conspiracy. Recent insider attacks, in which Afghan forces have killed their erstwhile U.S. and NATO allies, have attracted online praise.

“In 2001 the Afghan people supported the arrival of the United States and the international community wholeheartedly,” said Hamid Karzai, who was installed as Afghanistan’s first president and twice won re-election, serving until 2014.

“For a number of years things worked perfectly well,” he said in a recent interview. “Then we saw the United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people and the conditions of the Afghans.”

He blames the lingering war on the U.S. failure to eliminate militant sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan, the bombing of Afghan villages and homes, and the detention of Afghans in raids.

Others blame the notoriously corrupt government, which Karzai headed for more than a decade, and which is widely seen as yet another bitter fruit of the American invasion.

“All the money that has come to this country has gone to the people in power. The poor people didn’t get anything,” said Hajji Akram, a day laborer in Kabul’s Old City who struggles to feed his family on around $4 a day. “The foreigners are not making things better. They should go.”

It’s not just Afghans. The United States’ own inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction offered a blistering critique in a speech in Ohio earlier this month.

John Sopko pointed out that the U.S. has spent $132 billion on Afghanistan’s reconstruction — more than was spent on Western Europe after World War II. Another $750 billion has been spent on U.S. military operations, and Washington has pledged $4 billion a year for Afghanistan’s security forces.

The result?

“Even after 17 years of U.S. and coalition effort and financial largesse, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest, least educated, and most corrupt countries in the world,” Sopko said. “It is also one of the most violent.”

Hamidullah Nasrat sells imported fabrics in the capital’s main bazaar on the banks of the Kabul River, a fetid trickle running through a garbage-filled trench. He remembers welcoming the overthrow of the Taliban, who had shut down his photography studio because it was deemed un-Islamic.

“After the Taliban we were expecting something good, but instead, day by day, it is getting worse,” he said. “How is it that a superpower like the United States cannot stop the Taliban? It is a question every Afghan is asking.”

The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014. Since then, the Taliban have carried out near-daily attacks on rural checkpoints and staged coordinated assaults on major cities. Authorities stopped publishing casualty figures earlier this year, deeming them classified. An Islamic State affiliate has meanwhile carried out massive bombings against the country’s Shiite minority.

Afghans who have recently served on the front lines complain of faulty equipment, inadequate supplies and reinforcements that show up late and ill-equipped, if at all.

Tameem Darvesh served in the Afghan army for nearly five years in the southern Helmand province. This year he went on holiday and never returned, trading his $180 monthly salary for work as a day laborer making much less. He said morale is at an all-time low, with many soldiers expressing sympathy for the Taliban.

Jawad Mohammadi served for more than seven years in the security forces until 2015, when he stepped on a land-mine he was tasked to clear and lost both his legs. He was just 25 years old.

He recalls how the foreign instructors told him to always check his mine detector by waving it over a piece of metal before heading out into the field. But whenever a device failed to respond, his Afghan commander would tell him to use it anyway.

“I was told that’s all we have. That’s what we were given, you just have to use it,” he said.

The next time he went out with a faulty device, his foot found a bomb the detector had missed.

“I felt myself being thrown through the air. I looked and I saw my legs were near me and there was so much blood. I yelled: ‘Please help me.’”

Associated Press writer Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

Why Holiday-Season Arguments with Relatives Are So Frustrating

Most of us think if everyone just knew the facts, they’d agree with us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

By Jill Richardson | November 14, 2018

The weather has turned cool and crisp (or so I’ve heard… I’m in California, where it’s hot out and everything’s on fire). We’ve entered the time of year when soon we’ll get together with our loved ones, share a traditional holiday meal, and bicker over politics.

There are two major fallacies that prevent Americans on both sides of the political aisle from understanding one another.

The first is the assumption: “If you knew what I knew, you would believe what I believe.”

I hear this on both sides: If the other side just knew what we knew. If they knew the planet was warming, if they knew about all the plastic in the Pacific Ocean, if they knew we’ve been working hard for decades and still haven’t gotten ahead…

Often a debate will focus on adjudicating the facts. What percentage of scientists believes in human-caused catastrophic climate change? Or what are the scientific arguments for and against genetically engineered crops?

The problem is that the debate, at its core, is often not over facts. The two sides have different values and different identities. Our values and our political positions tie us to the groups we identify with.

For one thing, our differing values will lead us to different positions no matter what the facts are.

If I value a multicultural American that welcomes immigrants from all over the world, and you believe America is a white nation and non-white immigrants are changing its character in an unacceptable way, we’re not going to agree about immigration. The facts won’t matter.

Each of us identifies with groups that share these values. Asking a Trump supporter to denounce Trump’s policies or Trump himself is also asking that person to give up a part of their identity. It’s asking them to give up their membership in a group.

The same can be said of membership in other groups, including Hillary or Bernie supporters. All people resist taking in facts that jeopardize our membership in groups we identify with.

The second false assumption is: “Because that never happened to me, it never happens.”

The truth is that we often have no idea how other people live in this country. This is particularly true of people who are members of dominant or more privileged groups: wealthy people, white people, men, heterosexuals, able-bodied people, and so on.

The effects of privilege are more obvious when you don’t have it. As a white woman, when I get pulled over by a cop, I’m bummed out, but not scared for my life. Usually I have an amicable exchange with the cop even if I get a warning or a ticket.

I might assume that all people are treated so respectfully by cops. I might think that if a person of color was shot by the police, he or she must have been doing something wrong. Surely, the police did not act improperly. I’ve never seen a cop act improperly.

It’s only when I accept that my life as a white woman in America tells me very little about what it means to be a person of color in America that I can begin listening and learning.

That willingness to listen and learn from one another is needed on all sides. Each of us can begin to accept that our experiences in this country aren’t universal, which is a much bigger step toward agreeing on the facts than just looking at the same data.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

PUCO encourages safe driving around motor carriers during the holidays

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

Ohio Public Utilities Commission

COLUMBUS, OHIO (Nov. 14, 2018) – During the winter holiday season, Ohio’s world-class transportation system will be heavily relied upon as travelers visit family and friends. Ohio ranks fifth as one of the most highly traveled states in the country, even as some areas receive up to 68 inches of snow annually.

As more motorists share the road with commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) offers these tips and a short video to help drivers understand and practice safe procedures around CMVs to ensure a safe and happy holiday travel season.

Pay attention. Pay attention to winter weather and road conditions, and avoid the temptation to drive too fast, tailgate or change lanes improperly, especially around large trucks or snowplows. And always remember, keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone or radio.

Stay visible. Large trucks have blind spots too. If you cannot see the truck driver or their mirrors, chances are he or she cannot see you either. Keep plenty of distance and try to stay off their passenger side.

Drive carefully. Drive carefully near large trucks, especially in hazardous weather conditions. They do not have the same maneuverability as smaller vehicles. Ensure that you can see the roof of the truck in your rear view mirror before changing lanes in front of them.

Be alert. Remember—you can only control your own driving. Be aware of other drivers, especially large trucks, and expect the unexpected. If something feels wrong, back off.

The PUCO is committed to improving road safety for Ohioans by ensuring the safe operation of CMVs in Ohio. Motor carrier companies that transport commerce and operate in Ohio must remain in compliance with all federal and state safety regulations that are administered by the PUCO, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The PUCO and the Ohio State Highway Patrol regularly perform thorough inspections of commercial vehicles and professional drivers to ensure Ohio’s highways remain safe for drivers.

For more information on motor carrier safety, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or visit the motor carrier industry section of www.PUCO.ohio.gov.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.

In this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, a group of Afghan National Army soldiers watch others participate in a live fire exercise at the Afghan Military Academy, in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121773426-fbc23e25908544dcbd631fba04a50e0f.jpgIn this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, a group of Afghan National Army soldiers watch others participate in a live fire exercise at the Afghan Military Academy, in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

In this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, Afghan National Army teachers inspect the accuracy during a live fire exercise, at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121773426-2321dec978a04eb793f3b5572ac4597e.jpgIn this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, Afghan National Army teachers inspect the accuracy during a live fire exercise, at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

In this Nov. 1, 2018, photo, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121773426-b94eee07ae52488aa96c5721c5ae5cb3.jpgIn this Nov. 1, 2018, photo, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
News & Views

Staff & Wire Reports