Feature

Afghanistan: Is the war unraveling?

Anti-American protests have spread across Afghanistan after copies of the Koran were burned in a pile of trash at Bagram Air Base.

“Afghanistan has become a fiercely inhospitable place for U.S. troops,” said Newsday in an editorial, and the past week has made it clearer than ever that we’ve “overstayed our welcome.’’ Furious anti-American protests have spread across Afghanistan, after several members of the U.S. military burned multiple copies of the Koran in a pile of trash at Bagram Air Base. President Obama quickly expressed his “deep regret” over the incident, but the violence continued to escalate. A member of the Afghan army gunned down two U.S. soldiers at a base in eastern Afghanistan. And at the highly guarded Interior Ministry in Kabul, an Afghan employee turned his gun on two American NATO advisers, killing them. Despite U.S. efforts at “sensitivity training,’’ said Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse in Salon.com, our troops keep displaying contempt for the people we’re supposedly helping. This year alone has brought revelations that a 12-soldier “kill team’’ was hunting civilians for sport, and a video of Marines urinating on dead Afghans. Now, with the burning of Korans endangering every American there, we may be witnessing “the final unraveling’’ of this ill-advised war of occupation.

The Koran burning was no mistake, said The Washington Times. The Korans had been removed from a prison library, where Afghan inmates were secretly communicating with each other by scrawling jihadist messages in the Islamic holy books’ margins. By apologizing, Obama “caved to the extremist view’’ and gave the Taliban another victory. Obama’s policy to ease out of Afghanistan is “in deep disarray,’’ said Walter Russell Mead in TheAmericanInterest.com. By announcing that most U.S. forces will be withdrawn by 2014, Obama essentially told the Taliban that the U.S. is “on the brink of psychological if not military defeat.” The least-bad option left is to “rescind the commitment to withdraw and hunker down for an indefinite stay,” making it clear to our enemies that the U.S. won’t fold under pressure.

Why stay where we’re not wanted? said Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com. The rage displayed over the past week reflects the justified grievances of a people we’ve treated like pawns in a game of geopolitical chess. Imagine the American reaction if a Muslim army occupied the U.S. for 10 years, repeatedly killed women and children in airstrikes, and “burned American flags—or a stack of Bibles—in a garbage dump.’’ Afghans are now sending a simple message to the U.S.: Get out of our country. Since this administration lacks the will to destroy the Taliban, said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com, “we should leave—now.’’ People who consider a book more sacred than human life really aren’t worth fighting for.

Despite our war weariness, said The Washington Post, we can’t just abandon Afghanistan to Islamic extremists. “The only secure and honorable means of exit is to finish the work of creating an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country.” But for that strategy to succeed, said Sami Yousafzai in TheDailyBeast.com, American troops need to trust their Afghan partners. Over the last year, at least 36 U.S. and NATO soldiers have been killed by Afghans in police or army uniforms. As the U.S. hands control over to the Afghans, our soldiers can’t afford to worry about the loyalty of the men they’re training how to fight. “In the months ahead, repairing that tattered sense of trust may prove even tougher than the fight against the Taliban.”

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