Over the weekend, President Barack Obama conducted a lengthy interview with the New York Times. Among the topics discussed was Afghanistan. Last month, Obama announced that 17,000 U.S. soldiers would be sent to the country.
However, in interview, Obama admitted that the U.S. is not winning the war in Afghanistan:
“Asked if the United States was winning in Afghanistan, a war he effectively adopted as his own last month by ordering an additional 17,000 troops sent there, Mr. Obama replied flatly, ‘No.'”
Obama then talked about the “success” of the “Surge” in Iraq and argued that a similar strategy–increasing the number of troops and engaging moderate elements of the Afghan insurgency–might have similar success in Afghanistan, but he admitted that the chances for success are largely unknown.
Obama was also silent on the larger question of what “success” means in Afghanistan and the ultimate goals of the U.S. war.
A Grassroots Activist from Afghanistan Speaks on the War
In dramatic contrast to Obama’s plans are the views of many in Afghanistan who object outright to the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in the country or are becoming frustrated by the continued violence in the country.
On Monday’s edition of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman spoke with Afghan activist Rangina Hamidi who expressed opposition to the war. Hamidi discussed a number of issues, from Obama’s plan to escalate the war to the media’s coverage of military casualties over Afghan casualties. While she certainly can’t speak for all Afghans, it’s striking is how much her views differed from Obama.
On the escalation, Hamidi said:
“America needs to better focus on its strategy about what they’re doing here and, you know, what they want to accomplish in Afghanistan. Merely sending more troops will not solve the problem.”
“My personal recommendation, and that of many Afghans, is that the strategy about going forward with this war needs to change, for one, with a heavy focus and a critical focus on development. Afghanistan remains, after seven years or eight years of the international community’s involvement, to be a very severely undeveloped nation, with poverty still on the rise and corruption still very much as part of an integral part of the current government that we have.”
On the exclusion of ordinary Afghans from the political process:
“And it’s interesting, because if you ask, again, ordinary Afghans–there’s a difference between ordinary Afghans and then Afghans who have been involved very brutally in the destruction of Afghanistan–many Afghans will say that they did not want any of the warlords, the drug lords, the people who destroyed Afghanistan since the late ’70s, to be involved in the government, but yet the reality and the fact of the matter is–and this is what the world needs to know–that every single thug responsible for the destruction is now in some power position within the government of my country. They’re either ministers or advisers or in the senate or in the parliament or, on a local level, governors of provinces.”
On U.S. strategy in the country:
“You know, I would like America to clearly state what it wants to achieve in Afghanistan, for how long it wants to be here. You know, when you compare it to Iraq, there is now a clear goal of when America wants to leave, and they’re already pulling out troops, and, you know, the Iraqis now have a feeling that America will eventually leave. For Afghanistan, we still have no idea. Is this going to be an indefinite war? Is this going to be an indefinite presence in Afghanistan? And if it is, we would like to know. I think Afghans have the right to information, and that information is our right to know. And I think America owes that responsibility to tell us what they’re doing here, how long they’re going to be here, and what its strategy is in addressing the situation.”
Poll Indicates Growing Afghan Opposition
In February, a poll conducted by the BBC and ABC News, 77% of those surveyed were against the use of U.S. and foreign air strikes that are killing an increasing number of civilians. Similarly, less than half hold a favorable view of the U.S. presence.