Afghanistan finally made it back into the news today, and all it took was the escape of nearly five hundred Taliban fighters from the Kandahar prison. Kandahar, you'll recall, is that "former" Taliban stronghold where US troops and their Afghan allies have been doing so "well" lately.
A photograph in the New York Times shows a hole about three feet across, through which the nearly five hundred men escaped Monday night. Even if nobody happened to notice five months of construction to build the tunnel — complete with electric lighting and air vents — one wonders how so many prisoners managed to queue up and disappear down the rabbit hole without a guard or two wondering what was going on. Apparently all the Taliban fighters were held in some common area, not locked in individual cells. It seems, to me, at least, a very odd way to imprison presumably dangerous men.
Afghanistan, of course, is monumentally corrupt — and corruption certainly must have played a role in the great escape, just as it plays a role in everything else that has to do with US support for the Karzai government. For some reason, though, US officials, both military and diplomatic, refuse to accept that if you can't trust your "allies" — the people for whom you are spilling lots of blood and spending vast amounts of money — there is no chance of "victory."
Since the start of the Obama "surge," death rates for NATO troops and Afghan civilians have spiked. Parts of the country occupied at great cost suddenly lose their "strategic importance," and are abandoned to the Taliban as the troops that took them are withdrawn to fight in some new, "strategically important" area. Most Americans, tired of hearing more of the same news from Afghanistan over and over, have tuned out — but if you ask them, most say we should just pull out of the country and let the Afghans sort things out for themselves.
What keeps a poll-driven administration from recognizing the will of the people, declaring victory, and just getting the hell out?
One factor, of course, is the political power of the military contractors who are making fortunes producing all the crap we are flushing down the Afghan toilet. The other is General David Petreaus.
Petraeus has cleverly positioned himself as the heroic military genius who may never be criticized. Whatever his alleged skill in the field of anti-insurgency, his talent for self-promotion and public relations is unsurpassed. Whenever there is any sign of movement to end our involvement in Afghanistan, Petreaus takes to the media to tell us all how, thanks to his personal genius, victory is just around the corner.
Obama can't control him, so it seems the only way to get the US out of Afghanistan is to get Petreaus out first. An opportunity to do so may arise when the CIA Director's position falls vacant, giving the president an opportunity to "promote" the thorn in his side straight out of the military. I'm sure the general's anti-insurgency "expertise" will be just as "useful" at the spy agency as it has been on the battlefield.
Then, just maybe, command of the war in Afghanistan can be put in the hands of somebody willing to bring the troops home.