Just what have we accomplished?

Are we really sacrificing our liberties, and those of much of the rest of the world, and ignoring almost all domestic problems, to virtually no effect in the "war on terrorism?" Say it ain't so!

In the past six months, virtually any allied operation in Afghanistan has, upon examination, turned out to look about as farcical as the next.

Brigadier Lane complains that the [Al-Qaida/Taliban] are "not showing a predisposition to reorganize and regroup to mount offensive operations against us". They just won't come out to play. Well, would you if the place was crawling with some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world? Far better to lie low and look after your goats, or visit some relatives over the border in Miram Shah in Pakistan's Waziristan, and brush up your Koranic chanting. [JAW---I know, the phrasing betrays a certain British cultural sarcasm at the very least]

Any [Al-Qaida/Taliban] strategist can rely on the fact that their commitment and patience will comfortably outstrip that of the western soldiers currently trudging up and down the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, like any terrorist organization, doesn't need a base in Afghanistan to launch its attacks, while the Taliban can sit tight, quietly recruiting and regrouping, before re-emerging in Afghan politics. It's an ignominious ending to the triumphalism of the fall of Kabul just over six months ago.

Afghanistan offered the perfect solution to September 11 - a massive expiation of US anger and, more subtly, guilt. Dropping all those bombs felt doubly good: it was retaliation for a terrible crime, but also getting rid of an evil regime. The emotional rush was everything; whether the latter actually worked has fallen off most people's radar screen. They're not interested. The selective memory means that what is remembered is that a few women in Kabul threw off their burkas in November, not that many more women in northern Afghanistan have been raped since then in a wave of ethnic revenge against the Pashtun. Nor is anyone much interested that since the fall of the Taliban, the old lawlessness of highway looting and illegal road tolls has re-emerged. Or that in the past few months there have been at least two major conflicts between warlords - in Mazar-i-Sharif and in Gardez - as an uneasy truce awaits the results of next month's loya jirga.

But maybe we can do better in Iraq, North Korea, the Phillipines, and all the other evil hotspots we still have to straighten-out.

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Published on May 20, 2002 6:30 PM.

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