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Losing a disastrous war

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A string of developments in the past couple of weeks is revealing that the war in Afghanistan is going rather badly. In late December, NBC did a story on a leaked report prepared for CENTCOM commander David Petraeus which looked at the Afghan National Army and found it in a dismal state. I haven't found a copy yet, but the NBC reporters quoted from it:

'Nepotism, corruption, and absenteeism among ANA leaders makes success impossible. Change must come quickly.' Another line: 'If Afghan political leaders do not place competent people in charge, no amount of coalition support will suffice in the long term.' (link)

Meanwhile, the top American intelligence officer in Afghanistan, Maj-Gen Michael Flynn, has delivered a bombshell assessment of the war's progress in beating down the Taliban:

'Afghan Insurgency Can Sustain Itself Indefinitely,' Top U.S. Intel Chief Says
By Noah Shachtman - Wired.com

JANUARY 8 - The Taliban not only has the “momentum” after the most successful year in its campaign against the United States and the Kabul government. “The Afghan insurgency can sustain itself indefinitely,” according to a briefing from Major General Michael Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in the country. “The Taliban retains [the] required partnerships to sustain support, fuel legitimacy and bolster capacity.”

And if that isn’t enough, Flynn also warns that “time is running out” for the American-lead International Security Assistance Force. “Regional instability is rapidly increasing and getting worse,” the report says...

Flynn’s December 23rd presentation on the “State of the Insurgency : Trends, Intentions and Objectives” may be the gloomiest public assessment of the war yet. The “loosely organized” Taliban is “growing more cohesive” and “increasingly effective.” The insurgents now have their own “governors” installed in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. And the “strength and ability of [that] shadow governance increasing,” according to the presentation...

The presentation also cast doubt on some of the war’s stated central aims. The Obama administration has repeatedly said that additional troops are necessary to prevent a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan — which would then allow Al Qaeda to re-establish its safe haven there. According to interviews with detainees, however, the insurgents “view Al Qaeda as a handicap – a view that is increasingly prevalent.” The Taliban feel they have to “manage [the] relationship with AQ to avoid alienating Afghan population, but encourage support from [the] global jihad network.” ... (link)

And here's a rather shocking story that had no legs at all. I couldn't find a single reference to this development in the English world press. The UN's development news agency IRIN has the story:

More IDPs than previously thought - government

KABUL, Jan 4 (IRIN) - The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan is significantly higher than estimated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the government has said.

New Ministry of Refugees and Returnees (MoRR) figures from all 34 provinces indicate that 82,778 households (413,890 individuals) are currently internally displaced...

UNHCR estimates of 275,000 people displaced within Afghanistan are based on the findings of a National IDP Task Force which included UN agencies, government bodies and NGOs.

Many IDPs belong to caseloads dating back to 1998-2002: These IDPs are mainly in camps and settlements in the south and west.

Over one million people were reportedly internally displaced in 2002... (link)

By giving the figure of 1 million IDPs in 2002, the article gives the impression that the number of IDPs has declined since then, albeit not as dramatically as previously thought if the latest report is accurate. In fact, the number of IDPs appears to have dropped quite dramatically after 2002 and began rising a couple of years ago. In November 2007 there were 129,000 UNHCR-registered IDPs, though The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reckoned the true number to be closer to 300,000. A year ago the UNHCR was estimating there were 235,000 IDPs in total, somewhat lower than their current estimate of 275,000.

Finally, a deeply saddening testament to the evils of war:

Afghan women turning to suicide in greater numbers: report
By Murray Brewster

OTTAWA, Jan 6 (CP) - More Afghan women are choosing suicide to escape the violence and brutality of their daily lives, says a new human-rights report prepared by Canada's Foreign Affairs Department.

The 2008 annual assessment paints a grim picture of a country where violence against women and girls is common...

“Self-immolation is being used by increasing numbers of Afghan women to escape their dire circumstances, and women constitute the majority of Afghan suicides,” said the report, completed in November 2009.

The document was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The director of a burn unit at a hospital in the relatively peaceful province of Herat reported that in 2008 more than 80 women tried to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire, many of them in their early 20s... (link)

Note that the report was apparently not released publicly.

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