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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 30th, 2006 - 00:29:12

How about �cut and walk� instead of �cut and run�?
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 30, 2006, 00:26

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One more month and my good friend Mingo will be giving birth to his first novel since returning from Afghanistan eight months ago. A full pregnancy for that first true-to-life novel where fiction will only play a secondary role . . . a minor subordinate part; just enough, he tells me, to keep himself out of trouble and give the story added luster. I certainly look forward to reading his first Pashtun epic.

Last January, Mingo gave me a preview of coming attractions, predictions as to how things might be turning out with the Taliban. By late spring, he forecasted, they�ll start making their presence known . . . and little by little they�ll keep on getting stronger aided, for the most part, by the people�s discontent with a government cadre who have the mindset that safety and security can only be had by dispensing favor to the devil himself. Also, he added, that corruption would be running rampant, with no measurable economic improvement for 90 percent of the population.

As of last week, his contacts in Kabul, Herat and Kandahar -- who have kept him well informed of the situation there -- are of one mind: things are not getting better for Karzai, no matter how accommodating he tries to be; and the prognosis for the government in most provinces is quite different from what is being written and broadcast in the Western media. Contrary to the information now being fed by the US-led coalition�s military brass, or those who speak for Karzai, it might take only a year, maybe two, before the Taliban assumes once again the reins of Afghanistan; or, submerges the nation into another civil war with devastating consequences.

And what about this Afghan Army that Americans have been training for four years? It�s likely to disappear overnight as individual soldiers, even entire units, desert to join the Taliban. Gen. Eikenberry, I�m told, has no better prospects for success in this rugged mountainous nation than his Soviet counterpart, Gen. Pavel Grachev, did in the '80s; or, for that matter, than Gen. Westmoreland did in Vietnam during the crucial 1964-8 period. No military taskmaster, regardless of personal genius or creditable resume, can deal effectively with the complexities involved in a contrasting culture and the diverse and conflicting needs of the ruggedly independent, and individualistic, Afghan people.

An interesting anecdotal commentary on the subject, now making the rounds among the more educated Afghans, is that America is always a culture, or a war, behind the times. They point to the current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, as a Russian speaker with background in Slavic Studies, heading diplomacy in a world where the US is facing a three-prong confrontation with Arab-Muslim peoples, Latin America and China. A great articulator of gobbledygook, they say, but someone who appears clueless to the problems America faces internationally; or, if knowledgeable, she proves incompetent in providing remedial feedback to her �feather-light� boss, by not showing him the fallibility in the planning and execution of his foreign policy. So why should they -- Afghans -- be surprised if they get a political-military expert (Eikenberry) running the show who speaks Mandarin and has a background in Far East Studies? The punch line probably sounds better in Dari than it does in English, but the message is unequivocally there.

But the unpopularity of the government, and the coalition forces that keeps it in power, does not originate solely from unrealized expectations. What appears as unforgivable to the Afghan people, perhaps more so than anything else, is the indifference in which they are treated, and the whitewashing of misdeeds by the occupiers. Although Karzai has been vocal demanding accountability for the coalition�s behavior, particularly on key incidents where Afghan lives were presumed lost at the hands of Americans, the lack of credible resolution has rendered him just another puppet head of state. His strength and resolve, Afghans say, start and finish in his vocal chords -- whatever the Pashtun saying for �all talk, no show.�

Communism, whatever the reasons, never had a chance to coagulate in Afghanistan. (US help to the Mujahideen, Osama bin Laden among them, is at the top of the list.) And democracy, for many of the same reasons, is not likely to sprout and take root . . . at least not quite yet. On that note, Americans may just wish to do what the Soviets did in 1988 . . . not �cut and run,� that to many implies cowardice and defeat; but rather �cut and walk,� which implies maturity in the realization that a mistake has been made, and that it�s time to cut your losses. It took the Russians nine months to effect the pull out, capping a war that had lasted almost a decade.

America cannot prop up a government that is to its liking, not in Afghanistan and not in Iraq, just so that it can show the world its invincibility . . . for that myth burst long ago, one recalls, in the jungles of Vietnam. And Americans cannot just say, not with a straight face, that they are doing it for freedom and democracy, or for the people who inhabit those lands. Fewer and fewer Americans continue believing that.

The sooner America �cuts and walks,� the better its chances that it won�t have to �cut and run� later; something it was forced to do in Vietnam. And if the nation�s chickens-in-command need to be plucked of their hawkish feathers, so be it. It�s about time America gets surgery on its ripened cataracts.

� 2006 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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