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Afghanistan: Germany's Troop Surge

On Sunday, two German police trainers got injured in an attack in northern Afghanistan, while at least 20 Afghan civilians, including many women and children, got killed in a US air attack, writes Deutsche Welle (in German) in a single article. That's one of the reasons why most Germans do not think that increased military commitment will do any good in Afghanistan.

Ignoring popular opinion, the German government plans to ask the parliament for approval to deploy an additional 1,000 troops to northern Afghanistan. Germany already took over the Quick Reaction Force of 200 soldiers on July 1, 2008.

David at Dialog International describes the reaction in the German press to the announced surge as "rather muted, more like resigned disappointment that Germany is being dragged into a quagmire."

What is the surge good for? Is anybody happy about it? ?

David opines that "the surge us unlikely to appease the United States, since the additional forces will remain in the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan." He also quotes an Afghanistan expert saying that 1,000 additional troops will not increase security, but "are just a drop in the bucket."

According to David, "the big winner here will be the Left Party (Die LINKE), which has been consistent in calling for German troop withdrawal from Afghanistan." This leftist party represents the mainstream on the issue of Afghanistan: "3/4 of all Germans oppose German military presence in that troubled country, according to recent polls," writes David.

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John in Michigan, USA on :

As to the alleged 20 civilians killed, we should avoid knee-jerk reactions and wait until this story unfolds. The coalition says they were Taliban, who routinely use weddings and other civilian institutions for human shield operations. Not that the coalition is so reliable and trustworthy...it's just that some journalists and NGO's reporting from Islamist regions are, in my experience, even less reliable or trustworthy than the coalition. Soldiers were imprisoned and careers ended over Abu Ghraib (as well they should be). But who in the journalistic community was tried for the [url=http://www.theaugeanstables.com/reflections-from-second-draft/pallywood-a-history/]Pallywood blood libels[/url]? The [url=http://www.seconddraft.org/]al-Dura hoax[/url]? The [url=http://www.captainsjournal.com/category/haditha-roundup/]Haditha non-atrocity[/url]? Who even lost their jobs? So until the media start policing themselves as well as the coalition does, I'll believe the source who has something to loose if they lie, over people who have almost nothing to loose. "What is the surge good for?" If the Afghanistan surge is like the Iraq surge, meaning it is not just a modest increase in troop levels but also a wholesale change in strategy, then the Afghanistan surge is long overdue. The Surge is precisely the sort of smart, focused, armed reconstruction action that the Germans and other Europeans pretend to be in favor of as opposed to US "blundering". Europe is mostly in the dark (or at times, willfully ignorant) as to the significance of the Iraq surge. I attempted to engage the people over at Eurotrib on this very point. You can see here where [url=http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/6/7/85823/57173/131?mode=alone;showrate=1#131]it started to dawn on some of them that the Iraq surge wasn't just more of the same[/url]. You can see my responses [url=http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/6/7/85823/57173/132?mode=alone;showrate=1#132]here[/url] and [url=http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/6/7/85823/57173/136?mode=alone;showrate=1#136]here[/url].

SC on :

I doubt that this represents a fundamental change in overall strategy; which is not to say that a change isn't contemptlated or in the offing. If you parse recent statements coming from Pentagon spokemen, then a desire to implement in Afghanistan lessons learned in Iraq comes through. However, apparently this awaits a further increase in US combat strength beyond the recent increases in Helmand Province; and that, given some recent statements, I believe, by JCS chair Mullen awaits a drawdown of forces in Iraq. In otherwords, a significant change is likely to be one of the first things dealt with by the next administration as a drawdown in Iraq seems likely to be underway by that time.

SC on :

"contemptlated"=contemplated :/

SC on :

I second your recommendations of Yon, Roggio, Totten, and the Fahdil brothers. I do so simply because they've been better sources for what's happening on the ground and, often for analysis as well. I particularly struck by this when reading Yon's coverage of the second battle for Fallujah - the surge that became a template for "The Surge" - then his analysis of the action, some of the personalities involved, and its implications. This was about six months, as I recall it, before there was any real coverage of the Anbar Awakening in the major media outlets here in the States. Facinating, I thought at the time, he'd even beaten John Burns of the NYTimes - the only reporter for the Times I've found at all interesting on Iraq - to the story and its significance.

Zyme on :

As long as only the Left Party supports the end of that mission we are fine. But increasingly the SPD will come under pressure as well - once they break away, we are in real trouble at the forerun of our coming general elections. Not that I am fully convinced of our engagement in Afghanistan - but at least we can test both our concepts and equipment in a hazardous environment. The longer we engage ourselves there, the more the public will tolerate future 'open end' operations anywhere in the world without detailed explanation, as the people will have become accustomed to them.

SC on :

"The longer we engage ourselves there, the more the public will tolerate future 'open end' operations anywhere in the world without detailed explanation,...." That's an interesting point of view. My curiosity is now aroused. What kind of open ended military commitments would you support? Or to put it another way, what kind of commitments of an open type would be in Germany's interest?

Zyme on :

That was no indication of what I prefer - just my relief that the military is becoming a tool of foreign politics again here, after being discredited for more than half a century. Generally I would support the kind of operations that are also implemented in the latest White Book - Maritime protection of sea lanes and expeditionary deployments in fragile countries where important raw materials are exported to Germany. Apart from that, helping governments out that open an extraordinary amount of doors to our economy in exchange would also come to my mind.

SC on :

Fair enough. I suppose this puts you in the realist school; ie. James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, for example from the American perspective: Definitely no neocon. ;)

Zyme on :

Here one would probably say it is belonging to the Prussian School ;) What school do you belong to? What shall the military do beside defending oneīs country?

SC on :

The "Prussian School": I like that. It has certain ring. :) And with what school do I feel the greatest affinity? Well, within the range of possibilities in the American context, I'm probably more comfortable with the realists; which places me within hailing distance of the you and the Prussian School. I am certainly comfortable with the conservative critique of the more activist strain of our foreign policy over the years. By the way, an interesting thesis and description of the yin and yang of US foreign policy from the early days of the Republic up until the present time can be found in Robert Kagen's provocatively titled "Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776": http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/2008%20-%20Spring/full-neocon.html. But like like so many things, it's not black and white. To pick somewhat more contemporary examples: My feelings are mixed regarding the world views of archetypes like Acheson and Truman by contrast with my fellow Ohioan, and Senator, Robert Taft which represented opposites in the late 40's and early 50's for which variations came to define competing visions in following years. My heart is with Taft but I can be persuaded - probably more often, than I'd care to admit - by later day Trumans. One example where I might differ from Taft and his successors could be in response to your question of the use of the military beyond mere self-defense. I can countenance the use of the US military in support of humanitarian relief operations because, as an organization, few if any can do, or have resources to do, logistics better. Humanitarian intervention, however, is a quite different matter.

John in Michigan, USA on :

SC, I finally finished reading the excellent Neocon Nation article. you linked to. It is recommended reading. If it only had footnotes or hyperlinks to support its many, supportable assertions and assumptions, I would bump that to required reading. As a side note, an amusing way to think of Kagan's essay is to imagine it as an overly earnest response to a political science teacher's essay assignment. I envision that teacher delivering the essay assignment in the style of comedian Mike Myers' immortal "[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_Talk]Coffee Talk with Linda Richman[/url]": "I'm a little verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. The neoconservatives are neither new nor conservative. Discuss." On a more serious note, Kagan writes: "Today, a true debate about foreign policy doctrine would examine not some fictitious neoconservatism but what remains the dominant worldview that Halberstam and his generation came to criticize. That worldview has its critics in the intellectual world, today as in the past—from Chomsky to Buchanan to John Mearsheimer—but in the political world those who even remotely stand in criticism of this dominant approach—Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, or Dennis Kucinich, for instance—can barely fight their way onto the ballot. In 2008, as in almost every election of the past century, American voters will choose between two variations of the same worldview." I am interested in everyone's take on the following questions: 1) Kagan lists Chomsky, Buchanan, and Mearsheimer as neoconservatism's genuine intellectual critics. What other names (particularly European names) should be on this list? 2) Similarly, Kagan lists Paul, Nader, and Kucinich as neoconservatism's true political alternatives. What other names should be on this list?

Joe Noory on :

After all, we all know effortlessly [b]"[url=http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-07-07-voa26.cfm]condemning things[/url]"[/b] in the usual toothless manner is the real mover and shaker out there... If that doesn't work, I guess they can [b]"show concern"[/b] or maybe even be [b]"deeply disappointed"[/b] in the Taliban stated committment to participatory government, the education of girls, and all the rest of that stuff the west tries to get a nod out of cretins on. That'll fix their wagon.

Pamela on :

Here's the problem. It's not Afghanistan. It's Pakistan. John in Michigan: Can't wait to read your links - in a hurry right now - back later.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Yep, Pakistan is tricky. It seems to me that for the past few months, the gloves have come off somewhat re US air strikes in Pakistan, and re US hot pursuit of fighters fleeing across the border from Afghanistan. This began, as far as I can tell, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Her assassination was probably an al-Qaeda plot, possibly with Pakistani ISI consent and support. It might even have been an ISI plot that they pinned on al-Qaeda (false flag operation). Or, it might have involved a tribal rivalry of some sort. A related question would be, if the ISI were involved, was it with Musharraf's approval or did they freelance it. How exactly this assassination might have led to a loosening of the gloves is a great question. Some may argue that Bush killed her so that he would be free to go on a rampage in the tribal areas, but anyone who thinks that needs to explain why, for example, Bhutto requested Westerners (private security firms, CIA, State Dept, Mossad(!), Scotland Yard) for her security detail over Pakistani government-provided security. Same goes for who her Party trusts to investigate her death. Surely she and her Party wouldn't make these requests if she suspected that Westerners were directly or indirectly out to get her? Instead, here is my glove-loosening theory at this point: before her assassination, we were (in the aftermath of the mostly failed Pakistani Army ingress into the tribal areas during 2002-6) deferring to Musharraf's belief that increased US actions in the border area would weaken him. After the assassination, one of several things happened. Either, a) Islamist forces were seen as responsible for Bhutto's death, and therefore they lost face and it became more possible to move against them; or b) With Bhutto gone and her party weakened, Musharraf is now more secure and willing to permit moves against the Islamists in the border area; or c) Bhutto's assassination discredited Musharraf sufficiently that he decided he had nothing left to loose by agreeing to our requests to loosen the gloves or d) ?? you tell me ??. The tribal culture and the terrain in the border area is the Taliban, al-Q, etc. best defense, and we will never defeat them decisively in that region. However, it seems the diplomatic protection they enjoy may be lowering (for whatever reason), so we can make it much more difficult to use the border area to stage attacks, etc. into Afghanistan. This would support an Afghan surge. Of course, it is unclear if the gloves will stay loosened under the new government. I could be wrong on any number of points, so I look forward to everyone's criticism.

David on :

Every noncombatant Afghan killed in an airstrike produces 10 new insurgents (some are "Taliban" but many are not). The current strategy is not working, and a "surge" of 1000 troops will not change the situation: most military experts believe it would take over 100,000 additional forces to create some semblence of security in the country. And where is the political will for that?

John in Michigan, USA on :

10 new insurgents, eh? So if we kill 20 but create 10, seems to me we come out ahead.... Where did the insurgents come from before we "created" them? Could it be that there's a movement out there that produces them for its own reasons and not just to validate your 10x hydra hypothesis? If you will recall, Heracles beat the hydra using intel (knowing that the hydra was vulnerable to fire), technology (fire), and strategic and tactical flexibility (knowing that he had treat the immortal head differently). [url=http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0325.html]Others have found[/url] an interesting way to kill a hydra, that [url=http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0326.html]feeds the community as well[/url]. But seriously.... [i]If[/i] the US State Dept is correct, the number of "terrorist" (by its definition) attacks worldwide has stayed roughly constant. Furthermore, I think we can all agree that in terms of severity, there has been nothing recently to compare with 9/11, 7/7, 3/11 (to name only a few). If David's 10x whine is correct, shouldn't we have seen more, and more dramatic, attacks?

Joe Noory on :

Let me see if I understand this: if anyone demostrates any sort of connection between being an insurgent and getting shot at, then instead of creating a disincentive, it creates 1) more insurgents and 2) a bunch of bien pensent ninnies who will instantly believe that they were all civilians (EVERY time) simply because a Taliban sympathist said so. Sure. Makes sense. That is, after all, the way wars have always been fought: by blaming onself and not fighting them. Of course David, you don't win a population over by killing civilians. Are you trying to make sure that everyone believes that that's the only thing the US is trying or is able to do? Sorry - that meme might work with simpletons, but the general population knows when it's having an image sold on them so hard that it isn't real.

Pat Patterson on :

At this point I'm not to sure who among the Americans, the Canadians, the French and the other nations that make up the ISAF seriously expect Germany to do anything other than garrison safe areas. The idea that some are disappointed that Germany doesn't send troops into combat areas seems fantasitical. But a careful reading of the latest request from a few days ago, which would have been in addition to an extended one month rotation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is for troops to hold the areas that have been won from yet another of those threatening but never quite panning out spring offensives from the Taliban. The ISAF is not asking for troops for any further offensive action but merely garrison troops which seems all that Germany is capable and willing to provide. I still can't quite figure out how Germany will be able to act like a neo-colonial military power in the future if they can't act that way now. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/taliban-fightback-forces-us-marines-to-do-tout-860881.html Plus I would remind David that as gruesome as it may sound bombing works very well against civilian populations, even the British were on the brink in 1943, unless I must have missed the millions of Germans and Japanese still hiding in the hills conducting guerilla action against the Big Four. In Iraq the use of women, children and the retarded does not indicate a united civilian resistance but rather a shrinking pool of those willing to self-detonate or pick up an AK-47.

Pat Patterson on :

That link, well, almost link, should read; http://www.independent.co.uk.news/world/asia/taliban-fighting-forces-us-marines-to-do-longer-tour-860881.html

John in Michigan, USA on :

"bombing works very well against civilian populations" The type of bombing we do today has almost nothing in common, tactically or strategically, with the sort of bombing you are talking about in WW II. So I don't know what point you are trying to make in your last paragraph (other than the last sentence, which I agree with).

Pat Patterson on :

Agreed, I should have made the distinction as well but the Russians in Chechnya, the Sudanese in Darfur and even the basic premise of "Shock and Awe" was to destroy the morale of the citizens. Not only because of casualties and damage to property but the increasing distrust of the government because they cannot protect the citizens from these attacks. Bombing raids into Hanoi and Haiphong were generally classified as targetted but there were civilian casualties and eventually the North Vietnamese government was put under tremendous public pressure to negotiate. But owing to internal security these demands generally didn't spread as the citizens came to fear their own government more that the American 500 pounders. Even though official targets are arguably of military value the effect on the morale is the same. A family with a casualty is less likely to pick up arms because of the reponsibility they have towards that wounded family member. In Iraq and the other countries that suppplied fighters the families are resisting sending off spare single men into almost guaranteed death. This tired meme of creating terrorists via bombing is one of those convenient fairly tales of the Viet Nam War. Which even a mere decade ago, the various Balkan Wars, showed that the bombing did not create an army of Serbian terrorists. Unless one counts the hysterical reactions of Serbs to any criticism, anywhere.

Kevin Sampson on :

'Every noncombatant Afghan killed in an airstrike produces 10 new insurgents' I assume you have some factual basis for that statement, so please provide it. 'most military experts believe it would take over 100,000 additional forces to create some semblence of security in the country.' How about a list of these military experts.

Pat Patterson on :

In David's post he actually says it would take 350,000 troops to, I'm paraphrasing here, pacify Afghanistan. Joerg, I think was just being kind and quoting a much lower figure. Which means that David's experts are Roman historians discussing the Jugurthine Wars in North Africa or the efforts of the governor of Judaea, Flavius Silva and the Proconsul Vespasian against the Sicarii at Massada. Gen. O'Neil, former head of the ISAF, gave an interview where he said the ideal, according to some texts, was 350,000 but he also said that estimate was based on the sword and the slingshot and not on automatic weapons, laser sighting, UAVs or burst transmissions. He also agreed with Gen. Petraeus that the force multiplier simply made the old figure irrelevant.

David on :

"If David's 10x whine is correct, shouldn't we have seen more, and more dramatic, attacks?" Yes, of course, you are right, John. [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/08/world/asia/08afghanistan.html?em&ex=1215576000&en=4d155457026833e4&ei=5087%0A]There are no more dramatic attacks.[/url] We are winning. Mission Accomplished.

John in Michigan, USA on :

I didn't say that dramatic attacks had ended, I just said that they stayed at roughly the same level worldwide, and furthermore, that there was no evidence (so far) that Islamists are still capable of mounting operations on the scale and sophistication of 7/7 and the like. The horrible incident you cite, unfortunately is neither new nor unusual. Your article says that recent attacks in Afghanistan are "sophisticated", but it is clear from the context that this is a relative term as compared to 7/7 and the like. It is true that there has recently been an overall increase in violent incidents in Afghanistan. But, if your 10x theory is true, attacks should be increasing in both Iraq and Afghanistan; in fact, they should be increasing, dramatically, worldwide. This is why you are often treated with contempt, David. You prefer to distort what I said. Your typical post fails to engage honestly on the issues raised, and relies on empty sensationalism. Is this what they teach at Harvard now? What are you afraid of? Is more race-baiting next?

David on :

@Joerg, What is your position on the Afghanistan mission? WHy do you just quote me? Endlich mal Flagge zeigen!

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

My position is: If we cannot convince the wider public in Germany and elsewhere that a MASSIVE involvement (military and diplomatic surge) is necessary, then we should pull out immediately, because what we are doing right now does not make sense. In other words: Either a huge change of strategy and commitment or a pull out. And I don't think we have capable politicians who can pull of this diplomatic and military surge.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Makes sense. In your opinion, was there ever a (brief?) period after 9/11 when the wider public in Germany was ready to make that sort of commitment? I don't think there really was, but I would be happy to learn otherwise.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I agree with you. IMHO even if 9/11 had taken place in Germany, the wider public would not have been ready to make that sort of commitment. And there are not any leading politicians in Germany who would attempt to change public opinion. Germany's former defense minister Peter Struck (Social Democrats) tried a little bit by declaring in December 2002: "The security of Germany is also defended in the Hindu Kusch." That statement was very controversial.

Zyme on :

You were quicker :) Although I have to disagree on one point: "IMHO even if 9/11 had taken place in Germany, the wider public would not have been ready to make that sort of commitment." That may have been the case in 2001, but not today. If a national symbol went down in ashes today and several others were attacked, leaving thousands of dead germans at the heart of our cities, people would no longer be contained. Instead you would see a huge support for a quick and bloody hunting after those responsible, also for changing the legal basis so that our army may be used in interiour affairs again. This would be the perfect moment for our interior ministers to draw all their surveillance concepts out of the drawer and push them through legislation in record time. Last but not least the nationalist movements today would boil over and certainly set those institutions on fire that support people from the nationality which is first associated with the attacks. Xenophobia would reach peak levels and all major established parties would have to jump on the military bandwaggon to prevent the electoral success of extremist parties. All that relaxed mood that returned soon after 9/11 here was simply due to the fact that a nation we donīt like very much was hurt far away. Once this feeling is gone, so is public indifference.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"That may have been the case in 2001, but not today." I was referring to 2001. "Instead you would see a huge support for a quick and bloody hunting after those responsible," Yes, "quick." But no support for a long and sustained operation as is needed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even today there would not be such a support. "All that relaxed mood that returned soon after 9/11 here was simply due to the fact that a nation we donīt like very much was hurt far away." I disagree with the terms "relaxed" and "we don't like very much"

Zyme on :

Oki relaxed was a bit exagerated - but compared to the american attitude, it was relaxed. 'We donīt like very much' was a description of the attitude of our society. Would you really say that the attitude of the average citizen is any more positive towards the US?

Joe Noory on :

That "relaxed attitude" is nothing more than accepting a normalization of violence on civilians on a large scale. Why not step back and ask yourself why you never examine that there is some sort or inverse effect to the alternate course of the things you critique? The world is neither static or flat: if everyone took the German public's attitude nothing at all wwould keep the Talioban in check. Ratinalize all you want about social effects and activating people's martial nature or whatever, frankly all it is, is parasitic, just as the whole continent is about human freedom, aid, and develoment. All they want is the perfect impression, and a seat at the table that they didn't earn.

Zyme on :

"That "relaxed attitude" is nothing more than accepting a normalization of violence on civilians on a large scale." Partially - the relaxed attitude has a very simple origin. Many people here are convinced that a great deal of the world apart from Europe is highly dangerous and crowded with insane people who donīt know any better than to kill each other :) And since such things are not going to change, we might as well mind our own buisness. "The world is neither static or flat: if everyone took the German public's attitude nothing at all wwould keep the Talioban in check." I wonder what you mean by this. How to keep barbarians in check in their homeland?

quo vadis on :

"Many people here are convinced that a great deal of the world apart from Europe is highly dangerous and crowded with insane people who donīt know any better than to kill each other :) And since such things are not going to change, we might as well mind our own buisness." Such things seem to have changed in Europe since about 60 years ago. I wonder how that came about.

Zyme on :

I donīt think you can compare european conflicts in the 20th century with the goals of militant arabian groups. While at least since the 17th century wars were waged mainly for national power reasons, feuds among local gangs like in the arabian world have vanished here for centuries now. It is the detail of organisation and the horizon of goals that tells you about the civilizational character of a warring party. They want to defend their homes against foreign people? Well than they can shake hands with their stone age ancestors. They want to spread their radical faith and use any means to achieve that goal? Oki that puts them in one line with a number of movements in the ancient world. And now that they try to use their brothers and sisters in religion around their world, one could even say they have reached a medieval state - like when Europeans went on cruisade. But what more? Thatīs it so far. Why do we have to change their minds? I cannot think of a reason. Over the course of the centuries, they might discover new social concepts and eventually reach what the missionary Americans want to beat into them at once. All that is needed is a little patience here.

quo vadis on :

"While at least since the 17th century wars were waged mainly for national power reasons, feuds among local gangs like in the arabian world have vanished here for centuries now." The only significant difference between and Emperor, or other 'Great Leader' in the European sense, and a warlord is the scale of their dominion. All claim their rule is sanctioned by, or simply exploit, religion or some other core ideology like communism as a tool motivate and control the population. "Why do we have to change their minds? I cannot think of a reason." If for no other reason, because their ambitions eventually reach beyond their rocky patch in the boondocks. What do you think Bin Laden and his cronies where trying to accomplish?

Zyme on :

"The only significant difference between and Emperor, or other 'Great Leader' in the European sense, and a warlord is the scale of their dominion." I cannot agree here. At least since Luis XIV the nation was the primary driving force for waging wars. Religion itself was the primary reason for a big conflict here for the last time in the 30-years war, in the first half of the 17th century. "If for no other reason, because their ambitions eventually reach beyond their rocky patch in the boondocks. What do you think Bin Laden and his cronies where trying to accomplish?" I agree that they must be put at bay when it comes to raw material sources in the region. But guarding these local ressources is far less ambitious and far more realistic than "guarding" an entire country!

Joe Noory on :

They clearly aren't itnerested in keeping Barbarians in check. If they did, they would be giving enough political support to send a larger troop contingent that could protect itself enough to fight effectively. To say that the whole of Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter, has nothin other than barbarians in it is the flaw in the argument. It's also condescending. What ISAF does anyway, is to give the non-cretins an edge over the Taliban, who, by the way, weren't a big feature in the Mujeheddein. "Taliban" means "students" or "young recruits". While their leadership is older, the footsoldiers are largely those who came of age well after the Russians were gone. The Northern Alliance, if you remember who they are, were composed of the tribal fighters and legacy who fought the Soviets. If you really want to be fashionably relativistic and cynical about it, think of them as "our" barbarians, but they'd disagree with you, and I'll bet they're better armed.

Kevin Sampson on :

'Many people here are convinced that a great deal of the world apart from Europe is highly dangerous and crowded with insane people who donīt know any better than to kill each other And since such things are not going to change, we might as well mind our own business.' But how is 'minding your own business' going to keep them at bay? As you yourself said in your next post, they are not purely reactive: 'They want to spread their radical faith and use any means to achieve that goal? Oki that puts them in one line with a number of movements in the ancient world' Minding your own business isn't going to diminish their religious ardor one bit, or take you off the list of those who are just waiting to be shown the true path of righteousness.

Zyme on :

"Minding your own business isn't going to diminish their religious ardor one bit, or take you off the list of those who are just waiting to be shown the true path of righteousness." Really why is that you always believe they will be at our walls any day? Their entire tactics rely on a heavy support in the population and a rather rough territory. That is why their area of operation ends at the latest in eastern Turkey. Europe managed to defend itself at times when being totally discordant itself and when the Muslim world actually had a dangerous condition. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire these days are gone.

Zyme on :

"In your opinion, was there ever a (brief?) period after 9/11 when the wider public in Germany was ready to make that sort of commitment?" If Iīm allowed to answer the question - I would say that if there ever was such a moment, it must have been the time immediately after 9/11. The first few days so to speak, when everybody was consternated politically and everything might have been possible. But after a week or so, other issues have become imminent again, and from that on there surely never was anymore a greater support for such operations. On the other hand back then we lacked the general adaption of the population to out of area operations - so that might have prevented a bigger support even in the first few days.

Joe Noory on :

Frankly, that sounds rather unilateralist.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"Endlich mal Flagge zeigen!" - David "You are either with us or against us" - President George Bush Separated at birth?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Here is an equally credible but different, and much more detailed, point of view on the incident involving civilians: "[url=http://voanews.com/english/2008-07-07-voa51.cfm?rss=topstories]US Denies Its Airstrike Killed Afghan Civilians Sunday[/url]" So far there is no agreement that even a single civilian was killed. Indeed, it isn't even clear how many people of any type were killed; In [url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/topstories/2008-07-06-1051356149_x.htm]this USA Today article[/url] suddenly it is 27. NATO isn't saying. One official straddles the fence quite nicely: "Nuristan provincial police chief spokesman Ghafor Khan said that fighter aircraft attacked a group of militants near the village of Kacu, but that one of the missiles went off course and hit the wedding party. Khan said many militants were killed in the attack as well." But elsewhere it is made clear, he has no first-hand knowledge and probably got his information over the phone. Who was he talking to? Were they even present during the incident? Were they free to speak? Was it an insurgent? These are all questions one must ask of any report from the region. As far as I can tell based on the google translation, the original, tiny item in the DW article is so unbalanced, it quotes "local officials" credibly, but doesn't even give NATO the courtesy of a substantial reply.

David on :

So the bride, groom and the entire wedding party were actually Taliban terrorists. According to [url=http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSISL33181._CH_.2400]this Reuters report[/url] more than 800 Afghan civilians have beem killed this year by US and NATO forces. How would you react if if it was your wife, daughter or son were killed as "collateral damage"?

John in Michigan, USA on :

What evidence is there that there WAS a wedding party? All we have is quotes from people who weren't there. If there was a wedding party, was it real or staged? If you follow the Pallywood links, you will see documented cases in which social events are staged to provide cover for attacks or movement of fighters. Fighters sometimes dress as women, why not a bride? Pallywood refers to Palestine, but we have seen the same propaganda tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan. If it was a real wedding party, how do we know the alleged Taliban didn't hijack the wedding party and use it for a human shield? This is what I mean by overly credulous media. They fail to ask important questions of those who report the incident, and fail to give the reader appropriate background and context. Meanwhile, these same journalists seem to assume that the US/NATO forces couldn't possibly be telling the truth. To be fair, it is of course possible that US/NATO forces where misled, or even set up, by bad intel. In this case, it is possible they still don't know it was a wedding party, or they found out afterwards and are reluctant to talk about it. It is odd that no official source will state the number killed, they usually are willing to do that. In extreme cases, the US has been known to fire on a target group that includes civilians, because there was no other way to get the target. But it seems unlikely in this case, otherwise we would be hearing more about the importance of the target. In summary: War sucks.

David on :

You can call me all the names you want, but here is the report from the Afghans just released and reported by the BBC: " A US air strike in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed 47 civilians, 39 of them women and children, an Afghan government investigating team says. Reports at the time said that 20 people were killed in the airstrike in Nangarhar province. The US military said they were militants. But local people said the dead were wedding party guests. The commission is headed by Senate deputy speaker, Burhanullah Shinwari whose constituency is in Nangarhar province. He told the BBC: ''Our investigation found out that 47 civilians (were killed) by the American bombing and nine others injured." Of course, this is via the BBC and not Fox News, so it must just be anti-American propaganda.

John in Michigan, USA on :

You suck, David, not at all because you and I disagree about the war. You suck, David, for many reasons, the most recent of which because you can't even be bothered to provide a link. Are you afraid there might be more to this story than the one quote you provided? I think this is the report you are talking about: "[url=http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Jul11/0,4670,Afghanistan,00.html]47 Afghan civilians killed by US bombs, group says[/url]" This is what a balanced report looks like. The report the allegation, but in opening paragraphs they also give the other side a chance to respond. [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7502137.stm]This BBC report[/url] buries the ISAF response way at the bottom. Why do you suppose they do this? Could it be because they know that many people don't read to the end of the article? The BBC link above also has un-narrated, un-attributed (as far as I can tell) video of a wounded young man arriving at a medical center. We are encouraged to assume that it is a casualty from the incident in question, but if so, why not say so explicitly? Could even the BBC have some doubt as to the source and contents of the video? Does the video document the arrival, or does it illustrate how the arrival might have happened? David may have read to the end of that BBC article, in which case it is quite understandable why he didn't provide the link. If he had, people reading Atlantic Review might have noticed this gem from the BBC article: [quote]The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) posed this question on its website: "Who do you think causes the most civilian deaths in the country?" Of the 149 votes cast so far, 70% said the Taleban and other insurgents, 24% said international military forces, while 6% said Afghan security forces. [/quote] This is just an informal, unscientific poll. [i]If[/i] it turns out that ISAF forces did kill 20 or more civilians, there is a good chance the relevant people will be disciplined, possibly even prosecuted. If however the local officials distorted the incident, or staged the video, it is unlikely they will face any adverse consequences from the ISAF or from Kabul. Even if the local officials aren't themselves Taleban, they and their families may have been at risk if they didn't slant the story in favor of the Taleban.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Interesting FOX headline: "47 Afghan civilians killed by US bombs, group says" It sounds as if they are talking about a statement by an NGO like Amnesty or Human Rights Watch or Mullahs for Free Beer. "Group" is a pretty uncommon phrase for a government commission. It seems that FOX wants to downplay the authority of the report. To avoid a misunderstanding: I am not a fan of Karzai. I don't think his government has that much legitimacy. And this government commission might not be objective anyway. But the West decided to treat the mayor of Kabul, who's brother is involved in shady stuff, as the democratically elected president of all of Afghanistan. So, if you acknowledge the Afghan government, you got to call that the Afghan government commission investigating this incident as a government commission rather than just some group like any other.

John in Michigan, USA on :

...and "government commission" is a pretty uncommon phrase for Afghanistan! In the very first sentence of the article, Fox calls it a "government commission" . Headlines are supposed to be short, punchy, etc. Do you see any evidence in the Fox article itself that they are trying to suggest that it is just an NGO-style group, rather than a government undertaking? I don't. From all accounts the commission is real, meaning its leader, Burhanullah Shinwari, is an actual Afghan parliamentarian. But what kind of commission is it? Would it be more accurate to call it a partisan commission, or a non-partisan, fact-finding commission? Was there a vote in the Afghan Senate to authorize this commission, or did Shinwari initiate this all by himself? Perhaps a clue is that I can find no statement anywhere on the Internet as to the destination of the wedding party, the names of the bride or groom, or even the names of the villages from which the bride and groom hail. The commission could easily discover this by talking to the locals. Isn't this is the sort of information a non-partisan, fact-finding commission would provide as a matter of course? For the record, I am not claiming Fox is unbiased, their editoral stance is clearly conservative. I am saying that, in this case, they have done a better job than the BBC of presenting both sides. As a side note, I think the entire concept of "objective" journalism is flawed. If the goal was to be objective, journalists would behave like good scientists do. They wouldn't publish until all the data had been collected. They would share information before publishing. They would take additional time for careful weighing and deliberation. Instead of pretending to deliver objective truth, good journalism should focus on rapid publication of high-quality information. Both the ISAF and the Shinwari commission are investigating. We should wait until they both issue formal reports and not judge this serious matter based on press releases.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Wow. I've been looking more closely at that video at [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7502137.stm]http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7502137.stm[/url] The story it tells, appears simple: an ambulance arrives, an injured man is unloaded, carried in to the hospital, and placed in a bed where he glares defiantly at the camera, highlighting his bruised face. But looking more closely, you see that it is an assembly of video clips whose relationship to each other is -- I'm being kind here -- very, very unclear. In the first scene, we see a rather large van pulling up. As the van comes to a stop, notice how the silhouettes of additional people sitting or squatting in the back 'pop' into view. [i]Excluding[/i] the front seat passengers, there are at least five people visible in the van, possibly more. Plus as we see in the next scene there appear to be at least two wounded lying flat in the back of the van. Notice how the passengers are facing, and how they rock when the van comes to a stop. Some of them are probably squatting, but others rock forwards but not back. That and other visual clues suggest there is at least one row of seats behind the front seats. What do you think? In the second scene, we see an injured man being removed from what appears to me to be a [i]smaller[/i] van, with only one or two people visible (other than the front seat passengers). There now NO SEATS other than the front seats (they have headrests). Hmmm. Maybe it is a different van? Or, the camera could have a telephoto or fisheye lens, or be at a funny angle or something that makes the seats in the back hard to see and makes the van appear deceptively small in this scene. Still, it raises questions. The man we see being unloaded in the second scene (notice the legs of one other injured behind him) is on his back as he is unloaded. Notice his head bandage. After he is set on the stretcher, he seems if anything to want to roll onto his [i]left[/i] side. Note how the attendant on his left tucks his left elbow in. Now the third scene: as the stretcher passes in front of the camera, the injured man is lying on his [i]right[/i] side. Conveniently, this means the blood stain on his back is caught nicely by the camera. [i]And what happened to his head bandage???[/i]. Behold, the man in scene 3 is not the same as the man in scene 2! Did the BBC do the editing, or was the tape provided to them already edited? Was the man in scene 3 lying naturally on his side, or was he posed like this? The large white bandage above his left hip is barely attached, and has no visible blood stains, yet there is a large trail of blood going up his back. The blood could have been smeared on, before the bandage. Was he even injured? Note that the camera work is smooth, in focus, and nicely framed. This was done by a professional. Also, look at all the camera positions involved. If the wounded are being unloaded and carried inside with a normal degree of urgency, it would have required at least two cameras to capture these scenes in real time. Why would a credible news organization, such as the BBC, able to deploy all these resources to a remote province in Afghanistan, not credit the video? I admit, there could be an innocent explanation for all of this. I really want to encourage everyone to watch the video so we can take advantage of the wisdom of the crowd. Watch it several times (it is short), and pay attention to detail. Then, tell me if you see what I see, or where I might have got it wrong.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"How would you react if if it was your wife, daughter or son were killed as "collateral damage"?" I would jump for joy, because I am a psychopath...not. How do you think I would react, you creep?

SC on :

Heh. Better answer than Michael Dukakis managed some years ago.

Pat Patterson on :

Even the Teheran Times, on July 7th, certainly not prone to printing verbatim American press releases has stated that it appears that it was Taliban that were killed following a raid. Who were being tracked down and fired upon by, take your pick, an UAV, a jet or a helicopter. But two problems with the story are that the bombing of a wedding party charge has occurred yearly since the ISAF went into Afghanistan. And the ISAF, depending on the emotional reaction to the incident, has been paying reparations to the families. But the bogus claims simply disappear as they must be made directly to the ISAF and not through an intermediary. And according to the 4th Geneva Convention, which the former Taliban government agreed to abide by, combatants may not mix with civilians either to engage in combat or to simply hide. Unfortunately for the civilians they are not protected by the Convention.

joe on :

John Please David is part of the new elite - the problem with the world is always America. David has a mindset where he always takes the side of those who hate America. He finds great comfort in this.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

John, [b]Comments like "war sucks" are allowed, but please refrain from comments like "you suck" and "you creep," because the debate on Atlantic Review should be about issues rather than about other commenters.[/b] Collateral damage is an important topic. Not just for moral reasons, but also for strategic reasons, because collateral damage increases hatred of the West. Therefore it is important to debate the conclusions of the Afghan government investigating team and the responses from the US and ISAF. What has really happened? This issue is important and shall not be deflect from it by exchanging personal animosities. Joe, you can do better than this: "a mindset where he always takes the side of those who hate America."

John in Michigan, USA on :

Fair enough. I have kept it personal with David for a while, ever since he accused me and others of racism but was unwilling to support his accusation, nor was he willing to hold himself to the same standard as he held me. However, as this is not my blog I will do as you ask.

David on :

"David has a mindset where he always takes the side of those who hate America. He finds great comfort in this." An official Afghan inquiry has found that a US airstrike killed 47 people in a wedding party, including 39 women and children. Rather than deploring the incident and mourning the loss of innocent life, you and John attack me as somehow "unpatriotic". To quote Jack Nicholson, [url=http://youtube.com/watch?v=wGRqeyI4V5E]you can't handle the truth![/url]

John in Michigan, USA on :

Where have I called you "unpatriotic"?

Pat Patterson on :

Why would a line from a fairly bad film about a murderous hazing incident be considered a snappy comeback? Perhaps David wasn't aware that Col. Jessup was an ambitious officer that basically ordered one of his Marines murdered for potentially interfering with the officers promotion to the NSC. Nicholson's character, for all his bluster, was the liar and did everything he could to hide the truth. Was that the point that David wished to make in that lying to advance some political point is ok as long as it agrees with the CW? I would prefer to wait a bit before classifying an investigation by phone that can't agree on whether there was one incident or two and how many casualties there were before offering any non-bylined article as proof.

Joe Noory on :

By calling as much attention as possible to any ISAF flaw, and demanding instant victory with your previous "mission accomplished!" taunt, all the advice we can deduce from this wisdom is that America MUST withdraw from any effort if there is an insurgent incident of any size and of any sort, no matter how small, and no matter what context it's in. If the majority of Afghans don't agree that to making a vacuum that the Taliban can fill, then according you your commets, "sobeit" - well, that's REAL bravery!, REAL humanity! All for some partisan motive in the interest of wanting any American enterprise to fail in the interest of ones' own domestic political goals. Interesting way to hope for effective treason in outcome while saying "support the troops" and "peace is patriotic" as a cover for it. Whose peace is it you're looking for anyway? The Taliban's? Why construct a climate of fear, doom, dispair, or the sense that cretins can't be dealt with? The jihad can be substantially done away with, leaving in the future only having to deal with them as a much smaller threat in their fragments. On the other hand, such an excercise doesn't fit the leftist model of things worth doing: unlike environmentalism, the population can be forever imposed upon and coersed for the purposes of political consolodation of a more powerful state, a dismantling of the freedom of market, the control people are permitted to have over the fruits of their own success, and a socialization of society using something that isn't a tangible or understood threat as a pretext. Not only that, the left feels left out, given that its' world view isn't given an absolute monopoly over the course of affaires, and the adherents have to accept that pluralism is something more than a potemkin village where they just say that they share space with other people's ideas. Nothing has changed in a century: the world could be going to hell, and the only thing the far left cares about is controlling their own governments and dictating the course of people's lives using any tiny example as the basis of a distraction.

mbast on :

All I can see here (and in most press articles about the additional German soldiers) is lots of talk of "controlling" the south militarily (difficult, at the very least), of military action against the taliban, of airstrikes against civilians/taliban sympathisers/talibans (take your pick, depending on what theory you have). It seems to me that everyone is missing the point here. Why is there an operational military presence in the south? Well, so that over time a functional secular non-taliban, non-aggressive and non-suppressive society can develop. So you should talk about the military effort, yes. But the highlight, in my mind, should be on the relief efforts, of building up a civilian society again, solving the poppy problem, the warlord problem, on PRTs, NGO involvment, technical assistance etc. In the general hee-haw about the German troop levels, about the Germans "not honoring their commitments", being mere "garrison troops", or about the Americans being "too aggressive", "militaristic" or whatever, everybody seems to forget that the military effort is a necessity, yes. But isn't the reconstruction effort important as well? In fact, personally, I tend to think it's even more important since the military effort can't build a self-supported, free and hopefully democratic Afghanistan. It can (and has to) protect the development of such a society from taliban aggression (at least for a while), but it can't develop Afghanistan all on its own. Without a much more pronounced and coordinated effort at reconstruction and nationbuilding, the whole military operation is totally pointless. So who's talking about reconstruction? Not enough people, I should think. Everyone seems to have forgotten about that.

Joe Noory on :

The press certainly isn't going to lend a hand getting informaiton out about the reconstruction teams and their accomplishments, but they are indeed there. The people whom one should take the least bit seriously are the ones who think nothing is happening on the non-law-and-order angle because a biased press doesn't report it.

mbast on :

"The people whom one should take the least bit seriously are the ones who think nothing is happening on the non-law-and-order angle because a biased press doesn't report it." And that would be me, I suppose. Well, I wasn't saying there is no reconstruction effort, thank you very much. I said it wasn't enough and it isn't highlighted enough (in the press or elsewhere) to build a political will towards increasing the reconstruction efforts(in Europe or the US alike, incidentally, so don't worry, I'm not picking on the US alone here). The whole enormously bloated discussion about troop levels completely blocks out the real issue, which is there isn't enough being done on reconstruction, social stability etc. And before you point it out to me: I know the US are very much involved in the PRTs, much more than the other nations. However, that's not enough. Not the US's fault, incidentally (well, the US are responsible as well, but they aren't the only ones by far). All ISAF nations, not just the US, should sit down and have a hard think about their "civilian" strategy. Because that's the only way you're ever going to have a lasting peace and a democratic society in Afghanistan. Without that, the military effort will be futile, and ultimately, it will end in the catastrophic withdrawal of all ISAF troops with nothing to show for it. Cf. the soviet experience.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Mbast, you raise an important point that military actions are only part of the solution. Why then is there so much focus on troop levels and rules of engagement in the comments to this post? The media (if it bleeds, it leads) is part of the problem, here are some other factors: 1) [i]The nature of the alliance[/i]. NATO is a big reason why the Germans and other Europeans are involved. [i]NATO is a military alliance, not a nation-building alliance[/i]. So in theory, getting military involvement should be less controversial then getting nation-building involvement. In practice, if anything the opposite is true. It is important to understand what this means for the future of the alliance. We are discussing Afghanistan, but we are also discussing an underlying issue: does NATO article V really mean what it says, or is there an unwritten amendment to the article that might be paraphrased as "An attack on one is an attack on all, but only if the attack happens on European soil, originates from Russia or similar historic rival, and takes the form of a conventional military attack." 2) Part of the obsession with troop levels is the unavoidable legacy of Vietnam. 3) [i]Europe is uninformed about The Surge in Iraq[/i]. To be fair, so were most Americans, but that is changing now. The Surge in Iraq is exactly what you called for: "a hard think about their 'civilian' strategy". Why shouldn't we try it in Afghanistan? I have provided [url=http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/6/7/85823/57173/131#131]substantial[/url], detailed [url=http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/6/7/85823/57173/132#132]writing[/url], with [url=http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/6/7/85823/57173/136#136]links[/url], documenting The Surge. The essence of it is a wholesale change in strategy, in precisely the direction you are suggesting. The temporary increase in troop levels for the Surge was only a component of the overall plan; we have sent most of the Surge troops back home, with no signs so far of violence in Iraq returning to earlier levels (meaning the violence level is still horrible, but not overwhelming). Europe barely acknowledges the Surge, and then only to dismiss it. What will it take to get Europeans to engage on this point?. Isn't the Surge a major step towards "reconstruction, social stability"? What exactly would the objection be if Germany, Europe, the US, etc. got together and attempted a surge in Afghanistan?

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