Monday, January 12, 2009

Afghanistan then

In 1842:
The Massacre of Elphinstone's Army was a victory of Afghan forces, led by Akbar Khan, the son of Dost Mohammad Khan, over a combined British and Indian force, led by William Elphinstone, in January 1842. After the British and Indian troops captured Kabul in 1839, an Afghan uprising forced the occupying garrison out of the city. The British army, consisting of 4,500 troops and 12,000 working personnel or camp-followers, left Kabul on January 6, 1842. They attempted to reach the British garrison at Jalalabad, 90 miles away, but were immediately harassed by Afghan forces. The last remnants were eventually annihilated near Gandamak on January 13. Only one man, the assistant surgeon William Brydon, survived and managed to reach Jalalabad.

The massacre would probably not have happened had the British not placed their trust in Akbar Khan. Another factor was the total incompetence of the commanding officer, Major-General William George Keith Elphinstone.
Gee... the total incompetence of the commanding officer? Is this history repeating itself because we didn't pay attention in class?

So we didn't pay attention when we helped the Taliban rid Afghanistan of the Soviets?
The Soviet War in Afghanistan (also known as the Soviet-Afghan War or the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan) was a nine-year conflict involving Soviet forces supporting the Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government against the mujahideen resistance. The latter group found support from a variety of sources including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Muslim nations in the context of the Cold War. This conflict was concurrent to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the Iran–Iraq War.

Initially Soviet deployment of the 40th Army in Afghanistan began on August 7, 1978.[3] The final troop withdrawal began on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989. Due to the interminable and inconclusive nature of the war, both The New York Times and Time have referred to the conflict in Afghanistan has as the Soviet equivalent of the United States' Vietnam War.[3][4]
And Afghanistan now:
The men of the 3rd Batallion, 8th Marine Regiment , based at Camp Lejeune , are discovering in their first two months in Afghanistan that the tactics they learned in nearly six years of combat in Iraq are of little value here -- and may even inhibit their ability to fight their Taliban foes.
According to Mohammad Khan, my friend and fixer for the film Son of a Lion, everyone - regardless of whether they agree with the Taliban ideology - despises foreign troops in southern Afghanistan. This includes those who accept bribes and foreign aid there, those who inform on Taliban positions for money to feed their starving families, and even members of the Afghan National Army who, according to Khan, "could turn their weapons on NATO troops at any time". This hatred is not surprising when, for example, Australian troops are accused of barging into village compounds and firing on civilians, as it's claimed happened in Oruzgan on January 5, the day after Sher's death. Ordinary Pashtuns are routinely armed and will defend their homes. This does not make them combatants.
Will we ever learn?

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