For obvious reasons, Obama’s recent statements on the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan have been all over the news lately. Where have we heard discussions of the “old in-out” dilemma before?
Nah, but seriously folks, the question for Obama and his administration today is: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” We all know the virtues of both positions, don’t we? Thanks, Joe.
But really, will the 100,000+ U.S. military personnel play only an “administrative role” in Afghanistan by the summer of 2011? Just this morning an article in the NY Times covers General David Petraeus’s opposition to any scheduled withdrawal of U.S. military in Afghanistan by the summer of 2011, a position that he apparently defended on the Sunday morning politico-talk shows yesterday. Astonishingly, in this article Gen. Petraeus, who took over the helm in Afghanistan after Obama sacked Gen. Stanley MacChrystal for giving lip about U.S. civilian military leaders in a Rolling Stone interview (such as, to name just one, Vice President Joe Biden), claims that it’d be unwise to withdraw in the near future because only in the last three weeks have he and his troops received the stuff they need to make progress in Afghanistan.
The last three weeks?! This war started on 07 October 2001, didn’t it? What have they had, or been using, for the past nine years? And why has it cost the U.S. so much to supply the apparently wrong stuff?
In the news from an Indian weekly, Frontline, Vijay Prashad weighs in with an essay on the topic, “In Denial Mode.” Prashad writes a regular “letter from America” in Frontline (à la the late Alistair Cooke’s weekly BBC Radio 4 broadcasts), presumably to present the South Asian community with a firsthand desi view of the U.S. sociopolitical scene (Prashad teaches South Asian History and International Studies at Trinity College in Connecticut). He has his own agenda and political leanings in this piece, of course. But what’s useful for the American community to read in this article is the attention Prashad gives to the complexity of the U.S.’s actions in Afghanistan for India-Pakistan relations, and the tensions that arise between these two at times uncomfortable South Asian neighbors because of the instability in Afghanistan.
Finally, while you consider the pros and cons of military involvement in general, and the U.S.’s military involvement overseas, here’s a running tab kept in the Rochester City Newspaper of the number of casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (as of 04 August 2010):
IRAQ TOTALS – 4,413 US servicemen and servicewomen, 318 Coalition servicemen and servicewomen, and approximately 97,143 to 105,994 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq from the beginning of the war and occupation to August 2. There were no reports of American servicemen and servicewomen, killed after July 21.
AFGHANISTAN TOTALS – 1,216 US servicemen and servicewomen, and 766 Coalition servicemen and servicewomen, have been killed in Afghanistan from the beginning of the war and occupation to August 2. Statistics for Afghani civilian casualties are not available.