The Bad News From Afghanistan Just Keeps Rolling In

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The latest from Afghanistan:

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France suspended military operations as part of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan on Friday and said he was considering an early pullout of his nation’s forces after a man in Afghan Army uniform shot and killed four French soldiers….The four French service members were killed and a number were wounded on Friday when a gunman wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon on them, according to an Afghan police official in Kapisa Province in eastern Afghanistan where the episode occurred.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. The Guardian reports on a recently completed Pentagon study:

Mutual mistrust and contempt between local and foreign forces in Afghanistan that often borders on hatred is one of the main reasons why Afghan troops increasingly turn their guns on their Nato comrades, a damning report has found. The research, commissioned by the US military, said American soldiers enrage their Afghan colleagues with what the report describes as extreme arrogance, bullying and “crude behaviour”.

It also heavily criticised as “profoundly intellectually dishonest” the Nato claims that the killing of alliance troops by Afghan soldiers is extremely rare. The data suggests incidents such as the killing on Friday of four French soldiers “reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history)”….According to behavioural scientist Jeffrey Bordin’s report, the number of attacks have been growing, with 26 incidents of killings or attempted killings since early 2007. Those attacks led to the deaths of 58 foreign personnel.

The military has dismissed the study, saying it “suffered from irrelevant generalisations, narrow sample sets, unprofessional rhetoric and sensationalism.” Maybe so. But these kinds of studies, often scorned in pretty similar language, have usually turned out to be more accurate than the happy talk from commanders on the ground.

It’s always worth keeping in mind, even though I know this is obvious, that we’re not on Plan B here. We executed that one around 2005 or so. We’re currently about on Plan F, and if it’s working better than Plans A through E, the improvements are pretty marginal. As the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me six times, shame on me. As near as I can tell, though, the Republican candidates pretty unanimously want to move on to Plan G, and the military has given plenty of hints that they’ll be proposing exactly that sometime in the next year or so.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if we fall for this yet again, we’re collective idiots. Drawing down from Afghanistan will be no cakewalk, and the results will almost certainly be lethal. But it’s past time that we acknowledged we’ve done about as much as we can. It’s time to come home.

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