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Facing Iraq Realities And Lessons From Afghanistan

The failure of the West to step up and help Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal created the conditions that led to the takeover by the Taliban and the eventual relationship they established with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. In addition, al-Qaida and bin Laden are in part creations of their participation in the Afghan war. They coalesced around the belief that they defeated a superpower, and the seeds of what the Bush Administration now calls the long war against terrorists were planted.
by William C. Danvers
UPI Outside View Commentator
Washington (UPI) Feb 22, 2007
A reason why the United States and the Soviet Union may have believed that military force would be enough to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a fundamental misreading of the nations they were trying to change. In the case of Afghanistan, the Soviets ignored the history and nature of the nation and people they were fighting. They wanted to impose a Soviet style system that was at its core a loose confederation of tribal interests.

All the Soviets needed to do was look back at their own difficult history trying to subdue the Caucasus to get a clearer understanding of the trouble they were getting into.

Volumes have been written about the lack of planning, and the unrealistic belief that the United States would be viewed as liberators and elections would lead to a popular central government that could bring together various religious and ethnic groups with respect to the Bush administration in Iraq.

Fundamental mistakes about who the Iraqis were and what needed to be done to help them rebuild their nation in a post-Saddam Hussein era were there from the beginning -- the dissolution of the Iraq army, wholesale de-Baathification and the still-birth of an Iraqi governing council put together by the first U.S. Iraqi coordinator, Gen. Jay Garner, were among the early miscalculations made in Iraq by the United States.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the galvanizing effect it had on Islamic fundamentalists.

The failure of the West to step up and help Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal created the conditions that led to the takeover by the Taliban and the eventual relationship they established with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. In addition, al-Qaida and bin Laden are in part creations of their participation in the Afghan war. They coalesced around the belief that they defeated a superpower, and the seeds of what the Bush Administration now calls the long war against terrorists were planted.

It is difficult to determine exactly what the law of unintended consequences will be from the U.S. involvement in Iraq. It is clear it will not be a Middle East transformed into a region full of pro-Western style democracies. It is not yet clear how much inspiration the next generation of jihadists will take from what is happening in Iraq. It is also not clear how events there will benefit Iran over the long term at the expense of U.S. interests.

The United States must understand what it has done wrong if it intends to avoid future Iraqs. Despite the differences, the failure of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan offers some lessons for U.S. involvement in Iraq. The mistakes made as a result of the arrogance of the superpower in Vietnam, Afghanistan and now Iraq that Sen. J. William Fulbright, D-Ark., talked about a generation ago will continue to be replayed until his message is finally understood and absorbed. The Bush administration ignores this history at its own peril.

William Danvers has worked on international issues for nearly a quarter of a century, on Capitol Hill in the House and Senate, at the State Department, at the White House National Security Council, at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. For the past five years, he has served in the private sector as a consultant.

United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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General Discusses Chlorine Bombs, Helicopter Shoot-downs
Washington (AFNS) Feb 23, 2007
The enemy in Iraq is adaptive, and is interested in "catastrophic attacks," the commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq said today. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, met with Pentagon reporters over a satellite link from Baghdad. Insurgents blew up a tanker filled with chlorine yesterday in southern Baghdad. The attack killed at least two people and wounded more than 30. Coalition officials in Baghdad said this could be an escalation in the insurgent attacks.







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