Afghanistan’s fragile government still stands after President Karzai’s decision this past weekend to inaugurate the newly elected Afghan government this Wednesday, January 26, 2011. Karzai stepped back from the precipice he created after “intense pressure from legislators and the international community.” During the crisis, not much happy talked leaked out of US/NATO in Kabul, and it took a UN inspired rally of Western allies to “break the silence on the crisis.”
Now this one is not over yet – anything can (and does) still happen to reverse or amend Karzai’s latest pronouncement. In fact, the candidates that lost the election and claim fraud have constituents who have been marginalized since the election; very sizable ethnic constituencies that now will have limited representation. “There are already too many people who have gone to the mountains to fight…this will make more distance with the government, and send more people up to the mountains.”
So, again, when a Joe is about to leave the wire on his umpteenth patrol and climb another mountain, what reason do you tell him he’s fighting for?
The SFTT news team has previously highlighted US/NATO operations in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan – specifically the high casualty rates, tactics, and the deployment of additional firepower (i.e. USMC M-1 Abrams tank company).
To recap Sangin, the LA Times features three Marines and the price they paid while trying to secure Sangin during continuous combat operations.
Some key highlights for the scorecard:
- In four years in Sangin, the British had lost more than 100 soldiers, about a third of all their nation’s losses in the war.
- In four months, 24 Marines with the Camp Pendleton-based Three-Five have been killed.
- More than 140 others have been wounded, some of them catastrophically, losing limbs and the futures they had imagined for themselves.
- 3/5 Marines (“Get Some”) has been in more than 408 firefights and found 434 buried roadside bombs.
- An additional 122 bombs exploded before they could be discovered, in many instances killing or injuring Afghan civilians who travel the same roads as the Marines.
- US military hospitals in Landstuhl, Germany; Bethesda; and San Diego have seen a steady stream of wounded Marines and sailors from the Three-Five, including at least four triple-amputees.
- Less severely wounded Marines have been sent to the Wounded Warrior Battalion West barracks at Camp Pendleton. Still others among the 3/5 Marines injured have been transferred to the Veterans Affairs facility in Palo Alto, which specializes in traumatic brain injuries.
- Fifty-six replacements have been rushed from Camp Pendleton to Afghanistan to take the places of the dead and severely wounded.
- Many of the volunteers were Marines from other battalions who had been wounded in Afghanistan.
“We don’t know who we’re fighting over there, who’s friendly and who isn’t,” Lance Cpl. Juan Dominguez said. “They’re always watching us. We’re basically fighting blind.”
The current special inspector general for Afghanistan, Arnold Fields informed the Commission on Wartime Contracting what the SFTT news team has been tracking, that the effort to build up Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) was fraught with “poor planning and weak management.” As we have said along, billions of US tax dollars are at risk and being misspent.
What is revealing about Fields’ testimony was that he (i.e. the special inspector general) is not clear how in fact US/NATO would be able to construct enough bases and training facilities by the end of 2013, when ANSF capacity and capability are supposed to be ready to fully assume security in 2014.
What is staggering is that less than 20 percent of the more than 800 projects, which are valued at over $11 billion, and planned for completion over the next 2 years, are finished. While more than 65% of the pending projects have not even been started. Not a very good rate of return. Complicating any progress is whether or not the Afghans will be capable to maintain the few projects that have been completed thus far.
“These issues place the entire U.S. investment of $11.4 billion in (Afghan security force) facilities construction at risk of not meeting Afghan needs of intended purposes and resulting in a large degree of waste,” Fields said.