In light of recent events in Afghanistan, starting with the burning of Quarans by American forces and most recently the unsanctioned massacre of 16 men, women and children by a lone American serviceman, Afghani President Hamid Karzai has decided he is “at the end of the rope” when it comes to civilian casualties.  This is an understandable sentiment in the broadest of context; we have been engaged in combat in the country for the last almost 11 years and there have been some seriously unfortunate events that have been capitalized on by the enemy and the media.  This often has the effect of making coalition forces, particularly  American forces look exactly opposite of what the intent is.

I will state before I commence with the little tirade I am about to embark on, Staff Sergeant Bales needs to go to trial for what he has done or face the most extreme of consequences should he plead guilty without a trial requirement.  He perpetrated a most heinous act and must face the consequences for it, even if that means the death penalty.  Even if by some strange reason he managed to kill from the three military age males of the 16 people killed, an enemy combatant, it was not done in a manner consistent with the rules of engagement nor within the bounds of anything considered acceptable by a professional soldier.  All the claims that are now beginning to surface of PTSD and not wanting to return to Afghanistan on his third or fourth deployment are too bad.  There are too many resources available to soldiers to take care of mental health issues.  We sit through a nauseating amount of briefings of what is available to us should we feel we need it or are identified as someone who could use a little extra assistance in the mental health and welfare arena.  All the little excuses of the “stigma” that gets attached to someone who seeks help be damned; if you know you are fucked up, get it fixed before you perpetrate an act that completely undermines the good works that have been done.

So, setting that aside for the moment, lets put a little to things as I see them, from a historical and current level.

President Hamid Karzai, the former exile and future despotic President of the contested little litter-box known as Afghanistan.  He would not be where he is at right now if it were not for America’s little act of retribution against the Taliban for harboring and protecting al Qaeda; you know those guys who successfully flew planes full of people (mostly American people) into a few building on September 11, 2001.  Mr Karzai, ungrateful ruler that he is, conveniently knows nothing of the corruption of his family members (all male by the way) spread around in key governmental positions.  he has a problem with us conducting night raids as it makes the people slightly uncomfortable to be woken up in the middle of the night.  He also forgets that if it were not for the actions of a particularly alert and well-trained Personal Security Detail (PSD) not long after he moved into a leadership role early in the war, he would have been buried by sundown, riddled with bullets and we would have a less contentious person chosen for his pliability in power right now.  Oh, yeah, forgot to mention the PSD, American soldiers.

I think you get my point when it comes to Karzai, so I think I will move on to the billions that have been sent over there in aid and projects.  I will be damned if there are more than a few paved roads throughout the country, but hell, they have a fairly robust cellular infrastructure and if your village is fortunate enough to have power, they also have a pretty robust internet presence.  Women still have virtually no rights, unless you consider the right to marry your rapist rather than going to jail for being unfortunate enough to have been born with a vagina and attractive enough to provide temptation for an otherwise normal scumbag.

The Taliban, Haqaani network, and dozens of other allied thug groups perform criminal acts that make the mafia seem tame.  They kidnap folks and have perfected the art of not only milking the media attention out of it, but manage to make profit as more and more people, agencies and organizations pay ransom.  The DEA cannot keep up with the poppy eradication efforts and farmers refuse to grow alternative crops because they are not profitable enough.  Criminality is intertwined with the organizations trying to re-institute their authoritative control over the government of the country, just as they do in the rural areas that coalition forces have little to no influence in, even after 11 years.  Provincial Reconstruction Teams are unable to conduct projects within their mandate, a mandate which negates them from offensive combat roles.  All of these organizations assert themselves into the lives of the uneducated, poor villagers and reap the benefits of profit off of their backs, all while espousing the rhetoric of Sharia and Islamic fundamentalism against the Infidel westerners and their puppet regimes who benefit on the other side of the coin.

Eleven years of war and what has the coalition wrought upon itself?  We repeatedly make gains and bring services to as many as we can, yet still are not able to introduce a nation-wide, coherent, stable infrastructure.  We repeatedly apologize for our mistakes, despite the fact in grand scope they are rivaled by those who we are fighting.  We seem to lay prostrate at the feet of a corrupt government whose sole authority rests in the hands of a future despot when we eventually handover full authority.  We repeatedly sacrifice our young men and women, not to the rigors of force on force combat, but to the bullets and grenades used from those we have fought along side of and trained to be more efficient in the martial skills of combat.  We are in the midst of a controlling shift of prisons housing criminals and terrorists alike.  Shaky allies who pull out their troops rather than stand tall and fulfill their humanitarian obligations (take that France) demonstrate the ineffectiveness of policy and will make it harder to showcase any success when we eventually turn full authority to Afghans so they can fall flat on their own faces in the near future.

The end of the rope is indeed near and America will do one of a few courses of action within the next couple of years.  The most likely is we will stick to our timeline for withdrawing troops and allowing Afghanistan.  We go on a final, ass-kicking campaign to destroy as much of the enemy infrastructure as possible, including those deeply entrenched in governing the nation as it exists right now.  Leaving Karzai and his ilk with the message if they do not play nice, October of 2001 will seem like a warm-up.  We outright replace the government with a more pliable and like-minded one to our own (least likely of all).  Sometime between 2013 and 2014 we pullout with our tails between our legs and unsure what we accomplished and wondering if all the loss and time invested by each and every war fighter was worth it.

I am not sure where or how SSG Bales needs to be tried, convicted and/or penalty meted out.  That is for the military to decide, the military, not the government.  We have processes in place to deal with situations such as this.  It is sad to say we do, but it is not the first, will probably not be the last, we can hope though that it is never rivaled in magnitude and scope if/when it does happen again.

One thing I am certain of is President Karzai, repeatedly not only looks the American gift horse in the mouth, but treats us as if we are a gelded and subservient one at that.  I would like to say he repeatedly kicks us in the nuts, but as a gelding we do not have any.  I personally do not care if we leave the country tomorrow, so long as we do not allow our sacrifices to be diminished by the rhetoric of an ungrateful government and a populace with a 90 second attention span.  Pull us out tomorrow if that is what is needed, keep us there for years if we are given the opportunity to do what we are supposed to do; crush our enemy and allow the people to govern themselves as they see fit and provide them with the tools, education and framework to be successful at it.

Combat is not a complex thing, it is fatally simple in both plan and action.  My fellow service members are aware of the hazards and, the loyal, accept them as part of the job.  It is not is not a place for the idealist, they soon become disillusioned, but requires the cold and pragmatic view of the professional to make the things we do understandable and to a point acceptable.  Nobility is achieved in acts on the battlefield, but there is nothing noble about the execution of war in and of itself.  When we invest our time in the betterment of the forces of a fledgling country and they turn their skills against us in the confines of our own havens it is a bitter pill to swallow.  We want to lash out, but seldom can figure to what end.  When a professional takes it upon himself the mete out violence, unsanctioned and on his own accord, he violates the tenets of of combat as we have defined them.  Countries have accepeted certain rules of war for a reason and acts such as SSG Bale’s disrupt the finely tuned machine we have created.

The end of the rope is near.  We are running out of length and soon it will snap taut.  Will America be swinging from the end of it in shame?  President Karzai  needs to prioritize the best interests of his country rather than straddle the fence between hope and despair.  No matter what state America pulls out of Afghanistan in, in just a couple years, one thing I am pretty willing to bet on is the current government of Afghanistan will probably be swinging on a rope right next to us not very long after.




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