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From the latest reports, my son-in-law is now in Germany and should be back in the USA within a day or two to continue his lengthy recovery from his combat related injuries in Kandahar Province on Tuesday. Beyond that, I cannot say too much about the incident in which he was wounded. Needless to say, I am relieved that he is out of Afghanistan. And while he is badly injured, at least he's alive. Many, including one of his compatriots, have not been so lucky.
A roster of squandered lives in the continuing fools errand in Afghanistan can be found here. That's right, 2,155 wasted American lives (3,229wasted lives if coalition nation casualties are included). If one includes the number of wounded, the number increases by another 17674 through the end of September. And for what? I suspect as we saw after the fall of Vietnam, the deaths and squandered billions of dollars will end up having changed nothing other than enriching defense contractors and corrupt Afghan officials.
For those not as knowledgeable about the history of Afghanistan, here are highlights from a CNN piece from December 2009 that we should reflect upon three years later:
Known as the "graveyard of empires," Afghanistan has a reputation for undoing ambitious military ventures and humiliating would-be conquerors, a fate his [Obama's] opponents at home say is not worth risking more American lives for.
In the past two centuries, both Soviet and British invaders have been forced to beat bloody retreats from Afghanistan, deprived of victories that, on paper, looked easy, but ultimately proved futile.
And can it only be coincidence that in the wake of their Afghan disasters both the British and Soviet empires -- like that of Alexander the Great's, which extended over the region more than two millennia earlier -- crumbled? Almost immediately, in the case of the Soviets, a century later for Britain.
"The geography is very hard: It is a country of mountains and deserts, of quite severe winters and that makes it difficult not only to fight in, but also to operate logistically. It limits your mobility and it is difficult to project power."
This, say some, is the inevitable Afghan experience. Isolated, poverty-stricken and brutalized by interminable conflict that technological advances in warfare fail to end, the country apparently remains as impervious to today's military adventurers as it was to yesterday's.
"It's a hard place to fight, to conquer and rule," says Patrick Porter, a lecturer in defense studies at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Kings College London.
"It is possible in wars against guerrillas to flood cities with troops. It is much harder to flood mountains. And Afghanistan is a country not of very powerful cities but of thousands of isolated villages cut off in severe winters, allowing guerrillas and insurgents to melt away and return."
For Gen. Victor Yermakov, a former Soviet commander in Afghanistan, the situation is more clear cut. Summed up by what he says are the words of Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty that ruled much of central Asia in the 1500s: "Afghanistan has not been and never will be conquered, and will never surrender to anyone."
The article goes on to quote naysayers who say the past history of military failures by outside armies are not determinative. I wonder if some of those windbags would say the same things three years later with the situation no better and perhaps deteriorating. As the saying goes, "he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it." Our senior military leaders (perhaps some of those most guilty of American hubris) have obviously learned absolutely nothing from history and civilian officials - including Barack Obama - have stupidly listened to the generals. Worse yet, some of these generals, as we now know, seemed to focus more on affairs and flirtations than running the war effort.
Those in Congress and the White House who say that they "support our troops" need to do so by ending the Afghanistan fiasco NOW. Bring the troops home now.