As Americans observe the current round of violent Afghan protests, and prepare to receive the remains of Americans whose lives were taken training Afghans to defend their own country, it is easy to say: "Screw them all!" It's understandable that many are saying exactly that, because the rioting crowds seem to encompass the entire Nation. After all we've done to bring Freedom, Peace, and Prosperity to a people living in the 14th Century, how could they possibly turn on us over this incident.
The first thing to remember is that those aren't "average Afghans" in the streets, and while the crowds seem large, the biggest riots numbered only in the thousands, in the capital of Kabul. Elsewhere, there were crowds, numbering in the hundreds, in places like Jalabad & Konduz. These are cities of tens of thousands to millions of residents.
Americans have rightly asked: When will President Karzai apologize for the Afghan troops that have murdered OUR Troops. When will he condemn Taliban attacks on HIS civilians. The answer is that he HAS apologized for the attack on Our Troops and he routinely condemns attacks on Afghan Civilians by the Taliban. So, the question should be: Why doesn't the MSM report those apologies and condemnations? Why does it only report Karzai's words when Americans are going to take offense at them?
The "Koran burning" will have a negative effect on the overall perception of American Troops in Afghanistan. "Somebody" was really stupid in how they handled that and politicians seem to have compounded the issue. BUT none of that justifies the current violence in the streets.
There has however been a huge increase in attacks on US and ISAF Troops by Afghan Troops and Police Officers since 2008. The Obama Administration has attempted to downplay that as "lone wolf" attacks. There have been two in the last week alone. This is not a result of the Koran burning, though in this case, the Koran burning was the "excuse." The riots were pre-planned as well, with the Koran burning used as the excuse.
The attacks on US & ISAF Troops is a MAJOR problem, and should be properly addressed. It can not be fixed by denying that these are Taliban agents that have infiltrated the ANA/ANP, or ANA/ANP that have been turned to the Taliban. The question is how are more Taliban agents getting into Afghan Security Forces? There is a precedent for this symptom. It also occurred in Iraq. It happens because the politicians in Washington wanted to rush the stand up of Iraq/Afghan Security Forces. The politicians decided to force a rapid expansion of those forces and it left little time or resources to vett those recruits.
Of course, the enemy decided to infiltrate. It's part of the strategy laid out in the terrorist/revolutionary's handbook. The decision for the enemy is not whether or not to infiltrate and attack from the ranks, but when they should sacrifice their intelligence agent on the inside by having him create mayhem and distrust by attacking their enemies.
And it's not Americans that are taking the brunt of the current riots. It's Afghans. The Afghan National Police and Army are the ones on the streets, attempting to regain calm. It is their vehicles being destroyed. The people being killed in the streets by rioters are mostly Afghans.
So, how do we fix this? The riots will run their course. The Afghan Security Forces are the ones that will have to deal with that. And there is no overnight fix for the infiltrators to that force.
Recruits need to be vetted. In a nation with a lack of records and a minority that are even literate, vetting recruits can be difficult, but it must be done. Vetting means that someone must go to that recruits village and ask about him. It means talking to his family, to his friends, and to his Village Elders. It is not just a matter of the answers they give, but also their own disposition. But this cannot be done when the politicians are focused on how many recruits they can put in uniform, rather than how well those units can conduct their mission.
Vetting can be done. It is a huge task, but it is not insurmountable. And it must be done top done. It won't be easy. Afghans are not prone to telling outsiders negative things about their friends and family and are highly prone to making up negative things about their enemies. You start the vetting at the top, because you need Afghan Captains & Majors, that have been vetted, to go out and vett the Lieutenants & Sergeants, who can then help vett the Privates and Recruits. You pair up a vetted Afghan from the area, with one from outside the area to do the vetting, to get an objective report. You make that Elder, and those Vetters responsible for the future conduct of those they vetted.
And you cross check the reports and names of recruits against the list of those that have cycled through the EPW camps and other databases established throughout the last 10 years of war.
But let's look at the "natural reaction" to the current situation of rioting in Afghanistan. Who benefits most if this reaction runs its course? The current Administration in Washington put us on a timeline for retreat in 2009. There has been blind support for that timeline within his own party since day one, and little resistance from his opponents. If the current, natural reaction runs its course, he and Ron Paul will see increased support for their positions to retreat.
The Taliban have been demanding retreat from Afghanistan since 2001. It is one of their conditions for negotiations with the Obama Administration. A pullout from Afghanistan will tip the tables in their bid to overthrow the Afghan Government, and return to power.
The War in Afghanistan was not only a war against Al-Qaeda, regardless of what Joe Biden has claimed this year. The Taliban have always been the enemy. It was the Taliban Army and the Taliban government that 200 members of the 5th Special Forces Group fought, destroyed, and overthrew in a few weeks of 2001. Hamid Karzai was right there in the midst of that. He fought and was wounded in the battles to overthrow the Taliban, beside members of the 5th Special Forces. Yes, Al-Qaeda terrorists were the primary target, but that battle had to be fought through the Taliban and the two remain allies.
So, what would retreat from Afghanistan do? The Nation would almost certainly and immediately fall into another Civil War. The Taliban have rebuilt their strength in the period of 2009-2011. They have taken some hard losses in Helmand and Kandahar, but they maintain huge reserves in Wazirstan, Pakistan and in Paktika, Paktia, & Jalabad, Afghanistan. The last 3 years have seen 75% of the violence in Afghanistan since 2001.
When Al-Qaeda retreated from Iraq, they re-consolidated in Pakistan, as well as expanded into Nigeria, Somalia, & Yemen. Al-Qaeda is perhaps stronger today than it has been at any time since 9/11, and certainly stronger than it was in 2006 and much stronger than it was in 2008. Al-Qaeda is supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
A retreat from Afghanistan would almost certainly mean a Civil War in Afghanistan. The Taliban would quite likely win that war, but almost certainly take the Eastern and Southern Provinces of the country. Al-Qaeda would again be given carte blanche to run terrorist camps in those areas under Taliban control. As Afghan units saw the battle turn against them, they would likely, en masse, change sides, just as the Taliban Army turned against itself in 2001. It is the Afghan way to side with the Victors, even if they just fought against them.
Would we be forced to return to Afghanistan? More than likely the situation would call for it, and future politicians would not do so. Somalia demonstrates this trend. Despite the fact that Al-Qaeda and their al-Shabab allies are in control over much of the country, there are few instances of US and other forces doing anything there. Despite the fact that many Nations know exactly where the Al-Shabab pirates are based out of, and that they are financing Al-Qaeda through that piracy, politicians are unwilling to commit to destroying the enemy.
The majority of Afghans oppose the Taliban and support Democracy. The majority of Afghans want their daughters educated, but the majority of Afghans get their news by word of mouth, and for decades only those (male) Afghans that studied at madrassas ran by Islamists, learned to read. Afghans are at a disadvantage when it comes to reading the facts and coming to their own conclusions. That means they are more prone to the lies spread by the enemy.