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Al Ahram, Egypt

The Smell of Defeat

By Salwa Habib

Yet, how can he call on his country to claim victory? Doesn't the entire military scene smell like defeat?

Translated By Asmaa Sharaf El Deen

9 August 2009

Edited by Christie Chu

Egypt - Al Ahram - Original Article (Arabic)

If one listens to the recent declarations of Western military commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can see how confused their goals are. Even more, there are doubts about the achievement of any progress there, in spite of the fact that thousands of troops are continuing to be sent.

In Afghanistan, many officials are suggesting a swift withdrawal. Those officials include the new NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who, along with some other NATO members, openly supports negotiations with moderate movements of the Taliban in Afghanistan so that a truce can be reached. Such an approach has also been raised by the British Foreign Minister, David Miliband. That is because British forces have been enduring their greatest losses in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war, in addition to the objection of British people to the continuous presence of their forces abroad.

Meanwhile, the American military commanders are setting up to draft a new strategy that fundamentally is aimed at changing the way the troops work in Afghanistan … but what about this change? It can be described by what General Commander David H. Petraeus said. He spoke of transforming the culture of special operations. And that plan is to pivot on increasing the number of Afghan forces, stepping up efforts to get rid of corrupted officials of local government and adopting “unconventional” ways of combating Taliban elements, in addition to encouraging American officials to keep in contact with Afghans.

This, according to Petraeus, requires increasing the number of American forces, which are scheduled to reach 68,000 by this coming fall. However, this might not be agreed to by Congress, which quintessentially doubts the reasons behind the American mission in Afghanistan. Moreover, the American people are now sick of wars, especially when we know that this past July was the bloodiest for the American and NATO troops. And to make the scene even more perplexing, it was said that the Afghan government paid 20,000 pounds sterling to seal a temporary deal with the Taliban with the aim of reaching an agreement, or maybe to easily fake the results of elections held in August.

On the other hand, in Iraq, a senior American military advisor adopted the view that it is high time for America to “declare” victory and immediately leave. Not only that, but he also revealed the tense relationship between Iraqi and American officers after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities on June 30. The American advisor believes that U.S. troops have by now become guests in Iraq, and they will have to leave soon because their presence is unjustifiable and it is not going to improve the performance of Iraqis.

Seemingly, the American military advisor fears the engagement of his troops anew in the daily bloody hubbub in Iraq pursuant to the mutually signed security pact. Perhaps he is right, from a humane point of view, to demand the American withdrawal after six years of fighting. Yet, how can he call on his country to claim victory? Doesn't the entire military scene smell like defeat?



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