The Dreadful Legacies of Bush

Practically every day the news points toward the drama of the two wars inherited from the Bush era: Afghanistan and Iraq.

The leaks revealed this week by the website WikiLeaks do not really tell us anything new on the first of those military interventions. The leaks matter not because of their content, but because of their provenance. They are from official U.S. military sources — namely progress reports established by the military intelligence — and they add to the image we have of a difficult war, of foreign forces often resented by the local population who pay the high price of the terrorist attacks performed by the Taliban (they make up over 60 percent of the victims of the conflict) and of the coalition strikes.

More critically for the future of the war in Afghanistan, those leaks confirm the duplicity of Pakistan. Official reports posted on WikiLeaks stigmatize the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). They are once again, and this time by official American sources, accused of actively supporting the Afghan Taliban.

Islamabad may try its best to deny this collusion with the Afghan insurrection, but the documents offered on WikiLeaks denounce an actual collaboration between the ISI and the Taliban: networks set up jointly to fight American soldiers and assassinate leading Afghan figures.

The leaks span a period that ends with the arrival of Barack Obama at the White House in January 2009. There is no reason to think that fundamental changes have taken place since then. As the New York Times wrote on July 28, “if Mr. Obama cannot persuade Islamabad to cut its ties to […] the extremists in Pakistan, there is no hope of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Seven years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the situation in Iraq is not looking any brighter. The Iraqi people cast their votes five months ago but are still waiting for a government.

Violence — car bombs, assassinations and kidnappings — is a daily occurrence. The Iranian influence on the country is stronger than ever. Electricity blackouts, another sign of the reigning chaos, are still a constant in the life of the Iraqis, and they were the cause of riots in June in the main Southern port of Basra.

There is a link between the two conflicts launched in the wake of 9/11. Former President George W. Bush never prioritized Afghanistan. As soon as the Taliban were driven out of Kabul, where they were hosting al-Qaida in 2002, he devoted all his attention to Iraq, which was posing no threat whatsoever to the United States. But it was there, in Iraq, that he wanted a regime change that would serve as an example to the entire Middle East region. When he should have been focusing on Afghanistan, through massive civilian assistance, then-President Bush was getting into the wrong war and allowing the rebirth of a Taliban insurrection, which has never stopped gaining ground since.

The day we are done paying for the consequences of this major strategic error is still a very long way off.

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