I heard ghosts of whispers while I was in Afghanistan. I could not confirm these details but they were very troubling to me.
At an Indian restaurant (the restaurant was meant to attract Afghans who developed a taste for Indian food while in exile as refugees as well as Westerners who enjoined Indian food) several truck drivers were sitting near us were talking. The interpreter I worked with said they were talking about Arabs claiming to be al Qaeda who were running road blocks in the open along the main highway which connected all four major Afghan cities.
An Afghan newspaper published in Kabul for the business-class reported al Qaeda, not the Taliban nor the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was reestablishing bases in Nuristan province. The article stated that al Qaeda viewed Nuristan safer than Pakistan because there were less drone strikes and the American presence was weak in the mountainous province.
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Finally, many soldiers told me either first or second hand stories of seeing women in Arab dresses vice standard Afghan clothing walking around markets without men. If these stories were true, then it implies foreign fighters, possibly al Qaeda, felt Afghanistan was so safe that they were bringing their wives along. In Afghanistan, only women who knew they were untouchable and feared would dare walk out to a public place without a male relative.
I never knew what to make of such stories. However, they all added together to paint a picture of slow moving defeat. If al Qaeda were able to establish itself, then the war would be a waste.
Today the reaction to news about Afghanistan is shocking. Americans are being killed by infiltrators and traitors in the Afghan army and police. We passed the "grim milestone" of 2,000 military killed. Yet unlike Iraq, where the press was eager to point out the bad news and it became political capital, neither party is discussing Afghanistan. It is a war America wants to forget. President George W Bush's promise of "We will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail" is being turned into a joke by the American people.
The press seems to go along with this. In Sunday's Washington Post described how the war was "winding down". Elsewhere the press portrays the message that with bin Laden death al Qaeda died as well.
Thankfully, journalist Lara Logan has pointed out that most of what Americans are being told is wrong (in my less than humble opinion). If she is right, and I fear she is, a new storm is coming which poses dangers even larger than a 9/11.
Here powerful point can be summed up by this portion of her speech
“Our way of life is under attack and if you think that’s government propaganda, if you think that’s nonsense, if you think that’s warmongering, you’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight.”
“In your arrogance, you think you write the script, but you don’t. There’s two sides and we don’t dictate the terms. In fact after eleven years of war in Afghanistan, we’re rushing for the exits as fast as we can, not only do we not dictate the terms, but we have less power to dictate anything on the world stage.”
“Ambassador Ryan Crocker said, ‘We’ve killed all the slow and stupid ones. The ones that are left are more committed and they didn’t become any kinder or gentler in the last eleven years.’
“‘Another thing he said. We think we’ve won the campaign and they haven’t even begun to fight.’”
“If you fail to identify the ideological component to this fight, if you fail to identify what your enemy is really fighting for, if you lie about who they really are, I don’t see how you can possibly have the right strategy.”
“There’s a narrative coming out of Washington, much of it driven by Pakistani lobbying money and by Taliban apologists. One of my favorite things to read about is how the Taliban today is so unlike the Taliban of 2001, they’re a more moderate, gentler kinder Taliban who just can’t wait to see women in the workplace occupying an equal role in society and great economic prosperity for all of Afghanistan and they don’t really want to take us back 3,000 years into that terrible place I witnessed.”
“And when I look at what’s happening in Libya, this big song and dance, whether this was a terrorist attack or a protest, and you just want to scream for god’s sake, are you kidding me, the last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole which was a prelude to the 1998 embassy bombings which was a prelude to 9/11. And you’re sending FBI to investigate. I hope you’re sending in your best clandestine warriors who will go in to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, that its ambassadors will not be murdered and that the United States will not do nothing about it.”
The Arab Civil Wars are likely to get even hotter and al Qaeda is viewed by many as a fighter against oppressive regimes. While the US will push for leaders to step down and bomb Libya, Arabs who are not militant Islamists see how al Qaeda has been on the ground in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Americans want to disengage from the Greater Middle East and rebuild the economy at home. However, we have involved ourselves deeply and now the storm will not let us go.