Hell of a Book

I finally finished reading the book that I started last July. I read quite a bit for my regular day job and the last thing I want to do when I get home is read. In any case, because I am waiting for transportation to my assignment, I was able to finish the book.

The book is called "Ghost Wars" and is written by Steve Coll. You can buy it here if you want. My father read this book and recommended it highly. I usually would wait for him to give me his copy but because I knew I was shipping out soon I bought my own copy at the Barnes and Noble in Jefferson City.

So, what is the book about? It is a documentation of the secret history of the Central Intelligence Agency, Afghanistan, and Osama Bin Laden from the Soviet invasion in 1979 to 10 SEP 2001. My copy is the updated version. Coll updated the manuscript when the 9/11 Commission Report was released.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to understand why we need to see this conflict through to its finish. The one thing that stands out in the book is that the United States left the people of Afghanistan in the lurch when the Soviets pulled out and that we relied too heavily on other countries to come up with some sort of policy for the region. We trusted the wrong people and we strung the right people along and let them hang in the wind. We as a nation owe the people of Afghanistan.

Why do we owe them anything? Well for starters, they helped us bleed the Soviets. Talk to any former resident of the Communist Bloc and they wil tell you how grateful they are for the United States standing toe to toe with the Soviets. Many in Afghanistan saw the threat of Isamofascists early on and sounded the alarm and a few key people in the U.S. Government believed them, unfortunately, too many either discounted them or didn't care. When we identified Osama Bin Laden as a threat, the Northern Alliance gladly provided us intel on Bin Laden (for a fee, of course). However, we lacked the imagination and the guts to let the Northern Alliance take Bin Laden out (we wanted him alive) and also to support the Northern Alliance in its fight against the Taliban.

The books focus is Afghanistan. There is a theme here that echoes in other foreign policy blunders of the United States and that is "What happens when the United States doesn't see a conflict thourgh to its end"? Well, there's a few and they all had huge impacts.

1. What happened after Desert Storm? We let Saddam Hussein live and as a result thousands of Kurds in the north and thousands of Shia's in the south were killed and his sons were left to kidnap and rape more women. We finally had to give the United Nations some credibility by going in and taking down Husseins government for violating the UN sanctions.

2. Lets go back a little further. We took CAS (Close Air Support) away from the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and as a result the ARVN could not hold back the superior numbers of the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and South Vietnam fell. To those who argue that the ARVN was a lousy army, they were at the beginning but during the Tet offensive the ARVN performed with distinction and they were getting better. The repercussions of South Vietnam falling was Combodia turning into "The Killing Fields".

3. Let's jump forward to Lebanon. We lost almost three hundred Marines in a suicide truck bomb attack (a harbinger of things to come) and we pulled out. Syria was then able to do what it wanted in Lebanon (to include harassing Isreal through proxy fighters). Supposedly Syria has pulled out but I don't think so.

4. What about Cuba? Granted the Bay of Pigs operation was planned on a wing and a prayer. By withdrawing CAS as the men hit the beach, we guaranteed failure. If we provided CAS, they might have succeeded but we will never know. Castro is still there and the vast majority of Cubans are still suffering in the workers paradise where everyone is equally miserable. Oh, I heard recently that former president Jimmy Carter validated the elections in Venezuela where Hugo Chavez, a Castro wanna be, obviously rigged them.

5. Somalia was a mess. We had restrictive rules of engagement and we didn't have a clear over riding mission. The Rangers got caught in an ugly firefight (read the book or watch the movie "Blackhawk Down"), many men were lost, and the United States pulled out shortly after. Osama Bin Laden claims that the Somalia debacle proved that the United States has no guts to fight. I would argue that we shouldn't have been there in the first place but once you commit, you commit all the way.

I could go on but I think I made my point. My brother thinks we have been Afghanistan too long. I read an opinion piece in the Jefferson City News Tribune critical of the Iraq effort and that we should pull out now. My response, we are still in Germany, Japan, and Italy fifty years after World War II. In Iraq there are thousands of dead Kurds and Shia's and many brutalized women. In Afghanistan there are thousands dead. We owe them, plus we owe the people we lost, to see this through.

CPT NightHawk


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