How Afghanistan Is Not Like Iraq

by Patrick Appel

Nir Rosen, along the most compelling critics of the wars,  has a new dispatch worthy of contemplation:

My time in Afghanistan has convinced me that the U.S. is drawing the wrong conclusions from the Iraq experience. The most obvious lesson of course is not to invade and occupy another country. But in addition, none of the factors that helped reduce the violence in Iraq exist in Afghanistan. At 20 percent of the Iraqi population, Sunni Arabs could be brutally crushed by Shiites and Americans until they were forced to accept a new order. The Taliban are dominated by Pashtuns who are 40 percent of the Afghan population, the largest group. And the Taliban have every reason to feel like they are winning. Every year they control more and more of the country and reduce the ability of the Afghan government to operate anywhere. In fact now there are Taliban groups in non Pashtun areas, among Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmen. Moreover, the Taliban are not only Taliban these days, meaning they are not just religious students led by Mullahs, the way they were when they fought the British in the 19th Century, the Russians in the 1980s or warlords in the 1990s. Many of them are just common Afghans, farmers, villagers, who view themselves as Mujahedin.  

(Image: US Marines from 1st Battalion 8th, Bravo company open fire on Taliban fighters in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province on December 20, 2010. By Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)