Target-Rich Environment

by Mark Steyn

Andy McCarthy’s weekend column is a terrific response to the Senatorial stay-the-coursers on Afghanistan:

Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham worry, for good reason, that American tolerance for that state of affairs has been exhausted by a series of atrocities that demonstrates Afghan contempt for the West. The senators gingerly describe these incidents as “examples of the few Afghan soldiers who despicably turned their weapons on Americans.”

Sorry, gentlemen: Quite apart from the murderous riots over accidental Koran burnings, American and coalition forces are the targets of an unrelenting assassination campaign by Afghan security forces. Michael Yon puts the number at 200 coalition members killed in nearly 50 documented incidents.

On Sunday that number increased by three. An American was killed by an Afghan policeman, and two Britons by an Afghan soldier:

As the Royal Military Police began investigating yesterday’s tragedy, it emerged that the gunman went berserk after a row broke out at the entrance to the British military compound in Lashkar Gah, Helmand.

Lieutenant Gul Nazir is said to have arrived in an army vehicle with several men pretending to be assigned to guard a delegation of VIPs visiting the base.

But when he was challenged by guards and told to wait outside, he opened fire with an M16 semi-automatic rifle, killing the two men and wounding a third…

British forces shot him dead after he killed a Royal Marine and a soldier from the staff and personnel support department of the Adjutant General’s Corps…

The joint British-Afghan investigation announced yesterday will try to discover whether Nazir was working for the Taliban.

What difference does that make? The Taliban hate western forces, and so do thousands of serving Afghan soldiers and police. The only difference is that the former hate us on their own dime, while the latter hate the hand that feeds them. As I wrote earlier this month:

In Afghanistan, foreigners are dying at the hands of the locals who know them best. The Afghans trained by Westerners, paid by Westerners, and befriended by Westerners are the ones who have the easiest opportunity to kill them.

To stay the course, you have to have a course to stay. And Senator McCain & Co cannot articulate one beyond the “progress that we have personally witnessed over repeated visits“. An Aussie politician on a similar visit to his own troops told me the question he asked when invited to admire that “progress”: “If things are going so well, why can’t I leave the base? Why, in fact, are there places on the base it’s not safe for me to go?” (The parts to which the likes of Lieut Nazir have access.)

That’s a better question than McCain, Lieberman and Graham seem to have asked. The lack of strategic purpose in Afghanistan ought to be a national disgrace.

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