One thing has gotten crystal clear this week. It is past time for the United States to pull our people out of Afghanistan.
The military action that the United States took in that country after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were necessary, with the Taliban providing comfort to al-Qaida. The attempts to rebuild the nation, however, have been fruitless. After the events of the past week -- and the reactions from our supposed "friends" there -- it's getting obvious that our so-called allies don't want us there anymore than our enemies do.
This latest upheaval came from the accidental burning of copies of the Quran by U.S. military who had confiscated defaced copies of the Islamic holy book from prisoners who were passing messages by writing in them, along with other materials. The Qurans were burned along with the other materials by U.S. personnel who didn't realize they were burning religious books. Apparently no one in Afghanistan had a problem with the prisoners defacing the Muslim holy book to start with.
Six Americans have died in the two weeks since the demonstrations began. An Afghan soldier -- a part of the group we're trying to help train -- killed two U.S. military personnel on Feb. 23, an Afghan gunman killed two U.S. military advisers Feb. 25 and an Afghan solider and another shot and killed two U.S. soldiers working with NATO on Thursday.
President Obama apologized for the mistake, which may have been a mistake in itself by placing the U.S. in a corner of the administration's making. Those who hate the U.S. are not reasonable people who can accept a reasonable explanation, so any apology falls on deaf ears. That's to be expected. But our "allies" are lining up against us as well. Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants U.S. military personnel to be punished and the United Nations secretary-general's representative in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, has already jumped to the conclusion as well that the destruction of the Qurans was intentional and punishment must be handed out. Kubis is throwing America under the bus with the Afghans, making it a point to tell protesters who attacked a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan that "we (United Nations) were not the ones who desecrated the holy Quran. We deeply, deeply, profoundly respect Islam."
And, by extension, the U.N.'s top mouthpiece in Afghanistan is telling demonstrators just what they want to hear -- that the United States doesn't.
A group of Afghan clerics want the U.S. personnel involved turned over to the Afghan government for conviction (any trial there would be a farce), and they want control of the prisons along with a discontinuation of night raids that the U.S. says have been effective in capturing insurgents. The clerics' demands support Karzai's position of stopping the raids and handing over the prisons to his government's control, which are parts of the negotiations between the U.S. and Afghan governments.
All of this brings into question whether NATO's plans to draw down troops and replace them with advisers is a doable plan, particularly if the anti-American antagonists don't get their pound of flesh in this incident. With the propensity of our Afghan "allies" to turn guns on us, how can we ensure the safety of our people? Very likely we can't.
It's looking more and more like the best solution is to let Kubis' U.N. (sans any American involvement and support) and Karzai's government work out the details of how Afghanistan will function post-war, load up our stuff and bring our people home.