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Dec 17

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, December 17, 2009 5:24 AM 

Here "the people" are, mainly university students, burning Prez Obama in effigy in Kabul in October. "Focus on the people of this country," Adm Mullen urges his troops. OK. How 'bout if he goes first?

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Via the AP:

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FRONTENAC, Afghanistan — The top U.S. military officer on Thursday visited the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, where he advised troops to "focus on the people of this country."

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made his first stop at a small base where U.S. forces have taken heavy losses since arriving in August. The Army's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry has suffered 21 killed and 40 wounded — out of a group of roughly 800 — in the short time it has been deployed.

But troops have also made inroads against Taliban supply lines in the critical Kandahar province.

Mullen told the troops that the way to win is to focus on protecting major population areas and ensuring that Afghans can move freely in their own country.

"We can tactically win, but if we're killing local civilians were going to strategically lose," he warned. "I hope more than anything you will be able to focus on the people of this country. That's what this is all about."

The unadulterated lunacy of this mindset calls out for a massive and immediate psychiatric intervention. Short of that, how about a quick scan of the civilian casualty figures that belie even the twisted logic of Mullen's (Petraeus's, McChrystal's, COIN boosters', etc.) position? I refer back to figures released several months ago by UNAMA -- the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and displayed in this pie chart:

As noted in August:

The civilian casualties that can be put down to the US -- "air strikes" (20 percent) and perhaps "force escalation" (1 percent) -- come to 21 percent. Civilian casualties caused by the enemy -- assassinations (11 percent) and "suicide attacks and roadside bombs" (39 percent) -- come to  50 percent. The  last figure  -- anti-government/Int'l forces (29 percent) doesn't distinguish between sides.

But note: It is this 20 percent of casualties caused by air strikes that make the headlines, the international furor, the inspirational centerpiece of US strategy. It is also this 20 percent of the casualties that supposedly prevents the Afghans from throwing in their lot with us against the Taliban. Funny how the other 50 to 80 percent of civilian casualties don't seem to drive Afghans away from the Taliban -- not even to the point where the Afghans can raise their own security forces against them....

Now, back to today's looney tunes:

Mullen said the southern region of Afghanistan, a traditional Taliban stronghold, "is absolutely vital to our national interests because of the risk that still exists here."

The brigade commander, Col. Jonathan Neumann, said his soldiers have begun to get better tips from the locals and are learning how to find and avoid deadly roadside bombs.

It's a war for heart & minds & tips.

In the brigade's first 100 days on the ground, Neumann said, it counted more than 300 "enemy engagements," including improvised explosive devices and direct and indirect weapons fire. But the brigade has not hit a roadside bomb in about a month, he said.

That's a positive "benchmark," of course, but what does it mean in the long term?

Morale in his unit remains high, Neumann said: "There hasn't been a necessity to call a time-out."

(A "time-out"?)

Mullen later flew by helicopter to Camp Nathan Smith, a small base in Kandahar city. He talked with five local tribal leaders, who told him that corruption at all levels is crippling the country.

These guys are good: They know all the buttons to push with a guy like Mullen.

The August elections proved that people were losing confidence, one leader told Mullen. He said 2,000 people in his district participated in national elections five years ago, but only 50 turned out in August.

"We have to start delivering results now," Mullen acknowledged.

"We"  are supposed to remake the Afghan Muslim into a regular Squeaky McClean-Can-do?

He also assured the leaders that U.S. forces do not plan to stay any longer than needed and want to turn over responsibility for security to local Afghan forces as soon as possible.

The tribal leaders also made a pitch for a hydroelectric dam to go along with one the U.S. built here in the 1950s. Mullen made no promises, but said he'd see what he could do.

A pitch for a hydro-electric dam? Someone should tell Mullen and the tribal leaders that the US, besides being out of its mind, is also out of money.

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