Friday, September 26, 2008

About Afghanistan

One big issue impacting the upcoming presidential election and certainly is a major area of concern for we Americans is the war in Iraq. In my opinion we are concentrating too much on Iraq itself and are largely ignoring the importance of Afghanistan. According to what I could find on the internet there are currently some 165,000 soldiers in Iraq while there are approximately 27,000 in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is where the Taliban and Al Qaeda based themselves grew in power before we invaded. They had pretty much run the country.

You see, when the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s the US sent tens of millions to aid the Afghan rebels which, unfortunately, also included the Taliban. Afghanistan more or less became the Soviets' own version of Vietnam and eventually left. But in the aftermath of the Soviet departure the Afghani people were left with a country with no money and no resources. It was ripe for the picking of anyone wanting to claim power there. The Taliban were the ones to fill that power void. The war weary Afghanis were not in any position to put up a fight and unfortunately the US, frankly, didn't care.

This is beginning to happen again. Al Qaeda seem to have regrouped and are growing in power.

I don't think anyone would dispute that there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. It does not appear that there was ever a tie-in between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. We have put a democratic government in place there. Said government has told us they want our troops out. The Iraqi people don't want us there. Our presence in Iraq isn't serving to fight terrorism any longer. It's time to hand the country over to the Iraqi people and get the hell out.

Let us turn our attention to Afghanistan. An important thing to know about the Afghani people is that they don't hate us like the Iraqis do. They welcome our presence and protection. Afghanis are Muslims but largely do not hold an anti-American sentiment.

When I used to work for the County I worked with a lot of Afghanis, most of whom came here as refugees during their country's Soviet occupation. And at the risk of sounding racist, based upon my interaction with my Afghani co-workers, I have come to feel that Afghanis are good people, accepting of other views and religions, and just want to get along.

One co-worker I will never forget was an older man named Anwar Sultan. I don't ever remember Anwar getting upset about anything. He took everything in stride. He never had an unkind word to say about anyone. And although he was Muslim he always wished everyone a Merry Christmas during the holidays.

Stomach cancer took his life. I attended his funeral which was held just a day or two after his passing as is Muslim tradition. It was a Muslim ceremony. The men and the women were separated. At one point all the men lined up, took off their shoes, kneeled, put their hands together palms up and recited a Muslim prayer. I tried to follow suit to honor my friend but since I wasn't familiar with the traditions I quietly stepped away after a few short minutes.

I would later tell another Afghani co-worker that I felt a little uncomfortable because of my unfamiliarity, and didn't wish to be disrespectful and end up unwittingly commmit some sort of gaffe, so I thought it would be better if I simply not attempt it. He told me that the Muslims there understood that there were many non-Muslims in attendance and any mistake made during the prayer wouldn't have offended anyone. That said a lot to me about them as a people.

Afghanistan is also where the large portion of the world's poppy seeds are grown. The Taliban have those poppy seeds processed into opium and are able to fund themselves with the heroin that is produced from the opium. The poppy seed farmers have no interest in helping the Taliban but have little choice but to cooperate if no one is there to protect them.

If we fail to protect Afghanistan this time we may be destined to repeat 9/11 again. Barack Obama appears to fully understand this. John McCain does not.

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