Afghanistan: Can Obama succeed in the ‘land of the unruly?’

President Obama wants to add troops and increase aid to Afghanistan.

President Obama wants to add troops and increase aid to Afghanistan.

(CNN) — The ancient Persians called it “the land of the unruly.” Historians call it “the graveyard of empires.” President Obama calls Afghanistan something else: The “central front” in the battle against terrorism.

Afghanistan has defied armies led by military leaders including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Now Obama’s new administration will attempt to accomplish what few leaders have been able to do: stabilize Afghanistan.

Obama says he wants to start by adding U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Although some believe that a “surge” helped in Iraq, there is no military solution for stabilizing Afghanistan, several military and political experts say.

“Controlling the Afghan people is a losing proposition,” says Stephen Tanner, author of “Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban.” “No one has ever been able to control the country.”

The fierce nationalism of the Afghan people has defied armies for centuries.

The fierce nationalism of the Afghan people has defied armies for centuries.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is struggling to control the country now, Tanner says. The landlocked nation, which is roughly the size of Texas, has no strong national police, he says; its citizens are averse to taxes and a strong central government.

Afghans seem to unite only when a foreign army occupies their country, Tanner says.

“The people are so disunited within that they can’t resist an invader at the border,” Tanner says. “But once you’re in, you’re surrounded by them.”

The resurgence of the Taliban will complicate Obama’s plans as well, Tanner says.

The Taliban are making a comeback. Since 2004, the last year of relative calm, annual acts of violence have increased from about 900 to 8,950 in 2007 and roadside bombs from 325 incidents to 1,469, Tanner says.

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Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 04:00  Leave a Comment  
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