Self-Inflicted Wounds In Afghanistan
Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari meet with President Obama today. The recent focus has been on Pakistan, where a breakdown of the cease-fire in the Swat Valley presages open warfare between the military and the Taliban, with hundreds of thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire. But recent events in Afghanistan have conspired against American efforts to turn the tide in that conflict. Another errant bomb strike left as many as 100 dead in a small district in the west of the country, further inflaming local communities against the US presence. And then images of crusading US soldiers really hurt in the battle for hearts and minds.
Of all blunders to commit, this one is beyond the pale and only sure to arose the ire of the Islamic world unnecessarily. US soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan have been filmed with local language Bibles and urged to be "witnesses for Jesus" despite anti-proselytizing rules.
In the video obtained by Qatar's Al Jazeera, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is shown telling US soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."
"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.
"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."
Jeremy Scahill has more.
Until these twin body blows, Administration officials acted like their biggest problem in Afghanistan was the leadership of Hamid Karzai, who with his top Presidential rival withdrawing from upcoming elections and his consolidation of support by bringing warlords back into the government will surely continue as the leader of the nation, vexing any change in strategy American officials would like to see (I guess they'll try to bypass him in some form). But these threats to the public morale of Afghans, and their acceptance of a continued occupation force in their country, are a much bigger problem. Especially because we've showed no interest in leaving anytime soon.