Friday, October 19, 2018


Describing small, "eek" sort of fears, Emily wonders why things like bugs that scare her, don't seem to bother John Cullum. John says he does what has to be done, like a soldier, despite his fears.

Teasing John who is calm and collected, even on a big deal opening night of a big Broadway show, Emily deems him her "brave Knight."

Monday, October 15, 2018


Why oh why are we stuck in a war for 17 years? I find myself asking questions others have asked, hunting for answers in TimeWeek Magazine, Newsweek, even UK's The Guardian. 
We invaded in December 2001 to topple a Taliban govern-ment with a harsh form of Sunni Islam, that had given safe haven to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The population, about 20,500,000, is now around 36,700,000. The Afghan government controls the cities and about 60% of the county. Right now, the Taliban, with 40%, controls more territory than they have at any time since 2001, and are attacking and killing hundreds of Afghan soldiers and civilians.

How many U.S. troops are there?
When President Obama took office in 2009, 30,000 troops were there. He tripled the force hoping it would bring victory. In 2011 there were 100,000 U.S. troops. The Taliban waited in Pakistan till Obama gradually withdrew troops.
       President Trump, skeptical of the war, was persuaded by the Military to continue supporting the Afghan army and boosted our forces to 15,000. They are now on a mission, aided by Afghan forces, using armed drones and airstrikes. But 15,000 troops can't defeat the Taliban, and Afghan forces are collapsing. In 2016, nearly 7,000 Afghan soldiers and police were killed. Since then, the government stopped releasing figures.

What about the Taliban? They're believed to be 20,000 to 40,000 fighters, about the same as a decade ago. With an annual budget of $2 billion, they get funding from Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi sources, probably Russia, and also from their control of the lucrative international opium and hashish trades that employ 600,000 Afghans.
       New York Times said, "The Taliban are much better equipped than anti-government forces and Afghan security forces--they have more resources, and access to modern weapons."
       James Mattis, our Defense Secretary, has been negotiating, but the Taliban are rejecting our terms, refusing to renounce violence, break ties with al Qaeda, accept the protection of women's rights in the Afghan constitution, and negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

So why don't we just pull out? The Afghan government would fall. Afghanistan would again become a Taliban-ruled medieval society, and al Qaeda and ISIS would have free rein there to plan and carry out attacks on the U.S. In 2011, when the U.S. pulled out of Iraq, it led to civil war and the rise of ISIS. Top experts believe that negotiating with the Taliban is the only way to end the conflict, but negotiations involve agreements with India, China, Russia, Iran, and most of all, Pakistan, who won't negotiate.

Why is Pakistan so important? We rely on Pakistani land and airspace to supply our troops, but the Pakistani military also allows the Afghan Taliban to retreat into its territory. Pakistan's new prime minister, Imran Khan, a fierce critic of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, wants us to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban. The head of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, says, "Now is the time for them to step forward." It hasn't been happening.

The horrendous cost $4 trillion, but approximately 2,400 U.S. service personnel have been killed in the Afghan war, more than 20,000 wounded--if you add in the future costs of the war veterans and their health care, and the interest on the money borrowed to finance the war, the figure approaches $8 trillion.
     Much of this money was wasted. Our special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction told the Senate, "The United States threw itself into reconstruction with haste and hubris, with untested assumptions, unrealistic expectations, with piles of cash and tight deadlines for spending it too fast, with too little oversight."
By 2014, $109 billion had been spent on reconstruction alone, more in today's dollars than the entire Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe. Even so, Afghanistan still lacks adequate roads, schools, and infrastructure. Our country still spends $45 billion a year on Afghan security and economic aid, more than double Afghanistan's GDP.

All I can do is post this, and pray for bigger protests.