Laura King / Los Angeles Times – 2010-07-10 18:41:22
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 23, 2010) — Long before he’d ever heard of Rolling Stone magazine, Abdul Baqi already harbored deep doubts about the US-led war effort in Afghanistan.
“The Americans are here for their own reasons, for their own benefit,” said the clean-shaven 23-year-old university student, shaking his head. “If they really wanted to bring peace to Afghanistan, they could have done so already, whoever was in charge.”
For many Afghans, US Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s dismissal over intemperate remarks in a magazine profile has served mainly to underscore their own weariness with a conflict that has dragged on for nearly nine years with no end in sight.
For some, the general’s woes have sharpened existing fears that the Western campaign against the Taliban movement — which ruled the country for five long, harsh years — is foundering. And many Afghans think that the Americans, like the Soviet Union two decades ago and so many would-be conquerors, will ultimately fail.
“I think the Russians had more determination than the Americans do,” said Masood Sayedi, a 34-year-old company worker. “That doesn’t mean it turned out well for them either, but more problems now only help the Taliban.”
McChrystal won the respect, even affection, of many Afghans with his stance that Western forces’ chief aim should be the safeguarding of Afghan civilian lives.
But even widespread gratitude for that doctrine does not outweigh a nagging sense that key Western goals are going unmet — such as stamping out corruption in the administration of President Hamid Karzai, or providing the basic government services that are absent in so much of the country.
The turmoil has heightened concerns that parliamentary elections scheduled for September will be a trigger for even greater violence.
“So the operation in Kandahar is postponed, but the election campaign is already going on, and there are so many Taliban in the south,” said Khalid Pashtoon, a lawmaker from Kandahar province. “It seems as if this war will be a long one.”
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