Two Afghan stories this week suggest much about US progress in winning hearts and minds there. The first involves Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan’s departing president, the “Mayor of Kabul,” Karzai asserted that “America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here.” It’s easy to paint Karzai as a dissembling ingrate, which is exactly what the American ambassador to Afghanistan did in response. But it truly says something that Karzai, the recipient of more than $100 billion in developmental aid from the US for Afghanistan (not including military aid!), portrays the US as working against the interests of the Afghan people. There’s one heart and mind the US plainly didn’t win.
The second story involves three Afghan officers, one major and two captains, on a training mission at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. The three officers, carefully vetted by US Central Command, decided they had had enough of working with America. They drove to New York and attempted to enter Canada at Niagara Falls, seeking asylum, or so it seems. There are three more hearts and minds the US plainly didn’t win.
The details of this particular story are farcical. The night before their unauthorized trip to the Canadian border, they enjoyed the pleasures of a genuine American strip club, where they were reportedly “well behaved” according to the club owner. The next day, they were brought to an American shopping mall as part of their introduction to “the cultural aspects of American life.” At the mall, they gave their escort the slip and headed to Canada, where they were eventually intercepted at the border crossing at Niagara Falls. According to The Cape Cod Times, when the three Afghan officers went missing, among the first places the US military looked for them was at the strip club.
Talk about an introduction to American culture! First a strip club on Friday night, then a shopping mall on the weekend, then an unscheduled road trip to a major tourist attraction. These Afghan officers may have absorbed too much of the American way.
In all seriousness, what does it say about the success of American efforts vis-a-vis Afghanistan when its former president denounces the US and visiting Afghan officers, after sampling American fleshpots and temples to consumerism, attempt to flee to Canada?
There’s a lesson here about folly, if only we would care to draw it.