As about 100 people listened intently, a veteran Afghanistan war journalist explained why the United States should pull out of the decimated country.
Anand Gopal, who formally worked as a war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor and the Nation, was the keynote speaker at a neighborhood forum titled, “Which Way Afghanistan.”
The Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats sponsored the event, held at Park Slope’s United Methodist Church, which also featured Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
In introducing Gopal, CBID president Lucy Koteen noted he also has the distinction of reporting both from the American front lines and has met with Al-Queda leaders.
Gopal, an American, was able to do this as he speaks both major languages used in Afghanistan – Farsi and Pashto.
“The (Afghan) people don’t want us or to help us. The people don’t want the U.S. military there,” said Gopal.
Gopal said the United States forces are not wanted and will ultimately fail in Afghanistan for three reasons – they are blamed for civilian casualties, the corrupt and predatory existing Afghanistan government that is viewed as an en enemy of the people and because of a lack of construction and development.
Regarding civilian casualties, Gopal said that often even when the Taliban inflict casualties, the Americans are blamed because the people feel if the United States was not there then there wouldn’t be a fight there.
Many people feel that once the United States leaves they can successfully negotiate a truce with the Taliban, he said.
Regarding the corrupt and predatory government, Gopal gave an example of how the government would eradicate opium poppy fields of villagers, a major source of income, and then keep their own poppy fields.
In some cases when people complain about how bad the government is treating them to the United States, often word gets back to the local government and the people are treated worse.
In some cases then the Taliban comes in to protect them, he said.
Regarding development, Gopal said only 10-15 percent of the money earmarked for building actually goes to construction and the rest of the money goes in the pockets of U.S. companies.
The Taliban is a rural guerrilla force and the war is a war of attrition where there are heavy casualties from both sides, but nobody is gaining any ground, Gopal said.
In regard to stopping Islamic extremism, Gopal said a very strong law enforcement approach is the most effective way to stop terrorism.
“Most of the terrorist acts are not Al-Queda, but usually someone on the ground in Yemen or the United Kingdom who get radicalized for whatever reason and then go on line and find people,” said Gopal.
“It’s not so much a global terrorist network. It’s more diffused than that and needs more good solid police work and historically that’s what’s most effective,” he added.