For more than one year, the Pentagon has been soliciting favorable public relations from the mainstream media and think tanks over its military surge in Kandahar. All that PR went down the Rabbit Hole this week as nearly 500 Taliban prisoners escaped through a tunnel dug under Kandahar’s prison.
The White House, Congress and media should seize the opportunity to examine the stream of propaganda emanating for months about the U.S. success in “the spiritual homeland of the Taliban,” and whether they have been manipulated in a “psy-ops” campaign to promote a favorable image of the surge. [Hastings, Michael. “Another Runaway General,” Rolling Stone, February 23, 2011]
The escape is the second since 2008, when 1,200 Taliban prisoners were liberated in an attack on the same prison. Since 2008, the U.S. has deployed an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, more than half to southern Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
The truth appears to be that the U.S. war has gone from bad to worse. The prison escape is not only a huge psychological boost for the Taliban, but frees hundreds of fighters for the “spring offensive” now underway. It also blows a hole in any U.S. claims of having secured the province. And it suggests that the Afghan security forces, on whom U.S. policy depends, were directly engaged leaving cell doors open and leading the detainees into the tunnel.
A December 2011 survey of Afghan residents in Kandahar and Helmand showed 79 percent demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops by this summer or earlier. Three-quarters of Afghans in the same poll supported negotiations with the Taliban, and two-thirds favored Taliban leaders holding political office. The poll of Kandahar and Helmand residents offered “a rare dose of hopefulness,” according to the Washington Post. [December 6, 2010]