Today we learned that the "government of Afghanistan," and its "international partners" plan to expand the Afghan army and police to 378,000 by October 2012. That would be a 42% expansion over the present level. While pretending to be a democracy, the government of Hamid Karzai is actually a patchwork of opium-growing warlord domains. The army and police are, so far, unreliable. U.S. President Barack Obama gained office in the 2008 elections largely because he gave the voters the impression that he would get the U.S. military out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead (as I predicted) he took the same path President Richard Nixon took in Vietnam, choosing to expand the war. Well, actually, Nixon continually reduced the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam, though he expanded it to Cambodia and Laos, and eventually did sign a peace treaty. Obama has increased the number of troops in Afghanistan twice since he took over the Presidency from George W. Bush.
Now for a contrast, instead of a parallel. Franklin Roosevelt and his predecessors supported Chiang Kai-shek as dictator of China for a couple of decades, using him in as a puppet for the U.S. struggle for supremacy against Japan in east Asia. But he was not a very effective puppet. His extended family, the Soongs and Kungs, and his war-lord underlings looted both their own countrymen and aid sent by the U.S. They let their troops fighting the Japanese loose battles for lack of equipment and ammunition that was being hoarded as a source of wealth and to be used for internal rivalries.
President Harry Truman later said, "Chiang Kai-shek and the Madame and their families, the Soong family and the Kungs were all thieves... They stole seven hundred and fifty million dollars out of the thirty-five billion we sent ... and invested in real estate ... And I don't want anything to do with people like that."
The problem for Truman was that it was clear that the fall of Chiang Kai-shek would lead to a communist takeover. Soon after the end of World War II the communists governed more people, far more effectively, than Chiang's nationalist government did. Truman knew he would would be attacked in the U.S. if the communists took over China, even though his Communist-fighting credentials were very good. Yet he did not want to waste any more American troops in China, backing a cause that was not just losing, but that was evil by any standard of government or ethics. [Note even incompetent, evil people can have good qualities and do good things, at times, as shown in Hollington Tong's biography of Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang was a competent war lord, who started as an idealistic anti-imperialist, but that was not the kind of competence China needed to become a modern nation.]
Karzai's Afghanistan resembles Chiang's China in remarkable detail, but Barack Obama is no Harry Truman. The U.S. begs Karzai to reform his government, but Karzai's government is a coalition of scoundrels. The reason the Taliban first came to power not that many years ago is because the people of Afghanistan hated the Karzai gang. There are things Westerners (including me) dislike about the Taliban, but their puritanical brand of Islam actually was a major improvement over the only other realistic option, remaining mired in corruption.
Barack Obama is afraid to do what is right for both Afghanistan and the United States, withdraw all American troops. Barack Obama would rather see all of Afghanistan suffer rather than take the political heat in the U.S. for a withdrawal. In his own way he is as corrupt and incompetent as Karzai and Chiang.
Who supplied the communists of China with the arms they needed to overthrow Chiang Kai-shek? They manufactured some primitive arms themselves in their remote guerilla hideouts, but almost all of their serious weapons were captured from the Japanese or from United States shipments to Chiang. Like Karzai, Chiang got a big part of his finances from running the opium trade.
American soldiers seem to be able to hold onto their arms, but arming Karzai's cops is basically just giving arms to the Taliban.
It is kind of funny that, in the intervening decades, communism has become acceptable, but Islam is now seen as the Great Evil by Americans. If the Taliban were Communists, no one would figure it is worth fighting them. Even if they were harboring foreign communists bent on making more communist revolutions.
The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China by Hannah Pakula
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk