KABUL, AFGHANISTAN— According to sources at the Pentagon, American quagmire-building efforts continued apace in Afghanistan this week, as the geographically rugged, politically unstable region remained ungovernable, death tolls continued to rise, and the grim military campaign persisted as hopelessly as ever.
In fact, many government officials now believe that the United States and its allies could be as little as six months away from their ultimate goal: the total quagmirification of Afghanistan.
"We've spent a lot of time and money fostering the turmoil and despair necessary to make this a sustaining quagmire, and we're not going to stop now," President Barack Obama said in a national address Monday night. "It won't be easy, but with enough tactical errors on the ground, shortsighted political strategies, and continued ignorance of our vast cultural differences, we could have a horrific, full-fledged quagmire by 2012."
Added Obama, "Together, we can make Afghanistan into a nightmarish hell-scape Americans will regret for generations to come."
The U.S. plan to build a lasting quagmire in Afghanistan calls for the loss of at least 5,000 coalition troops, nearly 1,500 of whom have already been killed, and a wasted investment of nearly $1 trillion, a quarter of which has thus far been spent.
With more than 80 percent of the country currently under Taliban control, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that U.S. nation-dismantling efforts are actually proceeding ahead of schedule.
"We've made a complete mess of local institutions, and moving forward this substantial lack of infrastructure will be the cornerstone of our strategy to ensure long-term chaos in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region," said Gates, gesturing to a complex, 6-foot-tall wall map of what were either newly established al-Qaeda bases in Waziristan, tribal trade routes over the Hindu Kush, or perhaps U.S. military outposts of some kind. "I couldn't be happier with our progress. This place is a complete clusterfuck."
A number of Pentagon officials said they were proudly holding on to their false glimmer of hope for a victory that remains forever out of reach, and explained that waging a war that can only end in sorrow has validated all their efforts.
The U.S. effort in Afghanistan hasn't always looked so bleak. In 2004, when Afghanistan ratified a new constitution and directly elected a leader for the first time in its history, a number of government officials feared the quagmire would fail and perhaps even lead to relative peace and security. But American military and diplomatic initiatives to prop up the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai paved the way for this year's utterly fraudulent presidential election, an event which gave the quagmire-building effort a much needed shot in the arm.
"Some say the war in Afghanistan is already a quagmire, being as it's gone on for eight years and the situation on the ground continues to rapidly deteriorate," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal. "But I know we can do better. There are still dozens of tribal allies to alienate, troop morale could sink even lower, to the point of mutiny, and by continuing to fire a bunch of missiles from unmanned predator drones we have the opportunity to scare the living shit out of every last civilian in the region."
Continued McChrystal, "If we play our cards right, the word 'Afghanistan' could soon replace the word 'Iraq' as the agreed-upon successor to the word 'Vietnam' in the American political lexicon."
The loose network of warlords who rule the Afghan countryside were also optimistic about quagmire-building efforts.
"Our nation is already impossibly fragmented, but I believe the United States has the ability to make things even worse here," said a local tribal leader, who asked to speak anonymously due to his constantly shifting alliances with the two sides. "Afghanistan has a proud, ancient tradition of quagmires: Soviet Russia, the British Empire, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan. These are big shoes to fill, but if anyone can do it, these foolish Americans can."
With President Karzai's government maintaining ties to known drug traffickers, and 68,000 U.S. soldiers struggling to police a harsh, challenging landscape, all the conditions for a multigenerational quagmire seem to be in place.
For many analysts, the question now is: How will Obama ensure the U.S. entanglement in the region remains permanent? By deploying more troops, by withdrawing them and leaving behind an unspeakable disaster, by increasing sympathy for the Taliban in nuclear-armed Pakistan? There are so many options on the table that many feel a quagmire is virtually guaranteed.
"We have so much to thank the Americans for," said Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, a notorious warlord who will become vice president if Karzai wins a runoff election scheduled for Nov. 7. "Not only have they created a lawless environment that has allowed us to capture 90 percent of the opium market, but their heroin habits have made a few of us very rich."
"I love the Americans and I hope they stay for many years," he added. "Many, many, many, many years."