by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 3, Ramadan, 1442)
In his April 14 announcement about the withdrawal of the “remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by September 11”, US President Joe Biden left out some important details. The actual number is closer to 3,500, as the Washington Post reported. We can overlook this as minor detail but the 18,000 mercenaries euphemistically called “contractors” operating in Afghanistan cannot be ignored. They will, in all likelihood, remain in Afghanistan, or a major portion of them, for the foreseeable future (more on this later).
Further, the Pentagon announced that additional troops may be sent to Afghanistan to facilitate an “orderly withdrawal”. So, is the US contemplating withdrawal or another surge? The proposal to send additional troops is based on the assumption that the Taliban may attack withdrawing US troops.
Since February 29, 2020 Doha agreement, the Taliban have scrupulously adhered to its terms. They have not attacked US or foreign troops. The Taliban gave no such undertaking for Afghan government forces. The US, on the other hand, has repeatedly violated the Doha agreement by bombing Afghan villages as well as Taliban positions even when they were not involved in combat operations.
And now, Biden has unilaterally repudiated the May 1 withdrawal date. He did not bother to even consult the Taliban. Not surprisingly, the Afghan resistance group has reacted negatively to the delayed withdrawal schedule. In a tweet, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid threatened to retaliate, saying, “If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date [May 1], problems will certainly be compounded and those (who) failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.” The Taliban have no reason to trust the Americans.
Let us, however, recall what Biden said in his April 14 announcement. “War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking,” speaking from the White House Treaty Room, the same location from which President George W. Bush had announced the launch of the war in October 2001.
“We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives,” Biden said. “Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan and it’s time to end the forever war.” Many people have taken issue with the “attack” claim but let us not detain ourselves with this detail.
Aware that the US military is incapable of achieving the conditions to turn Afghanistan into a democratic utopia where women would roam around in bikinis (there are no beaches in Afghanistan!), he admitted: “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” Biden said.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” he went on. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.” That is sensible although this realization should have come much earlier. Even so, the warlords in Washington—whether in Congress or the Pentagon—are unhappy. On the payroll of arms manufacturers, wars are hugely profitable business for them. They are likely to lose some bakhsheesh but they can keep their powder dry. The US is not quitting Afghanistan entirely as we shall presently see.
Despite installing puppets in power and spawning a massive culture of corruption in which both their Afghan wards and American contractors made huge fortunes, the vast majority of Afghans never accepted foreign occupation. They continue to live in the Stone Age in extreme poverty. This enabled the Taliban to tap into people’s resentment against foreign occupiers.
Let us turn to the 18,000 American and other foreign mercenaries that will remain in Afghanistan. This was reported by The New York Times, the US establishment’s mouthpiece. The Times further wrote that a “shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations Forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives,” would remain in Afghanistan. Their mission will be to “find and attack the most dangerous Qaeda or Islamic state threats, current and former American officials said,” The Times helpfully reminded us.
In an interview with ABC News on April 18, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also hinted at this. He said the US will maintain “the means to see if there is a resurgence, a reemergence of a terrorist threat from Afghanistan… in real time, with time to take action.” The “shadowy” combination of forces the Times hinted at are part of Blackwater mercenaries that have now renamed themselves Dyncorp International. “Most of the mercenaries are ex-military veterans, though a percentage are third-country nationals who are paid meager wages to perform menial duties for the military,” according to Jeremy Kuzmarov, writing in Covertactionmagazine.
These ruthless mercenaries have been responsible for the gruesome murder of many innocent civilians in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban will not look kindly upon these ruthless murderers. If they capture them—as they are bound to do in combat—the Taliban are will not show mercy. Americans beware!
The Dyncorp mercenaries and US Special Forces operatives roam around camouflaged Afghan dress—shalwar-Kameez and the Afghan cap. All of them have also grown beards—short and long. Given the fair complexion of most Afghans, they are indistinguishable from the locals. Further, they have also learnt the native dialect. One has to give them credit for ingenuity.
The US proposed holding a conference in Turkey to get the Taliban and Afghan government representatives together. First scheduled for April, the Taliban categorically rejected attending. After several postponements, the Taliban’s answer has been an emphatic “no”. They have said no to participate in any conference until all foreign forces are out of Afghanistan.
They have the upperhand and know that once foreign troops leave, they can easily overrun Kabul. And their record shows that they are not interested in foreign adventures. Their focus is local. Once the US and NATO troops are out, there is likely to be uptick in violence but then the situation is expected to settle down once the Taliban tighten their grip on power.
Afghanistan’s US-installed puppets had better seek alternative accommodation in places like Delhi or Bombay. The Hindu fascists in India, however, may not be quite so welcoming. Pity the puppets.