by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 3, Rajab, 1435)
The 13-year US-led Western war on Afghanistan has not only devastated that poor country but also caused great damage to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran has also suffered greatly as a consequence.
As Western troops head for the exit door in Afghanistan in one of the most costly — and futile — wars in recent history, the blame game has started in earnest. Western armies never lose a war; they simply declare victory and get the hell out of there. Yet, in Afghanistan, they have not been able to do even that as they slink toward the exit door. British, French, German, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces have already left. The Americans have to withdraw by the end of the year although they are desperately trying to keep a toe-hold in the resource rich country.
By all accounts, the US-led Western war in Afghanistan has been an unmitigated disaster not only for the long-suffering Afghans but also for neighbouring countries Iran and Pakistan and their respective populations. True, the Afghans held a relatively violence-free presidential election on April 5 and further developments are awaited. This could be considered progress of sorts since there has been so little achieved in any other field in the last 13 years after Western armies attacked and occupied Afghanistan in October 2001. US President Barack Obama was grinning from ear to ear when he announced the Afghans’ great “achievement” in holding the election as if the nearly trillion dollars spent on the war were meant to enable them to go through this exercise.
A word about the first round of elections on April 5 is in order. There were 12 million eligible voters but 21 million identity cards were issued, according to Bloomberg News (April 7). In order not to cause alarm, the Bloomberg editorial assured readers that “some electoral fraud” was inevitable. Some? Nine million (75%) more ID cards were issued than were eligible and a total of 7 million people, less than 60%, according to official figures, cast ballots. It could hardly pass off as a minor matter. Further, we cannot be sure that 7 million people actually voted. These are guesstimates at best and how many of the multiple ID users were involved will never be known.
Perhaps, Bloomberg was referring to the routine fraud in US elections. In 2000, George W Bush “won” because of pregnant and hanging chads. Millions of African Americans were disenfranchised in Florida, where his younger brother Jeb Bush was governor. In 2004, the computer program to count votes was designed by a pro-Republican Party company. Fraud was built into the system. No wonder, Bloomberg is so tolerant of electoral fraud.
Let us, however, not detain ourselves with electoral fraud in the US or Afghanistan. It would be more productive to examine what the Western armies have “achieved” in 13 years of occupation, if anything. The primary function of armies is to destroy; this is what they are trained to do. In this sense, the West’s armies have been highly successful. They have reduced Afghanistan to rubble and bombed it back beyond the Stone Age.
Even before the Western invasion, Afghanistan was one of the least developed countries in the world in terms of infrastructure. Whatever little infrastructure the Afghans had built was destroyed by aerial bombings. Not surprisingly, millions of Afghans continue to prefer to live in refugee camps in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran than return to the death and destruction that awaits them in their own country.
Afghanistan presents a dismal picture of lack of development. According to the Human Development Index (HDI), the country remains mired in poverty, corruption, and drug production. It is the largest producer of opium and heroin in the world and accounts for nearly 93% of global heroin supply. The country has been dubbed a “Narco-state” by the UN. Opium and heroin production have also adversely affected populations in neighbouring countries.
The Afghans lack most basic necessities of life. The country ranks 175 on the HDI, one of the lowest in the world, even after 13 years of Western military intervention and billions of dollars poured into unsustainable projects. Life expectancy remains low at 49 years.
While American — and indeed some Canadian — officials may talk it up as a success story, the fact is that the war in Afghanistan has been a colossal failure. It has brought nothing but misery to the Afghans and people in the surrounding countries, the principal victim being Pakistan.
Despite being fed a regular diet of jingoistic propaganda, most Americans have soured on the war as a recent Gallup Poll (February 6–9, 2014) has shown. A clear majority (49%) now oppose the war and see it as unwinnable, futile and a waste of US tax dollars after 13 years of warfare. They would rather see this money invested in repairing roads and bridges in the US than wasting it on a country like Afghanistan, which most consider remote and not of much interest or significance to them. Given the dismal standard of education, most Americans would find it hard to locate it on a map.
Western politicians and officials have a habit of blaming others for their failures. There is also the flip side to the blame game. Countries whose policies they do not like are subjected to illegal sanctions. When these countries do not make the kind of progress they ought to, they are accused of “failure.” Islamic Iran is a good example of a country that has been subjected to sustained illegal sanctions by the US and its allies. The corporate-owned and controlled media amplify such allegations without providing context or background information to their readers/viewers.
The West’s military and political failures in Afghanistan are routinely blamed on Pakistan. It is alleged that Pakistan is sheltering the Taliban who carry out cross border raids inside Afghanistan. Even if this were true, a big if, the fact is Taliban activities against foreign occupation troops often occur far from the Pakistan border. Hundreds of miles of Afghan territory and thousands of foreign occupation troops separate the Pakistan border and the Taliban’s area of operations. Why have these troops failed to stop infiltration by the Taliban? In the past, Pakistan even proposed sealing the entire border by erecting a fence, a proposal angrily rejected by the Afghan government.
Quite aside from the blame being placed on Pakistan, as did the Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander during a CBC television interview on March 31, 2014, the country has suffered enormous losses in men and materiel. Even the pro-Zionist and Zionist-owned (Rupert Murdoch’s) Wall Street Journal was forced to concede on March 10, 2013 that Pakistan’s military deaths were twice as many as those of the US in Afghanistan. And Pakistani troops have been deployed inside its own borders, not in the Afghan war zone.
These figures are in fact quite low. Pakistan’s overall military losses run into tens of thousands. In the five-year period between 2008 and 2013, there were 15,681 casualties. This number far surpasses all the losses Pakistan suffered during the three wars combined against India. Pakistan’s total casualties have reached nearly 50,000, according to the conservative Washington Times (March 27, 2013) in a war thrust upon it. The radicalization of society and the resultant militancy have further undermined the country’s social and political fabric.
Its financial losses have been equally astronomical: $100 billion and counting for a country whose annual budget is around $35 billion. Much of Pakistan’s infrastructure, especially in the crucial Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPP), has been badly affected. And Pakistan continues to host nearly two million Afghan refugees whose presence has added to the radicalization of society and aggravation of social problems.
Pakistan has suffered other losses as well. Four senior generals have been killed in the US-imposed war on terror. They include Lt. General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig, Surgeon General of Pakistan, killed in a car bombing on February 26, 2008; Major General Bilal Omar Khan; Major General Javed Sultan; and Major General Sanaullah Niazi. The number of other rank officers — colonels, majors and captains etc. — is much higher.
There is growing realization among Pakistanis that the so-called war on terror has in fact become a war of terror in which Pakistan is as much a victim as is Afghanistan. A number of foreign intelligence agencies including the American CIA, Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and British MI6 as well as others are involved in destabilizing Pakistan. The Afghans are also involved in this criminal enterprise. If Pakistan were to retaliate, it could starve the people of landlocked Afghanistan. Nearly 80% of all Afghan trade and food goes through Pakistan. Shutting off this route would cause havoc in Afghanistan yet the Kabul regime continues to blame Pakistan for everything that goes wrong there.
Despite the presence of tens of thousands of foreign occupation troops, the Kabul regime’s writ does not extend beyond the presidential palace. This is not the fault of Pakistan. The Afghan people, whether Taliban or others, do not accept the presence of foreign troops on their soil; this is their history. The British and Russians were both taught this lesson the hard way; the Americans are just being taught this lesson all over again. Even Alexander the Great was driven out of Afghanistan. Why foreigners refuse to learn this elementary lesson of history is beyond comprehension.
Equally important is another factor that has been deliberately obfuscated by the Indian-doting West. Pakistan’s tradition rival India is deeply involved in Afghanistan. If this were at the diplomatic, political or economic level, this would be understandable. The fact is India is deeply involved in instigating terrorist activities in Pakistan. Not only are terrorists trained there but even members of the Balochistan Liberation Army are being trained by India in Afghanistan and unleashed against Pakistan. It must also be borne in mind that the Balochistan government in exile is based in Israel.
On July 16, 2009, then Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani presented a dossier of photographs when he met his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at Sharm al-Shaikh in Egypt. It included the names and photographs of terrorists meeting Indian officials and intelligence agents. These terrorists have carried out criminal activities inside Pakistan. The Indian prime minister promised to “investigate” but nothing has come of this; none is expected. It is India’s policy to destabilize Pakistan as part of an overall Western agenda.
India carries out its criminal activities through its several consulates in Afghanistan and Iran along the Pakistan border. These are providing anything but consular services, as reported by Christine Fair of RAND Corporation after her visit to one of these consulates in early 2009. She reported, “Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity!” On May 23, 2009, Foreign Policy magazine reported that Indians are neck deep in supporting the TTP [Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan].” This organization has caused havoc with car and suicide bombings in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s concerns and fears emanating from the situation in Afghanistan are real. It must not fall for the empty promises of America. Uncle Sam is an unreliable friend. In fact, Pakistan would be far better off keeping a distance from this shady character. At the same time, it must take steps to protect its own interests.