by Zia Sarhadi (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 10, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1430)
In the midst of all the chatter about US President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop surge in Afghanistan, it might be worthwhile to remember some basic facts. December 27 marked the 30th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of and, therefore, continuous war in Afghanistan. This is longer than the two world wars and the Vietnam War put together. By next month the US will also have been at war in Afghanistan longer than it was in Vietnam. Most American commentators now fondly talk about the Vietnam War as if it was a beer drinking contest the US had won. Obama knows better; he was at pains in his West Point speech to dispel any comparisons with Vietnam.
Reaction to Obama’s December 1 speech was predictable. Cheerleaders in the media were beside themselves over Obama’s rhetoric and the “agonizing” choices he had to face to make a decision. This included, with minor exceptions, the entire army of journalists and commentators working for the corporate-owned/controlled media, both print and television. Peter Baker of the New York Times (December 6) was typical of this crowd giving a blow by blow account of how Obama, huddled with his advisors, “agonized” for weeks over the choices. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are waged to advance the corporate elite’s agenda of greed. The other, more important reason is to ensure the military/political dominance in the region of the Zionist State of Israel. The latter is also the reason why the US is being pushed to attack the Islamic Republic of Iran, the one country that refuses to surrender to the Zionist entity or its cash cow, America, on whose back Israel thrives as a parasite.
Dissenting voices against the surge and futility of war were heard from the antiwar movement but these are largely confined to the internet. The only exception in the corporate media was Frank Rich of the New York Times. In his December 6 column, Rich pointed to the two fundamental ingredients missing from Obama’s plan that would doom his surge: a legitimate Afghan government, and support of the American people. Rich did not talk about support of the Afghan people because it has never been there, notwithstanding US claims about bringing democracy or liberating Afghan women. The Karzai regime that was installed amid much fanfare when the Taliban were driven from power at the end of 2001 now stands condemned even by America as illegitimate. Obama’s surge, therefore, has little chance of success.
It is also unrealistic to expect that the Taliban would be shaking with fright in their caves at hearing that Obama was sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. When he spoke at West Point, Obama put on a very serious face and occasionally looked straight into the camera. Unfortunately, the Taliban do not watch TV; they would love to but there is no electricity there and CNN does not have a cable feed to pipe news into their caves. The Taliban must surely miss Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room reports and Fareed Zakaria’s GPS!
Obama outlined three objectives for his surge: disrupt, dismantle and defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. If this has not been achieved with 68,000 US troops and another 45,000 from NATO allies, it is unrealistic to hope that 30,000 additional troops would make such a big difference especially when much of the country is in the grip of insurgency. There are also 100,000 mercenaries hired by the US to carry out targeted assassinations and other war crimes. These include mercenaries from the US Black-water, white South Africans who had honed their murderous skills during apartheid both inside as well as in the surrounding countries, such as Zimbabwe and Angola, and helicopter pilots from Russia who had served during the Soviet invasion and are familiar with the Afghan terrain. From down under, as if not to be outdone by its larger neighbor, Australia, New Zealand also dispatched commandos from its Special Air Services (SAS) to Afghanistan.
Obama’s generals, however, are a little more circumspect about what can be achieved. At Congressional hearings on December 8, when General Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s wonder kid in Afghanistan, freshly minted from his death squad duties in Iraq was asked point blank by Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, “We do intend to defeat the Taliban?” his reply was revealing. McChrystal said, “Sir, the military term, in fact, without parsing that too tightly, we — we intend to prevent them from doing what they want to do.” For him “defeating” the Taliban meant merely to blunt the momentum that he said they had gained while the American effort had lagged in recent years, and to buy time to train Afghan soldiers and police officers to take over security duties.
This is a tall order. At present, the Afghan National Army (ANA) comprises 65,000 personnel of whom only 33,000 are combat ready. Despite massive poverty and lack of employment opportunities, recruitment has lagged behind and is very slow. Further, it is not uncommon for recruits to disappear with their weapons. While Obama wants to start withdrawal in 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said at a joint press conference with visiting US Defense Secretary Bill Gates in Kabul on December 8 that the Afghan government would not be able to finance its army and police until 2024. This is a clever move by Karzai. He will be well past 65 and living in retirement either in Europe or more likely, the US where his brother runs a number of restaurants near Washington DC. He can always give a helping hand flipping naans. Until then, he wants to ensure a steady supply of US dollars.
Despite Obama’s claim, the US is not going to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and indeed from Iraq, by any set deadline. Only the ill-informed would fall for such pronouncements. At a Rand-sponsored discussion on Afghanistan on October 29, 2009, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the guru of US foreign policy and Obama’s behind-the-scenes advisor, had spelled out bluntly that “withdrawal” was not in the range of options (For details, see Crescent International December 2009, pp.13-14). One may ask: why is it not an option? Brzezinski was candid: because the US needed to build oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan. It is the “great game” played out on another chessboard all over again. The primary reason for the US attack on Afghanistan was the Taliban’s refusal to allow American corporations to build the pipeline. This threat was delivered as early as July 2001 at a conference in Berlin and Taliban spokesmen in the Pakistani city of Peshawar had told Crescent Inter-national at that time that America planned to attack Afghanistan by October. This was two months prior to the attacks of 9/11 that became a convenient pretext, and not the principal reason for US aggression against Afghanistan.
In his West Point speech, Obama also indicated that the troop surge was merely one step in plans for even broader wars. “The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly,” he said, “and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He mentioned Somalia and Yemen as potential targets, adding, “Our effort will involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies.” Obama, the president for change, is no different than the George Bush-Dick Cheney duo of perpetual wars infamy.
Obama borrowed his argument from Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Last November, commenting on Obama’s review of various options, Cordesman wrote, “The President must be frank about the fact that any form of victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be part of a much wider and longer struggle. He must make it clear that the ideological, demographic, governance, economic, and other pressures that divide the Islamic world mean the world will face threats in many other nations that will endure indefinitely into the future. He should mention the risks in Yemen and Somalia, make it clear that the Iraq war is not over, and warn that we will still face both a domestic threat and a combination of insurgency and terrorism that will continue to extend from Morocco to the Philippines, and from Central Asia deep into Africa, regardless of how well we do in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He was also candid about increased US as well as Afghan and Pakistani casualties.
The US has not grown out of its addiction for endless wars despite the beating its forces have taken in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cordesman also forgot to mention that there was just as much threat from aliens on Mars attacking the US. Perhaps, some troops should be dispatched there as well. The US-NATO wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed nearly 1.5 million but such statistics are of little interest to policy-makers in the West. They care only for US and Western casualties but only as far as numbers are concerned. In Afghanistan, there have been a total of 1539 American and allied deaths. This figure does not take into account the casualties suffered by Pakistani troops and civilians as a direct result of the US war, that runs into thousands.
The US surge has little to do with defeating al-Qaeda either. It does not need a territorial base to function. Besides, American officials have admitted that there are fewer than 100 al-Qaeda operatives. Are hundreds of thousands of troops needed to deal with a mere 100 people? And how would the insurgencies in Somalia and Yemen be weakened with the defeat of al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan?
Obama’s surge has another dimension as well: it is aimed at Pakistan hence the demand that it must deal with the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda “sheltering” in Pakistan. This is merely a pretext; America’s real aim is the dismantling of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. This explains the constant harping on the issue. The specter of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists is constantly invoked. The US would like to take them out because these weapons are viewed as a potential threat to the Zionist entity.
There is widespread concern in Pakistan, backed by ample proof that US Blackwater mercenaries are behind the terrorist campaign. The aim is to destabilize Pakistan to such a degree that a case can be made at some international forum, such as the UN, that these weapons must be removed before they fall into the hands of the terrorists. It is interesting to note what Gates said recently: the US is prepared to work more closely with Pakistan as soon as the government there expresses a willingness to do so. “The more they get attacked internally... the more open they may be to additional help from us. But we are prepared to expand that relationship at any pace they are prepared to accept,” he said (Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2009). Was it a Freudian slip when Gates said, “The more they get attacked internally... the more open they may be to additional help from us?” US mercenaries are busy attacking cities and towns to pave the way for the “greater cooperation” the Americans are seeking.
Meanwhile the Pakistani military has made clear that it has no plans to start a war with the Afghan Taliban. Indian influence has already in-creased alarmingly in Afghanistan, thanks to US and Northern Alliance links, at the expense of Islamabad. Pakistan is being boxed in from the east and west and if its leverage, even with the Afghan Taliban is lost, it would become extremely vulnerable.
What the Americans are offering to Pakistan in return for a few dollars is to accept India’s hegemony in the region. The US is grooming India to take on China, the emerging economic, political and military power. Pakistani commentators have expressed concern that the US surge will only increase pressure on Pakistan. This will come from several directions; first, increased US military activity will force Afghans, civilians as well as militants, to cross over into Pakistan further destabilizing the country. Second, US pressure on Islamabad will intensify, as has already been witnessed, that it must attack the Afghan Taliban. With bombs and suicide attacks occurring in major cities on a daily basis and America breathing down its neck, Pakistan is being destabilized further and is in danger of falling apart.
American friendship is a curse and Obama’s surge has become Pakistan’s scourge. Unless Pakistani rulers distance themselves from Uncle Sam and his evil plans, they may be facilitating the country’s disintegration.