Tiptoeing Through the Afghan Quagmire

The US will go away long before the Taliban do
Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zia Sarhadi

Safar 23, 1440 2018-11-01

News & Analysis

by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 9, Safar, 1440)

It is congressional election time in the US and the one word that no one wants to utter is Afghanistan. It is the never-ending American nightmare but nobody wishes to admit or accept defeat and call it quits. The war is unwinnable but scapegoats must be found so that the US can save face.

Pakistan offers an easy target, long the American punching bag. Americans insist they never lose a war; it is always someone else’s fault. In the US’ longest war, the Taliban have given a really tough time to the heavily armed US troops. American soldiers go out in diapers and seldom return without soiling them!

That the Taliban are able to mount daring operations was once again spectacularly demonstrated on October 18 when a US army general was injured in a Taliban attack. Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley, in charge of NATO’s military advisory mission in Afghanistan, suffered at least one gunshot wound during a top US and Afghan security chiefs meeting inside a highly fortified and “secure” compound in Qandahar city, according to the Washington Post on October 21, quoting US military sources.

The attacker, wearing an Afghan security forces uniform, opened fire on a group of top security officials. These included General Scott Miller, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and the Afghan police chief General Abdul Raziq, notorious warlord in his own right.

The attack occurred as the “security officials” ended a meeting in Qandahar. No doubt, they were discussing security issues and how to make it more effective. Insiders report that Abdul Raziq had boasted about his prowess against the Taliban and how he had them on the run!

The staunchly anti-Taliban strongman and key US ally, Abdul Raziq, was killed. Qandahar’s provincial intelligence chief and an Afghan journalist were also killed. The attack was almost certainly aimed at Abdul Raziq who had gained notoriety for his virulently anti-Taliban positions. The others can be considered collateral damage although the Taliban would not shed any tears for them either. In fact, they were pleased with the outcome and claimed responsibility for the attack.

It needs to be borne in mind that Qandahar is Taliban home base and territory. The regime may have tenuous control over a few government buildings, but much of the city and the province are under Taliban control. The October 19 attack inside a secure compound reflects the Taliban’s reach even into areas the regime considers highly secure. What could be more secure than the police chief’s compound?

Not surprisingly, the attack not only rattled the regime to its core, especially on the eve of parliamentary elections but also the Americans, as a senior American military officer was injured. That General Miller, the top US commander, escaped unhurt can be attributed to luck when his aides pulled him to the ground as the shooting started.

Concurrent with the Taliban attack, a senior US official once again issued threats against Pakistan. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Henry Ensher said the US would continue to apply pressure on Pakistan until Islamabad changed its policy toward “regional peace” and “stability” in Afghanistan. For “re-gional peace” and “stability” read America’s ill-conceived policy in Afghanistan, whatever it may be at any particular time. The Americans are unsure what to do in Afghanistan apart from the desire for an indefinite stay and their demand of Pakistan to do the fighting for them.

“There is truth to the idea that we are applying pressure to Pakistan, and it is an important component of our policy,” said Ensher while speaking at a seminar organized by Indus at the Wilson Centre, a Washington think-tank. Trying to smooth the rough edges of this crude approach, the state department official framed Washington’s pressure on Islamabad to change its policy to be “very much in Pakistan’s interest as well.” What Ensher was demanding was for Pakistan to tailor its policy in line with Washington’s, referred to as “the South Asia Strategy.”

Afghan police chief, General Abdul Raziq, pictured here in 2013 as he addressed the assembled locals of Kajran in Daykundi Province, was killed in the recent Qandahar attack, which essentially targeted him; the injury to the US military officer was “collateral damage.” Despite being characterized by Human Rights Watch as Afghanistan’s “torturer-in-chief” and accusations of running secret torture chambers, “crushing the testicles” of detainees, and killing thousands of Taliban prisoners, Raziq was considered an ally by the United States… go figure.

This high sounding but hollow policy is the product of Donald Trump’s genius. Under this strategy, the moron-in-chief has demanded that Pakistan must not only fight America’s war in Afghanistan but also accept India’s regional hegemony. At the same time, Pakistan must distance itself from China.

There is also another equally serious demand. The US wants Pakistan to divest of its nuclear weapons and its long-range missile program. Put in simple terms, Washington wants Pakistan to disarm itself and live at the nonexistent mercy of Hindu India. While this will never happen because it would amount to committing suicide, the brazenness of America’s demand is breathtaking.

Here are officials of the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons not once but twice. It is also the only country to have used depleted uranium shells in Iraq whose deleterious effects are still being felt in the form of the birth of deformed Iraqi babies and alarming rise in cancer related illness. Yet its officials have the gall to tell others, especially Pakistan — and also Iran — that their missile programs are a concern. Ensher was quite blunt in his statements. He said US policymakers viewed Pakistan’s strategic weapons with great concern.

He said the Trump regime had expressed its concern about Pakistan’s development of long- and short-range missile launch capabilities and its growing nuclear stockpile. Given such US conduct, Pakistani policymakers should make clear that they are no longer willing to act as mercenaries for America’s ill-conceived wars. This applies especially to Afghanistan with whom Pakistan shares a long border and common history.

Islamabad should pursue its own interests and work toward peace and security in the region by coordinating its strategy with regional players. The US should be told to leave Afghanistan, and soon. Its 17-year war has brought nothing but misery and suffering to the Afghan people.

If American policymakers have any sense, they should answer a simple question: what have they achieved after spending one trillion dollars and killing countless Afghans since October 2001? The fact is that US policy is formulated by the military-industrial-banking complex for whom endless wars are the road to riches. If they kill a few million people in the process, that is considered a small price to pay. After all, the people they are killing are the “other”; they do not matter.

Spreading chaos and instability are essential parts of US policy. People worldwide should internalize this simple truth and formulate their policies accordingly. Pakistan and Iran, most directly affected by US presence especially in Afghanistan, should coordinate their policies to confront the threat posed by US presence in the region.

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