This is a great American tradition: declare victory and leave. And that is what Obama did yesterday when he announced that 10’000+23’000 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The French immediately announced that they are withdrawing another 4’000 of their own. Yes, I know, 68’000+ troops will remain. Make no mistake, that is a fig leaf, also a security and a way to pretend that this is not what is really is: a total retreat following a strategic defeat. Obama clearly indicated that:
Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
This is a howling joke, of course. Translated into English it means “all future defeats will henceforth blamed on the Afghans, not on us – we have won”. Sure looks like the White House has finally read the writing on the wall.
As for the the alleged execution of Bin Laden, it provided Obama with the “patriotic” and “presidential” credentials needed to conceal the true magnitude of this strategic US defeat in Afghanistan.
While I do blame the USA for its infinite arrogance and imperial hubris in invading Afghanistan in the first place, and while Obama’s idiotic “surge” was nothing but a useless PR effort, I cannot blame the US armed forces for having been defeated.
From the deserts of Dasht-i-Margo (Land of Death), Registan (Land of Sands) and Karakum (Black Sand), to the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Waziristan, or the Safīd range, to the “panhandle” of the Wakhan Corridor – most of Afghanistan is a hell-hole which always ended up defeating its occupiers, including the British and the Russians – far more capable (and ruthless) opponents than the US military, nevermind the NATO alliance’s hodgepodge force.
All this was pre-ordained from Day 1 of the “invasion”. I put that word in quotation marks because the USA did never really invade Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance attacked the Taliban with the support of the USAF and some special ops on the ground and rapidly seized Kabul. As for the Taliban, they had no intention of openly fighting the USA; they waited for a better time (which soon came).
In reality, the US military simply entered the country with only minimal resistance. In fact, and unlike the Soviets, the US never won a single battle during this entire war. Bloody and ugly as this war was, it was primarily a gigantic multi-billion exercise in PR. It is no wonder then that it ended in yet another, last, PR exercise. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, they had least had the courage to do that openly and proudly; the US even lacks the courage to do that.
Now all this really begs the question of what will happen in Pakistan. The relationship between the USA and Pakistan are now at an all-time low and the CIA’s fancy drone-war combined with the infinite arrogance of its personnel on the ground, is creating a powerful blowback against the USA, and I would venture to say that the US Empire was also defeated in Pakistan.
The important thing to keep in mind though is that being militarily defeated does not entail loosing all influence, quite to the contrary, in fact. If the USA cannot control “AfPak” it still can make darn sure that nobody else does, including the Taliban and their Pashtun brethren across the border. Preventing the creation of a united “Pashtunistan” is an objective which the US shares with all other actors in the region, including India, Iran, Russia and the so-called “legitimate government of Afghanistan” aka The Northern Alliance. Even the local drug lords and their foreign patrons will support this. To be totally honest, I cannot disagree with this either: nuclear armed Wahabis is just about the worst of all imaginable options for all of mankind.
The fact is that no matter how much the US Empire is hated, nobody wants to replace the current regimes in Kabul and Islamabad with an alliance Wahabi crazies armed with nuclear weapons. The easiest option to prevent this is to trigger and sustain a process of “Somalization” of the region. And that is a skill which the US Empire and, in particular, the CIA, truly excels at. That will also be the real mission of the US forces remaining in the region: maintain chaos and preventing the creation of a “Pashtunistan”.
Next to the 68’000+ “chaos” forces we will also probably see “for profit” occupation forces (think Blackwater & Co. here) which will provide “security” for the various multi-national companies trying to exploit the country’s natural resources (including opium). Bottom line: the US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan does not mean that the US Empire is “letting go”, only that it is redefining its strategy in a manner more commensurate to its actual capabilities.