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 And that is what Obama did yesterday when he announced that 10’000+23’000 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan.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.
I wonder who will be controlling the heroin trade when the US withdraws, the Taliban or the Northern Alliance.
Pakistan helped the Taliban come to power and regarded Afghanistan as a potential source of strategic depth in their confrontation with India. I’m sure the Taliban will still have allies in the Pakistani military.
They need troops for the ground invasion of Libya, so perhaps this is just a redeployment. So long as the Taliban agrees to play ball on the opium trade this time around, I don’t see the US being too opposed to their coming back to power. They will probably have to agree to some sort of pro forma power sharing deal with the other US dupes that appears to put them in the background, but they will hold all the real power.
With the opium trade protected, the US can now turn its attention to the next item on Israel’s shopping list: Libya.
Nuke ’em till they glow then shoot the enemies of the free world in the dark.
“It seems to me a certainty that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammed and the utter degradation of the Arab women are the outstanding causes for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have been developing.”
General George S. Patton
@East Texas Redneck: that kind of patriotic feel good “nuke ’em all and turn their sandbox into a parking lot” has an important psychotherapeutic function. It makes it easier to deal with the cognitive dissonance between “we are #1” and “they kicked out butts *again*” by providing the illusion that if real, manly, military men gave the orders the mighty USA would easily prevail.
As for Patton’s quote, I would love to hear his insights into why the putatively “arrested” Arabs (Afghans are not Arabs, BTW, but nevermind) always end up winning against the “world’s only superpower”.
East Texas Rednecks are the laughingstock of the planet, but being ignorant of, well, “the rest of the planet” they can happily remain unaware of that.
@East Texas Redneck: one more thing: you do not understand what nuclear weapons can, or cannot, do. I won’t bother explaining this stuff here, but I will tell you that nuked folks do not glow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherenkov_radiation), even when they are “enemies of the free world” ;-)
You haven’t changed a bit since you were dispensing knowledge on DebianHelp. Is that a good thing?
I’ll drop in again in a few years to check for a kinder gentler bird.
“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
Can you help me here and put the link of the letter the question what can we do?
MK Bhadrakumar had suggested the other day at Asia Times that the us plan was, in fact, to create a Pashtunistan. His theory was that the US would cut a deal with the Taliban ceding control of the south to them while keeping up the occupation of the rest of the country. This would (hypothetically) allow a low cost military presence in central Asia while also destabilizing Pakistan (an unstated goal)
Bhadrakumar did not give this strategy a high chance of success, and that Iran and Pakistan would work together along with Karzai to thwart it. But he did say that is what they would try.
@East Texas Ranger: You haven’t changed a bit since you were dispensing knowledge on DebianHelp. Is that a good thing?
You tell me? Was I right about the fact that US wars will all end up in humiliating defeats?
As for being a kinder bird, coming from somebody who wrote “Nuke ’em till they glow” I am not sure as to what make of your idea of ‘kindness’.
Say ‘hi’ to the rest of the Borg collective ;-)
Nobody has ever succeeded in conquering Afghanistan. The Russians couldn’t do it, not even Alexander the Great managed it. Tamerlane had some success but he just went through the place slaughtering everything in his path and leaving piles of skulls to show where he’d been.
The Taliban will end up ruling Afghanistan, at least in the south. Maybe some face saving deal will be found that allows a US puppet to continue as Mayor of Kabul. Meanwhile the heroin trade will continue across Russia and into Europe.
@Robert: I agree with every single point you make. I would just add that “the Taliban” (category which I also used) is a Western invention or, at least, an oversimplification. ALL Afghan tribes are notorious for switching sides over and over and over again. I can easily imagine that some “Taliban” will support the US occupation if that seems expedient for the short term. Always remember that fact: Massoud was a Russian GRU collaborator. But did that really help the Russians? Nope.
The Afghans play “loyal” when that is expedient, but in the end they only care for their own, narrow, interests. Yes, the Taliban will control the South, and the Hazara and Tadjik will control the North, and all the alliances will be shifting like the sands of the Registan desert. But the end result will be the same: foreign invaders will have to leave, having achieved nothing.
If you are going back to Alexander the Great, then the proposition “Nobody has ever succeeded in conquering Afghanistan” is false. In any case, taking this thesis back to Alexander is somewhat anachronistic.
@Ishamid: if by ‘conquering’ we mean the process of entering and taking control of most of the land that Afghanistan was conquered many times. Bu if by ‘conquering’ we means successfully militarily subdue and stabilize a foreign rule, then I would say that at least in recent history empires have failed at that.
@Lysander: as long as the Taliban controlled “Pastunistan” is thoroughly “Somalized” then that is ok. But if the putative “Pastunistan” looks like a “Greater Pakistan” ruled by Deobandis with nukes, then this is absolutely unacceptable to Iran, Russia, India, the Tadjiks, Hazara, Turkmens, and everybody else, including the USA and Israel. So the devil is in the details, as always ;-)