Friday, 19 November 2010


Since 2004 I have written a great deal on the futility of the US war in Afghanistan, plainly and simply stating that the war was lost and that it was only a matter of time for the US to recognize that inevitability. That announcement came today, 19 November 2010 in Lisbon. To the delight of most European governments, NATO has agreed to a withdrawal in the course of the next four years, although it is readily acknowledged pro-US Afghan forces, will probably not be ready to defend their country–just like the South Vietnamese army was ready to defend its country when the US pulled out.

In a WAIS posting of June 2004, I argued that US policy of pouring billions in reconstruction aid and forging ties with local Afghan leaders had no impact in the war on terrorism, amid a massive increase in the heroin trade and sharp rise of violence associated with it. In November 2008, in a WAIS posting about how Afghan women were selling their babies for a few dollars to survive, I argued that president-elect Obama’s pledge to make Afghanistan the new battleground of US policy would fail in its goal of eliminating Islamic terrorism and securing Afghanistan for Hamid Karzai. In the latest posting in September 2010, I asked: “In terms of geopolitical/strategic, economic, and political influence, is Afghanistan the belly of the beast for the US and NATO, or is it the new chosen Vietnam after Iraq because there must always be a Vietnam to validate American power (and its limits)?”

Today, we have NATO (28) members’ official exit strategy announcement, coming with a pre-announcement of NATO’s 10-year-vision statement, after consultations with Moscow of course. Afghanistan war costs to the US alone are about $200 million per day, an amount the US economy cannot sustain and have absolutely nothing to show for it other than the illusion of “feeling good about fighting Islamic terrorism at the source” and appeasing delusional right-wing ideologues who need an enemy to validate their patriotism. Ten years of war in that impoverished country produced nothing more for the Americans than it had for the Soviets (1979-1988)–an era of US covert operations that laid the foundation for the Taliban and “warlordism” and Al Qaeda.

The irony of the US-NATO announcement today is the desire for a political solution. In other words, the implied admission that a military solution is not in the cards, after insurgent leaders had refused US-NATO terms and the Taliban demanded a complete foreign troop withdrawal. For the past decade, Afghanistan was America’s “Little Vietnam,” as it was for the Soviets in the 1980s. All the treasure, all the lives lost on all sides, the entire country destroyed, the entire Islamic world less than cordial to the US and the “crusading West,” and all for what–a complete withdrawal as the Taliban now demands? Of course NATO will try to train Karzai’s military of 300,000, but that is merely a target and the reality will be shaped by the rebels who control most of the country, while Karzai, mayor of Kabul, will have to strike some deal with them or choose exile in a country of his choice.

Are there any lessons from the war in Afghanistan? Absolutely not! NATO announced today that it will recommit to a global military role for the decade, once the new strategic concept is promulgated. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insists that NATO “is the only alliance capable of responding to global crises.” Behind such bold rhetoric rests the reality that most NATO members are debtor nations with immense social pressures during this lingering recession for government to cut defense. Obama as well as his NATO counterparts read public opinion polls as well as the rest of us and they know the public sees the futility of wasting money in Afghanistan. Patriotism does have its limits, and they start and end with peoples’ fear of the future, a future that seems like Charles Dickens’ Hard Times for many countries around the world.

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