The mess in Afghanistan
America’s influence and credibility is on a downslide in the region
Having nearly provoked war over Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia, the Obama administration has now launched a full-scale crusade in Iraq and Syria against the ISIS.
America’s aerial might, including B-1 heavy bombers, is plastering ISIS miscreants. Washington’s Arab allies and rightwing governments in Canada and Australia have joined the fray. The British will be next.
ISIS reserved particular venom for the French who they referred to as “dirty, spiteful” French (the Brits will love this one) whose warplanes joined the bombing crusade. The new plan seems to be: “kill’em all and let god sort them out,” a slogan dating from the Vietnam era.
The real problem is that the White House’s strategy looks like it’s being run by two angry women, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power. Neither they nor President Barack Obama seems to have any grasp of military or geopolitical strategy. It’s amateur hour driven by a frenzy of alarmist hysteria from politicians and the media.
Iran’s president put it perfectly when he called America’s new Syria-Iraq a “blunder,” adding “certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hands of madmen, who now spare no one.” While the US is cooking up a new, bigger mess in the Levant, the old mess in Afghanistan only gets worse. Last week, Washington’s colonial bureau finally managed to cobble together a political deal in Afghanistan between two rivals for the presidency, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah-Abdullah.
Ashraf Ghani is Washington’s choice for president; Abdullah will act as ‘chief executive,’ a sort newly created role of prime minister sure to break down. To no surprise, they are expected to quickly sign an agreement to keep 25,000 US and Nato troops in Afghanistan for years to come.
Outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai, installed in office by the CIA soon after the 2001 US invasion, loosed a Parthian shaft at his former American allies, asserting they did not want peace in Afghanistan, rather ongoing occupation. Karzai, who has emerged as a genuine nationalist, has stated that the only thing the US and its allies accomplished in Afghanistan was to kill large numbers of civilians.
Over in Iraq, former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, another CIA-installed “asset,” also refused to sign a pact allowing long-term garrisoning by US troops. So out he went. Now Karzai joins Maliki, recalling Henry Kissinger’s quip that it’s more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy.
The US may shuffle the deck in Afghanistan, but its basic problems remain. Ghani, a former academic and banker, is a decent person, but he is far too Westernised, has little support among majority Pakhtoons, and is widely seen as a willing American collaborator and sock puppet.
His erstwhile rival, Abdullah-Abdullah, is the front-man for the Northern Alliance, a Tajik gang from the Panjshir Valley that was a Soviet ally when Moscow occupied Afghanistan.
The Uzbek warlord, Rashid Dostam, a major war criminal and Soviet collaborator, joined the Northern Alliance and became its strongman.
The Northern Alliance collaborated with the US after its invasion, just as Tajiks and Uzbeks had done with the Soviets. Afghanistan’s communists gained control of the brutal national intelligence service, interior ministry, police and foreign affairs. But their main business remained narcotics.
Taleban virtually eliminated Afghanistan’s drug trade save in the region controlled by the Northern Alliance. Today, Afghanistan’s drug production and exports have reached what the UN calls “record highs.” The US remains the proud owner of the world’s leading producer of heroin. The drug lords that kept Karzai in power are all close US allies. But no one in Washington cares to talk about the dirty underside of Afghan politics or how its government runs on drug money. Foreign aid is the only other source of government income.
Taleban, Afghanistan’s most popular and authentic political movement, is predominantly Pashtun. Washington’s refusal to talk directly to the demonised Taleban ensures that there will be no real political compromise in wretched Afghanistan, which has been at war for the past 35 years.
Eric S. Margolis is a veteran US journalist
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