September 28, 2013. Kabul, Afghanistan. While President Obama touts his 2008 campaign promise to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home, his administration has spent its entire existence working toward the exact opposite. With negotiations spilling into the public arena, it now looks like the only question is whether the indefinite American occupation force will be 10,000 or 20,000 troops.
The map of Afghanistan may revert back to pre-US invasion factions. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Afghanistan War is perhaps the strangest war in modern US history. We sent 20,000 troops into the country in retaliation for the attacks on 9/11. But while that was going on, President Bush launched a war against Iraq for the same reason and sent 200,000 troops to invade that country. And while the American people are going bankrupt before the world’s eyes and about to lose many of their needed services due to another government shut-down, the occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan continue indefinitely.
What Afghanistan War?
We don’t hear too much these days about our soldiers fighting and dieing in Afghanistan. But consider this – three more US soldiers were killed there earlier this week, with a fourth killed two days ago. The war is still going on. But nobody in the world except the American people still believes it’s a noble war to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban for their attacks on September 11. Twelve years after 9/11, this is no longer a war on terror. It’s a war to occupy Afghanistan.
And according to world headlines over the past two weeks, the war is not going to end in 2014 as President Obama has always said. It will rage on for as long as we are there. And even officials from his administration are now admitting that the indefinite US occupation force in Afghanistan could be in the tens of thousands.
The US occupation force
There are currently 57,000 US troops in Afghanistan, mostly concentrated in the small portion of US-held territory around the Afghan capitol, with an estimated 200,000 private American corporate security forces as well. The rest of the sparsely-populated country is populated by ancient tribal villages whose loyalties are vied for by the US-backed Afghan government and the Pakistani-backed Taliban and al Qaeda.
While President Obama touts his withdraw of American troops from Afghanistan, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported exactly two weeks ago that Pakistani officials had just returned from Afghanistan where they learned that the expected indefinite US occupation force would number at least 20,000. That’s much higher than the 10,000 Obama administration officials had previously said would stay behind.
The Afghanistan crisis
Ditching all pretense of secrecy, US officials are publicly warning that failure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a long-term US military occupation force in Afghanistan would have severe and tragic consequences. The Afghan President has so far not made any official agreements.
Facing a US-imposed October deadline for a long-term occupation agreement, Karzai continues to be elusive and play both sides against the other. Just today, Al Arabia quoted US Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter warning, “It would be a tragedy if this thing wasn't concluded soon, because most Afghans are in favor of the coalition continuing its work there to strengthen the Afghan forces so they can go on and live a better life.”
Showing just how reversed the diplomacy has become in recent months, Deputy Secretary of State Carter also happily remarked that the Pakistani-Afghan blockade of US transports had been resolved and the American withdraw continues once again. “The big gridlock on the Pakistan ground-lines of communication, both on the Pakistani side and the Afghan side, has been eliminated and things are flowing,” Carter confirmed.
What he was referring to was Pakistan’s refusal to let the US use its land for removal of heavy military equipment. But realizing the less US military hardware left next year the better, Pakistan opened its border. For Karzai and Afghanistan’s part, the country is demanding the US pay Afghanistan $70 million in ‘tolls’ or ‘customs fees’ for the use of its borders in removing most of the US occupying force.
Proxy War – not who you think
Perhaps the most surprising revelation to come out of the recent public airing of frustration in Afghanistan comes from the German publication Deutsche Welle last week. The article quotes a section of a recent Congressional research report warning, ‘There are fears that the Taliban and other insurgents will achieve success against Afghan forces once the international force is reduced substantially by late 2014.’
Illustrating that Afghanistan is ramping up for war, the German publication cites the fact that war-related civilian deaths in the country over the first six months of 2013 are up 23%. It also quotes the Congressional report warning that Afghani political, religious and tribal factions are re-arming themselves and openly recruiting for their militias. An even more telling sign is that local and international investors are already pulling out their operations in anticipation of all-out civil war next year.
The report from Deutsche Welle quotes Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars saying, "Afghanistan's armed forces are afflicted by drug abuse, illiteracy, and desertion, yet they preside over one of the world's most volatile security environments, and continue to suffer from combat-related incapacities. This is all one big recipe for disaster, no matter how much Afghanistan and its allies around the world try to sugarcoat the issue."
India vs. Pakistan
The real coming war in Afghanistan, the German article suggests, may just be a war between India and Pakistan. While the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001, the Islamic fundamentalist government was allied and supported by Pakistan, and not even recognized by India. When the US overthrew the Taliban in 2001 and Hamid Karzai was elected, his US-backed administration developed close ties to India. Both India and Pakistan, already fighting a hot-and-cold war of their own for decades, are feared to use any excuse in their overlapping Afghanistan interests to fight a proxy war there.
Except for the 10,000 to 20,000 US troops being left behind, along with 10,000 training personnel and over 100,000 US contractors, American forces are scheduled to finish their withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. But US forces are already leaving. And as history has shown us repeatedly in horrifying and unforgettable detail, a retreating force stuck in the mud is a dead force. The war in Afghanistan is already heating back up and the American death count this week only proves it. And if it’s an indication of what’s to come between now and December 2014, it’s going to be a bloody and deadly 15 months for US forces in Afghanistan.
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