October 10, 2011. Berlin. This weekend, Germany’s Der Spiegel Online quoted one of the highest ranking Generals in the German military, including his role as the top strategist and planner for his country’s role in the Afghan War. His remarks were sobering and disappointing.
Scene on the ground in Afghanistan
They also reinforced comments in the last few days from other NATO Generals, including US Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The consensus is that NATO has already lost the war in Afghanistan.
General Harold Kujat, Germany’s top military officer from 2000 to 2002, also served as the country’s Inspector General of the military. His words and opinions carry a lot of weight in Europe and the global military community. When he called NATO’s mission in Afghanistan a failure, American media blacked him out while other military leaders publicly came to the same conclusion.
"The mission fulfilled the political aim of showing solidarity with the United States," Kujat told the German daily ‘Mitteldeutsche Zeitung’, "But if you measure progress against the goal of stabilizing a country and a region, then the mission has failed." Germany has now joined the list of American allies who’ve admitted they didn’t believe the US’ intentions were legitimate regarding the war on terror, but followed along simply as a show of unity with the US.
Just prior to the invasion of Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed Parliament urging them to send troops in support of the US even though most of the claims President Bush and other American officials had made against Iraq had already been disproven. According to Blair, Britain needed to unconditionally side with the US for no other reason than because someday, England would need the Americans to return the favor. The remaining vast majority of US allies, except Poland, England and one or two others, refused to send troops. Instead, they would only provide logistic support, supplies, funding or intelligence.
Now, NATO countries are slowly getting a better look at why so many American allies were so leery of President Bush’s plans in Afghanistan. As a result, more and more NATO Generals are admitting that the incompetent and illegitimate planning and leadership at the start of the Afghan War are to blame for the Alliance’s military loss there.
Over the years, many have suggested that the mission in Afghanistan was doomed from the start by the secret agenda of President George W. Bush and his top advisers. Bush’s top Cabinet officials were all holdovers from his father’s administration and each of them had already expressed a desperate desire to overthrow Iraq and finish the job they started under Bush’s father George HW Bush. When Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice and Rumsfeld sent 200,000 troops into Iraq as their response to the attacks on September 11, 2001, NATO’s top generals instantly knew their real war on the perpetrators of 9/11 was being hijacked by the Bush administration to fight the personal wars of five specific individuals.
While 200,000 allied troops invaded the wrong country, Iraq, only 20,000 allied troops went into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and al Qaida, the actual country that had declared war on the US. For years, that’s how it stayed. When President Bush cheerfully announced to the world, “We got him!”, many thought he was referring to Osama bin Laden. No, President Bush admitted that bin Laden wasn’t even at the top of the list of individuals the US was looking for, “He’s not even on our radar”. Instead, the Bush administration chose to concentrate all its efforts on Saddam Hussein. “The man tried to kill my dad” President Bush explained to reporters who questioned his blind determination to kill Saddam Hussein.
Ten years later, we are now seeing the results of that strategy.
According to Germany’s highest-ranking General Harald Kujat, “The opponent was fighting a military battle and we needed to do the same. The argument that it was a stabilization mission was maintained for too long." The result, he said, is that soldiers were not given what they needed in order to effectively fight the enemy.
Echoing what other allied commanders have suggested, General Kujat confirmed, “If we withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, then the Taliban will take over power again within just a few months.”
Spiegel Online also reported from last week’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting in Washington where the doomed effort in Afghanistan was the main topic. America’s top General in charge of Afghanistan under the Obama administration, General Stanley McChrystal, addressed the CFR.
General McChrystal described the Bush administration’s view of the Afghan War as, “frighteningly simplistic”. He also included himself, among others, in that less than flattering description. "We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough" McChrystal said, "Most of us, me included, had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history. And we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years."
McChrystal admitted that right now, the US is still only half way to its goals in Afghanistan. The reason so many military commanders are speaking out now is because most NATO allies are locking in their plans to give up on the war and withdraw their troops completely by 2014. Many, including Germany, will begin pulling out its troops before the end of this year.
Whether the US chooses to admit defeat and pull out as well, or reverse course and increase troops strength and go it alone will most-likely depend on America’s next administration. Top Republican candidates for President have expressed their desire to stay in Afghanistan until the war is won, and the oil companies’ pipeline through Afghanistan is finished. The Obama administration has showed hints of its future Afghanistan strategy – military experts, advisers, CIA, unmanned drones and an army of hired mercenaries. If that truly is the route the US follows, it may prove to be a repeat of Fallujah, Iraq.
At the time, the private mercenary force of America’s corporations was the second largest army in Iraq, ahead of even the British contingent. These inexperienced and undisciplined private corporate armies proved to be overmatched in Fallujah and paid the price with their lives. If this is the destiny of America’s war on Afghanistan, the situation may just go from bad to worse.
Special thanks to Der Spiegel Online.