Swan song for NATO: The real cost of defeat in Afghanistan
By Mike Whitney
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Feb 15, 2008, 00:13
It was supposed to be "the good war;" a war
against terror; a war of liberation. It was intended to fix the eyes of the
world on America's state of the art weaponry, its crack troops and its
overwhelming firepower. It was supposed to demonstrate -- once and for all --
that the world's only superpower could no longer be beaten or resisted; that
Washington could deploy its troops anywhere in the world and crush its
adversaries at will.
Then everything went sideways. The war veered from the
Pentagon's script. The Taliban retreated, waited, regrouped and retaliated.
They enlisted support from the Pashtuns and the tribal leaders who could see that
America would never honor its commitments; that order would never be restored.
Operation Enduring Freedom has brought neither peace nor prosperity, just
occupation. Seven years have passed and Afghanistan is still ruled by warlords
and drug-merchants. Nothing has improved. The country is in shambles and the
government is a fraud. The humiliation of foreign occupation persists while the
killing goes on with no end in sight.
War is not foreign policy. It is slaughter. Seven years
later, it's still slaughter. The Taliban have taken over more than half of
Afghanistan. They have conducted military operations in the capital of Kabul.
They're dug in at Logar, Wardak and Ghazni and control vast swathes of
territory in Zabul, Helmand, Urzgan and Kandahar. Now they are getting ready to
step-up operations and mount a spring offensive, which means the violence will
The Taliban's approach is methodical and deliberate. They've
shown they can survive the harshest conditions and still achieve tactical victories
over a better-equipped enemy. They are highly motivated and believe their cause
is just. After all, they are not fighting to occupy a foreign nation; they're
fighting to defend their own country. That strengthens their resolve and keeps
morale high. When NATO and American troops leave Afghanistan; the Taliban will
remain, just as they did when the Russians left 20 years ago. No difference.
The US occupation will just be another footnote in the country's tragic
The United States has gained nothing from its invasion of
Afghanistan. US troops do not control even a square inch of Afghan soil. The
moment a soldier lifts his boot-heel that ground is returned to the native
people. That probably won't change, either. General Dan McNeill said recently
that "if proper US military counterinsurgency doctrine were followed, the
US would need 400,000 troops to defeat Pashtun tribal resistance in
Afghanistan." Currently, the US and NATO have only 66,000 troops on the
ground and the allies are refusing to send more. On a purely logistical level,
victory is impossible.
The battle for hearts and minds has been lost, too. A
statement from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
sums it up like this: "The reinstatement of the Northern Alliance to power
crushed the hopes of our people for freedom and prosperity and proved that, for
the Bush administration, defeating terrorism has no meaning at all. . . . The
US doesn�t want to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, because then they will have
no excuse to stay in Afghanistan and achieve their economic and strategic goals
in the region. . . . After seven years, there is no peace, human rights,
democracy or reconstruction in Afghanistan. The destitution and suffering of
our people is increasing everyday. . . . We believe that if the troops leave
Afghanistan, our people will become more free and come out of their current
puzzlement and doubts . . . Afghanistan�s freedom can only be achieved by
Afghan people themselves. Relying on one enemy to defeat another is a wrong
policy which has just tightened the grip of the Northern Alliance and their
masters on the neck of our nation." [RAWA]
Gradually, the allies will see that Bush's war cannot be won
and that continuing the fighting is counterproductive. There is no military
solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and the political objectives are getting
murkier all the time. This just adds to the growing sense of frustration.
Recently Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tried to cajole
the allies into sending more combat troops to fight in the south, but he met
with stiff resistance.
"I am concerned that many people on this continent may
not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security,"
Gates said. "We must not become a two-tiered alliance of those who are
willing to fight and those who are not. Such a development, with all its implications
for collective security, would in effect destroy the alliance."
But support for the war is waning in Europe. This is
America's war, not theirs. Europeans don't need to occupy foreign nations to
meet their energy needs. Their countries are prosperous and they can afford to
buy fuel on the open market. Only America wants the war. It's all part of a
geopolitical "grand strategy" to project US power into the region to
control its resources. So far, there's no indication that the plan will
Germany has the third biggest economy in the world. Over the
last few years, they have strengthened ties with Russia and made agreements
that will satisfy their long-term energy needs. But German involvement in
Afghanistan has put a strain on relations with Moscow. Putin thinks that the US
is using the war to put down roots in Central Asia so it can control
pipeline-routes from the Caspian Basin and surround Russia and China with
military bases. Naturally, Putin would like to persuade Chancellor Angela Merkel
to withdraw German troops from Afghanistan so he could strike a blow against
the US-led alliance.
Eventually, German leaders will see that it's foolish to
tweak the nose of the people who provide them with energy (Russia) just to
support Washington's adventures. When Germany withdraws from Afghanistan, NATO
will disband, new coalitions will form, and the transatlantic alliance will
fall apart. The cracks are already visible.
Bush has said that the war in Afghanistan must continue or
the country will become a haven for drugs, terrorism and organized crime. He
says we are fighting a �poisonous ideology of Islamic extremism which threatens
to become a global movement.�
But the Taliban and Pashtun tribesmen see it differently.
They see the conflict as an imperial war of aggression which has only added to
the suffering of their people. A recent report by the United Nations Human
Development Fund appears to support this view. It shows that Afghanistan has
fallen in every category. The average life expectancy has gone down,
malnutrition has risen, literacy has dropped, and more than half the population
is living below the poverty line. Hundreds of thousands of people have been
internally displaced by the war.
Afghanistan now produces 90 percent of the world's opium;
more than any other country. The booming drug trade is the direct result of the
US invasion. Bush has created the world's largest narco-colony. Is that
Presently, there are no plans to remove the warlords or
improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. Reconstruction is at a standstill. If
the US stays in Afghanistan, the situation 10 years from now will be the same
as it is today, only more people will have needlessly died. Most Afghans now
understand that the promise of democracy was a lie. The only thing the
occupation has brought is more grinding poverty and random violence.
There's no back-up plan for Afghanistan. In fact, there is
no plan at all. The administration thought the Taliban would see America's
high-tech, laser-guided weaponry and run for the hills. They did. Now they're
back. And now we are embroiled in an �unwinnable� war with a tenacious enemy
that grows stronger by the day.
Eventually, the Europeans will see the futility of the war
and leave. And that will be the end of NATO.
Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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