Afghanistan & Pakistan: The Unwinnable War
A major sign of incompetence is a person who does the same thing over and over again while each time expecting different results. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown seem to be trapped in such an illusion. In 2001, when Western leaders ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, they set out their objectives for its occupation. They talked of bringing peace to the region, establishing a government which is accountable, promoting economic and industrial development, ending opium trade and securing the rights of the Afghan people.
At the end of the decade, the West has been unable to deliver in Afghanistan. Instead, the people of Afghanistan have been subjected to a brutal occupation, thousands of civilians have been killed and many Afghans have witnessed firsthand the West’s empty promises of ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’ when detained and tortured in Bagram and Kandahar. The Karzai regime, thoroughly discredited by ineptitude, corruption and dealings with brutal warlords, continues to be propped up by both London and Washington. The opium trade is booming and politicians with close ties to the West are alleged to be wrapped up in it. There is no economic or industrial development and despite pledges of billions of dollars in aid, there is little evidence of the rebuilding of Afghanistan that was promised.
After eight years the West has lost any form of moral authority to continue its occupation and its support of the widely discredited Karzai regime. There is no cogent reason to believe that they would even begin to make progress given another eight years. The neo-colonial mission in Afghanistan has failed. The West and its client regime in Kabul have no legitimacy or credibility in the eyes of the Afghan people or wider Muslim world. This eight year long folly must now come to an end.
Although it was their warmongering predecessors who launched the Afghan war, both Obama and Brown have decided to double down and have devoted more resources in a vain attempt to “finish the job.” But with no coherent strategy, an excess use of violent tactics coupled with gross incompetence, NATO rule has led to Afghanistan being controlled by drug barons and corrupt officials. Far from being able to defeat Al-Qaeda or the Taliban in Afghanistan, the war will cause more resentment and hatred especially in the Muslim world where the West’s reputation is already in tatters perpetuating instability and chaos. Yet after the defeat in Iraq, the continued failure in Afghanistan and being fully exposed under the war on terror, Obama and Brown are now engaged in an “undeclared” war in Pakistan to destabilise yet another country in the Muslim world.
Though the overt neo-conservative agenda may have ended with the previous US administration, its spirit lives on with active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now undeclared wars in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. There is little doubt that the latest strategy articulated by the president of the United States in his West Point speech of 1st December 2009, like all the previous strategies conducted since October 2001, will fail and that Afghanistan will continue to suffer as a nation and as a people
This is because these strategies were not just hopelessly executed, but hopelessly conceived. The analysis of Western war strategists is that the Afghan war has been under resourced due to the war in Iraq and this explains the resurgence of the Taliban. The proponents of the new strategy believe that the lack of troops has led to the people of Afghanistan to lose confidence in NATO’s ability to provide greater security, a pre-requisite for effective governance. Lacking economic opportunities, ordinary Afghanis in particular the Pashtuns, effectively channelled their frustrations through joining the Taliban as the latter provided both salaries and status. Due to the perception that the central Afghan government was corrupt, these people turned to violence against NATO, seeing them as defenders of a corrupt status quo, to drain the swamp of radicalism the supporters of the new strategy believe that the US should increase troops in the short term and peel off those who are not hard core ideologues in the insurgency. By regaining momentum, the West believes they can then build up Afghanistan’s indigenous security forces to take over from NATO at some undefined future date. However, to ensure this strategy works effectively Pakistan must also be fixed through a mix of getting the Pakistanis to do more and escalating covert US military action.
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