USA’s stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 has pitfalls
Asif Haroon Raja
The US military supported by the armies of 48 countries including 27 of NATO swooped upon heavily sanctioned impoverished Afghanistan, devoid of regular armed forces, technical and technological means. Afghan Northern Alliance that was in disarray re-conquered Afghanistan with the help of massive backup support provided by the US-Western jets, gunship helicopters, precision guided missiles, daisy cutters, cluster bombs, artillery, tanks and rockets. Round the clock carpet bombing was carried out to exterminate each and every person blocking the invaders. Majority of the ones who got killed or maimed were innocent Afghans. Month long genocide would not have abated had the Taliban not wisely decided to carryout tactical withdraw, regroup and then strike back at an opportune moment. Captured Taliban and their affiliates including the ones from Pakistan were locked up in infamous Bagram jail and other detention centres and subjected to unspeakable gruesome torture by Gen Dostum and Gen Faheem led non-Pashtun Afghan soldiers.
Afghanistan was occupied by foreign forces in November 2001 without losing a single soldier. The US and its western allies in upbeat mood firmly resolved to keep the Taliban and al-Qaeda down and out for good and to convert Afghanistan into a permanent military station of USA for times to come. The stated objectives included disrupting, defeating and destroying al-Qaeda, alleviating the condition of poverty stricken masses of Afghanistan, introducing US stamped democracy and making Afghanistan a progressive state. Among several unstated objectives of USA the major ones were containment of China, exploitation of natural resources of Central Asia and Caspian sea regions, keeping Russia in its place, denuclearization of Pakistan and making it a satellite of India, making India a key player in the South Asia-Pacific and a counterweight to China, bringing a regime change in Tehran and redrawing map of Middle East. India figured out prominently in the US strategic calculus since it was anti-China and Pakistan and was eager to acquire big power status and had already entered into a strategic partnership with Washington and Tel Aviv.
Well over ten years have gone by and thus far the battle between the US led ISAF and Taliban-al-Qaeda is still raging with no side winning. The US has employed all possible means which include excessive force, brutal tactics combined with underhand methods to break the resolve of the Taliban and their affiliates but have failed. Although no side has emerged victorious despite a mismatch, the fact is that the Lilliputians have succeeded in checkmating the ferocious and unforgiving giant and reduced its roars into squeaks. Afghan resistance forces suffering from severe disadvantages have succeeded in bringing the situation to a stalemate by resorting to guerrilla war. A tie favors the Taliban since it further exhausts and exasperates the sole super power that had rated US-NATO military as matchless and invincible.
The long war has become a nightmare for the US. Not only it is draining its economy, but also impairing its prestige and honor. Its uni-polarism has come under threat and homeland security is threatened since the backlash effects of war have reached the mainland of USA in the shape of homegrown religious extremists belonging to settlers and white American and European converts. Terrorism confined to Afghanistan has spread to all parts of the world including Europe. All strategies employed to defeat terrorism have failed. Lives of the occupation forces as well as Americans and Europeans serving in Asia and Africa have become highly unsafe. Muslim extremist groups are becoming more and more organized, professional and dedicated since they genuinely feel that the US and the west being historically anti-Islam and Muslim haters have waged a crusade to undermine Islam, decimate practicing Muslims, steal the natural resources and thus neo-colonize the Muslim world. Since the US follows double standards and supports the two biggest terrorist states Israel and India, it further reinforces their tenacity to fight to the last.
The aggressors have finally given up hope of victory and decided to withdraw without achieving any of its stated and unstated objectives. The drawdown commenced in July 2011 and as per the plan will get completed by December 2014. 130,000 ISAF troops are eagerly waiting for their turn to board the planes and return to their homes. The next outflow will be in September this year and another in December. Handover of provinces to ANA is in progress, while some of the allies like Australia have decided to pull out by 2013.
In the wake of bickering from egoists Pentagon, CIA, hawks within Republicans and Democrats, opportunists India, Israel, Hamid Karzai regime and security contractors employed in Afghanistan, the drawdown plan has been modified. The new plan envisions leaving behind up to 30,000 US troops including Special Forces, technical advisers, trainers, security contractors and intelligence operatives in the five military bases till 2024 so as to prop up US friendly regime led by Karzai and to provide support to ANA and Police to keep the Taliban at bay. The US troops will not take part in any ground operations singly or in concert with Afghan troops but extend air, technical support and intelligence cover. Afghan Security forces will also continue to receive training, equipment and pay & allowances. This arrangement has been approved by Karzai administration and incorporated in Afghan-US strategic accord which will soon be ratified by Afghan Parliament and counter signed by Karzai and Obama.
The justification offered for not carrying out withdrawal as per the original plan is that the Taliban are still too strong to be tackled by Afghan forces alone and that presence of backup force will prevent onset of internecine war as had happened in 1989-1994. The US is trying to sell the idea that it doesn’t want to abandon Afghanistan as it had done in 1989 and leave the Afghans at the mercy of Taliban. It is mindful of the fact that no sooner its forces depart, the Taliban would overrun Kabul and takeover power.
If this be the logic and reason to prolong its stay, it is to be seen how the US is so sure that presence of 30,000 US troops would be able to prevent the breakdown of ongoing stalemate when 130,000 foreign troops are finding it so hard to contain the resurgence of Taliban? A glimpse of this was seen on 15 April when Kabul was stormed and kept under siege for over 18 hours. 30,000 troops including large number of contractors and advisers would get frustrated and homesick by remaining confined to the premises of military bases and receiving sporadic attacks and facing threat of deadly IEDs. It will be natural for the Taliban and Gulbadin led forces to redouble their efforts to push out remaining alien forces and recapture power. Claiming that backbone of al-Qaeda has been broken, the US is left with no justification to prolong its stay. Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan would decry it and exert collective pressure on Washington to vacate Afghanistan.
Rise in militant activities would add to the difficulties of unpopular Karzai heading discredited regime, making it near impossible to undertake any welfare and development projects. After 2014 or maybe earlier, the pendulum of public opinion would start swinging towards the Taliban since the pullout of occupation troops could not have taken place without the outstanding fight put up by the Taliban and their huge sacrifices rendered to liberate their homeland. The second miracle happening in a span of 25 years would shoot up the popularity graph of Mullah Omar led Taliban, while the graph of the collaborators who had welcomed the aggressors and had participated in the destruction of Afghanistan and massacre of its people would sink.