(Continued from Afghanistan- I)
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has rejected America’s “Civilizing Mission”; they dismissed it as “a joke to say values like ‘women’s rights’, ‘democracy’, ‘nation-building’ etc. were part of the US/NATO aims in Afghanistan!” They in fact “turned our country into the most corrupt, insecure, drug-mafia and dangerous place especially for women.” RAWA yearned for “an end to the US/NATO occupation and even better if they take their Islamic fundamentalists and technocrats with them and let our people decide their own fate.” Afghan women must and would dialogue and negotiate the future dispensation with their own men – a task made infinitely more difficult by the US intervention that spread Islamic extremism across the country.
Former President George “Warmonger” Bush’s 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom put to death a conservatively estimated 1 million Afghan men, women and children and left in its wake countless raped women. But he lamented the supposed social improvements under the Operation are being reversed; “sadly”, Bush grieved, “Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm” under the emerging rule by Taliban, the same Taliban his CIA had indoctrinated with Islamic extremism!
The anxiety Bush expressed over the palpable decline in American power, couched in his transparent tear-jerking concern for Afghan women and children, is not surprising since the Taliban have pressed home their military advantage after compelling President Mohammad Najibullah to step down in 1992.
The US administration cobbled together a coalition government, the Islamic State of Afghanistan, with Burhanuddin Rabbani as President and Ahmad Shah Masoud as Defence Minister, both ethnic Tajiks, during the 1992 Peshawar peace talks. The negotiations between several (not all) Mujahidin groups were nominally under the United Nations but the US-guided process excluded the Pashtun Taliban; predictably the new government did not last long.
Despite the labyrinthine twists and turns of the plethora of Mujahidin groups, their kaleidoscopic shifting alliances and alternating sponsors, it is nevertheless possible to stich together the plausible flow of events and role of personalities.
When Taliban’s brought Kabul under their control by 1996, Rabbani fled to Tehran but continued as President-in-exile. Masoud fled to Kulob, Tajikistan where he gathered together several non-Pashtun Mujahidin groups to form the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan or Northern Alliance (NA), with Rabbani as President and backed by the Washington, New Delhi, Moscow and more.
US intelligence agencies resurrected their old ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Ghilji Pashtun, who contested Taliban’s leader Mullah Mohammad Omar for power in Kabul. Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin party and Masoud-led NA was to be the battering ram to bring the Taliban down.
After the Taliban issued marching orders to UNOCAL (Union Oil Company of California) in 1998, the company withdrew from CentGas (Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd.) consortium, formed in the early 1990s to build the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipelines and led by UNOCAL together with Delta Oil Company of Saudi Arabia. The company’s oilmen, though rebuffed by the Taliban, did not ride off into the sunset; instead, UNOCAL merged with Shevron to become an even more formidable foe.
The Taliban, sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI, made short work of the Gulbuddin-NA opposition, which by 2001 controlled no more than 10% of the country.
The US-led NATO forces were compelled to put boots on the ground. They invaded in 2001 to salvage the situation and, allied with the troops of NA, drove the Taliban out of Kabul and other major cities. Rabbani was imported to head a hastily crafted interim administration while the energy transnationals together with the NATO forces contrived to cultivate new assets among minorities they intended to exploit to contain the emboldened Taliban. However, Rabbani survived for less than a year in office partly because Hekmatyar rejected the US-brokered structure – he demanded all power to himself.
For twenty years, from 2001 to 2021, NATO struggled to cobble together one client regime after another. The US engineered legal cover for its invasion through the 2001 Bonn Agreement, under UN auspices no less, by foisting a pro-West Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) and converting the invading US-led NATO forces into an ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). They daubed a succession of satraps in Kabul with a veneer of constitutional respectability using the ISAF-imposed 2004 Constitution, beginning with Presidents Hamid Karzai (Acting, 2001 – 2004 and President 2004-2014), Ashraf Ghani (2014-2021) and Amrullah Saleh (August 2021).
The US administration dignified the sordid game of musical chairs played by its odious proxies as “nation-building” for its undiscerning domestic spectators while manoeuvring to prop up the tottering Kabul regime. President after US President simultaneously demanded Islamabad should do more to stem the “flow of militants across its border into Afghanistan”, the same Taliban the US intelligence agencies had indoctrinated and nurtured earlier. During the interview for our documentary film “Dinner with the President” around 2005-2006, President Pervez Musharraf recounted the US intervention’s devastating consequences for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wider region.
For breath-taking lawlessness it’s difficult to do better than “Extraordinary Rendition”, an Orwellian doublespeak that justified the George W. Bush administration’s illegal operations. Under them the CIA kidnapped and dragged away “at least hundreds of people to torture in other countries, both in facilities run by foreign intelligence agencies or in CIA-run ‘black sites’” and often arbitrarily execute them outside the jurisdiction of US law.
To mask its literally bloody fangs, the Bush Administration arm-twisted the UN Security Council (UNSC), with a threatened veto of the renewal of several UN peacekeeping missions, to ram through Resolution 1422 to shield American servicemen and mercenaries (“contractors”) from ICC’s war crimes investigations for one year. The immunity was extended in 2003 but refused by the UNSC in 2004 after photographs surfaced of gruesome treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US troops in Abu Ghraib. (The US extracted similar immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts under Order no. 17 but failed in Sri Lanka.)
In short the liberal-democratic western powers baptized the US-led NATO’s unlawful occupation forces into an Afghan “peacekeeping mission”, innocuously renamed the ISAF!
Simultaneously a US Secretary of State (who to our eyes resembled more a mafia don and less a suave diplomat) applied gunboat diplomacy. He demanded Islamabad rein in the Taliban and deliver “terror suspects”; and, obviously alluding to Henry Kissinger’s illegal bombing of Kampuchea during the Vietnam War, he bluntly warned President Musharraf: “Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the stone age”. At a 2008 hearing of Senate Armed Services Committee then Secretary of Defence reiterated the threat: the “United States has a right to act against terrorist targets in Pakistan” in self defence, that Islamabad has to be “a willing partner.”
President Musharraf clearly grasped that the combined might of NATO forces could not stop the Taliban and that the US-trained and fed mercenary Afghan militia is incapable of stabilising the Kabul regime. However, he was not in the business of helping the US climb out of the Afghan quagmire of its own making, especially since Washington sabotaged his cherished IPI (India-Pakistan-Iran) energy pipeline by menacing Islamabad with sanctions and coercing New Delhi to pull out. To prevent the carnage the US administration threatened to rain on Pakistan, Musharraf went through the motions of succumbing to Washington’s threats, including reportedly handing over some “suspects” to the CIA, while reinforcing Islamabad’s Strategic Depth in Afghanistan.
The Taliban drew inspiration and strength from their ancestral Mujahidin and parent Al Qaeda, both promoted by the politically myopic US military strategists, to inexorably advance and expel the US-led NATO forces in August 2021.
The Taliban made good their taunt – “You have the Watches, We have the Time”– by interminably stretching the war out to shatter America and NATO’s delusions of invincibility.
It would be edifying to revisit “Charlie Wilson’s War”, to assess how the Texan’s reckless, cowboy antics have dragged the US-led NATO forces into the unprecedented catastrophe.
The Anglo-American corporate media scrambled to save face by blaming corruption: an official US auditor lamented, “the end of the US supply chain in Afghanistan is the Taliban.” Scribes in the western corporate media buried their heads in the sand: one flatly declared, “Nobody Wins in Afghanistan”. The media highlighted Russia’s RIA news agency report that Ghani fled country “with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in.” In essence the unfolding narrative, replete with self-serving rhetoric, alleges corruption among Afghans from top to bottom had strengthened the Taliban and hobbled the US-led NATO’s invincible military machine!
Could one expect any better from amoral Dogs of War and fortune-hunting political henchmen?
The US strategists ought to have anticipated this outcome from their Vietnam debacle. But from the “Fall” of Saigon to the “Fall” of Kabul they learnt nothing and forgot nothing! They seem impervious to even the folk wisdom of their Wild West, “there’s always a faster gun!” Or did they fantasize the US armed forces would always be faster on the draw?
Lastly, a few words about the so-called “failure”.
Did successive US administrations fail to transfer the bulk of the $2 trillion to the US military-industrial complex? Certainly not! What’s more, only a paltry $150 billion went to the Afghan clients. The rest never left the shores of the United States! The Kabul regime’s nearly $10 billion with its Central Bank are safely lodged in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and frozen by Joe Biden’s administration!
Has the US military-industrial complex failed to experiment new weapon systems and robotic warfare? Not at all. They have had resounding successes going by the estimated one million Afghan civilians – men, women and children – callously put to death as guinea pigs.
Did “Public Diplomacy” of the US and its allies fail the minorities? Yes. It is a strategy to buy over selected sections of the population – the NA for example – and turn them against the nationalist resistance to the US-led invasion. We recollect a similar strategy by the US administration, which instigated the Iraqi Kurds in the north of the country to revolt against President Saddam Hussein and, after he was overthrown, abandoned the Kurds. As for Afghanistan’s women, RAWA is well aware that “goodies” handed over by an occupation force would evaporate as soon as the alien soldiers depart.
Has the US administration failed to loot the natural resources of the Afghan people? They have indeed, thanks to the legendary political resistance by the Afghan people. Have they failed to discharge their racist White Man’s Burden? Yes, thanks to the implacable cultural resistance by the people.
Does that mean the Taliban have succeeded? Yes, in the battle against the NATO armies. But they have a long way to go to unlearn the cruel childhood indoctrination by US intelligence agencies that we discussed in Part I of this series; they also have to re-orient the Taliban cadre for peacetime governance – not a difficult task as demonstrated during reconstruction after the revolutions in, for example, Algeria and Iran. However, just as the US has pursued destabilisation to sabotage the Iranian Revolution, the military-industrial-financial complex is gearing up to torpedo Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. As a first step the US and the IMF put the “financial squeeze” on the new Emirate.
While playing out the “retreat drama” for home (American) consumption – Joe Biden was prominent among politicians who voiced the need to end the Afghan war – moves are afoot to scale the war up by “replacing larger scale efforts with more sustainable smaller scale missions led by special forces, drone strikes, and other emerging technologies”. Their strategy came to be called the “over horizon capacity” that “usher in Artificial Intelligence generation of warfare.”
After all, the mouthwatering wealth in natural resources in Afghanistan (and other countries) is simply too tempting and indispensable to walk away from.
Our reading is that President Donald Trump signed the 2020 withdrawal agreement with the Taliban and Biden is faithfully executing it precisely because they are clearing he decks for the US-led NATO armies to usher in the age of robotic weapons. The strategy is faithful to the vision of a war without end: in his 2001 presidential Address to a joint session of Congress and the nation President Bush Jr. was ecstatic: “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.”
Clearly Bush was assuring the military-industrial-financial complex, not the much-harried nation, that he would keep afloat America’s “Permanent War Economy”, which nicely fits Nobel Peace Laureate Barak Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia”: move most US military assets to the South China Sea to challenge the strong and rising China and prepare for “The Coming War on China”.
*To be continued…..