Afghanistan’s Eighth Anniversary with Another Crumbling Empire

Published on Open Anthropology, by Maximilian Forte, October 7, 2009.

While no doubt some Afghans will be celebrating the continued, lucrative, presence of another empire in their midst, and the momentary protection offered by armies from 42 nations, others will be celebrating the fact that under their sustained and expanding fire another empire grinds noisily into its eighth year of failure. At the moment, the ever more obstreperous General Stanley McChrystal is making statements such as the one in the image above, suggesting that more occupation troops are needed so that they can look like less of an occupation force. Astounding. Instead of occupiers, they will merely appear in Afghan eyes as tourists with guns, presumably. This is the logic that is being sold by “top brass.” This logic comes from a general whose specializations in Iraq were targeted assassinations, not counterinsurgency; his units engaged in repeated abuse of detainees, not “winning hearts and minds” (source: Gen. McChrystal and Afghanistan). As for the Obama administration, pledging itself to think about a strategy for Afghanistan does not mean quite the same as pledging itself to think: “I don’t think we have the option to leave,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, “That’s quite clear” (source: Gates blames past lack of troops for Taliban edge). Any regime that does not know what it is still doing in another nation cannot afford to slice off parts of its brain and render certain ideas “unthinkable” … 

… As the Taliban has spread to the point that there is substantial Taliban military activity in 97% of Afghanistan (source:  Taliban presence seen across almost all Afghanistan) and heavy activity in 80%, are they promising “global jihad”? No, quite the contrary: “Afghan Taliban say they pose no threat to the West.” What if you do not believe them? “If the Taliban did return to power, I believe we are strong enough to deter them from attacking us again by strong and credible punishment and by containing them with regional allies like India, China and Russia,” said former State Department official Leslie Gelb (source: Al-Qaida showing smaller presence in Afghanistan). But surely their Al Qaeda “friends” will take advantage of the return of the Taliban? With a force numbering perhaps as few as 100? As Obama’s National Security Adviser, General James Jones said: “The al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies” (source: Obama adviser downplays threat of al Qaeda haven). Yet, if one asks General David Petraeus, he says repeatedly that there is no al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan (source: Petraeus Admits There’s No Al Qaeda in Afghanistan Anymore – War Over).

A confused regime, speaking out of both sides of its mouth, admits to having no strategy for winning an unwinnable war, that is also by very far an entirely unnecessary war. (full text).

For those interested in copious amounts of background reading, you can download the following PDFs of international press extracts ranging across the topics above, and many more, complete up to 07 October 2009:

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