Obama and the endless war
December 1, 2010
NINE YEARS into the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and the end is…nowhere near in sight.
At this point, no one can possibly believe that the U.S. is committed to democracy or human rights or the liberation of women or any of the other justifications once put forward. The real reason the war drags on is as simple as it is ugly: Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are committed to maintaining a presence in Afghanistan, a vital strategic foothold in Central Asia for U.S. imperial aims in the future.
The Obama administration and its NATO allies are finally admitting publicly that the horrific war–now officially longer than even the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan of the 1980s–will keep going until at least 2014. And even that withdrawal date is in doubt.
But even if the war wasn’t a catastrophe for the U.S.–even if the indiscriminate raids and bombings of Afghan civilians weren’t further fueling the resistance to U.S. troops, and even if the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai wasn’t both corrupt and illegitimate–the U.S. wouldn’t be pulling out anytime soon.
That’s because the U.S. plan for Afghanistan is similar to its intentions in Iraq: the creation of a submissive client state backed up by a reduced but still powerful U.S. military presence. So far, the U.S. has only managed to prop up an incompetent and crooked stooge government run by Karzai. So Obama will continue with full-scale war and occupation for years to come.
Thus, at the recent NATO summit, the organization’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, affirmed that the beginning of a U.S./NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan would start in 2011, as promised. But the troops’ combat missions wouldn’t end until 2014–in theory, that is. As Obama noted at the NATO summit, whether all troops are out of Afghanistan by even 2014 is a determination he’ll make “when I get there.”
The promise of a new timeline for withdrawal is meant to pacify a U.S. and European public increasingly disillusioned with the war. But as Politico.com noted , the U.S. and NATO haven’t even figured out what provinces they can hand over to Afghan control next year, and whether to negotiate with the Taliban.
These shifting goalposts–from a war that the Bush administration claimed would take only a few months, to Obama’s promises of withdrawal by 2011 and now 2014–are further signs of the deepening quagmire. As antiwar author Tom Engelhardt noted :
In July of this year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke of 2014 as the date when Afghan security forces “will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country.”
Administration officials, anxious about the effect that 2011 date was having on an American public grown weary of an unpopular war and on an enemy waiting for us to depart, grabbed Karzai’s date and ran with it (leaving many of his caveats about the war the Americans were fighting, particularly his desire to reduce the American presence, in the dust). Now, 2014 is hyped as the new 2011.
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IF THE present course of the war is any indication, the U.S. won’t get its way in Afghanistan very quickly.
Calling the 2014 withdrawal target “false optimism,” Joshua Rovner, a professor at the Naval War College, told Politico.com that the plan for withdrawal “requires the belief that Afghanistan can quickly make the heroic leap from war and anarchy to stable and democratic governance. History suggests that this is wishful thinking.”
Disarray, ineptitude and rank thievery among the U.S.-backed government make handing security over by even 2014 unlikely. A year ago, Obama tried to fast-track the process by ordering a surge of 30,000 soldiers, bringing the total number of U.S. troops occupying the country to approximately 90,000. But increased raids and bombings are further inflaming civilian sentiment against the U.S.–and are one of the best recruitment tools for the Taliban.
At the NATO summit, however, Obama sounded ludicrously optimistic, claiming, “You have fewer areas of Afghanistan under Taliban control. You have the Taliban on the defensive in a number of areas that were their strongholds. We have met or exceeded our targets in terms of recruitment of Afghan security forces. And our assessments are that the performance of Afghan security forces has improved significantly.”
But as The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill noted , the reality on the ground is different:
Despite increased Special Operations Forces raids and, under Gen. David Petraeus, a return to regular U.S.-led airstrikes, the insurgency in Afghanistan is spreading and growing stronger. “By killing Taliban leaders the war will not come to an end,” said the Taliban’s former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, in an interview at his home in Kabul. “On the contrary, things get worse, which will give birth to more leaders.”
Obama’s promise that the U.S. is making progress in Afghanistan rings as hollow as promises made by Lyndon Johnson that the U.S. was on its way to winning the war in Vietnam.
And just as in Vietnam, dropping more bombs and killing more civilians will do nothing to win civilian “hearts and minds,” drive back the Taliban or stabilize the U.S.-installed government.
In fact, a recent report by the International Council on Security and Development  found that 92 percent of Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar provinces–two Taliban strongholds–were completely unaware of the September 11 attacks.
In other words, the U.S. is bombing people who have no idea why they’ve been bombed for the past nine years. They don’t hate us for our “freedoms”–as has been claimed over and over–they hate us because we’re killing them and their families.
Another sign of the failures of the U.S. and NATO came in late November when it was revealed that the U.S. had given large amounts of cash to a “Taliban leader” who turned out to be an imposter. The discovery not only shows how shoddy U.S. intelligence is, but it also casts serious doubt on U.S. claims that increased night raids and air strikes are indeed bringing the Taliban to its knees. Rather, the U.S. is mainly slaughtering civilians.
As Matthew Hoh, a former senior State Department official in Afghanistan who resigned in 2009 in protest of U.S. war strategy, explained to Jeremy Scahill , when it comes to the U.S. strategy of raiding Afghan villages at night, “We might get that one guy we’re looking for, or we might kill a bunch of innocent people and now make 10 more Taliban out of them.”
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DESPITE THESE continuing fiascos, you won’t find politicians of either party calling for an end to the war.
Keeping the war machine going in Afghanistan remains one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats can agree on–because a U.S. presence in Afghanistan, whether through military occupation or a compliant U.S.-backed government, is key to maintaining its power in Central Asia. In fact, if anything, Republicans want more troops in Afghanistan and no timetable for withdrawal.
Public opinion disagrees. According to a new Gallup poll , 54 percent of Americans say that things are going badly for the United States in the war, and 49 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling the war. Twenty percent would have the U.S. withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and 38 percent said the troops should come home sooner.
It’s no wonder why. According to the Congressional Research Service, even before the troop surge was implemented, the U.S. was spending $3.6 billion a month in Afghanistan. With millions of Americans out of work and the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression continuing to loom over American families, the war is sucking away billions of dollars each month that could be used to fund schools, unemployment benefits, jobs programs and more–all to kill and oppress the Afghan people and further U.S. imperial aims.
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1.  http://socialistworker.org/department/Opinion/Editorials
2.  http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45446.html
3.  http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175324/tomgram:_engelhardt,_general_petraeus
4.  http://www.thenation.com/blog/156601/americas-failed-war-attrition-afghanistan
5.  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/11/20
6.  http://www.thenation.com/blog/156601/americas-failed-war-attrition-afghanistan
7.  http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/11/29/Poll-More-optimism-over-Afghan-war/UPI-33831291043362/
8.  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0
see original post at http://socialistworker.org/2010/12/01/obama-and-endless-war