Delegates in Shangra-La pledge eternal war in Afghanistan, as the US creates new and very dangerous allies there, reports Eric Walberg
War junkies popped their champagne corks on 7 June to celebrate the 104th month of US military engagement in Afghanistan, America’s longest war in history (Vietnam lasted 103 months). Presumably they toasted the five NATO soldiers killed on 6 June and the ten on 7 June, a new record. Troop deaths have skyrocketed this year and NATO forces are continuing to “mow the grass”, killing dozens of “Taliban” every day, and lots of civilians, though no one seems to know just how many of each or how to tell the difference. In any case, what’s the point of questioning numbers provided by those doing the killing?
Washington’s main ally looked like it was about to change its tune with the new Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition in Britain. After early hints that the British might follow the Dutch and Canadians and decamp from the failed war next year, Conservative Defence Secretary Liam Fox has now backtracked. At the appropriately named Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last week he asked himself, “Should we be there? And my answer was, unequivocally, still yes.”
The “still” speaks volumes. His colleague US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, also attending the Dialogue, clearly had given him a dressing down about the lack of enthusiasm Fox showed during his visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago. Fox had asked himself then what his troops were doing in a “broken 13th-century country”, and he and Foreign Secretary Hague answered – without consulting with Gates – that they should come home as soon as possible. This about-face caused not even a ripple in the Western media. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov mocked his fellow Shangri-La-ers by noting that soon NATO will beat the Soviet record there of ten years.
Meanwhile in Kabul, 1,600 delegates came to President Hamid Karzai’s loya jirga and endorsed his plan to seek peace with the Taliban, including an amnesty and job incentives to induce Taliban fighters to give up arms. Unfazed, Taliban militants greeted the jirga by launching three rockets at the gathering though no attendees were reported killed. The delegates were far outnumbered by the 12,000 security personnel. The Taliban issued a statement saying that the jirga did not represent the Afghan people and was aimed at securing the interest of foreigners. Even Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami called the conference a “useless exercise” … //
… In a dispute over territory and cash, Karzai’s cousin Rashid Popal, head of another such private army/ security company, Watan Risk Management and Compass Security, was caught red-handed colluding with Taliban, allowing them to attack a convoy headed for Kabul in which a Afghan driver and a soldier were killed and their truck burned. Within two weeks, and with more than 1,000 trucks backed up, Karzai allowed his dear cousin to resume his “safeguarding”.
“We’re funding both sides of the war,” a NATO official in Kabul said. Matiullah’s US paymaster General Carter said he fears that the legions of unregulated Afghan security companies have a financial interest in prolonging chaos. Well, yes. And is the Pope Catholic?
What seems to be the real US policy in the AfPak region is something along the lines of:
- quell the Taliban in AfPak with Pakistan’s help (Pakistan’s defence budge will increase 17 per cent next year, funded largely by the US)
- keep Afghanistan in a state of low-level war that justifies long term NATO presence
- bring Pakistan and India together enough to create a sense of stability in the region under US hegemony.
Either Obama is a very smooth liar or he is being duped by his military with their new HQs and 700 bases. Maybe he’s playing a new kind of “chicken” with them, gambling that they will fail spectacularly due to the creative use of US dollars by both sides in Afghanistan (and Pakistan?), and will have to throw in the towel, letting him proceed to rebuild America without their manic delusions of world conquest. That would make him a devil’s advocate at best. Otherwise, he will join Karzai’s “cowards and thieves” in the history books. (full text).