Af-Pak War enters twilight territory

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September has been the month of explosions, where cheap celluloid tricks have sparked a conflagration in Muslims across the globe. As anger rages across borders and states, there are other subtle, tectonic shifts in the geopolitics of US Empire. Attrition in the Af-Pak war theatre, as the locale is dubbed in US State Department parlance, underscores the precarious situation of US Empire as it races against time and dwindling resources to secure itself a liquid energy-rich future.

In recent months, there has been a spike in “green-on-blue violence” in Afghanistan, referring to Afghan policemen turning their weapons onto US military and intelligence personnel. Let us review some recent cases. On September 15, Afghan policemen turned their guns on US soldiers, killing four. An Afghan security guard killed three police trainers on July 22, and a day later, an Afghan solider turned his weapon against three US soldiers working as police trainers at a base. On July 1, a member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police killed three British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand Province. The attacks have no geographic epicenter, ranging across the country. Security clearances and checkpoints are proving to be woefully inadequate in filtering the attacks, which have been occurring within heavily fortified military installations and bases, as well as open air checkpoints.

As noted by the Long War Journal, there have been nearly 60 such reported cases since 2008. In short, the Afghans en masse are thwarting the US’ belated turn toward the colonial handbook and create a “good Afghan” contingent to pit against the “bad Afghans.” The dramatic increase in Afghans turning their guns on their Pentagon Inc. mentors, teachers, and funders also point to the successful culmination of the Taliban’s plan to infiltrate NATO forces. Insider killings account for 51 deaths of NATO soldiers until September 2012 –” a 45% spike from 2011.

This is a strategic coup for the Taliban –” the level of distrust for Afghans in the US led to the announcement that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was halting the training program of Afghans in the national police and Afghan national army. It also underscores the condition of intentional delusion through which the US continues to lull its ground forces embroiled in the Afghan adventure. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta preferred to characterize the insider attacks on NATO troops the “last gasp” of a Taliban insurgency that has been “unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost.”

The reality is that the suspension of the ISAF training program marks a distinct Taliban coup and a strategic failure to the US plans for a graceful exit. That is, Pentagon Inc. had planned to run its Afghan holdings, secured after the 2009 troop surge, from long distance. The idea was to establish heavily fortified bases, to be run by NATO-trained Afghans with a few US personnel in the capacity of “advisors.” The sub-contracted occupation would be fine-tuned by the robotic campaign of terror inflicted by drone attacks on the civilian population. As General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently noted in Turkey, the point of the surge of 30,000 US troops in the Afghan battleground was to “buy us some time to push back on some Taliban initiatives” and “to buy us some space to grow the Afghan security forces.”

Facing a teetering US economy, skyrocketing rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide in US army personnel, as well as the growing public antipathy to the Afghan adventure, Pentagon Inc. hoped that that this would lay the groundwork for pulling back US ground troops from Afghanistan. The surge is now at an end without winning for the Pentagon its desired strategic edge over the Taliban. While the New York Times modestly announced that the “Troop Surge in Afghanistan Ends with little Fanfare,” other news journals were far more blunt. A blog for the Economic Times titled the debacle “The Surge that Failed” and a Chicago Tribune article quoted Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers admitting that the “Taliban [were now] stronger than before US troop surge.”

In suspending the ISAF training program of Afghan police and army personnel, the Pentagon must hunt for a viable solution to the sheer manpower required to hold out against the growing momentum of the Taliban, and maintain the expensive bases plotted along the routes for the energy pipelines from Central Asia. The state of the US economy forbids the possibility of another surge. The Congressional Research Service offers an extremely conservative estimate, noting that the dollar cost of the war to US taxpayers alone is over $527 billion through the fiscal year 2012. But since the Iraq and Af-Pak ventures are as much about geostrategic ends as for energy, it is useful to lump them together in rounding up the total figure on the bill. According to a 2011 report released by Brown University, the total cost of the Iraq and Af-Pak conflicts is expected to reach anywhere between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion.

Not that this has deterred the hawkish elements in Congress from cheerleading for yet another surge (seeing that they receive such generous windfalls from grateful defense contractors) of US combat boots on Afghan soil. Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman asked that the surge be reconsidered after the suspension of the ISAF-training program, but they were swiftly quashed by their colleagues attending to the purse-strings of the US economy. The art of being senator is really the art of being on the right side, so McCain at least has undergone a change of heart and now advocates a high-speed withdrawal. “I think all options ought to be considered, including whether we have to just withdraw early, rather than have a continued bloodletting that won’t succeed,” declared McCain on September 19.

The ISAF training program was only a financial waste from the perspective of Pentagon Inc.; it has also proved to be dangerous. Green-on-blue violence also means that NATO has inadvertently been funding the transfer of skills and warcraft to the Taliban. While the US pretends to wield godly powers of asymmetrical warfare, the fact is that war is always a mutual engagement across enemy lines involving the transfer of skills, knowledge and expertise.

For their part, besides mastering NATO military technology and know-how, the Taliban seem also to be expanding their PR-capacities. On September 11, they released a statement disclaiming any responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and castigating the US for launching “an illegal and unjust crusade” against Afghanistan. “[T]he Afghans have had no hand in the 9/11 incident and neither have you been able to provide any legitimate or logical proofs,” declared the statement.

Leon Panetta’s statement, “the last gasp of the Taliban” falls anywhere between wishful thinking and a bedtime story. E-magazine Wired recently carried an article titled “Pentagon invents New Goal for Afghan Surge Now that it’s Done” –” peeling back the euphemisms, the updated strategy looks dangerously close to capitulation. The Pentagon is slated to discard its “Operation Enduring Freedom” playbook; re-invent the Afghan government; disband the Afghan National Security Forces; and engage in the “Taliban Reconciliation Program.” After the crow-eating is done, the question remains, how will Pentagon Inc. “sell” its photo-ops with the bearded personifications of evil it has been at war with for over a decade?

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