America’s Shambles in Afghanistan
By Brian Cloughley
In the course of research for a paper on US-Pakistan relations I came across a speech given by President Obama in March this year, titled ‘A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan’. It was interesting and quite informative, if misguided and engagingly ingenuous, but the riveting sentence that leapt from the page to my astonished eyes was the declaration that “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan.”
It’s a bit like being told “Hitler didn’t cause World War Two”, or reading a newspaper headline like “Republican Politician Tells Truth” or “Netanyahu Says Arabs are Human” But the Obama assertion was even more bizarre.
Nobody grabbed America’s collective nose and ordered it to send special forces to go to Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region on 7 October 2001, along with a few dozen British colleagues and a now-rich bunch of raggy baggy Afghan warlords who took millions of CIA dollars in enormous shrink-wrapped bundles and then sat down on their money and did nothing – until they sent the cash to Dubai and Geneva, courtesy of the corrupt Kabul Bank. The prime mover in that farce (for such it was, alas, in spite of instances of exceptionally courageous conduct by US and British soldiers; I have had a first-hand description of the operation, but alas can’t recount it because of the UK’s Official Secrets Act), was the White House. The pathetic Blair of Britain followed in his usual fashion, desperate to have bonding photographs taken alongside the grinning Bush.
It was most certainly the United States of America that chose to invade Afghanistan. And it was the United States that manipulated the United Nations Security Council into a Resolution that seemed to give justification for its unwinnable war.
Two researchers in the British House of Commons have produced a paper titled ‘The Legal Basis for the Invasion of Afghanistan’. These analysts are not bleeding-heart liberals; they are intelligent, independent assessors of fact. And they wrote : “The military campaign in Afghanistan was not specifically mandated by the UN – there was no specific Security Council Resolution authorising the invasion – but was widely (although not universally) perceived to be a legitimate form of self-defence under the UN Charter.”
The whole thing was a con-job. And dozens of nations were summoned to give it a slimy veneer of quasi-legitimacy. They were all duped – or chose to be manoeuvred – into committing blood, young lives and treasure to the preposterously named “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
While writing this piece I went to the website casualties and saw that yet more young foreign soldiers had been killed. Boys of 19 and 20 are dying in Afghanistan for . . . for what? There are no names of Afghan soldiers, of course, because they don’t matter to the West – any more than the deaths of Pakistani soldiers matter to Western politicians and generals who demand that “Pakistan must do more to combat terrorism.” What they mean is that even more soldiers of the Pakistan army and Frontier Corps should sacrifice their lives in order to make things easier for the West to claim that things are improving in its Afghan catastrophe.
Had there been no invasion of Afghanistan by foreign troops, Pakistan would not be in the dreadful situation in which it now finds itself. The fanatics came over the border and found sanctuary amid the lawless, savage, but culturally hospitable Pushtun tribes, which at that very time were being encouraged, with signs of modest success, to join mainstream Pakistan. But the displaced militants began energetic campaigns of propaganda and hatred, and then wreaked havoc by brainwashing home-grown barbarians to develop their own brand of evil mayhem.
Pakistan had no suicide bombings until 1995 when an Egyptian citizen tried to drive a bomb-truck into his embassy in Islamabad. There were no other attacks until 2005, when there were two, by sectarian religious fanatics. But then the foreigners’ war in Afghanistan really got going, and in 2007 there were over fifty suicide attacks in Pakistan, most of which directly targeted military forces. Since then it’s been a hideous growth industry. Last year fifty bombings killed over 1100 people, and so far this year the score is 500 dead innocents.
Thank you, Operation Enduring Freedom. And thank you, too, America, for the deaths of over 3,000 soldiers of the Pakistan army and Frontier Corps, because none of them would have been killed were it not for your war in Afghanistan.
Kabul’s US-endorsed and fraudulently elected government and its supporting foreign military forces whine about Pakistan being unable to control movement of militants to and from Afghanistan, and certainly it is impossible to do this – as the US well knows but won’t admit. Across its own fenced and heavily patrolled border with Mexico, which costs an annual 6 billion dollars to maintain and has over 20,000 border agents, pass hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and thousands of tons of drugs every year?
Ignoring its own backyard cross-border shambles, the US demands that Pakistan commit its soldiers to invade its border Tribal Agency, North Waziristan to fight militants who – undoubtedly – cross the border to Afghanistan to fight there.
This operation – or, rather, long series of operations, because it would take years if mounted, would require some 60,000 soldiers, of whom a thousand would be killed in a two-year campaign – were that all the time it would take. There would be at least 3,000 Pakistan army and Frontier Corps soldiers wounded, with hundreds of them maimed for life. There would be thousands of widows, orphans and grieving parents and families.
The aim of the US and its dwindling number of international supporters in Afghanistan is not intended to further stability in Pakistan – because a North Waziristan military operation would mightily increase the numbers of suicide and other attacks throughout the country. Their objective is to make it easier for them to claim that their war in Afghanistan is going well, as part of President Obama’s ‘New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ Thousands of civilians would have to flee from their homes in Waziristan. The social and economic cost would be immense throughout the country.
Does Pakistan think this is a price worth paying?
The US Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, stated unequivocally on September 22 that Pakistan’s government and armed forces “use violent extremism as an instrument of policy”, and were responsible for the recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul, as well as “the 28 June attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”
Now Mullen isn’t the sharpest knife in the box, and has made many fatuous statements ever since he got into a position in which he thought that he could get headlines by making fantastic statements; but even for him, this was a lulu. He has also declared that the government and intelligence service and army of Pakistan have killed, or want to kill, American citizens. He has announced that Pakistan “jeopardises not only the prospect of our strategic partnership, but also Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence.”
He has utterly destroyed any tiny lingering trust between America and Pakistan.
Then, amazingly, on the one hand he declares that Pakistan is an international pariah and not to be regarded as reliable on any account, and then says “With Pakistan’s help we have disrupted al-Qaeda and its senior leadership in the border regions and degraded its ability to plan and conduct terror attacks”. This is so illogical and off-the-planet as to make one wonder if he had had a bevy of Scotches before he went in to the legislators’ Committee to which he testified.
And I’ll tell Mullen something he doesn’t know: Yes, Pakistan’s intelligence agency does have liaison with extremists. The Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence maintains contact with all sorts of loony, barbaric and evil organisations. Just as does the CIA. It does so, because it knows the people of these groups are ruthless, powerful and extremely dangerous and it wants to have a handle on what they do, and, if possible, engage them in negotiations on behalf of government. Just like the CIA did with, for example, Libya’s lunatic and murderous Gadhafi.
Mullen’s wacky pronouncements have pushed US credibility in Pakistan to an even further low, which might have been expected, given what his boss, defence secretary Panetta, has been spouting.
The US is threatening to invade Pakistan rather than endorse ongoing and extremely delicate negotiations with tribal and other fanatics in its western regions. The intention was made clear when Panetta, referring to Pakistan’s supposed support of militant operations in Afghanistan, declared that “We’re not going to allow these types of attacks to go on.”
I’ve got news for Mullen and Panetta. If they imagine the Pakistan Army will be a pushover like the Iraqis, they have another think coming. If US forces attempt an incursion into Pakistan in North Waziristan or anywhere else they will meet reaction not only from the tribes and militants but from a proud and professional army which will not accept flagrant violation of national sovereignty. I know the Pakistan Army, and I state flatly that man-for-man it will hammer any opponent, no matter if the skies are horizon-filled with US bombers.
Does America think this is a price worth paying?
The author is a retired Brigadier of Australian Army who has served as Defence Attaché in Pakistan, writes extensively on military affairs and has been a frequent visitor to the region.