Afghanistan We Forgot History and We Repeated It
by Eric Margolis: Cut
Greece Adrift To Save the Euro
famous dictum about those who forget history being condemned to
relive it is nowhere better observed than in the mountains of Afghanistan.
One of my favorite
artists was the superb Victorian painter Lady Elizabeth Butler who
captured in oil the military triumphs and tragedies of the British
painting, "The Retreat from Kabul (also known as "Remnants
of an Army") shows the sole survivor of a British army of 16,500
during the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1842, Dr. William Brydon, struggling
out of Afghanistan. All the rest of the British occupation force
were killed by Afghan tribesmen after a futile attempt to garrison
painting should have hung over the NATO summit meeting last week
in Chicago to remind the US and its allies that Afghanistan remains
"the graveyard of empires."
forces that occupied Afghanistan in 2001 have failed to achieve
their military or political objectives and are now sounding the
All the empty
oratory in Chicago about "transition," Afghan self-reliance,
and growing security could not conceal the truth that the mighty
US and its dragooned western allies have been bested in Afghanistan
by a bunch of mountain warriors from the 12th Century.
of war is to achieve political goals, not kill people. The US goal
was to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate providing bases close
to Caspian Basin oil, and to block China on a strategy level. After
an eleven-year war costing $1 trillion, this effort failed as dismally
as the much ballyhooed "liberation" of Iraq.
The US dragged
its NATO allies into a war in which they had no business and lacked
any popular support. The result has been a serious weakening of
the NATO alliance, raising questions about whose interests it really
serves. The defeat in Afghanistan will undermine US geopolitical
influence over Western Europe.
in Chicago that the US-installed Afghan regime will stand on its
own with $4 billion of aid from the west were pie in the sky. Once
US support ends, the Karzai regime is unlikely to survive much longer
than did Najibullah’s Afghan Communist regime in Kabul after its
Soviet sponsor withdrew in 1989. Or the US-run South Vietnamese
regime that fell in 1975.
350,000-man Afghan government army and police are mercenaries fighting
for money supplied by the US and NATO. Many are ethnic Uzbeks and
Tajiks, blood foes of the majority Pashtun. Taliban and its allies
are fighting for nationalism and faith. History tells us who will
know the western powers have been defeated. Those with sense are
already making deals with Taliban. Vengeance being a cherished Afghan
custom, those who collaborated closely with the foreign forces can
expect little mercy.
Air power is
the key to US control of Afghanistan. Warplanes and helicopter gunships
circle constantly overhead to defend western bases and supply routes.
Reduce this hugely expensive deployment of air power, as will likely
happen after 2014, and remaining US troops will be in peril. Pakistan’s
temporary closure of NATO land supply routes to Kabul and Kandahar
provides a foretoken of what may occur. Currently, the US must rely
on Russia for much of its heavy supplies.
are worries about getting most US and NATO troops out of Afghanistan
by the end of 2014. The US pullout from Iraq was deftly executed.
But Afghanistan will be a greater challenge. Much will depend on
the good or ill will of the angry mountain tribesmen who comprise
Taliban and its nationalist allies.
president, Francois Hollande, wisely reaffirmed his pledge to withdraw
all French troops this year. French had become fed up with former
President Nicholas Sarkozy’s neoconservative ambitions and eagerness
to please Washington. Other NATO members are wishing they could
do the same.
No one wants
to have their soldiers be the last to die in a futile war that everyone
knows is lost.
To wage and
sustain the Afghan War, the US has been forced to virtually occupy
Pakistan, bribe its high officials, and force Islamabad to follow
policies hated by 95% of its people, generating virulent anti-Americanism.
The Afghan War must be ended before it tears apart Pakistan and
plunges South Asia into crisis into which nuclear-armed India and
Pakistan confront one another.
intends to leave garrisons in Afghanistan after the 2014 announced
pullout date, rebranding them "trainers" instead of combat
troops. Their mission will be to keep the pro-US Afghan regime in
power. But neither the US nor NATO will come up with the $4 billion
promised in Chicago.
is encouraging India to get ever more deeply involved in Afghanistan
– even to become its new colonial power. India, with 600,000 troops
stuck in divided Kashmir battling a Muslim uprising, would be wise
to keep its hands off.
from Kabul will not be easy, but hopefully not as fraught and bloodly
as that of the British in their Afghan wars.
It’s high time
for the great powers to let poor, ravage Afghanistan sink back into
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2012 Eric Margolis
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