Afghanistan: Time for Truth
by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis
Do not believe what OUR media and politicians are telling us about Afghanistan. Nearly all the information we get about the five-year-old war in Afghanistan comes from US and NATO public relations officers or "embedded" journalists who merely parrot military handouts. Ask yourself, when did you last read a report from a journalist covering Taliban and other Afghan resistance forces?
Now, the official rosy view is being flatly contradicted by impartial observers.
The respected European think-tank, Senlis Council, which focuses on Afghanistan, just reported the Taliban movement is "taking back Afghanistan" and now controls that nation’s southern half.
This is an amazing departure from claims by the US and its NATO allies that they are steadily winning the war in Afghanistan. Or, more precisely, winning it again, since the Bush Administration claimed to have won total victory in Afghanistan in 2001. At the time, this column predicted that victory was an illusion and the war would resume in force in 4—5 years.
According to the Senlis Council, southern Afghanistan is suffering "a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty…caused by "US-British military policies."
Deflating optimistic western reports, Senlis investigators found, "US policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy." This is a bombshell.
The US and NATO have been insisting any withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan — or from Iraq — will leave a void certain to be filled by extremists. These claims are nonsense, given that half of Afghanistan and a third of Iraq are already largely controlled by anti-western resistance forces.
Were it not for omnipotent US airpower, American and NATO forces would be quickly driven from Afghanistan and Iraq. If Afghan and Iraqi resistance forces ever manage to obtain effective man-portable anti-aircraft weapons, such as the US Stinger or Russian SA-18, the US-led occupation of those nations may become untenable. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980’s was doomed once mujahidin forces obtained American Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
Last week, Canadian and British commanders boasted they were about to annihilate Taliban forces "surrounded" around Panjwai and Zahri. They crowed an "estimated 500 Taliban," had already been killed.
A storm of bombing and shelling did kill many Afghans, but most of the dead "suspected Taliban militants" turned out, as usual, to be civilians. NATO failed to show bodies of dead enemy fighters to back up its absurd claims.
When NATO forces entered Panjwai after weeks of air strikes and shelling, the supposedly "surrounded" Taliban had vanished. Embarrassed British and Canadian commanders admitted "we were surprised the enemy had fled." Surprised?
Doesn’t anyone remember the Vietnam War’s fruitless search and destroy missions and inflated body counts? Don’t NATO commanders know their every move is telegraphed in advance to Taliban forces? Don’t they see what’s going on now in Iraq?
Did Canadian officers making such fanciful claims really believe Taliban’s veteran guerillas would be stupid enough to sit still and be destroyed by US air power?
Now, Canadian-led NATO forces are crowing about having finally occupied Panjwai. "Taliban has fled!" they proudly announced. Don’t they understand that guerilla forces don’t hang on to fixed positions? Occupying ground is meaningless in guerilla warfare.
Seemingly immune to history or common sense, Canada is sending a few hundred more troops and a handful of obsolete tanks to Afghanistan. Poland, which will send troops anywhere for the right price, is adding 1,000 more soldiers next year.
US, British and Canadian politicians say they are surprised by intensifying Taliban resistance. They have only their own ignorance to blame.
Attacking Pashtuns, renowned for xenophobia, warlike spirits, and love of independence is a fool’s mission. Pashtuns are Afghanistan’s ethnic majority. Taliban is an offshoot of the Pashtun people. Long-term national stability is impossible without their representation and cooperation.
What the west calls "Taliban" is actually a growing coalition of veteran Taliban fighters led by Mullah Dadullah, other clans of Pashtun tribal warriors, and nationalist resistance forces led by Jalalladin Hakkani and former prime minister, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, whom the CIA has repeatedly tried to assassinate.
Many are former mujahidin once hailed "freedom fighters" by the west, and branded "terrorists" by the Soviets. They represent national resistance to foreign occupation. In fact, what the US and its NATO allies are doing in Afghanistan today uncannily mirrors the brutal Soviet occupation during the 1980’s.
The UN’s anti-narcotic agency reports Afghanistan now supplies 92% of the world’s heroin. Production has surged 40% last year alone. Who is responsible? The US and NATO. They now own narco-state Afghanistan.
Dominating the main oil export route from Central Asia was a primary objective of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Ironically, instead of an anticipated oil bonanza, the US now finds itself mired deep in the Afghan drug trade.
Washington and NATO can’t keep pretending this is someone else’s problem. Drug money fuels the Afghan economy and keeps local warlords loyal to the US-installed Kabul regime.
Afghanistan’s north has become a sphere of influence of Russia and its local allies, the Uzbek-Tajik Northern Alliance led by notorious war criminals and leaders of the old Afghan Communist Party.
The US and its allies are not going to win the Afghan war. They will be lucky the way things are going not to lose it in the same humiliating manner the Soviets did in 1989.
In recent weeks, near panicky calls by British PM Tony Blair for more NATO troops to be sent to Afghanistan show that western occupation forces are on the defensive, fighting to hold their bases, and facing the specter of eventual defeat. Just, in fact, like every other invader that has ever occupied Afghanistan.
A final point. US and NATO forces are not fighting "terrorists," as their governments claim. They are fighting the Afghan people. In the 1980’s, I saw mujahidin too poor to afford shoes strap 110 lbs of mortar shells on their backs, and climb 6—8 hours over mountains through snow to bombard a Communist base, then trudge home. These are the people we are fighting. Anyone who knows Afghans know they will not be defeated, even if they must resist for an entire generation.