The death of the American dream in Afghanistan

Patrick Cockburn writes: The United States’ announcement that it plans to end the combat role of its troops in Afghanistan earlier than expected, and before the end of next year, is a crucial milestone in the international forces’ retreat from the country. Coming after the French decision to go early, the US move looks like part of a panicky rush for the exit. More important, Afghans like to bet on winners, and the US action will convince many that these are increasingly likely to be the Taliban and Pakistan rather than the Afghan government. No wonder Nato officials looked so anxious as they pretended that the US action had not come as a nasty surprise.

The decision, revealed by the US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, with deliberate casualness to journalists on his plane, is an admission of failure. The US has an army of 90,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and is spending $100bn a year, but has still been unable to defeat 20,000-25,000 Taliban who receive no pay at all.

A little over 10 years ago, I was standing on a small hill by a ruined textile factory 40 miles north of Kabul watching the plumes of fire erupt on the skyline as US bombs and missiles exploded in the Taliban front line. In the next few weeks the Taliban government imploded and I was able to drive nervously but safely to Kabul and, soon after, to Kandahar.

It is an extraordinary turn-around that a decade later the Americans are departing and the Taliban are back in business. A leaked Nato report on interrogations of 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qa’ida, foreign fighters and civilians shows that Taliban prisoners are in a confident mood. They believe their popular support is growing, Afghan government officials secretly collaborate with them, and, once foreign troops are gone, they believe they are going to win. The authors of the Nato report say “Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over Giroa [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] usually as a result of government corruption, ethnic bias and lack of connection with local religious and tribal leaders.” This enables the Taliban easily to recruit more fighters to replace their casualties.

As in Iraq, departing US troops will leave behind a very different political and military landscape in Afghanistan from the one they hoped to create. In the Iraqi case, power is held by Shia religious parties closely linked to Iran, which is the opposite of what the Americans wanted to see when they captured Baghdad in 2003. In the Afghan case, the government of Hamid Karzai has waning authority as the US steps back and Afghans take out insurance policies to ensure personal survival by making approaches to the Taliban. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, powerful US armies failed to impose their control or restore peace.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 thoughts on “The death of the American dream in Afghanistan

  1. Norman

    Quelle Surprise. With the idiots in Washington, that’s all the idiots, think tanks, administration, military, congress, who ever else fits the bill, need to be locked up; in the loony bin. The illusions of invincibility this country maintains, are straight out of the fools handbook. The bankruptcy of the U.S., in treasure-gold-manpower, is almost complete. I wonder, are the armchair generals prepared for the next war zone, the streets of America? They have made a mess of things ever since the stalemate in Korea. Just what has all the lives and money, that the military has had at its disposal, achieved? Not only have they destroyed foreign countries, but also their own, as the U.S. infrastructure decays. This countries leaders are worse than the drug addict and the gambler combined. Just one more time!

  2. dickerson3870

    RE: “The death of the American dream…”

    THE SLOW DEATH OF THE U.S. DOLLAR: Sri Lanka may drop dollar to meet Iran oil sanctions ~ by Reuters, The Economic Times, 2/05/12

    (excerpt) Sri Lanka may avoid a costly squeeze by the United States sanctions on Iranian crude by purchasing it in a currency other than dollars, following India’s lead, officials said on Sunday.
    The Indian Ocean island nation is facing the most potential collateral damage from the sanctions, which are meant to cut off the dollars Washington believes are being used to fund Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
    Sri Lanka imports 93 percent of its oil from Iran, OPEC’s second biggest producer, and its sole refinery, the 50,000 barrel-per-day Sapugaskanda plant, can only refine Iranian crude and three or four others that are in short supply…

    SOURCE –

Comments are closed.