Limping out of Afghanistan

Immanuel Wallerstein writes: The two candidates for the U.S. presidency seem to be trying to outshout each other concerning Iran, Syria, and Israel/Palestine. Each is claiming he is doing more to support the same objectives. Isn’t it therefore strange that no similar verbal contest is going on at the moment concerning Afghanistan? [ Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty] In February 2012, some Korans were burned by U.S. soldiers, which led to violent public protests in Afghanistan. (Photo: Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty

Not so long ago, we were witness to the same Democratic-Republican game about Afghanistan. Which party was the more macho? Remember the concept that a “surge” in troops would win the war, a concept embraced by President Obama in his speech to the U.S. Military Academy in December 2009. Now all of a sudden, since March 2012, it seems to have become a subject no one wants to espouse too loudly.

There are some simple explanations. In the longest war that the United States has ever waged, the war in Afghanistan, the United States has precious little to show for it. The designated enemy, the Taliban, constitute an ever-resilient force, particularly of course in the Pashtun areas, which constitute the largest single ethnic zone in the country.

The United States more or less single-handedly imposed Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun but not a Taliban, as president of Afghanistan. Karzai was not, is not, appreciated by the leaders of the various other ethnic zones in the north and west of the country, who have tried over the years to oust him. These other groups find support in some external powers: Russia, Iran, and India, all of which are as determined as the United States to prevent the return to power of the Taliban. But the United States won’t work with Iran, is doubtful about working with Russia, and doesn’t seem to co-ordinate with India.

In February 2012, some Korans were burned by U.S. soldiers, which led to violent public protests in Afghanistan. Then 16 Afghan children, women, and men were massacred by a U.S. soldier. The United States apologized for both of these, but that hardly calmed the storm. On March 18, President Karzai denounced the Americans in Afghanistan as “demons” engaged in “Satanic acts.” He said Afghanistan was beset by two demons – the Taliban and the Americans.

The New York Times cited an anonymous European diplomat as saying: “Never in history has any superpower spent so much money, sent so many troops to a country, and had so little influence over what its president says and does.”

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