Thursday, August 21, 2008

Afghanistan goal: permanent US bases, as usual

The Afghan fire looks set to spread, but there is a way out
Far from being a noble cause, the occupation of Afghanistan is poisoning the region and will never bring peace or security.

Seumas Milne, The Guardian (UK) 21 August 2008. Excerpts:

The original aims of the invasion, it will be recalled, were the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and the destruction of al-Qaida in the aftermath of 9/11. None of those aims have been achieved. Instead, the US and its friends brought back to power an alliance of brutal and corrupt warlords, gave them new identities as democrats with phony elections, and drove the Taliban and al-Qaida leaderships over the border to Pakistan.

Far from reducing the threat of terrorism, this... has simply spread it around the region, bringing forth an increasingly potent campaign of resistance... a certain recipe for conflict without end.

The Afghan war certainly cannot be won, but the bitterly unpopular 2005 agreement for indefinite bases in the country left no doubt that the US is planning to stay for the long haul. NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, made clear... that western interests in Afghanistan went well beyond good governance to the strategic interest in having a permanent military presence in a state that borders central Asia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

The only way to end the war is the withdrawal of foreign troops as part of a political settlement negotiated with all the significant players in the country, including the Taliban, and guaranteed by the regional powers and neighbouring states. A large majority of Afghans say they back negotiations with the Taliban, even in western-conducted opinion polls. The Taliban themselves insist they will only talk once foreign troops have withdrawn. If that were the only obstacle, it could surely be choreographed as a parallel process. But given the scale of commitments made by the US and NATO, the fire of the Afghan war seems bound to spread further.