“Indeed, for the first time in years, we’ve put in place the strategy and the resources that our efforts in Afghanistan demand,” Obama announced without offering specifics about what was wrong before. The reduction of American forces in Iraq, he said, provided more leeway for waging the war in central Asia’s notorious “graveyard of empires,” as Afghanistan came to be known after defeating countless invading regimes including the British empire and the Soviet Union.
In another startling announcement, Obama made clear that the Taliban, who have been killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan for almost a decade, would be welcomed back into the political process if they agreed to stop attacking. “We will also fully support an Afghan political process that includes reconciliation with those Taliban who break ties with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and accept the Afghan Constitution,” said Obama, flanked by a nodding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his Vice President Joe Biden.
Of course, since the U.S.-imposed Constitution incorporates Islamic sharia law, getting the Taliban to come onboard would not seem to be difficult at first glance. However, the Afghan government has become known among natives and internationally for rampant corruption, fraudulent elections, extortion, and terror, making the regime difficult to accept for the Afghan people, and especially the Taliban.
“I want to be clear — this continues to be a very difficult endeavor,” Obama said at the press conference. “But I can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.” He said the objective was not to defeat threats to the security of Afghanistan, “and it’s not nation building.” The purpose, he finally claimed, was “defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
When Obama announced the “surge” in December of last year, everybody, including Obama’s top advisors, knew there were less than 100 people in the whole nation of Afghanistan who could be considered “al-Qaeda” — they even admitted it on television. But nevertheless, that is still the purported mission, Obama said.
At that time, with 100 al Qaeda left in the country, the numbers worked out to less than one purported al-Qaeda fighter per 1,000 U.S. troops, or around $300 million per year spent per supposed al-Qaeda member — not counting the troops and resources from other United Nations-led NATO forces in the country. U.S. intelligence sources at the time estimated that there may have been some 300 fighters on the Pakistani side of the border.
“In pursuit of our core goal, we are seeing significant progress,” Obama proclaimed in his morning speech, claiming al-Qaeda leadership was under more pressure than before and that some had even been killed. “In short, al Qaeda is hunkered down,” he added.
“Our review confirms, however, that for these security gains to be sustained over time, there is an urgent need for political and economic progress in Afghanistan,” Obama noted, saying the United States had already “dramatically increased” its civilian presence. “Going forward, there must be a continued focus on the delivery of basic services,” he said without offering specifics.
The President also admitted so-called “gains” were “fragile and reversible,” but said Afghan forces were starting to take more responsibility in anticipation of a NATO drawdown starting next July. However, the United Nations’ NATO coalition is expected to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2014, Obama admitted — not including the international “long term commitment,” as he put it, to train and advise the U.S. and U.N.-backed Afghan regime.
While conceding that achieving the goal would “take time,” Obama praised America’s “partners” in the region, presumably referring to the famously corrupt U.S.-backed regimes in Kabul and Islamabad. He also said the United States would continue backing its notoriously corrupt Pakistani “partner,” which has been implicated in aiding al-Qaeda, supporting international terror, and other problems.
In addition to supporting that regime’s “security” apparatus, which was connected to the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, “we need to support the economic and political development that is critical to Pakistan’s future,” Obama said. On top of that, he announced that U.S. taxpayers would “speed up [their] investment in civilian institutions and projects that improve the life of Pakistanis.” Meanwhile, Americans continue to lose their homes.
Obama explained that the U.S. government was “committed to an enduring partnership that helps deliver improved security, development, and justice for the Pakistani people.”
But he did concede that the war was tough. “There are more difficult days ahead,” he also warned, patting himself on the back for having visited Afghanistan and some wounded troops. “Progress comes slowly, and at a very high price in the lives of our men and women in uniform,” he noted, omitting the fact that American forces were being decimated by the same mujahadeen warriors that U.S. taxpayers armed, financed and trained just a few decades ago.
A summary of the classified report on the war was made available. It said there had been “significant progress” in disrupting Pakistan-based groups. “Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been depleted, the group’s safe haven is smaller and less secure, and its ability to prepare and conduct terrorist operations has been degraded in several ways,” the report stated.
The review was widely praised by other regimes currently involved in the occupation of Afghanistan, as well as by NATO bigwigs. But not everybody saw it that way.
“The ‘review’ was not a fundamental re-examination of policy toward Afghanistan but instead an occasion for reiterating a message aimed at shoring up support for the war,” noted Security Studies Professor Paul Pillar at Georgetown University. “The basic impediments to success in the counterinsurgency remain, including public resentment against foreign occupation and the lack of legitimacy for the Afghan government.”
Representative Ike Skelton, the Chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, said there were a lot of important points the review failed to address. He said the report “leaves many questions unanswered with regard to the way ahead. There is no clear outline of how our progress in the region can become sustainable, or how the Afghan government and security forces can prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from re-establishing safe havens in the long term.”
The review barely touched the issue of pervasive corruption, despite the fact that a leaked cable from the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan claimed it was one of the most serious problems. "One of our major challenges in Afghanistan [is] how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt."
Another fact that was glossed over: The enemies that the U.S. government continues to make on a daily basis — mostly through its wars, not because anyone “hates freedom” — are highly mobile. They can go to Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, and a whole host of countries around the world. Obviously, America cannot invade them all, let alone replace all of those governments, however unsavory they may be.
It seems the main difference between the presentation of this review and past public statements on the war is simply the development of a new public-relations gimmick. Instead of emphasizing “nation building” or “security” for the Afghan people, rulers like Obama tried to persuade Americans and the people of other NATO countries that the war was somehow in their self interest. Of course, it is not. But that seemed to be the overall strategic marketing focus of the proclamations.
With the U.S. regime borrowing and printing trillions of dollars just to stay afloat, keeping unpopular governments around the world propped up will likely become increasingly difficult. And as bombs continue to rain down on villagers from Yemen to Pakistan and everywhere in between, the number of new fighters will continue to increase. But judging from Obama’s speech, the plan is to stay the course, even without a Declaration of War from Congress — at least until the American regime is officially declared insolvent.
Photo: AP Images