A report of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), especially prepared for the US Congress and the Trump administration, finds what should be called a magnanimous failure of the US in achieving any of its major objectives in Afghanistan even after spending almost 16 years in the country.
Ironic though it may sound, this report, along with its list of grave threats that the US needs to tackle, endorses the war as, what Trump himself has called, totally “disastrous” for the US. While the actual intention behind the preparation of this report seems to be to impress upon the president and the Congress to sanction more funds, commit more US troops and continue the rehabilitation programme (read: Trump has vowed to end the programme), it ends up enlisting the US’ multiple failures in Afghanistan, ranging from eliminating the Taliban completely to restoring even a semblance of peace and establishing a strong security force in the war torn country. Hence, the question:
Will commitment of more resources (funds and troops) to Afghanistan make any difference, especially when the proposed increase is nothing compared to what the US had committed and continued to utilize for years after it invaded Afghanistan in 2001?
It is worth recalling that since 2001, around 2250 US military personnel have died and over 20,000 wounded in Afghanistan and the war is not over—yet. Apart from it, as the report notes, the US has spent more money in Afghanistan than it collectively spent to reconstruct the whole Europe after the Second World War, marking this the “largest expenditure to rebuild a single country in our (US) nation’s history.” Given the scale of the loss, it cannot be gainsaid that it is also the greatest failure the US has suffered ever since. And as the report highlights, “after 15 years the task is incomplete.”
Afghanistan, for the US, remains a “high risk” territory—something that warrants, the US policy makers think, a long-term military presence. Despite spending a whopping US$70 billion on establishing Afghan security forces—almost half of the reconstruction budget going to this particular sector of national reconstruction— the report finds that Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) remain acutely incapable of tackling the war on their own.
While the report places the onus of responsibility on Afghan forces for seceding territory to the Taliban, the fact remains that the US forces have not left the country either and remain militarily engaged.
According to the US-Afghanistan Bi-Lateral Security Agreement (BSA), the very purpose of retaining a significant strength of US troops and military personnel is to “enhance the ability of Afghanistan to deter internal and external threats against its sovereignty.”
However, despite the fact that two years have passed since the agreement was signed, no major progress has been seen in terms of the Afghan forces’ ability to recover territory from the Taliban. On the contrary, as the SIGAR report notes,
“approximately 63.4% of the country’s districts are under Afghan government control or influence as of August 28, 2016, a decrease from the 70.5% reported as of January 29, 2016.”
What this indicates is that the US has been unable to achieve, so far, its publicly stated objectives. According to the SIGAR report, the other “high risk” areas include corruption, sustainability, on-budget support, counter-narcotics, contract management, oversight, strategy and planning.
Curiously enough, SIGAR does not mention the rising threat of the Islamic State in Afghanistan and the threat it is posing to the regions surrounding this country. The regions surrounding Afghanistan include Central Asia, South Asia and China.
Were the Islamic State to be allowed, by not taking action against it, to spread in Afghanistan and be able to set foothold in this region, it will spread utter devastation—something that will directly serve the US interest against Russia and China. Not only will it jeopardize China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project but will also cause a manifold increase in the threats of ISIS finding support in China’s Xinjiang province and in Central Asia states i.e., Russia’s “under belly.”
No wonders, the US doesn’t see ISIS as a “real threat” to their interests in Afghanistan because it is not, as yet, posing any direct threat. For the US, the primary threat remains the Taliban and the imperative of silencing their movement remains the primary objective.
It is for this reason that both China and Russia have found a justifiable reason in establishing contacts both with the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to prevent ISIS from gaining foothold in Afghanistan. While China has already started to conduct counter-terror operations in co-operation with Kabul, Russia is equally setting itself up to lead the peace process by holding a global peace conference on Afghanistan in Moscow.
What are Trump’s options for an un-winnable war?
Given the dark scenario depicted in the report, it seems that the US military is deeply interested in raising troop level in Afghanistan. But the question is: will sending more troops do any good when 16 years of war have led only to deterioration? What it will do is intensify the war with the Taliban and provide ISIS a ready-made scenario to gain strength.
It is obvious that the US cannot win the war against the Taliban. As a matter of fact, the question of actually winning the war has lost whatever significance it previously had. Therefore, the new question that must be raised and duly addressed is how to prevent Afghanistan from becoming another Levant?
It is again self-evident that ISIS doesn’t figure as a threat in the US officials’ calculation. Therefore, China and Russia must step up their efforts and help negotiate a peace settlement with the Taliban. Pakistan’s role is crucial in this regard and fortunately enough, both Russia and China are on good terms with Afghanistan’s immediate and most important neighbour.
Therefore, the best option for the US/the Trump administration is to engage with countries that can actually pave the way for settlement. On the contrary, were the US to continue to walk the lonely path in Afghanistan, it will continue to progressively lose space and momentum to China-Pakistan-Russia nexus just as it lost space and advantage in Syria after Russia started its own military campaign in September 2015. As such, with Russia and China willing to facilitate a peace settlement, the US needs to tap into this opportunity and turn the “disastrous war” into a meaningful settlement.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
Copyright © Salman Rafi Sheikh, New Eastern Outlook, 2017
Ten Ways to Reduce Terrorism. Now Can We Admit The War On Terror Has Failed?
In the wake of the terror attacks in England, France, Germany and elsewhere, can we finally admit that the war on terror is an utter and complete failure?
10 Ways to Reduce Terrorism
So if the war on terror has failed, what should we do to stop terrorists?
I. Stop Overthrowing the Moderates and Arming Crazies
We know it’s a difficult concept to grasp, but if we want to stop terrorism we should – (wait for it) – stop supporting terrorists.
Specifically, we’re arming the most violent radicals in the Middle East, as part of a really stupid geopolitical strategy to overthrow leaders we don’t like (more details below). And see this, this, this, this and this.
We’re directly arming and supporting folks who are committing summary execution, torture, kidnapping, and imposing Sharia law at the point of the gun.
But – strangely – we’re overthrowing the moderate Arabs who stabilized the region and denied jihadis a foothold.
If we want to stop terrorism, we need to stop supporting the terrorists.
II. Stop Supporting the Dictators Who Fund Terrorists
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest sponsor of radical Islamic terrorists. The Saudis have backed ISIS and many other brutal terrorist groups. And the most pro-ISIS tweets allegedly come from Saudi Arabia.
According to sworn declarations from a 9/11 Commissioner and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry Into 9/11, the Saudi government backed the 9/11 hijackers (see section VII for details). And declassified documents only amplify those connections. And the new Saudi king has ties to Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and Islamic terrorism.
And the Saudis – with U.S. support – back the radical “madrassas” in which Islamic radicalism was spread.
And yet the U.S. has been supporting the Saudis militarily, with NSA intelligence and in every other way possible for 70 years. And selling them massive amounts of arms. And kept them off of the list of restricted countries for immigration.
In addition, top American terrorism experts say that U.S. support for brutal and tyrannical countries in the Middle east – like Saudi Arabia – is one of the top motivators for Arab terrorists.
U.S. and NATO-supported Turkey is also massively supporting ISIS, provided chemical weapons used in the massacre of civilians, and has been bombing ISIS’ main on-the-ground enemy – Kurdish soldiers – using its air force.
The U.S.-backed dictatorships in Qatar and Bahrain also massively fund ISIS.
And the U.S. and Saudis are apparently committing repeated war crimes in Yemen … which will only fan the flames of terrorism.
So if we stop supporting the tyrannies in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Bahrain, we’ll get a two-fold reduction in terror:
(1) We’ll undermine the main terrorism supporters
(2) We’ll take away one of the main motivations driving terrorists: our support for the most repressive, brutal Arab dictatorships
III. Stop Bombing and Invading When a Negotiated Settlement Is Offered
The U.S. rejected offers by Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to surrender … and instead proceeded to wage war against those countries.
Security experts – including both conservatives and liberals – agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.
For example, James K. Feldman – former professor of decision analysis and economics at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the School of Advanced Airpower Studies – and other experts say that foreign occupation is the main cause of terrorism. University of Chicago professor Robert A. Pape – who specializes in international security affairs – agrees.
Indeed, the leaders of America and the UK were warned that the Iraq war would increase terrorism … before they pulled the trigger.
Negotiating peaceful deals whenever possible will drain the swamp of terrorists created by war and invasion.
IV. Prioritize Stopping Terrorists Over Stopping the “Shia Crescent”
As the actions towards Syria by America and its allies clearly demonstrate, our politicians are focused on curbing Russian and Iranian geopolitical influence much more than actually stopping ISIS and other terrorists.
Amazingly, the U.S. military described terror attacks on the U.S. as a “small price to pay for being a superpower“:
A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a “small price to pay for being a superpower”.
If we want to stop terrorism, we have to make it a priority.
V. Stop Imperial Conquests for Arab Oil
The U.S. has undertaken regime change against Arab leaders we don’t like for six decades. We overthrew the leader of Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, Iraq twice, Afghanistan twice, Turkey, Libya … and other oil-rich countries.
Neoconservatives planned regime change throughout the Middle East and North Africa yet again in 1991.
Top American politicians admit that the Iraq war was about oil, not stopping terrorism (documents from Britain show the same thing). Much of the war on terror is really a fight for natural gas. Or to force the last few hold-outs into dollars and private central banking. For example, see this email to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
We’ve fought the longest and most expensive wars in American history … but we’re less secure than before, and there are more terror attacks than ever (update).
If we want to stop terrorism, we have to stop overthrowing Arab leaders and invading Arab countries to grab their oil.
VI. Stop Drone Assassinations of Innocent Civilians
And yet Trump has increased drone strikes by 432%.
If we want to stop creating new terrorists, we have to stop the drone strikes.
VII. Stop Torture
Top U.S. terrorism and interrogation experts agree that torture creates more terrorists.
Indeed, the leaders of ISIS were motivated by U.S. torture. For example, Charlie Hebdo-murdering French terrorist Cherif Kouchi told a court in 2005 that he wasn’t radical until he learned about U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
And the Secretary of Defense any many other top military and intelligence experts say that torture doesn’t do anything to keep us safer.
If we want to stop creating new terrorists, we have to stop torturing … permanently.
VIII. Stop Mass Surveillance
Indeed, even the NSA admits that it’s collecting too MUCH information to stop terror attacks.
In virtually every recent terror attack – in Boston, Paris, San Bernadino, Orlando, etc. – the suspect was already on a terror watch list, known to authorities, previously interviewed by the FBI, or the like. They were already known to authorities.
Mass surveillance simply doesn’t keep us safer. Indeed, instead of focusing on known bad guys and their associates, the government is flooded with surveillance data from spying on everybody. So they can’t do their job to stop terrorists.
IX. Stop Covering Up 9/11
Government officials agree that 9/11 was state-sponsored terrorism … they just disagree on which state was responsible.
Because 9/11 was the largest terror attack on the U.S. in history – and all of our national security strategies are based on 9/11 – we can’t stop terror until we get to the bottom of what really happened, and which state was behind it.
The Co-Chair of the congressional investigation into 9/11 – Bob Graham – and 9/11 Commissioner and former Senator Bob Kerrey are calling for either a “permanent 9/11 commission” or a new 9/11 investigation to get to the bottom of it.
The Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 and former Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee (Bob Graham) said that the Paris terror attack, ISIS, and other terrorist developments are a result of failing to stand up to Saudi Arabia and declassify the 9/11 investigation’s report about Saudi involvement in 9/11:
The 9/11 chairs, Ron Paul, and numerous other American politicians have called for declassification, as well.
Again, others have different ideas about who was behind 9/11. But until we get to the bottom of it, terror attacks will continue.
X. Stop Doing It Ourselves
The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom said:
By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.
The Washington Post reported in 2010:
The United States has long been an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret CIA analysis released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks.
Chomsky and Herman observed that terror was concentrated in the U.S. sphere of influence in the Third World, and documented terror carried out by U.S. client states in Latin America. They observed that of ten Latin American countries that had death squads, all were U.S. client states.
They concluded that the global rise in state terror was a result of U.S. foreign policy.
In 1991, a book edited by Alexander L. George [the Graham H. Stuart Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University] also argued that other Western powers sponsored terror in Third World countries. It concluded that the U.S. and its allies were the main supporters of terrorism throughout the world.
Indeed, the U.S. has created death squads in Latin America, Iraq and Syria.
Both [specialists Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber] say they saw their mission as a plan to “out-terrorize the terrorists,” in order to make the general populace more afraid of the Americans than they were of insurgent groups. In the interview with [Scott] Horton, Horton pressed Stieber:
“… a fellow veteran of yours from the same battalion has said that you guys had a standard operating procedure, SOP, that said – and I guess this is a reaction to some EFP attacks on y’all’s Humvees and stuff that killed some guys – that from now on if a roadside bomb goes off, IED goes off, everyone who survives the attack get out and fire in all directions at anybody who happens to be nearby … that this was actually an order from above. Is that correct? Can you, you know, verify that?
“Yeah, it was an order that came from Kauzlarich himself, and it had the philosophy that, you know, as Finkel does describe in the book, that we were under pretty constant threat, and what he leaves out is the response to that threat. But the philosophy was that if each time one of these roadside bombs went off where you don’t know who set it … the way we were told to respond was to open fire on anyone in the area, with the philosophy that that would intimidate them, to be proactive in stopping people from making these bombs …”
Terrorism is defined as:
The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
So McCord and Stieber are correct: this constitutes terrorism by American forces in Iraq. And American officials have admitted that the U.S. has engaged in numerous false flag attacks.
Stop Throwing Bodies In the River
Defenders of current government policy say: “we have to do something to stop terrorists!”
Yes, we do …
But we must also stop doing the 10 things above which increase terrorism. We have to stop “throwing new bodies in the river.”
But the powers-that-be don’t want to change course … they gain tremendous power and influence through our current war on terror strategies.
For example, the military-complex grows rich through war … so endless war is a feature – not a bug – of our foreign policy.
Torture was about building a false justification for war.
Supporting the most radical Muslim leaders is about oil and power … “a small price to pay” to try to dominate the world.
A leading advisor to the U.S. military – the Rand Corporation – released a study in 2008 called “How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida“. The report confirms what experts have been saying for years: the war on terror is actually weakening national security (see this, this and this).
As a press release about the study states:
“Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.”
We, the People, have to stand up and demand that our power-hungry leaders stop doing the things which give them more power … but are guaranteed to increase terrorism against us, the civilian population.