Obama’s Afghan Policy: War Without End, Amen

By Kenneth J. Theisen

In October 2001, then Vice President Dick Cheney said that the just launched U.S. “war on terror” was “different” than other wars: ‘‘in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime’’. President Obama picked up the baton passed to him by Cheney’s boss, and has expanded and extended the wars started in the Bush-Cheney era, continued the policies of torture and extended the life of the dungeons where this torture is done.

Immediately after taking office President Obama announced that he was ordering the closing of the hellhole prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by January 2010. That atrocity is still open. 
 
Now the Obama administration has announced that its much trumpeted deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be extended three years, to 2014.
 
In 2009, at a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama – in the midst of dramatically escalating the U.S. war in Afghanistan, announced a deadline of July 2011 as the time when U.S. troops would begin withdrawal. He made that announcement in part to deflect any opposition to his sending of tens of thousands of U.S. troops into that war-torn country. Since that West Point speech, Obama and his minions have been waffling on the withdrawal date. It now appears that the White House is all but abandoning the date or at least rebranding it by changing the “withdrawal” to a “transition.”  But a transition to what - more war?
 
The Obama administration is scheduled to present its “transition plan” for Afghanistan at the upcoming NATO summit in Lisbon, Spain this coming Friday, November 19th.  President Obama will attend the conference where the administration is expected to tell NATO of the U.S. commander in AfghanistanGeneral David Petraeus’ plan of a four year transition where NATO will turn over security responsibilities to Afghan puppet troops in 2014.
 
According to the London Times, Petraeus has drafted a timetable for handing over of control of Afghan provinces to local Afghan security forces allied with the U.S. Petraeus has created a color-coded map which includes a few ''green'' areas which will allegedly be turned over within six months. The Pentagon hopes to have the Afghan Army and police forces up to a total of 350,000 troops by the end of 2013. It further hopes to use these forces, under imperialist supervision, to control the Afghan people. July 2011 is now to be viewed as the beginning of a transition, not the beginning of a withdrawal.
 
On November 15th, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Afghan Pakistan region stated, “The process of troop withdrawal is not an exit strategy but a transition strategy.”  In other words the U.S. imperialists will continue to occupy and wage war in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. And any alleged transition will only allow the U.S. to use other local forces to fight and die for the Empire. But Afghanistan will still be part of that Empire if U.S. leaders get their way.
 
Administration officials have been clearly de-emphasizing 2011 and using the year 2014 as a new date for “transition.” This was done last week at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia by War Secretary Gates. He stated the Taliban would be “very surprised come August, September, October and November, when most American forces are still there, and still coming after them.” He went on to say that the U. S. will be in Afghanistan for many more years to come.
 
On November 10th an anonymous White House official told the New York Times, “The old message was, we’re looking to July 2011 to begin a transition. Now we’re telling people what happens beyond 2011, and I don’t think that represents a shift. We’re bringing some clarity to the policy of our future in Afghanistan.” Notice he says “our future” as in the imperialists’ future.
U.S. leaders have always been clear that they did not intend to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by next year. The strategy in Afghanistan is similar in some respects to Iraq. The intention is to mislead the public and to dispel opposition. In Iraq this year the U.S. trumpeted the withdrawal of so-called “combat troops.” But the Iraq war and occupation continues with 50,000 U.S. troops on the ground, along with tens of thousands of U.S. contractors, 3000 U.S. embassy personnel, thousands of U.S. allied foreign troops and over 100,000 Iraq puppet forces. They are there to enforce U.S. imperialist rule and an imperialist future for the people of Iraq.
 
In Afghanistan U.S. policy is also meant to continue to dominate the country for the benefit of U.S. imperialism, not the benefit of the Afghan people. But even the initial withdrawal in July 2011 of some troops is now not certain. Initially the Obama administration hoped that its dramatic escalation of the war there would lead to significant victories for the U.S. imperialists and their allies. But this was not the case. Despite the presence of over 200,000 U.S. troops and U.S. contractors and thousands of additional allied foreign troops, the U.S. has been unable to make significant progress on the ground in defeating Afghan insurgents.  In fact in many areas the insurgency has grown. In areas where the U.S. has concentrated its forces, the insurgents have faded away in traditional guerilla fashion. The insurgents continue to attack imperialist forces inflicting casualties on a regular basis against U.S., NATO, and puppet forces. Casualties sustained by the international imperialist forces and its puppet forces have reached a record high.
 
The U.S. and its NATO allies have been training these Afghan puppet forces, but not with unbridled success. In several instances these forces have actually turned the guns on the imperialist forces. In other instances they have disappeared or deserted in battle. Many have even turned over their weapons to the Taliban and other forces fighting the U.S. The inability to train and rely on puppet forces is a major problem for the imperialists. The “transition” is based on the ability to have these puppet forces become a significant fighting force on behalf of their imperialist masters.
 
Also the very nature of the imperialist war generates enemies for the imperialists among the Afghan population. This war includes missile strikes and bombs that inflict civilian casualties on a regular basis. There were 700 airstrikes in Afghanistan just in October. The war includes night time raids that are particularly upsetting to the mainly Muslim population. It includes roadblocks that hinder the movement of the population. An August U.N. report indicated that civilian casualties rose 31 percent during the first half of the year, compared with the previous year.  
 
The imperialists have also allied themselves with the most reactionary forces such as those represented by President Karzai. The Afghan leaders allied with the U.S. are drug lords, war lords, feudal lords, etc. Corruption in Afghanistan is endemic. Add to this the presence of hundreds of thousands of foreigners who see Afghanistan as a battleground to be won and dominated by imperialist forces. All this has repelled the average Afghan and engendered further resistance.
 
Even Afghan puppet President Hamid Karzai acknowledged some of the contradictions in the U.S. occupation in a New York Times piece on November 14th when he stated, 'It was not desirable for the Afghan people to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly.” Last week in a Washington Post interview he said that U.S. coalition forces should conduct and focus their operations on the tribal regions of Pakistan rather than Afghan villages.
 
Since his initial statement about the July 2011 beginning of withdrawal Obama has been about as firm as a bowl of jello regarding the “withdrawal.”  On June 24, 2010 at a news conference he stated, “We did not say that starting July 2011 suddenly there would be no troops from the U.S. or allied countries in Afghanistan. We didn't say we'd be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us.” Even then he said that the July date should be seen more as a date for a transfer of “responsibility” to Afghan forces. He further stated he would be relying on Petraeus' advice when the pullout date and war strategy come up for review in December 2010.
 
Other administration officials have also deemphasized the “withdrawal.” On July 18, 2010 Vice President Joe Biden speaking on ABC's "This Week," said that the 2011 drawdown could be as few as a couple thousand troops. It could be more. But there will be a transition.” He also stated that the numbers were less important than that the war effort be transitioned from U.S. to Afghan control.
 
On June 20, 2009 War Secretary Robert Gates stated. "We clearly understand that in July of 2011, we begin to draw down our forces. The pace with which we draw down and how many we draw down is going to be conditions-based."
 
This so-called “conditions based” withdrawal now seems to be the Obama administration policy as even NATO officials are echoing it. NATO officials in stating that no timetable has been set for the withdrawal of troops are now saying the progress of building the Afghan Forces would determine conditions for transferring security control to Afghan side.
An anonymous senior U.S. official told McClatchy news reporters that “During our assessments, we looked at if we continue to move forward at this pace, how long before we can fully transition to the Afghans? And we found that we cannot fully transition to the Afghans by July 2011l. So we felt we couldn't focus on July 2011 but the period it will take to make the full transition.”
 
Even though the Afghan war was carefully avoided in the lead-up to the recent elections it is an issue with the American public. Support for the war has never been so low. In an October CNN and Opinion Research Corporation poll only 37% of all Americans favored the war. Fifty-two percent said the war in Afghanistan has turned into a Vietnam.
 
The war is also an issue in the allied NATO nations. Due to public pressure the U.K, Canada, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, which combined have 25,000 troops in Afghanistan, are all in the process of withdrawing their troops no later than 2014 with some leaving much sooner.
 
But despite polls and the abandonment of the war by some of its allies, the Obama administration has made the decision to continue to wage this unjust imperialist war. When July 2011 arrives Obama may indeed withdraw some U.S. troops especially in light of the 2012 election. But it is also abundantly clear that the war will continue. It will not matter to the Afghan civilians who are suffering on a massive scale that their suffering may not be totally at the hands of U.S. troops because then some Afghan puppets are also killing them. At least for now the imperialist ruling class has made the decision to wage this war regardless of the immediate costs. Afghanistan, like Iraq is part of the larger war of terror against the world. It is a war for global dominance with the Middle East and Central Asia as a key area in this dominance. This region is at the intersection of Africa, Asia, and Europe. It also holds vast energy supplies that are key to control of the world.
 
U.S. imperialism in 2001 and thereafter has sought to seize a key opportunity to deepen its control of this area of the world. That is why it has invaded these countries and continues the wars there. The U.S. also has a compelling necessity to intervene due to the rage, conflict and instability in this area of the world. Hundreds of millions in this area hate the U.S. and the results of its imperialism. Many have turned to another form of oppression that both contends and collaborates with imperialism. It is not the purpose of this article to analyze the necessities of U.S. imperialism that necessitated the war for U.S. leaders and compels them to continue with it. But it is important to understand that they will continue the war unless a countervailing force prevents them from doing so. 
 
Obama and those under him have made it clear that they see this war lasting for years, even under the most favorable to them scenario. Only we can prevent that. Unless millions take to the streets, millions of Afghans will continue to suffer for the foreseeable future. We can either choose to let this suffering continue or be part of those millions who take up active resistance to what our government does in our names. Which will you choose?

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.