Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Will We Ever Leave Afghanistan?

American military forces have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 under the congressional authorization to destroy Al Qaeda for its role in training the 19 criminals who attacked the World Trade buildings in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, a date that will live in infamy. US military leaders now say that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are no longer in Afghanistan but probably in Pakistan. The enemy has become the Taliban, an insurgency movement dedicated to overthrowing the Karzai government in Afghanistan, a regime supported and financed by the US.

President Barack Obama has sent 30,000 more troops to reinforce the 75,000 already in Afghanistan, in his attempt to secure a military victory over the Taliban guerrillas, a victory that will ensure the survival of the Karzai regime now holding power by election fraud and wholesale corruption. After ten years of fighting, thousands of American troops killed or wounded and a trillion dollars spent, most Americans want to transfer responsibility for this civil war to the Afghan government. However Obama policies for ending this long war are notable for their contradictions. He promises to begin drawing down US forces in July, 2011, “responsibly” but not hastily, and “taking into account conditions on the ground.” These hedges will allow Obama to delay or eliminate withdrawal indefinitely while citing the promised date as policy. Obama hints of willingness to talk to the Taliban while stepping up a military campaign designed to eliminate them. This has inspired President Karzai to begin his own secret negotiations with the Taliban in preparation for the possible departure of the Americans.

This has been the longest war in American history, begun when the US economy was in full bloom and the financial cost was not a factor. Now, with the economy hurting and enormous federal deficits piling up, voters are asking why are we in Afghanistan, a forsaken land dominated by brigands over the centuries, with no economic assets beyond opium, with a population largely illiterate, hardly a factor in world politics. With an important US election just a few months away, the Obama administration finally produced a reason for US presence in Afghanistan by announcing that it had discovered $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits there, far beyond any previously known reserves and “enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself.”

It must be very difficult for soldiers to put their lives on the line with such a contradictory and vague policy. Who wants to be the last one to die for a mistake? And who will protect the American businesses who invest in the newly discovered mineral riches? And who will protect them from the war lords and native marauders?

The timing of the minerals story is curious, especially because this information has been available for years. In fact, the McClatchy newspaper chain revealed several years ago that the Chinese government had made a long-term deal with the Karzai government giving them mining rights to the biggest copper mine in the world and that the Chinese were being protected from Afghan brigands by US troops. Obama needs to explain why the Chinese get this prize investment when US casualties make the exploration possible. What was the deal between China and the US? Was the price China's cooperation on the nuclear crises with North Korea and Iran?

In any case, it looks as though the American voters are being manipulated. We are leaving Afghanistan – maybe - but if we stay there is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Will this be enough to the defer voter worries until after the November election? Will it take this issue away from the Republicans? The prime reason for the contradictory Obama policy is probably political. Leaving Afghanistan without a clear military victory is sure to inspire political attacks on the Obama administration as incompetent or worse, that it diminished US security by "losing Afghanistan", as though it was ours to lose.


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