FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Afghan Bangs and Whimpers

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

— T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone.

— Barack Obama, May 21, 2012

The war in Afghanistan is going badly for everyone. The ordinary people of that chaotic country, who are the most important element in the whole horrible shambles, are suffering enormously, and the vast quantities of money poured into their country by US and other taxpayers have not benefited them in any way whatever.  But these oceans of cash have certainly benefited several thousand not-so-ordinary Afghans who have siphoned off countless millions of dollars into bank accounts in Dubai and elsewhere. One of these loyal citizens was the country’s former vice-president, Zia Masood, who on arrival in Dubai was found to be carrying $52 million (according to a Wikileaked US Embassy cable), but was allowed to go laughing to the bank without any action being taken.  The US Inspector General on Afghan Reconstruction reported last year that “As much as $10 million a day in cash is being smuggled through Kabul airport,”  and in March the deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Central Bank told Reuters that his countrymen “have been moving up to $8 billion in cash in suitcases and carry-on bags from Afghanistan’s airports every year.” But it seems there is nothing that the US or anyone else can do about it.  This is the totally corrupt country that is expected by Obama to “stand up” within the next year or so, and be left to look after its own domestic security in 30 months’ time. This is the country in which this week five US soldiers were shot by an Afghan soldier.

In 2009 Obama declared that “Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards.”  Three years later, during his seven hour presidential electioneering visit to the country, during which he did not dare to travel anywhere, he declared “we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly.”  But there was no talk of moving backwards or forwards because the place has stayed the same as it was in 2009 when he was casting round for solutions, none of which has produced proposals that will result in anything but continuing bedlam.  Nobody knows how wars can be ended “responsibly”, unless you figure in the re-election factor, when responsibility is confined to getting votes at any cost — which price includes the lives of American and other foreign soldiers.

It’s cliché time when you refer to statements by Senator John Kerry, but he did make one original and mind-stopping declaration about the Vietnam war, way back in April 1971.  (And there is no doubt, no matter the malicious campaign against him, that Kerry was a brave man.  He’d probably have been a lousy president,  but the hell with his spiteful tiny-minded critics, because he deserved every medal he wears.)  All these years ago Kerry asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which continues to have more than its share of self-righteous pompous ignorant self-important asses,  just “how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

And we should echo this, because how is President Obama going to ask one of his soldiers to be the last man to die in Afghanistan?  It might be a Brit, of course (three more of them died last week); or an Australian (one killed Sunday); or an Italian (one the previous week); or a soldier of any country, in fact, of the forty plus which have soldiers being killed and maimed for nothing.

Obama has declared — no doubt to the delight of the murderous Taliban and all the other insurgents (because there are many different sorts) — that there will be no US combat troops in Afghanistan in eighteen months’ time. So all the militant opposition groups have to do is hunker down and choose their opportunities to strike. What a gift to give an enemy.  And think what the Afghan army feels about this. Its soldiers are poorly led, ill-equipped, badly-paid, and from a multitude of mutually-hostile regions and tribes. Most are illiterate and incapable of operating technically demanding equipment — which, these days, is most equipment. And according to US spokesman LtCol Timothy Stauffer, “There is an awful lot of equipment purchased and sitting in warehouses until we get the logistics fixed and get the ANA trained to request the equipment and get it issued.”

This statement by LtCol Stauffer about equipment management might seem a bit of a throwaway line and of little importance, but in fact it summarizes very well the entire support, assistance and organizational debacle in Afghanistan.  Bear in mind that foreign troops have been in the country for ten years. Their deep involvement began in 2005. So they’ve had over six years to devise and implement a workable equipment management system for the Afghan military.  This isn’t brain surgery or nuclear science:  in every country with an army worthy of the name there is a well-tried, proven and effective system of equipment control.  (Sure, the pointy-headed bureaucrats in the British Ministry of Defense have managed to totally louse up almost every aspect of defense procurement and budget management; but there are exceptions to every rule.)  It is verging on the unbelievable that in six long years the massive amounts of money plowed into Afghanistan have not produced a workable military logistics system. And this is but a tiny example of the shambles.

Foreign troop contingents are well aware that their governments have decided to withdraw them from combat by the end of next year, and that they are to leave entirely by the end of 2014, irrespective of whether the Afghan Army can “stand up” (to use the Obama phrase) or not.  So what will the Commander-in-Chief tell the families of those who are killed in his final desperate hours before his troop withdrawal from combat takes place?  And what will he tell all the soldiers who are maimed and mentally shattered in the last days of his war?  There will be the usual platitudes, by all these politicians who have never heard bullets and look on warfare, in the words of Clausewitz, as being “the continuation of Politik by other means.” But in Afghanistan, this won’t wash.  The US is up to its neck in an unwinnable war.

Rarely has there been such total incompetence in the direction of a war. The foreign soldiers in Afghanistan try to do their military duty, but essentially they are the patsies of the politicians. They die and suffer mutilation and disfigurement while the focus of the White House and the heaven-help-us-alternative Romney is on winning power at any price. They die while US Navy ships are shouldering each other out of the water in the Persian Gulf, where their menacing belligerence against Iran, a country that presents not a shred of threat to the United States, is being strangled by governments who leap to obey the diktats of western oil companies. The next war looms, even before this one collapses.

The site icasualties.com can be relied upon to report foreign deaths and injuries in the Afghan War, about which little appears in western mainstream media. It records that 39 foreign soldiers were killed last month, and 224 so far this year. What did they die for?  And what will the last soldier die for?  This war will end with both bangs and whimpers. And the main victims will be the people of Afghanistan, because their corrupt and ineffective government is incapable of ‘standing up’ when the foreigners leave. It’s a whimpering dream world.  With stand-alone bangs.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail