FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

NATO’s Shift in Afghanistan

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The deceptive ways a loss in war is described can be contagious.  Retreats are often regarded as odious, but sometimes necessary.  These can either have the genius of the British spirit of tactical withdrawal, or a more laughable concept of an honourable peace.  When that power tends to be a Goliath, or even a Colossus, explanations for what ‘victory’ or ‘defeat’ assume the exotic, tinged with madness.

By whatever stretch of the imagination, NATO’s latest change of tack in its deployments, minimising contact between Afghan recruits and its own soldiers suggests a monumental victory for the Taliban forces.  It is questionable whether a transition strategy can feasibly work where Afghan policemen and soldiers are kept out of the loop.  The mantra from the foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan has been solidarity with local forces in the fight against the enemy.  That, it would seem, is no more.

The curbing of joint combat operations for units less than 800 strong means that regional commanders will be given greater discretion to act in allowing operations with an Afghan presence.

The new policy, approved Sunday by the second most senior US commander in Afghanistan Lieutenant-General James Terry, has concerned various politicians of countries within the NATO ranks.  Britain’s shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy paints a stark picture.  “We’ll have British forces going out more regularly on patrols without Afghan partners.  Now, you don’t have to be a military strategist to understand that could have impacts on the safety and security of our forces, it could also have an impact on the ability of Afghan forces to look after their own country when we leave, at the end of 2014” (BBC news, Sep 18).

The reaction by the British ministry of defence is that the decision of Isaf will have no impact on British forces per se.  NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen sees little reason to panic, considering the measures “prudent and temporary”.  “The goal is unchanged, the strategy remains the same, and the timeline remains the same.”  Rasmussen has also suggested that there would be little operational difference with the order, suggesting the farcical value of such commands.  Now you see Afghans, now you don’t.  That is all, at least for Rasmussen.

This is the classic spoof the war in Afghanistan has become, where mendacity is not merely natural but automatic – the paternalism in offering military assistance (we need to help these lawless Afghans) and covering the backs of those who crumble before a Taliban effort on the departure of foreign personnel.  They need to be trained, but in so doing, they are killing us.  To be more exact about Murphy’s remarks, his points cover only those Afghan forces NATO finds acceptable.  Given that those forces are not merely running away but running at them, the proposition of a stable transition is increasingly untenable.

Keeping Afghan forces in the security loop has proven a distinctively risky proposition.  This year alone, 51 international service members have paid with their lives at the hands of those wearing Afghan uniforms.  In stark contrast, two were lost in 2008 to such “green on blue” attacks.  The language used in describing them has varied. Those familiar orientalist tropes of treachery and deception have been popular.  Blander descriptions focus on “insider” attacks, suggesting that these were infiltrating Afghans, not authentic ones keen to keep the ship of state floating. Evidently, Insaf forces are under a permanent misapprehension as to who the occupiers and the occupied are.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been very quick to quash suggestions that this order was a notable victory for the Taliban forces.  “I think what it indicates is that they are resorting to efforts that try to strike at our forces, try to create chaos but do not in any way result in their regaining territory that has been lost.”  Such talk is that of smoke and mirrors, obscured by the fact that NATO’s effort to cultivate relations with its Afghan minions has proven to be a vain effort.

Panetta, not content with merely denying that such attacks were actually having an effect, just as an order to combat those attacks was being implemented, had the gall to describe such tactics as indicative of a “last gasp”.  The last gasp, however, doesn’t seem to have a particularly Taliban-like tone to it.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail