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:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail