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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail