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Italian, British and German soldiers are being returned from Afghanistan to their countries in coffins. Why? Through no fault of their own but because politicians of centre-right/centre-left despatched them to fight an imperial war on behalf of Washington. In Italy, to its eternal shame, Rifondazione voted to continue the Italian presence in the Hindu Kush. Die Linke in Germany was far more principled, in a country where 80 percent are not in favor, albeit ignored by mainstream politicians. In Britain and Italy, too, there are large sections of the population opposed to the war. Their voices remain unheard in the corridors of power: Brown and Berlusconi have become blood-brothers.
When European politicians justify the slaughter of Afghans and the death of their own soldiers by mouthing mantras to the effect that this is necessary to safeguard Italian/German/British citizens, they speak falsely and the lies are deliberate for they have no other answer. Nor has Washington. At a time when US and European intelligence agencies continue to repeat that al-Qaida is no longer a threat, but terrorism remains a problem they never explain in public that the longer the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the more young people will be attracted to terrorist-type solutions.
Obama’s decision to expand the war by sending more troops to Afghanistan and treating Islamabad as if it were Baghdad is an extremely serious error.
Disaster stares him in the face and no amount of rhetoric, sweet-talk, PR initiatives will solve the problem. Washington needs an exit strategy from that country but the longer it delays the greater the chance that no serious exit strategy will work and that one day, finally, US troops will have to be withdrawn Saigon-style leaving behind them a country in ruins.
The Afghan ‘Taliban’ is now an umbrella underneath which Pashtuns of various political hues have assembled to resist and drive out the invader. Obviously this means that Washington is constantly trying to negotiate with and split the Taliban as they did the resistance in Iraq, but here they have met with total failure. The Pashtun nationalists are difficult to defeat via religion since the overwhelming bulk of them are Sunni. They are difficult to defeat ideologically since they believe their cause is just and the absolute failure to rebuild and re-equip the country has meant that more and more people agree with them, not that social reforms necessarily work as the Russians discovered to their enormous cost in the 1980s.
The EU is a gutless and useless entity on the political level. It cannot speak with one voice, but its citizens must learn not to emulate their weak and pathetic politicians but demand with increasing vigor a withdrawal of all European troops from Afghanistan.
TARIQ ALI’s latest book, The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom and other Essays, has just been published by Verso.