Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Escalation Begins

As I write, Obama is sending more troops into Afghanistan with a supposed end date that his aides quickly explained away by saying that just because Obama is announcing a date for beginning a withdrawal, the president was not setting an end date for the war.  In Congress, angry Democrats are registering their supposed opposition to the move by suggesting new taxes to fund the war instead of voting to de-fund it.   I checked in with reporter Anand Gopal right before Obama’s Tuesday night speech for a perspective from someone who knows Afghanistan well. Gopal is in the region and has been reporting on the wars and politics of that part of the globe for major US newspapers and other media for several years for major US newspapers. ( RON JACOBS)

Ron: Hi Anand.  Well, a lot has changed and very little has changed since the last time we communicated.  There was an election in   Afghanistan (I use the term loosely) that was wracked with corruption and offered very little choice to the Afghan people since both candidates supported the occupation of their country.   As we all know, Karzai continues to rule.  What is the overall reaction to this on the Afghan street, as far as you can tell?  What do your contacts say, if anything?

Anand: Most Afghans viewed the elections as a major distraction from the more immediate concerns that confront them in their daily lives.  There was a widespread sense that the election results were either  preordained or at least heavily influenced by foreign countries. When it emerged that the U.N. actively worked to cover up the glaring evidence of fraud, this line of thinking was only furthered. In much  of the south and east, where the fighting is, very few voted. But the international community went ahead with the elections anyway and desperately tried to maintain the fiction that the process would be free, fair and representative. Someone once said that the elections were done more for the benefit of the public in the U.S., U.K., Canada, etc., than it was for the Afghans–it was done to show the home audiences that the West is making political progress here. Many Afghans I know saw right through this.

Ron: Has the nature of the Afghan resistance changed?  Does their presence seem greater?

Anand: Looking over the past few years, what marked the insurgency this year is that it has more or less reached every Pashtun area. The insurgency started in small pockets in the south and east and has  gradually spread over the last few years. By 2008 it started to reach the north and west, and today  nearly every Pashtun area in the country has some sort of insurgent presence. With a few exceptions, the Taliban and allied groups still mostly lack the ability to move beyond the Pashtuns and recruit from the country’s other ethnic groups.

Ron: If we define victory as achieving some kind of stable client government in Afghanistan that can produce what is demanded by Washington, is there any chance that the ISAF can achieve any kind 
of victory in Afghanistan?

Anand: I think it is highly unlikely given the fact that the government today is barely functioning beyond the cities and towns. To achieve a sort of stable government that can govern the whole country, all of  these areas outside the cities would have to be reclaimed (or in many cases, claimed for the first time, since the central government never really had much of a presence in such areas). Many Afghans tell me that they have yet to see a coherent strategy for making this happen.

The problems of the government are more than just corruption or ineffectiveness–they go back to its very founding. The Bonn Conference, which laid the foundation upon which the current government is built, was deeply flawed. It included every major warlord, criminal and human rights abuser except for two–the Taliban  and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It should come as little surprise then that these are the two that are fighting against the Americans today.  Across the country, many warlords and commanders that committed atrocities during the nineties were put back into power, and in many cases they treated the local population poorly. We are still seeing the repercussions of that today.

Many Afghans say that they would like to see the whole thing go back to the drawing board–negotiate with the Taliban, form a national  unity government, rewrite the constitution, etc. Short of that, they  say that the current government can never really be representative and inspire loyalty throughout the country.

Ron: Has the resistance proposed a peace plan?  If so, are you aware of  the elements in it?  Why is this not discussed in the mainstream media?

Anand: They haven’t proposed a serious peace plan that I am aware of, short of demanding that the foreign troops leave the country. There was a sort of "roadmap to peace" that was being talked about between some senior Taliban leaders and their interlocutors in Kabul (former Taliban officials who have made their peace with Karzai’s government). It included a number of proposals: In the first step, the Taliban would stop impeding development efforts if the U.S. stops house raids and releases prisoners. In the next step, the two sides would negotiate directly over the the nature of future unity  government. Finally, the two sides would negotiate a timetable for withdrawal of troops. But this proposal never really got off the ground; it was stymied by the simple fact that the key party who would have to agree to all this–the U.S.–was never involved.  Moreover, when Obama announced a troop escalation this past spring, it sent the message to the Taliban leadership and their backers in Pakistan that this was not the time to negotiate but rather to bunker down and fight.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
George Payne
The Direction of No Return: a Meditation on America’s Decent into Tyranny
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgive
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Kevin Martin
It’s Not Always All About Trump
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail