Let’s attempt to review the US invasion of Afghanistan from a purely military point of view so as to understand why the US is now only the problem in Afghanistan and can never be even a part of the solution. While I can only speak for the Pakistan army and my years of teaching Operational Strategy (the art of employing large formations in the battlefield), to young aspirants, many of whom rose to ranks far senior than yours truly, I am fairly certain, that while terminology might vary, the essence of this art will be much the same in all militaries of the world.
Begin with the famous Clausewitzian dictum that ‘war is an extension of policy’; which means that all wars are intended to achieve a political purpose; one that was unattainable without going to war. Therefore, a war must have a clearly defined political objective. From this political objective, the military spells out its ‘military aim’; through which the political aim is intended to be achieved. Clearly, therefore, if the political aim is not sufficiently lucid, the military is bound to err in defining the ‘how’, i.e., the military aim.
The US invaded Afghanistan with the announced political aim of “destroying/dismantling Al Quaida and its leadership and, bringing about regime change to oust the Taliban’s oppressive regime, which was harboring OBL and Al-Quaida”; a moral and laudable aim. If there were also ulterior motives of acquiring strategic bases to encircle the Russian Bear and the emerging threat of China, as well as accessing the untapped resources of Central Asia; why not?
But if this was the political aim, it could not have meant waging a war on the Afghan people or enslaving them; obviously not! What is more, a regime change could only work if it was people-friendly and, if the ulterior motives were to be realized, it would be possible only if the people were happy with the Americans. I have, in earlier articles for CounterPunch, testified to the fact that the US intervention in 2001 was a welcome event for the Afghan who was fed up with Taliban oppression.
So, everything was just right: the environment was favorable, the Afghans wanted to be relieved of the Taliban; even Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, staunch Taliban supporters, backed the US invasion; for whatever reasons. What could possibly go wrong?
But, something obviously did.
In fairness to the American forces, it needs to be pointed out that there is a difficulty to fighting forces that are indistinguishable from the local population; but in this case, the local population would willingly have identified the Taliban supporters to the invading US troops in 2001, if the invading forces had trusted them; unfortunately they didn’t; and are paying the price of that error to date.
What is more, while Americans are generally a friendly, easy-going people; collectively, America is unbelievably arrogant, and its military most so. Military plans therefore, end up being made with the following mindsets: 1) we are superior in all respects; 2) we are indifferent to the loss of lives of the local population; 3) American loss of life is to be minimized at all costs and any hint of threat is to be treated as real, to be responded to with excessive use of force 4) our military machine has the deadliest weapons which can, and will be employed at the discretion of all levels of command; 5) since we are all powerful, we should be able to destroy the enemy in the shortest span of time.
The last of the above is frequently compounded by political expediency. In the case of Afghanistan, Bush (touting his image of a ‘war-time President) was pushing the military to get it over with ASAP.
Had cooler heads prevailed, the invading forces would have delayed the invasion by a couple of months to obtain accurate intelligence of who was who and where was who; but that most invaluable ingredient of all military operations – intelligence – was missing. Had they bided their time to find out who was where, a number of precise strikes could easily have ‘taken out’ the Al-Quaida and Taliban leadership. Then, with the active support of the locals, Taliban supporters could have been identified and dealt with. Afghans would have been embracing US forces.
But the US went in like the proverbial bull in the china shop, turned loose their allies, the Northern Alliance, who butchered Afghans indiscriminately, as did the invading forces. Those who weren’t butchered were humiliated. American forces were even unaware that in December 2001 they had Mulla Omer surrounded in a village close to Kandahar, from where the intrepid Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar, rescued him on a motorbike, dressing Omer in a woman’s veil.
So, where does the US and the puppet Karzai government stand today in Afghanistan? I narrated the following instances in an earlier article. They are repeated here to emphasize the point I wish to make.
In ‘The Kill Team’, carried by ‘Rolling Stone’ on March 27th this year, Mark Boal revealed the exploits of ‘Bravo Company’, in which, Staff Sergeant David Bram and Corporal Jeremy Morlock on one fine morning, early last year, decided to chalk up kills of innocent Afghans. They picked them at random during their patrols or ‘cordon and search’ operations, took them to a ditch and shot them, collecting tips of little fingers as souvenirs and taking hundreds of photographs. Everyone was in on the ‘kills, many others joined in. the whole company was jubilant, taking photographs of each other with the dead body; one
smiling, the other rakishly smoking a cigarette’
According to Boal, Gen McChrystal and Hamid Karzai learnt of this scandal May last year. Both joined in the cover up, destroying whatever documents, disks, hardware, software, photographs, and any other incriminatory evidence that could be found; while the killing continued.
I wrote in an earlier article of American helicopter borne snipers killing nine children gathering wood outside a village close to Kandahar last year. An ex-Marine immediately described the act as deliberate murder. According to him, with the technology available, there was no possible way for trained snipers to mistake 9 to 13 year olds, gathering wood for armed militants!
After almost a decade of all this, can anyone imagine that the US could purchase Afghan affection with a few dollars or chocolates?
In an article titled, ‘Why did Joe Biden rush to visit Pakistan’, carried by Counterpunch in February, I outlined how the Pakistan army is collaborating with Afghans to assist them in arriving at a joint Afghan solution to their problem, excluding the Americans and, for that matter, Pakistan.
The real problem is that Pentagon and CIA refuse to go and the helpless Obama seems unable to order them to do so. If the US continues to stay on, not only will increasing numbers of Afghans, across the ethnic divide, turn towards the Taliban, as their hate for the US mounts, terrorism in Pakistan will continue, to a lesser degree, but it will be there, and anti-Americanism will continue to rise, also further stoking religious extremism.
So please, my American friends, don’t let your political leaders and the establishment fool you into believing the slogan, “They hate us (Americans) because they envy our freedom.” You have precious little freedom left anyway, but you are hated not for the freedom your parents once had, you are hated because you are denying us our freedom.
So, please, America, go; go now. When you go, Karzai will be found hiding in one of your C-130s and the Indians in the Pashtun region of Afghanistan will not be slow to follow suit. GO. NOW. And if you need an exit strategy, I can suggest one.
SHAUKAT QADIR is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org