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

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail