Catastrophe in Afghanistan: Where Next for NATO?

The US-NATO  military alliance is a vastly expensive farce which has achieved nothing but calamity in every foray it has undertaken. Its aerial blitz on Libya reduced the country to chaos, and its operations in Afghanistan have proved no less disastrous.

Its mission during eleven years of fighting in Afghanistan, during which over 3,000 soldiers were killed, was to “enable the Afghan authorities to provide effective security across the country and ensure that it would never again be a safe haven for terrorists.”  It failed utterly, and we are now witnessing the catastrophic results of its floundering endeavors.

On July 23 several hundred Shia Muslims held a peaceful demonstration in Kabul.  They came from an ethno-religious group, the Hazaras, of about five million who live mainly in Bamiyan Province which last hit the headlines in 2001 when the Philistine savages of the Taliban destroyed its ancient statues. These were enormous sandstone carvings of the Buddha, lovingly sculpted 1400 years ago, and the barbarians blew them up in the name of their religion which, according to their warped interpretation of the Koran — based on opinions of so-called scholars — forbids portrayal and other reproduction of graceful or otherwise notable people and objects.

The Hazara Shias hadn’t travelled from their province to Kabul to protest against the murderous Taliban.  All they want is that a power line be rerouted in order to provide them with electricity.  It had been intended that the cables run through Shia Bamiyan, but the Kabul government, almost entirely Sunni, cancelled that decision.

The reason for abandoning the project was that it would be more “cost-effective” which, coming from the administration of one of the world’s most corrupt countries, would be amusing were it not contemptible. As the BBC records, “Afghanistan ranks a woeful 166th out of 168 countries in Transparency International’s latest assessment of graft and crooked dealing around the world.”  The decision had nothing to do with saving money, all of which comes from foreign donors, with most of it ending up in mansions in Dubai. It was because Shias are regarded as kafirs — non-believers.

The Bamiyan Shias were making a vain attempt to persuade the crooked and ineffectual government of President Ashraf Ghani (himself not corrupt) to let them have electricity, and eighty of them died and hundreds of others were injured when demented suicide bombers of Islamic State blew themselves to bits.

Such is the fate of kafirs, and such is the nature of the terror campaign waged by Islamic State in Afghanistan and throughout the world.  The maniacs seem to be winning, in pursuit of their demented mission of death and destruction.  With a government as shaky as that in Afghanistan, there is cause to be alarmed at what the future might hold.

One problem about investigating the situation is that very few official sources can be trusted to tell the truth about what is going on in that hapless country.  Since the US invaded at the end of 2001 there has been a ceaseless litany of lies about the war, and it wasn’t until 2012 that US Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis disclosed that  “senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regard to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable.”

There is transparency and honesty, however, in the reports of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR, Mr John Sopko, a man whose blend of efficiency, principle, morality and candor is rare in Washington.

His task is to “promote economy and efficiency of US-funded reconstruction programs in Afghanistan and to detect and deter fraud, waste, and abuse by conducting independent, objective, and strategic audits, inspections, and investigations,” and to that end Mr Sopko looks at the bigger picture.  His inquiries into financial shenanigans have been most important to the US taxpayer — but it is his findings about the overall shambles that are most illuminating.

Four days after the slaughter of Shias in Kabul he delivered a report noting that “the US-led intervention in Afghanistan led to large-scale internal displacement, which reached its peak in 2002 at 1.2 million people.”  The report continues that there remain “as of June 2015, at least 948,000 people displaced as a result of conflict and violence.”  Not only that, but according to Human Rights Watch, “Pakistan is host to 1.5 million [registered refugees], the world’s second-largest protracted refugee population in a single country . . .  In addition, according to Pakistani government estimates, one million undocumented Afghans are living in Pakistan.”

After 14 years of foreign military operations in Afghanistan and expenditure of vast sums of money, Reuters reports that “even the most cursory examination reveals phenomenal waste. According to calculations at the end of last year by the Financial Times and others, the war had already cost almost $1 trillion (less than the $1.7 trillion spent on Iraq, but still staggering).”  Yet over two million Afghans can’t return home because their country is too dangerous for them to live in.  As the SIGAR reports, the area under Afghan government “control or influence” decreased to 65.6 percent by the end of May from 70.5 percent last year — and in confirmation of this dire trend, on July 29 an official in Helmand said that yet another district had fallen to the Taliban who are now “in control of 60 per cent” of the Province.”

The day before the surge in Helmand fighting the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, played down the Islamic State threat and said that most of the areas it controlled are rural and that “they believed they were going to be able to seize and hold terrain, and they failed to do so.”

The man is a fool.  Certainly, most of the areas in which Islamic State and the Taliban and other fanatics are in control are rural — because 73 per cent of Afghans live in rural areas, and that is where, over the centuries, guerrillas, militants, insurgents, call them what we will, began their campaigns against regimes they wanted to overthrow.

Does the man not remember the humiliating US defeat in Vietnam?  That was the result of classic insurgent tactics:  First take the villages, then the towns . . .   this progression involved increasing terrorist atrocities, merciless eradication of vulnerable government forces and all the other well-tried precursors of insurgency warfare.

It’s exactly what’s happening in Afghanistan.

Yet Nicholson carried on with his upbeat babble and declared that although Islamic State “could conduct a high profile attack [it] should not be perceived as a sign of growing strength . . . this is not necessarily a sign of growing strength in Afghanistan; indeed, their area is shrinking.”

But the area of Afghanistan dominated by militants, be they Islamic State, Taliban or any of the other half-dozen or so loony-tunes savages, is actually increasing.

On July 28 Nicholson announced that “generally speaking, the Afghan Security Forces have accomplished their objectives in Helmand thus far, securing the major population centers. The enemy was active earlier in the year, attacking isolated check points.  But frankly, in the last two weeks, the enemy activity has dropped off to a much lower level.  Now, fighting season’s not over.  We anticipate we’ll see other enemy attempts to regain territory in Helmand. But thus far, things are on a real positive trajectory in the 215th Corps.”

Next day came news that the Taliban had again “regained territory” and “precise casualty figures can’t be confirmed as bodies litter the ground and fighting was still underway,”  which is hardly a “positive trajectory.”  On August 10 Radio Free Europe reported that “Afghan security forces [are] being deployed to the southern city of Lashkar Gah amid an intensified fight against the Taliban and fears that the capital of Helmand Province could fall under the control of militants within days.”

The US-NATO  military alliance has failed miserably in Afghanistan, but there is no magic wand that could create stability and good governance.  It is a corrupt, terrorist-infested, warlord-ridden, poverty-stricken, ethnically-fractured narco-state in which Western meddling has made a dire situation even worse.  All that US-NATO will do, now, is to continue muddling on in the quagmire they helped to create.  Afghanistan will collapse into fiefdoms run by Islamic extremists and barbaric local chieftains,  with the Kabul government, such as it is, floundering around in impotence.  US-NATO has created a catastrophe in yet another region of the world,  and no propaganda can disguise the fact that it failed.

So where next for US-NATO?   It desperately wants to justify its big-ticket existence because many European countries are expressing doubt about the need for the organization, and common sense says it’s an alliance without a cause.  So the Washington warmongers and their puppet-like supporters in the Pentagon’s branch office in Brussels consider it essential to conjure up a menace — and the Baltic beckons.

It doesn’t matter to the saber-rattlers that there is no threat whatever to the US or Europe from Russia, and that Moscow’s military actions are a result of US-NATO expansion right up to its borders and are patently defensive. The Pentagon-Brussels axis of spin considers it time to ramp up confrontation and that is exactly what is happening.  This time, however, they’re not facing a band of raggy-baggy barbarians with IEDs.  They’re deliberately taunting a highly disciplined nation that can stand only so much more provocation.  They’re leading us to war.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.