Monday, February 17, 2020

Ghosts Of Vietnam?

It is the longest American war. It is also one of the most futile ones. 
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and Taliban will sign a peace deal at the end of February, more than a year after negotiations started, paving the way for broader talks between the Afghan government and the militant group on the country’s post-war future. The peace agreement will be signed during a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban has a political office, according to the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, as well as deputy head of its political office Abdul Salam Hanafi. Mujahed was reached via Whatsapp on Monday. The treaty to end America’s longest war follows an agreement with the Taliban on Friday for them to reduce hostilities for a seven-day period. One of the conditions for a broader peace deal, that would allow the U.S. to start withdrawing troops, has been for the partial cease-fire to hold.
There are some secret addenda to this deal, which include arrangements for some "anti-terrorist forces" to remain and, not least, some hefty declarations such as "requirement" for Taliban to denounce terrorism and extremism. Sure, make bees hate honey, this is so easy, after all. I don't know, this whole things reeks of Paris Peace Accords. Truth is, we knew it was coming. Only completely delusional people believed that some kind of "victory" can be attained in Afghanistan. A face saving arrangement is desperately needed for the United States, but the US leaving Afghanistan will not be the end of it, it will be the start of what Russians (General Gromov and  Dmitri Rogozin) warned about in 2010. 
That was exactly 10 years ago. As experience has shown, not only Talibanization was not prevented, but Taliban gained legitimacy and will enjoy now a status of a force which defeated the Great Satan of America. Russians knew already then, that nothing good was coming out of this US (and NATO) war:
That is the Russian position. We are ready to help NATO implement its U.N. Security Council mandate in Afghanistan. We are utterly dissatisfied with the mood of capitulation at NATO headquarters, be it under the cover of “humanistic pacifism” or pragmatism. We insist that NATO troops stay in the country until the necessary conditions are provided to establish stable local authorities capable of independently deterring radical forces and controlling the country. That is why we are helping NATO by providing transit for goods and training personnel for Afghanistan, including anti-narcotics officers.
I am also not sure that NATO really studied Soviet war in Afghanistan, certainly not on a purely political level, and no one in their own mind believes that Ashraf Ghani's government in Kabul will last longer than Taliban will allow it to exist. The jury is already in on this issue, especially after Washington Post releasing a trove of documents on 20 year long insanity that the War in Afghanistan has become for the United States. As one observer noted:
Anyone with eyes can see quite clearly that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is an unmitigated failure.The war in Afghanistan, now in its 19th year, is about as protracted and bloody as it has ever been. Throughout the entire conflict, hawks have told skeptical voters to sit down, be quiet, and leave it up to the professionals. For years they’ve said victory is supposedly just around the corner and that we’re making progress. And yet all the while, the situation on the ground tells a vastly different story. Still, those of us on the outside have never truly been able to witness the full gravity of Washington’s extravagantly expensive misadventure in Afghanistan — because the national security bureaucracy has a knack of keeping bad information hidden away in a vault. No longer. After a three-year court battle, the Washington Post was able to get its hands on classified government documents that demonstrate the catastrophic nature of the war. The paper reports that "senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable." Based on 2,000 pages and 428 interviews with American officials, the documents expose two disturbing key themes: For one, the United States had no clue what it was doing in Afghanistan, and even worse, government officials lied to voters every step of the way. The picture that emerges is one of three successive administrations stubbornly resistant to confronting the depth of their mistakes, all too proud or scared to admit their failure. As Gen. Douglas Lute, the Afghanistan war czar in the Bush and Obama White Houses, summarized: “If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction ... 2,400 lives lost ... Who will say this was in vain?”
This is a familiar pattern, which repeats itself time after time in the United States which refuses to face a reality until it is too late and nothing could be done about it. Obviously there is plenty of a denial to go around, especially among US military:
“I’ve been to Afghanistan 10 times in the last four years in this job and I feel that we’ve never been lied to and we are continuing to move forward,” he said, adding that he served as the senior enlisted adviser to the International Security Assistance Force in 2011 and, “I firmly thought the strategy we had in place was working.” Troxell was joined Monday by Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, a career special operations pararescueman, who also weighed in on his experiences deployed to Afghanistan. “The men and women that have been going back to since 2002 to perform this mission have been pouring their heart and soul into its success,” he said. And, he added, he never questioned his superior officers’ orders during the many capture-or-kill missions he completed in the country. “We were there with a purpose," he said. "And up to today, from 2002, I will tell you that there’s a lot more safety and security because of the actions taken ― not only by myself, personally, but by my peers.”
I am ready to give the guys the benefit of a doubt, after all, these were they, not me, who did tours in Afghanistan but "continuing to move forward" doesn't sound to me as a viable strategy or operational concept in a country in which in 20 years the United States controls only few very limited areas. Even British BS corporation couldn't deny facts on the ground:
Taliban fighters, whom US-led forces spent billions of dollars trying to defeat, are now openly active in 70% of Afghanistan, a BBC study has found. Months of research across the country shows that the Taliban now control or threaten much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014. The Afghan government played down the report, saying it controls most areas. But recent attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State group militants have killed scores in Kabul and elsewhere.Afghan officials and US President Donald Trump have responded by ruling out any talks with the Taliban. Last year Mr Trump announced the US military would stay in the country indefinitely. The BBC research also suggests that IS is more active in Afghanistan than ever before, although it remains far less powerful than the Taliban.
If this is how the moving forward is defined, then it looks like it is Taliban which is moving forward, not the US military. It is clear that Vietnam moment has come and that after 20 years the United States has nothing to show for blood and treasure spent in this war-torn country. In the end, Afghanistan also factors in the US election cycle and Trump cannot afford being called out for his failure to deliver on his 2016 campaign promise to end America's wars. Afghanistan, though, is the easiest (relatively) war to end since Afghanistan is not high on Israeli Lobby's agenda and American public is tired and is ready for this withdrawal. 

In a bizarre twist of historic fate and with a great deal of a dark historic irony, it was Soviet aid to Vietnam which played a crucial role in US loss there. It was also Vietnam War which influenced one Polish pseudo-"scholar" afflicted by a fanatic Russophobia to help destabilize Afghanistan in 1970s, which started this deadly, spanning 4 decades, spiral of violence. It is, indeed, darkly ironic that the United States faces her Vietnam Moment in the land in which it helped to create all conditions for gestation of the most extreme Islamic fanaticism, which, in the end, resulted in a tragedy of 9/11 and de facto defeat of the United States. It will be left to Russians and Middle Asian former Soviet States to eventually, at least, contain the utter mess the US leaves in Afghanistan. Hopefully, this time the United States will abstain from arming fanatic jihadists. US had the chance to fix it, it blew it. What's left to do today is to declare a victory and leave. Because, quoting Ronald Reagan from 1982:        
 It cannot get any more bitterly ironic than this.

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