Afghanistan: mission not accomplished

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron rambled a bit on his visit to Afghanistan last December, but ended up sounding just as deluded as U.S. President George W. Bush had been when he proclaimed “Mission accomplished” six weeks after the invasion of Iraq.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron rambled a bit on his visit to Afghanistan last December, but ended up sounding just as deluded as U.S. President George W. Bush had been when he proclaimed “Mission accomplished” six weeks after the invasion of Iraq.

British troops were sent to Afghanistan, Cameron said, “so it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission … and I think we will have accomplished that mission.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was equally upbeat when addressing Canadian troops just before they pulled out in 2011.

Afghanistan no longer represents a “geostrategic risk to the world (and) is no longer a source of global terrorism,” he said.

Both men are technically correct, since Afghanistan never was a “geostrategic risk to the world” or “a haven for terror,” but they must both know that the whole war was really a pointless waste of lives.

Obviously, neither man can afford to say that the soldiers who died in obedience to the orders of their government (448 British troops, 158 Canadians) died in vain, but Barack Obama has found a better way to address the dilemma: he just doesn’t offer any assessment of the campaign’s success.

“I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” wrote former Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and he was right.

So was Obama, in the sense that he realized the mission, whatever its purpose (the definitions kept changing), was neither doable nor worth doing.

But in fact he did support it, at least to the extent of not pulling the plug on it — and 1,685 of the 2,315 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan died on his watch. He could do better.

Now there’s another “election” coming up in Afghanistan (on April 5), and at least three-quarters of the remaining foreign troops (perhaps all of them) will be gone from the country by the end of this year, and the whole thing is getting ready to fall apart.

This will pose no threat to the rest of the world, but it’s going to be deeply embarrassing for the Western leaders who nailed their flags to this particular mast.

The election is to replace President Hamid Karzai, who has served two full terms and cannot run again.

It will be at least as crooked as the last one in 2009: 20.7 million voters cards have already been distributed in a country where there are only 13.5 million people over the age of 18.

Karzai is so confident of remaining the power behind the throne that he is building his “retirement” residence next to the presidential palace, but he’s probably wrong.

His confidence is based on his skill as a manipulator of tribal politics.

Indeed, his insistence that the U.S. hand over control of Bagram jail, and his subsequent release of 72 hard-core Taliban prisoners, was designed to rebuild ties with the prisoners’ families and clans before the election.

But it is that same Taliban organization that will probably make all Karzai’s plans and plots irrelevant.

It’s not that the Taliban will sweep back to power all over Afghanistan once Western troops leave.

They really only controlled the Pashtun-majority areas of the east and south and the area around the capital even when they were “in power” in 1996-2001, while the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of the Northern Alliance ruled the rest.

That pattern is likely to reappear, with the Taliban and the northern warlords pushing politicians like Karzai aside — probably not at once, when most or all of the Western troops go home at the end of this year, but a while later, when the flow of aid (which accounts for 97 per cent of Afghan government spending) finally stops.

The U.S.-backed government of South Vietnam did not collapse when American troops went home in 1973, but two years later, when Congress cut the aid to Saigon.

The Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan did not collapse when Soviet troops withdrew in 1989, but three years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia cut the aid.

It will happen that way again.

The new part-Taliban Afghanistan that emerges will be no more a source of international terrorism than the old part-Taliban Afghanistan was. It was Osama bin Laden and his merry men, mostly Arabs and a few Pakistanis, who plotted and carried out the 9/11 attacks, not the Taliban.

True, bin Laden et al. were guests on Afghan soil at the time, but it is highly unlikely that they told the Taliban about the attacks in advance.

After all, they were probably going to get their hosts’ country invaded by the United States; best not to bring it up. And there have been no international terrorist attacks coming out of Afghanistan in the past eight years, although the Taliban already control a fair chunk of the country.

The election will unfold as Karzai wishes, and his preferred candidate (exactly who is still not clear) will probably emerge as the new president, but this truly is a case of rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic.

The second long foreign occupation of Afghanistan in half a century is drawing to a close, and Afghanistan’s own politics and history are about to resume.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Just Posted

Police is still looking for Second World War army passport owner

No one has claimed a rare Second World War German army passport… Continue reading

Castor murderer denies he’s a killer

Jason Klaus tells courtroom he loved his family who were murdered in December 2013

Advocate poll shows another hospital wanted in Red Deer

Over 50 per cent of voters support second hospital

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

RDC chosen to host 2019 men’s volleyball national championship

Sports enthusiasts in Red Deer will have more to look forward to… Continue reading

Police is still looking for Second World War army passport owner

No one has claimed a rare Second World War German army passport… Continue reading

DJ Sabatoge and TR3 Band kick off Sylvan Lake’s Winterfest 2018

Central Alberta’s youngest DJ will open for TR3 Band kicking off Town… Continue reading

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month