NATO Is Winning in Afghanistan Like the United States Was in Vietnam
The Pentagon released a sobering report on Monday December 10, on the war in Afghanistan. The report was ready before the United States presidential election in early November but not made available to “respect” the election cycle. The delay from the Pentagon can only be viewed as an attempt by the Obama administration to keep the bleak findings of the report from the American public before they went to the polls. During the election charade, the 11-year war in Afghanistan, like any other meaningful US foreign-policy topic, was conveniently ignored by both candidates. The war is unpopular, and it has slowly but surely become the forgotten war, even though 68,000 US troops are still involved in Afghanistan’s quagmire.
Endless war or transition to a Taliban takeover
The raw numbers are grim, as the prospect of a real withdrawal by the US in 2014 seems increasingly unlikely, unless the Obama administration declares victory and shortly afterwards just lets the Taliban take over. According to the Pentagon, only one of the 23 brigades of the Afghan National Army would be able to operate without NATO support. According to official data from the Department of Defense, since 2001, the conflict has cost US taxpayers more than $500 billion, and 2,146 American troops have died. In this war of attrition, thousands of NATO troops have already died and will keep dying in vain.
The Pentagon report spans from April 1 to September 30, 2012. “During the reporting period, enemy initiated attacks (EIAs) were up one percent compared to the same period last year. The campaign continued to face challenges including a rise of insider attacks. The insurgency’s safe havens in Pakistan, the limited institutional capacity of the Afghan government, and endemic corruption remain the greatest risks to long-term stability and sustainable security in Afghanistan. The Taliban-led insurgency and its al-Qaeda affiliates operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan. Although the insurgency’s kinetic capabilities have declined from their peak in 2010, the insurgents remain resilient and determined, and will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence through continued assassinations, intimidation, high-profile attacks, and the emplacement of IEDs ( improvised explosive devices). Widespread corruption continues to limit the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Afghan government,” says the 172 page Pentagon report. US taxpayers should know that, according to the Pentagon, the estimated cost of the report or study for the Department of Defense was around $161,000 for the 2012 fiscal year. This included $23,000 in “expenses” and $138,000 in “DOD labor.”
Lesson from Vietnam: Defeating a skilled and determined guerrilla army is militarily impossible
History is not America’s forte. The United States of America suffers from amnesia when it comes to the valuable lessons that the country should have learned from Vietnam. If people had done their research in Washington before impulsively invading Afghanistan in 2001, they would have reconsidered their actions after learning that nobody has ever defeated recent history’s best guerrilla force: the Pashtuns. The Taliban are mostly Pashtuns, and this fearless tribe has won the well-deserved reputation of providing a “burial ground” for empires. They did this with the British empire and, in the 1980s, with the Soviet Union. The Reagan administration played a pivotal role in arming and funding what he called Afghanistan’s “freedom fighters” when they were taking on the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. A few decades later, Reagan’s freedom-fighter friends became the Taliban. Washington never made an effort to understand the Taliban and the reasons why they are such a tough and resilient enemy.
The late French President General Charles de Gaulle once said: “You may be sure that the Americans will commit all the stupidities they can think of, plus some that are beyond imagination.” De Gaulle was correct in his assessment of America’s geopolitical IQ. More than 50,000 US troops died in vain in Vietnam to maintain an illegitimate and corrupt government, all in the name of countering the danger of communism’s “domino effect.” Three million Vietnamese were killed in that conflict. The same cold-war rationale was at play when Reagan was a crucial ally of Osama Bin Laden and his friends. This absurdly short-sighted, one-train-behind, US foreign policy is now being applied to Afghanistan, Pakistan — with the drone attacks — and of course Syria, where the US is de facto supporting a Talibanization of the country.