It is difficult, even impossible, to accept President Obama’s “New strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” as described by him in a formal speech on March 27. It fails by imperial and non-imperial standards.
First the imperial: Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent, reports in his book Nemesis: “The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan…In his 1996 memoir, former CIA Director Robert Gates acknowledges that the American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before it…President Carter’s purpose was to provoke a full-scale Soviet military intervention…to tie…down the USSR.” Will an expanded military effort in Afghanistan tie down the U.S. as it did the USSR?
Obama plans a U.S. military effort in Afghanistan lasting at least five years in a country 50% larger than Iraq in area and population. The NATO allied forces are token in size and commitment and rarely leave their base camps. A serious U.S. military effort will require at least 250,000 troops tied down in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Will America be unable to react to other challenges as they arise especially its obligations, to protect Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, to deter Iran from a nuclear program, to support Pakistan from collapse; etc..
The invasion of Iraq could be justified on imperial grounds because it is strategically situated in the heart of the largest concentration of oil in the world. Afghanistan has no comparable resource, one of the poorest countries, no industry, little farming, rugged terrain, a land of banditry and bribery.
The adventure fails from a non- imperial perspective. Obama says “That country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.” None of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 criminal tragedy were Afghan or Taliban. Fifteen of them were Saudi. There are no Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan any longer. Osama bin Laden and what is left of his crew is in hiding somewhere in the wilderness of Pakistan. The Al Qaeda operation is scattered and disorganized. Yes, another 19 thugs could infiltrate the U.S. and kill Americans, but sending an army into Afghanistan is not going to prevent another such criminal act. In fact, the hyped war in Afghanistan is more likely to divert us from protecting ourselves against another September 11.
This post originally appeared on Relentless Liberal on March 29, 2009.