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Happy Talk On The Afghan War Is Just Spin & 2014 Is Not The End

Posted by Newshoggers.com on January 27th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

President Obama had some happy-talk on the Afghan occupation last night, saying:

In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.

And just hours before, Saint General Petraeus was helping that happy-talk along in a letter to US troops in Afghanistan.

Petreaus said that over the last year, the U.S.-led counter-insurgency campaign had succeeded in halting "a downward security spiral in much of" Afghanistan and even reversed "it in some areas of great importance."

As evidence, Petraeus said that despite occassional attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital and surrounding region "enjoyed impressive security throughout the latter half of 2010." He called the reduction in insurgent strikes there "particularly noteworthy given that nearly one-fifth of the Afghan population lives in the greater Kabul area and Afghan forces lead in all but one of the (Kabul) province's districts."

Petraeus said "hard-won progress" also was made in the southern Taliban strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the focus of last year's surge of an additional 30,000 U.S. forces, and there were "advances" in areas of the east, west and north.

The problem is, none of it is true, as the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) has noted today in a report: It's just happy-talk.

“No matter how authoritative the source of any such claim, messages of this nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal,” the group said in its quarterly report, which is aimed at helping aid groups make decisions involving security.

The report is not released to media but Reuters obtained a copy.

“(The messages) are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here,” the group said.

It found militant attacks were up 64% last year compared with 2009, equivalent to an average of 33 incidents a day, and while violence may have decreased in some areas, it had dramatically increased in others.

“If losses are taken in one area they are simply compensated for in another as has been the dynamic since this conflict started,” ANSO said. 

And the latest public report from the group, covering the last quarter of 2010, underlines their assertion that it's all just spin. You can read the PDF here but here are a couple of key figures that tell a very different story from that pushed by Petraeus et.al.

A graph:

Monthly Attacks 06-10 

And a map:

Provincial insecurity Dec10 

Meanwhile, the senior NATO civilian in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, is saying even 2014 is not the end of NATO's troop presence there.

NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Mark Sedwill made the remarks at a joint press conference with Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb after the two held a meeting at Helsinki in Finland.

Xinhua quoted Sedwill as saying that the transfer of power in 2014 will not be the end of NATO's operation in Afghanistan, but the beginning of a new phase of the campaign.

NATO also claimed that the participatory countries would continue to be present in Afghanistan, but only the role of NATO troops will change.

Sedwill insisted that a long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the international community would be required even after 2014 to nurture Afghan security forces, and for the country's socio-economic development.

Stubb said that the transition in 2014 does not mean a withdrawal, adding, "We will be there as long as we are needed and required."

Don't believe what you're being told – the Pentagon, bolstered by the neoliberal elite who believe in beneficient American hegemony, intend to stay forever if we let them. The current aim is only to achieve an excuse for drawing down troops to Iraqi levels, around 30,000 or so "non-combat" troops who won't hit the front pages every week. And in Iraq too, we've been hearing from the military that the 2011 pullout date Obama said would be kept isn't set in stone either. The idea is that US troops can stay longer if the Iraqis ask them to – and Iraqi arms can always be twisted so that they ask. Neo-whatever dogma of American empire, miliary wishes to keep excuses for larger budgets and general officers' wishes for career enhancing postings – all working together in happy harmony at the expense of lives and dollars we can't afford to lose.

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