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This is a dead Afghan parrot
Posted by The Agonist on March 15th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The London Summit on Afghanistan in 2010 set NATO’s exit strategy from Afghanistan, later confirmed in Lisbon. There would be a drawdown of NATO troops and a build up of Afghan security forces until, in 2014, there would be a transition to Afghan ownership of their own security – supported, of course, by 20,000 US “advisors” on 5 massive bases and a boatload of US dollars every year. Alongside that “they will stand up so we can stand down” effort, there would be a concerted attempt to negotiate some kind of post-war understanding between the various Afghan factions – especially involving the taliban – so that civil war wouldn’t smash the country so quickly that Western leaders would take the blame. It was always an Iraq-inspired “paper over the cracks and run” strategy, but it was the best bet NATO leaders had. Yesterday President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron re-asserted that strategy ahead of the coming Chicago summit, despite a spate of high-profile disasters from burnt Qurans via Afghan soldiers turning their guns on their advisors, culminating in the weekend’s massacre of villagers by a US soldier.

Today both Karzai and the Taliban announced they would not be going along with the plan.

The Afghan president called today for NATO-led forces to move out of Afghan villages and remote areas back to their main bases and said that Afghan forces were ready to take over their country’s security needs this year – an assessment anyone who has been following the abortive NATO attempt to build those forces should find laughable. No NATO troops out in the countryside means no security for reconstruction teams and NGOs, which will largely halt work. It means the ANA and Afghan police, notoriously inefficient and corrupt, will be the only security Afghans have unless they turn to the taliban to provide it – and they will. If Karzai sticks to his statement – and this time he just might – it means that COIN as a strategy in Afghanistan is a very definitely a dead parrot.

That was already becoming plain to even a disinterested observer. Trust between Afghans and Americans is at its lowest ebb ever. The inhabitants of one village where the weekend killing spree occurred are making their distrust very plain.

For Haji Khan Akha, a tribal elder here, the shooting was the last straw. He said the time is now up for the United States.

“Were there more soldiers involved or not? I don’t care,” he said in an interview.

Akha, together with other representatives of Zangiabad, delivered a letter to the investigation team on Tuesday that demanded the US leave. If not, the villagers would, the letter said.

“There is no future for the US and us any more,” he said.

Haji Mehboob, an elderly resident who found three of his family members wounded after the shooting spree, signed the letter as well. He said that an apology from the United States is not enough anymore.

Mehboob said that six years ago a US bombing that killed several Taliban members also killed at least 50 civilians. “They guaranteed no civilians would be killed again, but we don’t believe them any more,” he said.

Akha said there was no fixing this.

“They can invest $1 million in our area, but for who? We will be gone if they will stay. Is it worth the money to build a school for nobody?” he asked. “What can make me believe the US now has the best intentions after all that has happened?”

Then there’s the Taliban, who today announced that they were suspending negotiations with the U.S. because the American “alternating and ever changing position”. More to point, they said that those negotiations were never peace talks anyway, directly contradicting officially unofficial leaks in the West:

In this connection, the political envoys of the Islamic Emirate agreed upon the inauguration of a diplomatic office, the arrangement about which was already made with the government of Qatar and started holding preliminary talks with the occupying enemy over the exchange of prisoners. The Americans initially agreed upon taking practical steps regarding the exchange of prisoners and to not oppose our political office but with the passage of time, they turned their backs on their promises and started initiating baseless propaganda portraying the envoys of the Islamic Emirate as having commenced multilateral negotiations for solving the Afghan dilemma.

At the same time Hamid Karzai, who can not even make a single political decision without the prior consent of the Americans, falsely proclaimed that the Kabul administration and the Americans have jointly started peace talks with Taliban; whereas the Islamic Emirate has not discussed any other issue apart from the two aforementioned (i.e. the induction of an office and the exchange of prisoners) and neither have we accepted any other condition with any other side nor have we conducted any talks with Karzai administration.

Accordingly, the Taliban statement says, “[We] will not pardon you until the withdrawal of your last soldier and until you let the Afghans establish an Islamic government for themselves.”

The London/Lisbon withdrawal plan was always intended as primarily a career-saver for Western military and political leaders. COIN was going to give them a chance to deny abject defeat in the longest war in American history. The chance of that happening now is precisely nil. “This is a dead parrot.”

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