Disaster in Afghanistan
Brian CLOUGHLEY | 11.11.2015 | WORLD /

Disaster in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan on 28 December last year there was a large military ceremony in Kabul. It marked replacement of the US-NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat operation by a mission called Resolute Support. It was the most significant military-political event in the country since President George W. Bush ordered his military forces to attack Afghanistan on 7 October 2001.

The senior figure at the gathering was US Army General John F. Campbell, commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, who declared to those present that “we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future. You’ve made Afghanistan stronger and our countries safer.”

The staggering irony of his statement is that for safety reasons he could not inform the public about the event before it was held. As recorded by Fox News “the ceremony had to be organized in secret due to the threat of a Taliban attack, the number and intensity of which have increased in recent months,” which is hardly an indication of a “stronger” Afghanistan. The text of Campbell’s speech was released later because live broadcasts were not permitted “for security reasons.”

Campbell praised “those who planned and organized this ceremony – I thank you for your hard work. An event like this requires a great deal of organization, preparation, and rehearsal.”

Certainly it would require a lot of effort – especially when you can’t let news of the event be made public in order to avoid being blown up by insurgents. In similar fashion, the visits to Afghanistan in 2014 by President Barack Obama (May), British Prime Minister David Cameron (October) and NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (November) had to be kept secret.

It is strange that these people do not consider it utterly bizarre that they can’t openly visit a country in which their troops had been fighting for fourteen years.

The US State Department’s 'Travel Warning' notes that “the security situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable, and the threat to all US citizens remains critical.” That’s clear enough – and it sums up the entire horrible charade in Afghanistan. The country is a deeply corrupt, politically incoherent, economically insolvent, insurgent-ridden shambles that leads the world in production of heroin. As Al Jazeera notes, “Not only is Afghanistan the global leader in opium production, but Afghans are now the leading consumers of their own drugs. The number of Afghan drug addicts now stands at nearly three million, up from less than 500,000 just two years ago.” According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2014 Afghan Opium Survey, in 2001 there was opium poppy cultivation over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) and by 2014 it had exploded to 224,000 hectares.

It makes one wonder why the most senior foreign military commander in Afghanistan declares that his forces have “made Afghanistan stronger.”

President Obama acknowledges that drug production in Afghanistan “is among the most difficult international drug-control problems,” but slides round the facts and figures with all the skill of a heroin addict looking for another vein. His statement that “for 15 of the last 16 years, Afghanistan has been the world's largest producer of opium poppy” is contemptible in its avoidance of precision, because he avoids admitting that the appalling drug production and addiction problems have rocketed during his presidency. When he took over in 2009, opium production was 4,000 tons. Last year it was 6,400 tons. Of even more importance: when he took over in 2009 the UN recorded that 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed and 3,556 injured in that year; in 2014 the numbers were 3,699 and a staggering 6,849. Progress?

Another irony concerns the strength that can be brought to bear against Taliban insurgents by the Afghan military. Overwhelming airpower is regarded as a vital part of warfare and it is considered that nothing can be accomplished without it. So the US is equipping the Afghan Air Force with 16 gunship helicopters and 20 Super Tucano ground attack aircraft because they are considered an essential element in combating the militants.

But in March 2015 General (‘hope for the future’) Campbell told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that “the first thing I always get asked for [by Afghan commanders] is close air support. We’re building their close air support... What I tell the Afghans is, ‘Don’t plan your operations wholly dependent on close air support. You have the capability. The Taliban doesn't have close air support, the Taliban doesn't have up-armored Humvees, the Taliban doesn't have D-30 howitzers.’ So a part of it is just leadership, again.”

The US-NATO commander in Afghanistan does not agree that it is essential for the Afghan army to have close air support because “the Taliban doesn’t have close air support.”

When US-NATO-ISAF troops were fighting against the Taliban they had massive air support. Ground forces didn’t plan a single mission of any significance without ensuring that air attacks could be called in. They had thousands of up-armored Humvees and countless batteries of artillery and squadrons of tanks and scores of rocket launchers and death-dealing drones and other amazing devices that can detect and destroy a travelling ant from fifty miles.

Here’s what I wrote in January 2014:

Here we have the most technically dazzling military force in the world, with every conceivable martial contraption of the most amazing efficiency, and a bottomless pit of money, and it hasn’t been able to defeat “a bunch of dudes in bed sheets and flip-flops” as the Taliban are so well described by one of the few American military officers who has dared to speak truthfully about the Afghanistan disaster: Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis.

The barbaric “dudes in bedsheets” have shown how powerful they are in many ways, but one particularly fascinating revelation came from the New York Times on 3 November when it reported that “If there had been grumbling before about the deafening intrusion of low-flying American helicopters in the Afghan capital, the discontent has surely multiplied along with the number of flights: packs of them now, coming two, four, six at a time, starting around 7 a.m., then again at midday and at dusk. Why so many?”

The reason is simple: “After 14 years of war, of training the Afghan Army and the police, it has become too dangerous to drive the mile and a half from the airport to the embassy.” The British Foreign Office advice to travellers is honest enough, in that “road travel is highly dangerous.”

So much for US-NATO having made Afghanistan “stronger” after fourteen years of war.

President Obama continues to be bright and optimistic, at least in public. On 15 October he said he is going “to support President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms. New provincial governors have been appointed, and President Ghani is working to combat corruption, strengthen institutions, and uphold rule of law.”

Obama and Ghani will fail. And, alas, Afghanistan will decline into further corruption, turmoil and torment.




Tags: Afghanistan