The US-led international occupation force in Afghanistan (ISAF) is in the country to fight the Taliban as the ally of the Afghan state headed by President Hamid Karzai.
The ISAF’s primary mission is training and mentoring the Afghan government forces so they can take over the fight, allowing the foreign forces to leave.
That is the official story.
But casualties suffered by ISAF soldiers are increasingly being inflicted not by the Taliban but by the soldiers they are meant to be mentoring.
What is more, the US is increasingly focused on seeking to draw the Taliban into its puppet state.
On February 11, the Australian press indignantly reported the release of a video interview with Mohammed Rozi, an Afghan National Army soldier who shot and seriously injured three Australian soldiers at Patrol Base Nasir in Uruzgan province on November 8. He has since evaded capture.
The Age’s headline was typical: “Afghan rogue’s rant: Why I shot Diggers”.
Attacks fuelled by anger
In the interview he said most of his fellow Afghan soldiers sympathised with his plan “to kill foreigners and teach them a lesson”.
Since early 2007, 58 ISAF personnel have been killed in 26 attacks by Afghan soldiers, a US military-commissioned report by behavioural scientist Jeffrey Bordin said.
The report “heavily criticised as ‘profoundly intellectually dishonest’ the NATO claims that the killing of alliance troops by Afghan soldiers is extremely rare”, Guardian.co.uk said on January 20.
The report described the threat posed by Afghan soldiers to their mentors as “a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history”.
Bordin’s report found most attacks were not by Taliban infiltrators and noted that when attacks occurred, other Afghan soldiers mostly did not intervene.
The report “said American soldiers enrage their Afghan colleagues with what the report describes as extreme arrogance, bullying and ‘crude behaviour’”.
Bordin found grievances shared with Afghan civilians were the main motivation of the soldiers’ attacks.
Guardian.co.uk said: “The factors that create the most animosity included US military convoys blocking traffic, returning fire on insurgents in an apparently indiscriminate way, risking civilian lives, ‘naively using flawed intelligence sources’ and conducting raids on Afghans’ private homes.”
It is not hard to grasp why the occupation is so hated. On February 8, an ISAF airstrike killed eight children in Najrab district in Kapisa Province.
Relatives of the children and an Afghan investigation team “said that those killed were young boys who had taken their sheep and goats to graze outside the village”, the February 15 New York Times said.
After first claiming the children were armed fighters, NATO conducted its own investigation.
The NYT reported that the British officer who led the investigation, Air Commodore Mike Wigston, justified the massacre by saying: “The decision to bomb this group was made because they were seen as adult-sized and moving in a tactical fashion, and the commander was worried they were in a good position to attack.”
Night raids by ISAF are another source of grievance. AFP reported on January 20 that hundreds of people protested the previous day in the Chawki district of Kunar province after a night raid killed six civilians, including a child.
AFP quoted UN figures reporting a 15% rise in civilian deaths in the first half of last year.
Horrific violence and institutionalised oppression against women and children is every bit as bad as under the Taliban, as are human rights abuses in general.
The US-led forces overthrew the ethnically Pashtun-based Taliban regime with the help of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of mutually antagonistic warlord armies based on non-Pashtun ethnic communities, mostly Islamic fundamentalist like the Taliban.
Securing the loyalty of these warlord armies, but also fuelling the endemic violence between and within them, are lucrative financial opportunities.
Billions of dollars have poured into Afghanistan as development aid. The money is not spent on development. On February 12 Pajhwok Afghan News reported that seven children froze to death in the Kolfgan district of northern Takhar province.
On February 15, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) reported that more than 20 children had died in a camp of internally displaced people in Kabul.
Most of the profits from “development” and booming illegal narcotics industries flow out of Afghanistan. The profits that stay in Afghanistan are enough to keep the various armed groups, including the Taliban, in business and in perpetual conflict.
The war has cost the US literally trillions of dollars. After the invasion, the US signed an agreement with the regime it created that allows bases for 60 years.
The US now wants permanent military bases in Afghanistan without permanent war.
The US will reduce the number of its troops by 2014, but it will start strengthening and expanding its military bases in the country.
To achieve this, the US is now trying to draw the Taliban into its puppet regime.
The past decade’s “war on terror” propaganda notwithstanding, the West and political Islamists have often allied in the past.
Nowhere is this more so than Afghanistan ― the US proxy war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s created the predecessors of all the armed Islamist groups in Afghanistan today as well as al-Qaeda.
Moreover, the Arab Spring revolts have pushed the West closer to Sunni sectarian Islamism.
The Arab Spring has weakened pro-Western regimes that were more secular ― symbolised by the departure of the West’s most loyal puppet, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
This has meant Sunni Islamist absolute monarchies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have become more important to the West as allies. This is also the case with Qatari and Saudi-linked Islamist currents with both anti-regime credibility and a commitment to the status quo.
In Tunisia and Egypt, Western hopes are pinned on Qatari-linked Islamist electoral parties. In Syria, the West’s allies include shadowy Qatari-linked outfits trying to turn the uprising into a religious sectarian conflict.
In March last year, Qatar sent token military contingents to take part in the GCC intervention in Bahrain to crush a democratic uprising, and the NATO intervention in Libya.
The intervention was allegedly to support a democratic uprising, but has left Libya looking suspiciously like Iraq and Afghanistan after NATO brought them “democracy”.
This should be a serious warning to those that believe Western military intervention could assist the struggle for democracy in Syria.
Drawing in the Taliban
Qatar is now mediating between the US and the Taliban.
Reuters said on February 16: “Should US, Afghan and Qatari officials reach agreement, the Obama administration’s careful diplomatic choreography … calls for the Afghan Taliban to open an office in Qatar to conduct peace talks with the Western-backed Afghan government.”
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and White House official who chaired US President Barack Obama’s 2009 review of Afghan policy, told Reuters: “Two years ago the hope at the Pentagon was that we were going to defeat these guys so seriously they would no longer be a military force.
“No one expects that to happen any more.”
Reuters said: “The talks would take place at least in part in Qatar, and might include the senior Taliban prisoners whose transfer from Guantanamo Bay is a key confidence-building measure on the part of the Obama administration.”
Occupied Afghanistan’s division into warlord fiefdoms (often ethnically based) has provided opportunities for neighbouring powers to gain influence.
These include Pakistan. Its once very close relationship with the US has been strained by its military establishment’s refusal to give up long-standing links with the Taliban and by US unpiloted drones killing thousands of Pakistanis in the regions next to the Afghan border.
But the US’s most powerful rival in the Middle East, Iran, also has proxies among the Afghan warlords. Unlike Pakistan’s Taliban proxies, Iran’s Afghan proxies are allied to the US’s puppet Hamid Karzai.
On February 16 and 17, a Trilateral Summit was held in Pakistan between Karzai, Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
On February 18, Pakistani commercial newsagency OINN reported that the three presidents had “agreed to develop a joint framework of trilateral cooperation particularly in the areas of counter terrorism, anti-narcotics and border management within six months”.
Behind the official statements making unlikely promises was a clear message from all three that they don’t want to be left out of any post-2014 arrangement and have the capacity to make trouble if ignored.
Reuters reported on February 16 that the Taliban dismissed claims by Karzai that the two were in talks.
The Taliban, deeply unpopular in 2001, has regained some support solely on the basis of killing occupation soldiers. It therefore is reluctant to engage in any peace process which it cannot spin as being the result of its military strength.
For this reason the Taliban has said it will talk only to the US, not its puppet.
As was the case in Iraq, the US may be able to only achieve a withdrawal, while leaving behind a military presence, by tolerating Iranian influence.
To counter this, the US and Israel are likely to continue ramping up their belligerent campaign against Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.
None of these peace talks offer any hope to the Afghan people.
Afghanistan's Solidarity Party reflects a growing alliance of secular opposition to the warlords and occupation when it said: “President Obama’s administration must realise … our people will not … allow permanent military bases in our occupied land [and] not allow the traitorous activities of the United States, Pakistan, the blood- thirsty Iranian regime and fundamentalists to exterminate our country by dividing the nation.”