(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
Afghanistan: Delaying the Inevitable
AFGHANISTAN was the
major item on the
agenda at the NATO summit held in Lisbon
in the third week of November. It is no secret that the majority of
members want to withdraw their troops at the earliest from Afghanistan.
opinion in their countries is strongly against the war in Afghanistan.
the summit venue, thousands of protestors had painted the streets red,
chanting “Peace, Yes. NATO, No”. President
Barack Obama and senior western
heads of state had earlier in the year mentioned the year 2014 as the
for withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. But in recent
months, Obama has
had an apparent change of mind given the military facts on the ground
his much hyped military surge, the Taliban has held its ground and
seems to be in fact expanding its influence to areas where previously
presence was insignificant. To add to Obama’s and NATO’s problems,
Hamid Karzai has once again become vocal in his demands for a speedy
of foreign forces and a halt to the targeting of civilians in NATO’s
At the NATO
European partners despite their
misgivings have chosen to at least publicly support the Obama
latest game plan in Afghanistan.
have agreed to a phased transfer of responsibility to Afghan forces
starting the military withdrawal in 2014. At the same time, NATO
a warning that the 2014 deadline was not sacrosanct and is dependant on
Afghan government making sufficient progress in maintaining its own
The secretary-general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, talking to the
after the end of the summit, categorically stated that NATO forces
after the transition in a supporting role” in Afghanistan.
As a sop to European
public opinion, Rasmussen said that he did not visualise NATO’s
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) playing a combat role in Afghanistan
beyond 2014. Many NATO member countries have already withdrawn their
have insisted that they will be completely out of the country by 2014. America’s closest ally, Britain,
said that the last of its combat troops will be out by 2015.
A long term
agreement was signed between NATO and the Afghan government was signed
the summit. NATO officials have been saying for some time that a large
of its troops will be staying behind after 2014 to provide training and
up the Karzai government. “To put it simply, the Taliban or anyone else
wants to wait us out, they can forget it. We will stay as long as it
finish the job”, the NATO secretary general told reporters. Rasmussen’s
may not find many takers in European capitals. The newly appointed
minister, Alain Juppe, had said before the Lisbon
summit that Afghanistan
is “a trap for all the parties involved there”. Juppe, a former French
also said that his country was determined to hand over areas under
military control to Afghan forces as soon as they could. The Sarkozy
has indicated that it wants to remove all French troops from Afghanistan
before the 2012 presidential elections. More than 70 per cent of the
public oppose the war in Afghanistan.
also signed an agreement with Russia
to expand the supply of war materials for NATO troops through an
from Central Asia. It will be a fall
NATO if transportation of arms and supplies through the attack prone
route becomes untenable.
illustrates the increased bonhomie between NATO and Russia.
President Dmitry Medvedev,
was a special invitee to the summit. Medvedev said that Russia
“bolstering” its relationship with NATO in order to build a “strategic
partnership”. NATO was founded in 1949 in response to the alleged
by the USSR.
it should have disbanded after the collapse of the Socialist bloc and
the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact—the military alliance of Communist
led by Moscow.
the moment, NATO is trying to stay relevant by conjuring up new enemies
over the world. First it was the Balkans, now it is Afghanistan.
Next stop could be
either Somalia or Sudan.
Obama on his
part has defended the counter-insurgency tactics that have led to the
thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan. While
Karzai’s criticism of civilian deaths “as entirely legitimate”, he said
the Afghan president should also understand American troops are being
and that they “needed to protect themselves”. Obama however expressed
confidence that the US
will be able to start downsizing their troops by July 2011, as he had
pledged. “We are in a better place now than we were in a year ago”, he
But he also warned that “making progress between now and next summer
Robert Gates, has said that only a fraction of the US troops will be
behind in 2014 and that they “would be in a train and advice role” of
that the US has taken on in Iraq. More than 50,000 US
troops remain in Iraq.
they have constructed huge military bases in Iraq
a permanent presence. The aim of the US
is to ensure a permanent military occupation of both Iraq
for long term strategic reasons. The head of the British armed forces,
David Richards, said recently that US/NATO troops may have to stay in Afghanistan
the next thirty to forty years. The Afghan countryside is dotted with
expanding US forward operating bases (FOB). Many of the FOB’s are along
the Iran and Pakistan
borders. In August this
year, the Pentagon announced plans to build three more bases; each of
budgeted at over $100 million. Given the number of FOB’s in the
country, the US is
preparing for a long haul in Afghanistan.
man in charge of the US
military operations in Afghanistan,
assured those present at the NATO summit that the military surge had
the Taliban’s momentum”. According to reports, not many European
convinced by the assertions of Petraeus. Before the NATO summit, the US
had issued a statement saying that the 2014 departure date was an
goal” not a rigid deadline. Senior Obama officials have been saying
things on the “exit strategy” from Afghanistan. After the NATO
the vice president, Joseph Biden, said that 2014 was a “drop dead” date
withdrawal of all combat troops from Afghanistan. Earlier
Holbrooke, the US
to Afghanistan and Pakistan
said that withdrawal of American troops would start in July, 2011 and
by 2014. A majority of Americans now disapprove of the war in Afghanistan.
war in Afghanistan
now comes with a monthly price tag of $17 billion for the American tax
wants Pakistan and India to back its new Afghanistan
strategy. The US
state department spokesman said that the US
has invited both the countries “to be engaged
in and participate in the transition program in Afghanistan”.
The state department
spokesman has endorsed India’s
role” in the strengthening of Afghanistan’s
and security but said that New
Delhi would not have a direct role in the
Afghan security forces. He also stressed the importance of resolving
“vitally important” Kashmir dispute
stability in the South Asian region. Pakistan,
key player and ally of the US
in the war in Afghanistan,
not invited to the NATO summit. Even, Japan,
country that only provides economic aid to Kabul, was invited to the summit.
ambassador to Afghanistan,
Mark Sedell however acknowledged
the crucial role Pakistan
will have to play if there has to be a drawdown of western troop in Afghanistan.
told the media in Lisbon that the
and pace of transition” will depend on how quickly Pakistan
weeds out the terrorists from their safe havens in tribal areas along
border with Afghanistan.
also said that Islamabad
had a big role to play in persuading sections of the Taliban and other
anti-American groups over which it has influence, to make peace with
ordinary Afghans about the
allegedly benign nature of the occupation will be an impossible task.
American troop surge earlier this year, air strikes in Afghanistan
up by 50 per cent. Two American air craft carriers carrying 120 planes
been deployed to increase the air power. Heavy Abrams tanks are being
Taliban stronghold like Kandahar
to further augment US/NATO firepower. American commanders claim that
“is not to kill our way out of this war” but the dramatic increase in
number of civilian casualties tells another story. The UN has reported
Afghan civilians killed in the conflict rose by a third in the first
of 2010. The aim is to force the Taliban to the negotiating table but
this inhuman tactic seems to have been counter-productive. The Taliban
a statement after the NATO summit that they would force the occupation
to leave the country even before the so called 2014 deadline for
denied that high level peace talks are currently on with the Karzai
administration. The Taliban stance on talks has been clear for some
any meaningful talks to start, senior Taliban leaders, including Mullah
have said that all foreign forces will first have to announce a
then leave the country.