Published:  12:35 AM, 10 February 2019

US has engineered yet another withdrawal!

Historically, any kind of peace settlement during or after a military conflict has always been accompanied by unexpected, powerful undertones. Today's stakeholders in the Afghanistan war have moved forward towards peace, by way of extremely shaky initiatives. Let us keep our fingers crossed.

Due to grave sensitivities on both sides, this process may perhaps stall, and or prove to be evasive. In the weeks before and also, since last Christmas, we have seen an acceleration of efforts to achieve reconciliation of the warring factions, in Afghan terrains.

What makes this interesting is the fact that the countries which have a major stake in seeing a peaceful Afghanistan are driving this process hard, along with Russia, China, Pakistan and the Central Asian republics, adjoining or enjoying proximity to Afghanistan.

Officials from these countries have met in Moscow and Astana, and then, met again in Moscow on 5th February 2019. The meeting was held with Taliban officials, the Afghanistan Government representatives (although not in an official capacity), and a representative from the United States embassy.

The United States has had separate talks with Taliban officials in Qatar. On 25 January, this year, both parties had announced an agreement in principle, that was reached on two crucial and linked elements: that foreign forces would be withdrawn within eighteen months from the signing of a ceasefire agreement; and a pledge by the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a basis for attacks by Islamic extremists, on the United States.

Not surprisingly, the latter element was included at the insistence of the Americans. From the historic perspective, the reasons for it had been indeed serious. This is what the Americans have claimed, ever since the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001. And, these onslaughts were carried out by al Qaeda militants, on the direction of Osama bin Laden, from his base in Afghanistan.

We do reconcile with the idea, that the particular claim was bereft of any evidence, worthy of the name, and did not deter the United States and its coalition allies, from attacking Afghanistan in October 2001... and remaining there, to this day. We now know that the decision to invade Afghanistan had already been made in July 2001.

The link between '9/11' and the invasion of Afghanistan was not only a misleading one, but had also ignored the actual history of US involvement with the nation of Afghanis.

An understanding of the history is important for an evaluation-whether the current negotiations for a settlement of the conflict are likely to succeed. Or, perhaps would become unlikely to go through, if sensitivities are not respected. This also explains the long-standing concerns of Russia, China and the 'istans' of Central Asia.

The parallels that we may draw with the Vietnam War are also instructive, bearing in mind that American involvement in south East Asian country began with its refusal to implement the terms of the 1954 Geneva peace accord, and not with the false flag operation of the Gulf of Tonkin in 1965.

Contrary to the official version, which had been relentlessly propagated by the mainstream media, United States involvement in Afghanistan did not begin with the October 2001 invasion. Its origins can be placed at least as far back as 1979 under the auspices of 'Operation Cyclone'.

This project was essentially controlled by the CIA and partially financed by Saudi Arabia. Mujihideen in Pakistan were trained for 'infiltration' into Afghanistan, with the sole purpose of destabilizing the socialist government, then in control of Kabul.

It was this destabilization that prompted the Soviet intervention in December 1979. President Noor Taraki (until 14 September 1979) had requested Soviet assistance on several occasions, which President Brezhnev had refused. The media portrayal of Mujihideen being formed to resist the Soviet 'invasion' is in fact, an inversion of historical reality.

The significance for the present day is that those 'jihadists', trained in Pakistan were intended for infiltration not only into Afghanistan, but also China's Xinjiang province (which has a significant Muslim population) and the 'istans' of the then Soviet Union, which are overwhelmingly Muslim, in religious affiliation.

Operation Cyclone's objectives remain a key feature of the United States foreign policy in the region, to the present day.Since the year 1980, the geopolitical situation in the region has changed radically. Nearly thirty years ago, this world had also witnessed the collapse of the Soviet empire that happened to be one of the two global superpowers... after this, the mighty Soviet Union, had ceased to exist.

Today, China has risen to be the world's number one economy, on the basis of a parity purchasing power. In the last five years China had embarked on a massive infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative that had a strong initial focus on Russia, Central Asia and Pakistan, with extensions to Europe, Africa and Latin America.

It is not by sheer coincidence, that the Shanghai Corporation Organisation, (SCO) was formed in 2001, with its original members being China, Russia and four of the Central Asian 'istans' that shared together, their primary focus on security issues.

SCO's full membership has now expanded to incorporate India and Pakistan, with several associate members, including Iran and Turkey. The regional security remains to be their central focus, although cooperation is now expanding into other areas through trade, technology sharing and military cooperation.

The American led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had created a refugee crisis that has barely been acknowledged. There are still currently, about 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and about 2.5 million in Iran. America's alleged support for the MEK jihadist group, which operates in Pakistan and Iran, is an ongoing major concern for both these two nations.

The Taliban and the neighboring countries therefore have legitimate reservations about the United States commitments, to controlling terrorism in Afghanistan, following a putative ceasefire or withdrawal of troops. The latter was also stated by President Trump in respect of Syria, but just the opposite has emerged, to be the case.

According to at least one recent report, United States troops had been used to free ISIS fighters, from a Taliban prison, killing all of the guards, and then ferrying the prisoners by helicopter, to another undisclosed location.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sepko, has detailed the waste, embezzlement, fraud and abuse (including widespread civilian casualties) by the forces supported by the United States. Mr Sepko had commenced reporting in the year 2008. It appears that nothing has improved in the eleven years since then. If anything, the situation has only deteriorated.

The asinine claims by 'coalition' members about transiting Afghanistan to a 'more secure and peaceful future', have collapsed in the face of reports such as those from SIGAR. The UN Drug Agency has also confirmed that Afghanistan is the source of 93% of the word's heroin supplies!

Ostensibly, human trafficking could not be sustained without the active involvement of US forces (and their allies). The role of illicit narcotics in financing US clandestine operations is well documented, although the western mainstream media have refused to discuss the issues contained therein.

Even the New York Times, in an Op-Ed on the New Years Day of 2019, had opined that Afghanistan was a lost cause from the point of view of America's professed objectives, such as a military victory and 'leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy.' Afghanistan was described as a 'vestigial limb of empire' and therefore, it was the proper 'time to let it go.'

Let us be honest. Democracy in this war-torn country, was never the real motive, any more than Afghanistan being held responsible for 9/11 tragedy. The landlocked country's resources, its geographical centrality vis a vis, the Eurasian heartland, and the opportunity it had provided to 'contain' Russia and China, and further disrupt the China-Russia led Eurasian renaissance. All these have always loomed larger in America's calculus!

While the negotiations are to be welcomed, it would perhaps require a helicopter rooftop evacuation, as in Saigon in 1975, to finally make the Americans leave the country, to its people!A fond adieu to the foreign troops, about to leave for their homes!

The writer is a former educator based in Chicago

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