THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
June 13, 2011
The Guardian (UK)

Secret US and Afghanistan Talks Could See Troops Stay for Decades

Russia, China and India concerned about 'strategic partnership' in which Americans would remain after 2014

by Jason Burke

American and Afghan officials are locked in increasingly acrimonious secret talks about a long-term security agreement which is likely to see US troops, spies and air power based in the troubled country for decades.

Though not publicised, negotiations have been under way for more than a month to secure a strategic partnership agreement which would include an American presence beyond the end of 2014 - the agreed date for all 130,000 combat troops to leave - despite continuing public debate in Washington and among other members of the 49-nation coalition fighting in Afghanistan about the speed of the withdrawal.

American officials admit that although Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, recently said Washington did not want any "permanent" bases in Afghanistan, her phrasing allows a variety of possible arrangements. . . .

There are at least five bases in Afghanistan which are likely candidates to house large contingents of American special forces, intelligence operatives, surveillance equipment and military hardware post-2014. . . .

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9/11 Unveiled "Military Bases in Afghanistan," militarybases.com

Larry Everest, "Afghanistan: A War for Empire," counterpunch.org, October 17, 2008

John Barry and Evan Thomas, "Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam," Newsweek, January 9, 2009

Dana Visalli, "What I Learned in Afghanistan - About the United States," LewRockwell.com, May 6, 2010

Nick Davies and David Leigh, "Massive Leak of Secret Files Exposes Truth of Occupation," Guardian, July 25, 2010

"U.S. Escalates Afghanistan, Pakistan Wars," The Wisdom Fund, October 16, 2010

Enver Masud, "Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India Agree to Support TAPI Pipeline," The Wisdom Fund, December 13, 2010

[In sum, the SCO continues to insist that it does not aspire to be a "NATO of the East" or a military alliance. On the other hand, it is set on making NATO (and Pax Americana) simply irrelevant to an entire landmass, which with the induction of India and Pakistan will account for more than half of mankind.

. . . It now becomes the common position of Russia, China and the Central Asian states that they disfavor the establishment of any permanent US and/or NATO military presence in Afghanistan.

The SCO declaration comes at a time when the US is actively discussing a strategic partnership agreement with the government headed by President Hamid Karzai. Thus, it is a point of interest that Karzai himself was at Astana when the SCO declaration was formally approved.--M K Bhadrakumar, "SCO steps out of Central Asia," atimes.com, June 18, 2011]

[Asserting that the country that served as a launching pad for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks no longer represented a terrorist threat to the United States, Mr. Obama, in remarks prepared for delivery at 8 p.m. from the East Room of the White House, announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 "surge" of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country.--Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, "Obama Orders Troop Cuts in Afghanistan," nytimes.com, June 22, 2011]

Stephen Lendman, "Permanent US Iraq and Afghanistan Occupations Planned," veteranstoday.com, June 24, 2011

[The lesson from that bogus history is that the United States should remain in Afghanistan indefinitely because to depart prematurely would invite greater danger in the future.

It may be understandable why neoconservatives would push such malarkey - and why Defense Secretary Gates and other government hardliners would be tempted to use the made-up chronology to convince gullible journalists about the need to stay the course - but their "history" is a fabrication (as Gates well knows).

The simple truth is that the last end game in Afghanistan was messed up not because the United States left too soon but because it stayed too long.--Robert Parry, "The Lie Behind the Afghan War," consortiumnews.com, June 24, 2011]

Jonathan Owen, David Randall, Jane Merrick and Rupert Cornwell, "What has the war in Afghanistan really achieved?," Independent, June 26, 2011

[The sound of that Chinook CH-47 transport helicopter shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, on Friday, killing 38 people - including 19 US Navy SEALs and seven Afghan commandos - was the full digital sound of the empire being shocked and awed into disbelief, no matter Pentagon efforts to practically order the media "not to read too much" into the crash.

Wardak - along with neighboring Logar - is now prime Talibanistan real estate. They are entrenched, know the terrain in detail and even have time to prepare complex operations. On top of it, the Taliban are "making progress" (Pentagon jargon) not only in their public relations skills and in adapting new weapons to the battlefield, but also in the mechanics of delivering a major psychological blow to the Western occupying forces. . . .

It's astonishing (or maybe not) that the Washington power elite simply does not register how the empire was mercilessly downgraded by the Taliban over this past month. The Taliban killed President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, drug lord and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Ahmad Wali. They killed people at his funeral. They killed Karzai's head of tribal relations and a member of parliament. And they killed the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Hamidi.--Pepe Escobar, "US shocked and awed by the Taliban," atimes.com, Aug 10, 2011]

[America and Afghanistan are close to signing a strategic pact which would allow thousands of United States troops to remain in the country until at least 2024--Ben Farmer, "US troops may stay in Afghanistan until 2024," atimes.com, Aug 19, 2011]

[His list of why "the grand strategy" is a total wreck is also long: getting in with no thought of getting out; lack of consistency and continuous mission creep; disunity of military and political commands; governing an unruly Western military by a civilian ineptness that did not know "the difference between a tornado and a torpedo"; diverting resources to Iraq; unwillingness to co-opt the neighbors; poor choice of local allies who became more of a problem than a solution; relying on self-centered military in a vacuum of indigenous institutions for development; and what can be stated as "hubris hovering above misery", not his words, to create a corruption-prone environment: the $125 billion annual expenditures by the Empire, dwarfed but not uplifted the $800 million self-generated revenue of the Afghan state while the American Generals were free to dole out $750 million annually -- that total lopsidedness in cash-disbursement nourished the "narco-mafias whom the Taliban originally targeted when they took power in the mid-1990s." "Most tragically of all," he adds, was the hasty intervention and not waiting for the outcome of the jirga, summoned by the Taliban in October 2001, "to decide how to respond to American demands that Osama bin Laden and those responsible for the 9/11 be handed over."--Abderrahman Ulfat, "Comments on 'Cables From Kabul' By Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles," The Wisdom Fund, August 24, 2011]

[The American rhetoric often spoke of a Great Central Asia strategy aimed at rolling back Russian and Chinese influence in that region by bringing it closer to the Indian market. By deciding instead to work with Russia and China and the Central Asian countries within a regional framework, India has made a significant policy decision. The diplomatic challenge now will be to put in place the underpinning to galvanise India's economic ties with Central Asia once the SCO membership gains traction. This underpinning principally involves robust ties with Iran and pressing ahead imaginatively with the normalisation process with Pakistan.--M K Bhadrakumar, "Getting the regional act together," thehindu.com, August 27, 2011]

[United States Special Operations Forces (SOF) have been increasingly aiming their night-time raids, which have been the primary cause of Afghan anger at the US military presence, at civilian non-combatants in order to exploit their possible intelligence value, according to a new study published by the Open Society Foundation and The Liaison Office.--Gareth Porter, "US night raids 'aimed at Afghan civilians'," atimes.com, September 22, 2011]

"Afghanistan and Iraq wars not worth fighting, say a third of US veterans," Guardian, October 5, 2011

[Ten years ago, . . . Recognising defeat, the Taliban wanted to talk peace: a formal surrender, the transfer of vehicles and weapons, an end to fighting in Kandahar, all in return for assurances their leaders could be able to return to their villages. That night Obaidullah sent bread for Karzai, in a gesture of conciliation. In retrospect, it was a tantalising opportunity for a smooth post-Taliban transition and, perhaps, a novel political dispensation. But it wasn't to be. Furious after the 9/11 attacks, the US war machine pursued the Taliban hard. Karzai, the new leader, acquiesced. And the Taliban leadership slunk across the border into Pakistan to lick their wounds and plan the resurgence that is racking the country today.--Declan Walsh, "Afghanistan is losing time for a peaceful solution - and the Taliban know it," Guardian, October 6, 2011]

[After ten years of war costing at least $450 billion, 1,600 dead and 15,000 seriously wounded soldiers, the US has achieved none of its strategic or political goals.

Each US soldier in Afghanistan costs $1 million per annum. CIA employs 80,000 mercenaries there, cost unknown. The US spends a staggering $20.2 billion alone annually air conditioning troop quarters in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The most damning assessment comes from the US-installed Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai: America's war has been "ineffective, apart from causing civilian casualties."

Washington's goal was a favorable political settlement producing a pacified Afghan state run by a regime totally responsive to US political, economic and strategic interests; a native sepoy army led by white officers; and US bases that threaten Iran, watch China, and control the energy-rich Caspian Basin.

All the claims made about fighting "terrorism and al-Qaida," liberating Afghan women and bringing democracy are pro-war window dressing. CIA chief Leon Panetta admitted there were no more than 25-50 al-Qaida members in Afghanistan. Why are there 150,000 US and NATO troops there?

Washington's real objective was clearly defined in 2007 by US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher: to "stabilize Afghanistan so it can become a conduit and hub between South and Central Asia - so energy can flow south."

The Turkmenistan-Afghan-Pakistan TAPI gas pipeline that the US has sought since 1998 is finally nearing completion. But whether it can operate in the face of sabotage remains to be seen.--Eric Margolis, "Afghanistan: Ten Years of Aimless War," ericmargolis.com, October 8, 2011]

[Loya jirgas are called rarely - fewer than 20 have been held in the past 300 years of Afghan history. And they were probably never called to sanctify the bonding of an Afghan ruler with a foreign power. . . .

Karzai can now claim he has a mandate from the Afghan nation even if parliament were to refuse to ratify the Afghan-US strategic pact.--M K Bhadrakumar, "Karzai skates on thin ice," atimes.com, November 22, 2011]

[Therefore, when Mohaqiq speaks to Reuters, it merits attention. No one knows the true colours of the Taliban better than he would. And no one has higher stakes than him in the forthcoming peace talks with the Taliban. . . .

There is much to be said in favour of the initiative taken by US congressman Dana Rohrabacher. A parliamentary system based on proportional representation provides the check and balance preventing an outright Taliban takeover.--M K Bhadrakumar, "An agenda for Afghan peace talks," rediff.com, February 1, 2012]

Jim Lobe, "Rants and raves for new US pullout plan," atimes.com, February 4, 2012

[The American military in Afghanistan doesn't want to talk about it, but one day soon, it will be a new hub for the American drone war in the Greater Middle East.--Nick Turse, "The Pentagon's Afghan Basing Plans for Prisons, Drones, and Black Ops: 405 Bases and It's Not Over Yet," counterpunch.org, February 13, 2012]

[I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level. . . .

A January 2011 report by the Afghan NGO Security Office noted that public statements made by U.S. and ISAF leaders at the end of 2010 were "sharply divergent from IMF, . . . 'strategic communication' messages suggesting improvements. We encourage [nongovernment organization personnel] to recognize that no matter how authoritative the source of any such claim, messages of the nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal, and are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here."--Daniel L. Davis, "Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down," armedforcesjournal.com, February 2012]

[The final document is likely to be short on specifics. . . . In Afghanistan, the agreement will have to be approved by parliament.--Heidi Vogt, "US, Afghanistan reach deal on strategic pact," google.com, April 22, 2012]

[U.S. commits to support Afghanistan's social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation for 10 years, through 2024.--"Highlights of US-Afghanistan strategic partnership deal signed by Obama and Karzai," washingtonpost.com, May 1, 2012]

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