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Fleeting moments

December 18, 2019

Resumption of talks


December 18, 2019

Once again, peace talks to end the apparently never-ending war in Afghanistan started in Doha. These talks have begun and broken off so often that people don’t take them seriously anymore.

While the US is desperate to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, the Afghan fighters are in no hurry to allow the superpower to withdraw at its own terms. The fighters have time on their side while the occupying force wants to cut the political and financial losses and quit the hostile land immediately.

About the invasion of Afghanistan two decades ago, Lt-Gen Douglas Lute has lately confessed: “We were devoid of fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing … we didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking”.

When watching a spectacle reminds you of anecdotes read elsewhere, the two must share a common denominator. In this instance, it’s the Humour in Uniform pieces one enjoyed reading in the good old Reader’s Digest. Now it’s a different kind of humour in uniform — not having ‘the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking’.

An elaborate report, ‘The Afghanistan Papers’, published in Washington Post shows how the US officials involved in the Afghanistan war told blatant lies to the American people for 20 years. How bitter facts were made palatable is evident by a paragraph of the report: “Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC officials said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in US troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy”. Consider the level of deception.

However, why have the mainstream US newspapers suddenly woken up to malign the government for its ill-planned invasion of Afghanistan? Why did the realisation take two decades, after a trillion dollars of taxpayer money has been sunk, thousands of troops killed and even more disabled for life? Add to it thousands more who returned from Afghanistan bearing psychological scars such as PTSD. Some of the mentally-disturbed went on killing sprees.

It’s incredible that the US government and its brass didn’t know what Afghanistan was like, before deploying troops and military hardware there. Didn’t the US learn enough about the land and its tenacious and unforgiving fighters when it fought a long proxy war against the Russians in the eighties? The Russians learned it in a decade and left without looking back but the invincible US have taken two decades to realise that Afghanistan is bad news. The Russians sunk their own roubles in the black hole; the Americans manipulated to wrest petrodollars from the Gulf States.

In his recent article ‘Lies Have Kept Us in Afghanistan. But the Truth May Not Set Us Free’ in the New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat compared the Afghanistan war with the Vietnam war. His revelation would matter only if the Times didn’t know the situation in Afghanistan before US invaded it in 2001. The NYT has a reputation for having a strong influence in formulating US government’s foreign and defence policies. It played a lead role in preparing the ground to attack Iraq by claiming that the Arab state possessed weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq was attacked and captured, and no WMDs found, NYT tendered a meek apology.

The truth is that the Afghanistan war has cost the US heavily both in men and material and paid nothing in return, unlike the overthrow of regimes in Iraq and Libya. If destroying WMDs was indeed the purpose of attacking Iraq, the US would have pulled its troops out of there when no lethal arsenal was found. On the contrary, thousands of US troops remain in Iraq to manipulate elections, prop up stooges to do US bidding and, of course, facilitate US companies to plunder oil.

Nevertheless, had the superpower considered the history of Afghanistan before attacking it, the war in the rocky land was lost the day it started. Nearing the end of two decades, the US situation there can be compared with that of a clever fox with its tail in the trap.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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