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Pushing Back the Date to Exit Afghanistan

Pushing Back the Date to Exit Afghanistan: U.S. Strategy to Wage Perpetual War?

By Sherwood Ross

The disclosure by McClatchy News Service Nov. 9th that President Barack Obama is “walking away” from his pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July, 2011, comes as no surprise. The Pentagon's tactics seem hardly designed to put a prompt end to the struggle but instead to inspire rebellion---prolonging the war. If those tactics were not chosen to achieve that end, they have certainly backfired! The bombings that have killed so many civilians, like the midnight raids on private homes, are only inflaming Afghan resistance. But their impact will be to brace record Pentagon spending, generate further billions in windfall profits for military-industrial arms dealers and outsourcing firms, and push oil prices ever higher.

Please don't take my word for the claim that the Pentagon's strategy is all wrong. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, America's good friend, told The Washington Post November 13th the U.S. “must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations, especially night raids that fuel anti-American sentiment and could embolden Taliban insurgents,” according to a summary of the Post's story by the Associated Press. “The time has come to reduce military reduce the presence in reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.” Karzai further told the Post that the nine-year-old war has taken too high a toll on the people of Afghanistan. He said the Taliban leaders also feel “the same as we do here---that too many people are suffering for no reason.” Karzai wants U.S. troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes: “I don't like it in any manner and the Afghan people don't like these raids in any manner.” He also said, “the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers will only make the war worse.”

Let's remember the U.S. has no right to war on Afghans in the first place. In an interview with the Sri Lanka Guardian on Feb. 11, 2009, activist philosopher Noam Chomsky termed the invasion “a major crime.” It came after the U.S. demanded the Afghans hand over Osama Bin Laden---or else. When Kabul asked for evidence of Obama's involvement in 9/11, the Bush regime couldn't provide any and the FBI later conceded there just wasn't any. President Bush attacked anyway. “I think Obama looks more aggressive and violent than Bush,” Chomsky said. “The first acts to occur under his administration were attacks on Afghanistan and in Pakistan, both of which killed many civilians and are building up support for the Taliban and terror.” In short, the Pentagon's bruising assaults only make a horrific situation worse. As The Nation magazine editorialized Nov. 15th, “The offensive creates more enemies than it kills. And despite the tripling Of US forces since 2009, it's clearer than ever that the war can't be won militarily. In fact, Taliban control over vast areas of Afghanistan has increased since Obama ordered the escalation.” The liberal magazine urged President Obama “to declare a cease-fire on US and NATO combat operations, halt the night raids by US Special Forces and stop the drone-fired missile attacks throughout the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.”

But who cares if Karzai wants to reduce U.S. troops? Not Defense Secy. Robert Gates. He said the Taliban are “going to be very surprised come August, September, October and November (of 2011) when most American forces are still there and still coming after them.” Not Vice President Joe Biden, who told author Jonathan Alter in “The Promise” that “In July of 2011 you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it.” Now Biden tells ABC News “It could be as few as a couple thousand troops. It could be more but there will be a transition.” (If you bet you lost.) Not Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative, who told reporters that 2011 would be only the start of the troop drawdown but the real date was 2014. “We would expect by then to have none or at least very few international forces out on the streets in combat operational roles,” he said. And The New York Times reported that the 2014 date has also surfaced in remarks by both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All have climbed on the bandwagon headed for at least three more years of fighting past 2011. “Implicit in their message,” The New York Times reported November 11th, “...was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.” What's more, if you examine Mr. Sedwill's comments, please notice he states NATO and the U.S. are going to keep a military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 in non-combat roles. Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told AP's Deb Riechmann Nov. 11, “NATO emissaries are still bargaining over exactly how many troops will remain after departure day and for what purposes. Details aside, the devastating truth is that U.S forces will be fighting in Afghanistan for at least four more years.”

If the war-weary American public is disheartened by President Obama's new deadline for departure, imagine the emotions of Afghans. The Project on Defense Alternatives, of Cambridge, Mass., estimated that in a 3-month period between October 7, 2001 and January 1, 2002, at least 1,000-1,300 civilians were directly killed in the rain of U.S. bombs. The UK Guardian newspaper estimated that as many as 20,000 Afghans died in 2001 alone as an indirect result of the initial U.S. bombing and ground invasion. And McClatchy News cites a United Nations report this past August that showed civilian casualties rose 31 percent during the first half of the year compared with 2009. President Obama, who calls himself an admirer of the Rev. Martin Luther King, has their blood on his hands. There is no doubt, however, that Rev. King would have opposed U.S. fighting in today's illegal wars as he outspokenly opposed the war in Viet Nam.

Americans must consider the possibility that when candidate Obama conveyed the impression he favored withdrawing U.S. troops in 2011 that that perhaps was never his real intention at all. This president may not be a captive of the CIA but he is a former CIA employee and enables the CIA's role in the Middle East. The CIA has long worked hand-in-glove with U.S. and British oil firm interests in the region, dating back to its 1953 overthrow of an Iranian president who nationalized his country's oil industry. Mr. Obama, it should be recalled, worked as an employee for a CIA “front” organization in 1983, the Business International Corp., and a report (still unrefuted) in The Rock Creek Free Press of Washington, D.C., has established that both the president's parents, as well as a grandmother, were all CIA employees. Moreover, Mr. Obama's Justice Department declines to prosecute CIA employees who tortured Arab prisoners and obstructed justice when they destroyed filmed evidence of those crimes. Additionally, in retaining Mr. Gates as Secretary of Defense, the president has in that powerful post a counselor who formerly headed the CIA itself. In sum, if the president is not listening to the voice of the American people who believe the Afghan war was a mistake and who want out, and if he is not listening to the president of Afghanistan, “Who is he listening to?”, and “Why?” #


(Sherwood Ross formerly worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and as a columnist for several major wire services. He currently directs the Anti-War News Service. To contribute to this service or to comment reach him at


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