War Won With Talks, Not Troops

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the Toronto Sun

War Won With Talks, Not Troops

The answer to ending conflict in Afghanistan does not lie in guns and money

The U.S. and its NATO allies are losing the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan. So Washington and London, both in dire financial straits, say they are now ready for a possible face-saving peace deal with the Pashtun Taliban and its nationalist allies.

If you can't bomb them into submission, buy them off.

A conference was held in London last Thursday to raise tens of millions of dollars to try to bribe lower level Taliban to co-operate with the western occupation and/or lay down its arms.

Bribery is a time-honoured tool of war. But it's not the answer in Afghanistan.

The bloody Afghan conflict can only be ended by genuine peace negotiations and withdrawal of all foreign troops.

U.S. commanders in Afghanistan admit they have lost the military initiative.

The resistance is steadily gaining ground. Increasing U.S. and allied troops to 150,000 won't be enough to defeat Taliban.

By year end, U.S. and NATO forces will only equal the number of Soviet forces committed to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Meanwhile Pakistan, without whose co-operation the U.S. cannot wage war in Afghanistan, is in turmoil.

The U.S. is infiltrating Xe (formerly Blackwater) and DynCorp mercenaries into Pakistan to protect U.S. military supply routes north from Karachi to Afghanistan, and to operate or defend American air bases in Pakistan.

American mercenaries are being used to assassinate militants and enemies of Pakistan's U.S.-installed government and to target Pakistan's nuclear installations for future U.S. action.

This, and increasing attacks by American killer drones, have sparked outrage across Pakistan and brought warnings of creeping U.S. occupation.

U.S. and Canadian forces in Afghanistan are like a man trying to fix a chimney on the roof of a burning house. As Pakistan burns, so will Afghanistan.

Washington lacks the men, money and understanding to deal with chaotic Pakistan - never mind chaotic Afghanistan.

Washington, London, Ottawa, Berlin and Paris share the same problem: Their war propaganda has so demonized Taliban as terrorists and woman abusers that western politicians are petrified to deal with the tribal movement, and risk being accused of sending soldiers to their deaths in a futile war.

The far right will howl "appeasement," "giving in to terrorism" and "betraying our boys."

Ignore the advocates of permanent war and torture. Afghans have suffered more than 3 million deaths in 30 years of wars. They desperately need peace, political stability and rebuilding, not the current western-installed puppet regime of thieving war lords, drug mafias and thugs of the old Afghan Communist Party.

The best thing we can do for our soldiers is to get them out of the Afghan hell hole before they die in this pointless war.

The west can't "win" in Afghanistan. In fact, Washington cannot even define what victory means. The intelligent, straight-talking American ambassador to Kabul, former general Karl Eikenberry, as well as VP Joe Biden insist it's time to start peace talks. We should heed their sensible advice.

Real peace talks are the answer. Not the ruse long proposed by U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to try to bribe away low-ranking Taliban and so split the Afghan resistance. This stratagem worked to a degree with Sunni tribesmen in Iraq, but it is unlikely to succeed with the proud Pashtun tribes who value honour more than money. Theirs is an antique concept most westerners cannot understand.

The Taliban, an anti-Communist religious movement, knew nothing about al-Qaida's plans to attack the United States.

That plot was hatched in Europe, not Afghanistan. Many members of the anti-Communist Taliban and its allies were former allies of the West and were hailed by former president Ronald Reagan as "freedom fighters."

After 9/11, the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the enraged United States without proper evidence of his guilt because he was an honoured guest and hero of the anti-Soviet jihad.

The Taliban chose war with the U.S. before betraying a guest. Such men are not to be easily bought.

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

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