Having nearly provoked war over Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia, the Obama administration has now launched a full-scale crusade in Iraq and Syria against the evil Saracens of ISIS.
America’s aerial might, including B-1 heavy bombers, is plastering ISIS miscreants. Washington’s Arab allies and rightwing governments in Canada and Australia have joined the fray. The British will be next.
ISIS reserved particular venom for the French, referring to them as “dirty, spiteful” French (the Brits will love this one) whose warplanes joined the bombing crusade.
The new plan seems to be: “Kill’em all and let God sort them out,” a Vietnam-era slogan echoing the original from the Middle Ages.
The real problem is that the White House’s strategy looks like it’s being run by two angry women, Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power. Neither they nor President Barack Obama seems to have any grasp of military or geopolitical strategy. It’s amateur hour driven by a frenzy of alarmist hysteria from politicians and the media.
Iran’s president put it perfectly when he called America’s new Syria-Iraq a “blunder,” adding “certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hands of madmen, who now spare no one.”
While the US is cooking up a new, bigger mess in the Levant, the old mess in Afghanistan only gets worse. Last week, Washington’s colonial bureau finally managed to cobble together a political deal in Afghanistan between two rivals for the presidency, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
Ashraf Ghani is Washington’s choice for president; Abdullah will act as ‘chief executive,’ a sort newly created role of prime minister sure to break down. To no surprise, they are expected to quickly sign an agreement to keep 25,000 US and NATO troops in Afghanistan for years to come.
Outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai, installed in office by the CIA soon after the 2001 US invasion, loosed a Parthian shaft at his former American allies, asserting they did not want peace in Afghanistan, rather ongoing occupation.
Karzai, who has emerged as a genuine nationalist, has stated that the only thing the US and its allies accomplished in Afghanistan was to kill large numbers of civilians.
Over in Iraq, former prime minister Nouri Maliki, another CIA-installed “asset,” also refused to sign a pact allowing long-term garrisoning by US troops. So out he went. Now Karazi joins Maliki, recalling Henry Kissinger’s quip that it’s more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy.
The US may shuffle the deck in Afghanistan, but its basic problems remain. Ghani, a former academic and banker, is a decent person, but he is far too westernized, has little support among majority Pashtuns, and is widely seen as a willing American collaborator and sock puppet.
His erstwhile rival, Abdullah Abdullah, is the front-man for the Northern Alliance, a Tajik gang from the Panjshir Valley that was a Soviet ally when Moscow occupied Afghanistan.
The Uzbek warlord, Rashid Dostam, a major war criminal and Soviet collaborator, joined the Northern Alliance and became its strongman.
The Northern Alliance collaborated with the US after its invasion, just as Tajiks and Uzbeks had done with the Soviets. Afghanistan’s communists gained control of the brutal national intelligence service, interior ministry, police and foreign affairs. But their main business remained narcotics.
Taliban virtually eliminated Afghanistan’s drug trade save in the region controlled by the Northern Alliance. Today, Afghanistan’s drug production and exports have reached what the UN calls “record highs.”
The US remains the proud owner of the world’s leading producer of heroin. The drug lords that kept Karzai in power are all close US allies. But no one in Washington cares to talk about the dirty underside of Afghan politics or how its government runs on drug money. Foreign aid is the only other source of government income.
Most Pashtuns detest the suave Abdullah Abdullah and his fellow Tajiks. For their part, Tajiks look down on Pashtun as backwards mountaineers. Everyone mistrusts the minority Uzbek and Hazara, both of whom also collaborated with the US occupation or Iran.
Taliban, Afghanistan’s most popular and authentic political movement, is predominantly Pashtun. Washington’s refusal to talk directly to the demonized Taliban ensures that there will be no real political compromise in wretched Afghanistan, which has been at war for the past 35 years.
The half-forgotten Afghan War has cost the US close to 2,500 dead, 17,000 wounded and over $1 trillion. The “reconstructed” Afghan army will be as likely to collapse without direct US support as was Iraq’s army, three divisions of which ran away at first contact with ISIS fighters.
So why does Washington keep pumping billions into Afghanistan, which has no oil? Because, in keeping with imperial logic and strategy, it remains the best pipeline route to export the oil riches of the Caspian Basin south to Karachi on the Arabian Sea. And because Afghanistan overwatches Central Asia, where China is increasingly active.
Lastly, because the mighty US military industrial complex cannot accept being defeated by Pashtun tribesmen. Nor can the American, Canadian, British and French politicians who sent their soldiers to fight and die in this useless war.