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Afghanistan: America's Shameful War

US airstrike on Afghanistan.

US airstrike on Afghanistan.  (Photo: Domenico/Flickr/cc)

An ancient Hindu prayer says, ‘Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’

The United States, champion of freedom and self-determination, is now in its 18th year of colonial war in Afghanistan. This miserable, stalemated conflict is America’s longest and most shameful war. So far it has cost over $1 trillion and killed no one knows how many Afghans.

This conflict began in 2001 on a lie: namely that Afghanistan was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US. These attacks were planned in Europe and the US, not Afghanistan, and apparently conducted (official version) by anti-American Saudi extremists. This writer remains unconvinced by the official versions.

We still don’t know if Osama bin Laden instigated the attacks. He was murdered rather than brought to trial. Dead men tell no tales. However, Mullah Omar, leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, told my late friend journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave that bin Laden was not involved in 9/11. Who benefited? Certainly not the Afghans. They have been at war for the past 40 years.

As I wrote in my first book, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribal majority were fierce fighters and were incredibly brave. Their Taliban movement was a tribal-nationalist-Islamist force devoted to fighting communism, drug dealing and foreign influence. Taliban stamped out the Afghan opium trade and had just about crushed the drug-dealing Russian-backed Tajik northern alliance – until the US invaded in 2001. The Afghan drug lords quickly became US allies and remain so today. 

Taliban was not a ‘terrorist movement,’ as western war propaganda falsely claimed. Twenty years earlier their fathers were hailed ‘freedom fighters’ by President Ronald Reagan when they were fighting Soviet occupation. Taliban’s Pashtun warriors wanted all foreigners out of their nation and the right to run their own affairs according to Islamic principles.

The US has savaged Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries. US B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers are razing tribal villages, predator killer drones attack most road movement, US-paid Afghan puppet forces, many former Communists, routinely torture and murder. All this while the US-installed yes-man regime in Kabul does nothing to halt massive drug dealing and human rights abuses.

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In fact, dealing in opium and morphine is the primary business of Afghanistan. This cash crop could not be exported to Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia without the connivance of the Kabul regime and its US military protectors. When the full truth about the war is finally written, the US will be in the deepest shame over involvement in the drug trade.

Washington, which has done as much as the former Soviet invaders to ravage Afghanistan, has no clear idea what to do next. President Trump announced withdrawal of some of the 14,000 US troops (and large numbers of mercenaries) from Afghanistan. But then the pro-war neocons at State and the Pentagon sought to veto the president’s statement. Meanwhile, desultory talks are droning on in Doha, Qatar, between the US and Taliban, led by the US ‘special envoy’ (read proconsul) Zalmay Khalilzad, a neocon who played an important role in promoting the invasion of Iraq. 

Why is the US still at war in Afghanistan after 18 years? First, because the politicians and generals involved won’t accept responsibility for a defeat and its huge cost. There is nothing more wasteful than a lost war. Second, because imperial-minded circles want to keep bases in Afghanistan to menace China, Iran and Pakistan. There are huge profits to be made from this endless war with its $400 per gallon gasoline trucked in from Karachi and 24-hour on call air support. Plus the bases and fleet that support the war and promotion for the senior officers involved.

To keep this useless war against lightly armed Pashtun tribesmen going, the US must massively bribe Pakistan to maintain the military’s supply routes into that isolated nation. The absurd waste of US money in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been fully documented by the US government’s audit agencies.

President Trump is right to talk about ending this ignoble conflict. But the neocon fifth column he has foolishly helped install keeps thwarting his aspirations. 

Trump should order the fighting ended and all US troops out of Afghanistan within 90 days. End US involvement in the drug trade. Tell India to butt out of Afghanistan. That would be statesmanship. Afghanistan must be allowed to return to its former obscurity.

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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