Afghanistan: The Longest Lost War

by James Petras / June 16th, 2010

Despite almost a decade of warfare, including an invasion and
occupation, the US military and its allies and client state armed forces
are losing the war in Afghanistan. Outside of the central districts of
a few cities and the military fortresses, the Afghan national
resistance forces, in all of their complex local, regional and national
alliances, are in control, of territory, people and administration.

The prolonged unending war has become a major drain on the
morale of the US armed forces and undermined civilian support in the US,
limiting the capacity of the White House to launch new imperial wars.
The annual multi-billion dollar military expenditures, are exacerbating
the out-of-control budget deficit and forcing harsh unpopular cuts on
social programs, at all levels of government. There is no end in sight,
as the Obama regime keeps increasing the number of troops by the tens
of thousands and military expenditures by the dozens of billions but the
resistance advances, both military and politically.

Faced with rising popular discontent and demands for fiscal
restraint by a wide spectrum of banking and citizen groups, Obama and
the general command have sought “partial exit” via the recruitment and
training of a large scale long term Afghan mercenary army and police
force under the direction of US and NATO officers.

The US Strategy: The Making of an Afghan Neocolony

Between 2001-2010 the US military expenditures total $428
billion dollars; the colonial occupation has led to over 7,228 dead and
wounded as of June 1, 2010. As the US military situation deteriorates,
the White House escalates the number of troops resulting in a greater
number of killed and wounded. During the past 18 months of the Obama
regime more soldiers were killed or wounded than in the previous eight

The White House and Pentagon strategy is premised on massive
flows of money, arms and an increase in the number of surrogates, mainly
subsidized warlords and puppet western educated ex-pats. The White
House “development aid” involves, literally, purchasing the transient
loyalties of clan leaders. The White House attempts to give a veneer of
legitimacy by running elections, which enhance the corrupt image of the
incumbent puppet regime in Kabul and its regional associates.

On the military front, the Pentagon launches one “offensive”
after another, announcing one success after another, followed by a
retreat and return of the Resistance fighters. The US campaigns disrupt
trade, agricultural harvests and markets, while the air assaults
targeting “Taliban” and militants, more frequently than not end up
killing more civilians celebrating weddings, religious holidays and
shoppers at markets than combatants. The reason for the high percentage
of civilian killings is clear to everyone except the US Generals:
there are no distinctions between “militants” and millions of Afghan
civilians since the former are an integral part of their communities.

The key and ultimately decisive problem facing the US
occupation is that it is a colonial enclave in the midst of a colonized
people. The US, its local puppets and its NATO allies are a foreign
colonial army and its Afghan military and police recruits are seen as
mere instruments perpetuating illegitimate rule. Every action, whether
violent or benign, is perceived and interpreted as transgressing the
norms and historical legacies of a proud and independent people. In
everyday life, every move by the occupation is disruptive; nothing moves
except by command of the foreign directed military and police. Under
threat of force, people fake co-operation and then provide assistance to
their fathers, brothers and sons in the Resistance. The recruits take
the money and turn their arms over to the Resistance. The paid village
informants are double agents or identified by their neighbors and
targeted by insurgents.

The Afghan collaborators, Washington’s closest allies, are seen
as corrupt traitors; transient rulers who have their bags packed and US
passports in hand, ready to flee when the US is forced to exit. All
the programs, “reconstruction” funds, training missions and “civic
programs” have failed to win the allegiance of the Afghan people, now as
in the past as well as in the future, because they are seen as part of
the US military occupation ultimately based on violence.

Ten Reasons Why the Afghan Resistance Will Win

1. The Resistance has deep roots in the population – family
community, linguistic and cultural ties which the US does not possess
nor can “invent”; nor can these ties be bought, traded or replicated by
their Afghan ‘collaborators’ or imposed by propaganda.
2. The Resistance has fluid borders and broad international
support especially with Pakistan but also with other anti-imperialist,
Islamic groups who provide arms and volunteers and who engage in
actively attacking the logistical transport supply lines of US-NATO
military in Pakistan. They also pressure overseas US client regimes
like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia opening multiple
3. Widespread infiltration, voluntary, active and passive
support of the Resistance among the US recruited and trained Afghan
military and police results in crucial intelligence on troop movements.
Desertions and absenteeism undermines “military competence”.
4. The scope and breadth of Resistance activity over extends
the imperial armies at its current strength and causes it to
rely on unreliable Afghan security, who have no stomach for killing
their brethren, especially when directed against communities with
relatives or ethnic kin.
5. Resistance allies are more loyal, less corrupt and reliable
because of deeply shared beliefs. US allies are loyal only because of
ephemeral monetary gratification and the temporary presence of US
military force.
6. The Resistance appeals to the people in the name of a return
to law and order
in everyday life, which preceded the disruptive
invasion. The US promise of positive outcomes following a successful
war, have no popular resonance after a decade long destructive
7. The US has no belief system that can compete with the
religious-nationalist-traditionalist appeal of the Resistance to the
vast majority of village, small town and displaced rural population.
8. The Resistance’s support of Iraqi, Palestinian and other
anti-imperialist forces has a positive appeal among the Afghan people
who have seen the destructive results of US wars in Iraq and proxy wars
in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The US backed Israeli assault of
Lebanon and the humanitarian ship destined for Palestine and the highly
visible presence of Zionist militants in the US government, repels the
more politically aware opinion leaders in Afghanistan.
9. Afghans have, by force of circumstances, longer staying
power in resisting the US military occupation, than the US people who
have other, far more pressing needs and the US military with growing
commitments in the Gulf.
10. The Afghan Resistance does not normally kill civilians in
combat missions since the US troops and NATO are clearly identified.
Whereas, the opposite is not true. The Afghans who are part of the
villages in occupied communities are subject to assassinations by
“Special Forces” and drone bombings. In these circumstances ordinary
people suffer the same military assaults as Resistance fighters.

A Failed Mission: The Incapacity to Build a Reliable,
Effective Afghan Mercenary Army

A US government audit published in late June of this year
demolished the Obama regime’s claims that it is succeeding in building
an effective Afghan mercenary army and police capable of buttressing the
current client regime in Kabul. The Report, based on a detailed
analysis and field observations argues that the Obama Pentagon relies on
“standards [which are] woefully inadequate, inflating the abilities of
Afghan units that Mr. Obama called “core to our mission.”1 In other words,
Obama continues to play the con game, which he inaugurated during his
electoral campaign with his phony promises of ‘change’ and “ending the
wars”, and continued with his bail out of Wall Street in the name of
‘saving the economy’. He followed up by escalating the war in
Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops and increasing military and
police expenditures to $325.5 billion, approximately 132% higher than
the last year of the Bush Administration.2

The Obama regime’s phony claims of progress were based on
self-serving bureaucratic and technical criteria, rather than
the actual fighting performance and behavior of the Afghan mercenary
army. The military command’s reports and progress reports were based on
how many courses were taught, the length and breadth of training and
the amount and quality of arms and equipment supplied to the Afghan
troops. As the number of Afghan units passing the “training missions”
increased from zero to 22, between 2008-2009, the Pentagon claimed
extraordinary progress. To correct the errors, the Pentagon has turned
to “field assessments by commanders” – which is also failing, since the
officials have a vested interest in inflating the performance of the
Afghans mercenaries under their command in order to secure promotions
and merit badges. The Obama regime plans to increase the Afghan military
from 97,000 in November 2009 to 134,000 in October 2010, to 171,000 in
October 2011 a 75% increase in two years.3 The
same increase occurs with the police: from 93,800 in November 2009 to
134,000 in October 2011 a 43% increase.

Obama’s claim that the war is gradually being handed over
to the US “trained” Afghan army is fully belied by two other basic
facts. The White House has requested $1.9 billion – double the 2009
level under Bush – for military construction of new bases and
for a “long term presence” (which the con-man Obama
claims does not mean a “permanent presence”). Secondly, using the
familiar double-talk of the Obama regime, Secretary of Defense Gates and
Admiral Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff now argue that
Obama’s campaign promise of beginning the retirement of troops in July
2010 really means “a day we start transitioning … not a date we’re
leaving”, which would be based on “conditions on the ground … a several
year process” (Gates Testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee,
December 2, 2009). In plain English “transitioning” is not “leaving”.
It means staying, fighting and occupying Afghanistan for decades. It
means adding more troops, building more bases. It means spending another
$400 billion over the next 5 years. And it means doubling the number
of American soldiers killed and wounded over the next 3 years, from over
seven thousand to fourteen thousand.

The criteria of ‘success’ in Afghanizing the war is
belied by the growing Americanizing of the bases, combat troops
and expenditures. The reason is that the Afghan army figures are as
phony as Obama’s promises. The number of US personnel is growing
because the Afghan political puppets are so corrupt, ineffective and
despised by their people that Washington has to surround them with
“monitors”, “advisers” and “operatives” who in turn are totally
incapable of relating to the needs and practices of the communities.
Increased US “aid” has led to greater corruption, more unfulfilled
promises and greater animosity from the would be popular recipients.

The fundamental problem is that this is an American war
and that is why Afghan units suffer a 50% reduction of strength due to
at a minimum, a 20% desertion rate, admitted by US military officials.4 In other words, the
Afghan recruits, take the money and their arms and return to their
villages, neighborhoods, families, and perhaps not a few, use their
military training, joining with the National Resistance. With such high
levels of disaffection among Afghan recruits and even officials it is
not surprising that the Resistance has such high quality intelligence on
US troop movements. Given the degree of disaffection it is not
surprising that some of the US intelligence collaborators are double
agents or vulnerable to exposure and execution. Faced with a billion
dollar recruitment program with high rates of desertion and the “turning
of guns on their mentors,” the White House, Pentagon and Congress
refuse to recognize the reality that the imperial occupations is the
source of the resistance of almost the whole people. Instead they call
for more trainees, more funds for “training programs”, more
“transparent” mercenary contractors.

The reality is that with a bigger American occupation,
with escalating military expenditures, the Resistance is growing,
surrounding the major cities, targeting meetings in the center of Kabul
and rocketing the biggest US military bases around the country. It is
clear that the US has lost the war politically and is in the process of
losing it militarily.

Despite the most advanced military technology, the
drones, the Special Forces, the increase in the number of trainees,
advisers, NGOers and the building of more military bases, the Resistance
is winning. The White House by adding to the millions of displaced and
murdered and maimed Afghans is increasing the hostility of the vast
majority of the Afghans. Civilian killings are turning more and more of
their military recruits into deserters and “unreliable” soldiers. Some
of whom are ‘turned’ into committed combatants for the ‘other side’.
As in Indo-China, Algeria and elsewhere, a popular, highly motivated
guerrilla resistance army, deeply embedded in the national-religious
culture of an oppressed population is proving more resistant, enduring
and victorious over an alien high tech imperial army. Obama’s ‘rule or
ruin’ Afghan War, sooner rather than later, will ruin America and end
his shameful presidency.

  1. Financial
    , June 7, 2010, p1. []
  2. Congressional Research Service,
    FY 2010 Supplemental for Wars … June 2010. []
  3. Congressional Research Service
    2010, p 13. []
  4. Congressional Research, p.14. []

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at
Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class
struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and
Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed
Books). Petras’ most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the
Decline of US Power
(Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: Read other articles
by James
, or visit James’s

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