In early October, the world commemorated the 17th anniversary of the American invasion of Afghanistan. As it’s been pointed out by the Hill, it’s been a tragic failure from the get-go, but for reasons few people understand.
Those countries that sent their troops in the early 2000s to Afghanistan to destroy hotbeds of terrorism, exile the Taliban and ensure a lasting peace are now forced to recognize that the security situation is deteriorating rapidly in this Central Asian state. While the better part of Afghan territories are formally controlled by the government, certain key junctions are under constant attack by the Taliban. To make matters worse, all of the sins that have been plaguing this country for decades still persist to this very day. Among them is chaotic mismanagement, as the country is governed by two leaders playing against each other, namely Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani and the sitting prime minister Abdullah Abdullah. Further still, there’s the growing weakness of Afghan security forces; rampant corruption and massive drug trafficking.
Moreover, US military instructors have found out last year that Afghan security forces are shrinking rapidly, with the number of police and military officers showing an 11% decline. And this trend occurs in spite of the fact that the United States, if the statement made by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko, is to be believed, perceives the build up of Afghan security forces to be its top priority.
To make matters worse still, US military and intelligence officials are at odds over the direction of the war in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal. The majority of the countless intelligence agencies that the US has is said to be moderately pessimistic about the prospects of putting an end to all hostilities in Afghanistan. In turn, the United States Air Force is moderately optimistic, as its officials are confident that the US strategy for Afghanistan is yielding results.
Washington got itself stuck in Afghanistan back in 2001, and the total costs of this war has already exceeded 680 billion dollars, according to the Pentagon. The US Defense Department’s top Asia official has recently told US Senate lawmakers that the war in Afghanistan will cost 45 billion dollars this year, which is twice the amount of money required to provide all homeless people across the US with decent accommodation.
Over the course of the Afghan campaign, about 2,350 American servicemen perished, while well over 20,000 more received injuries. It’s been pointed out that the Pentagon’s failed campaign in Afghanistan left a generation of soldiers with little to fight for but with one another.
On September 2, General Austin Scott Miller officially assumed command of all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. However, this appointment did not alter the US strategy for Afghanistan in any way, which leads to a steadily growing number of tragic consequences for the Afghan people in a war that has been raging on for almost two decades. We’ve witnessed a new series of so-called erroneous strikes by NATO forces in Afghanistan, with an extensive amount of “collateral damage” dealt to the population of the country. Such strikes have become a daily occurrence in this Central Asian state for some time now, with every second strike resulting in civilian casualties.
In the period from January 1 to September 30 of this year alone, a total of 8,050 civilians fell victims of NATO activities in Afghanistan, with 2,798 perishing and 5,252 suffering injuries. Those numbers were presented in the quarterly report of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan. Washington’s gross miscalculation of realities on the ground in Afghanistan, with the White House demanding the use of brute force to solve this country’s problem, has resulted in a 29% increase in both casualty and injury rates amid NATO attacks among the local population.
Therefore, demands growing louder more recently, to bring to justice those responsible for “criminal actions against civilians” not only in Afghanistan, but all across the globe, are quite justifiable.
However, the United States national security advisor, John R. Bolton has recently debunked the intentions of the International Criminal Court to investigate the crimes committed by US servicemen over the course of the Afghan campaign. In particular, he stated that:
The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. The US response could include sanctions against ICC judges should such prosecutions proceed.
Against this background, it’s noteworthy that PMs of the lower house of the Afghan parliament have made a decision to review the security cooperation agreement that Afghanistan has with the United States. They stressed that the agreement worsened the security situation in the country, while considerably increasing the Taliban’s morale. They are also convinced that Afghan security forces did not receive the assistance that the United States must provide in order for Kabul to succeed. Since this breaches the deal, Afghan PMs are convinced that it has to be revised.
Afghanistan is becoming reminiscent of the Middle East in the sense that the task of ending the civil war gets all parties involved nowhere time and time again, which could also be observed amid the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Recently, almost simultaneously two new attempts were launched to put an end to this civil war by two different geopolitical players, namely Russia and the United States. The US State Department had no intention, at least there was no mention of it in the media, to hold a peace conference regarding Afghanistan in Washington, but a couple of months ago the White House made a step unprecedented for almost two decades of war — agreed to hold direct negotiations with the Taliban, which is listed as a terrorist organization in the US.
As it’s been reported by the Russian media with a special reference to unnamed sources in Moscow and Kabul, the conference on the Afghan settlement within a Moscow format is planned to open its doors “by the end of October.” Both the government of Afghanistan and representatives of the Taliban should take part in it. At the same time, Moscow’s confidence in its ability to bring peace to Afghanistan remains relatively high.
Naturally, the future will depend on whose settlement will be more successful – whose influence will prevail in this crucially important Central Asian country.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”