17.01.2019 Author: Martin Berger

Will Washington be able to Cloak and Dagger its Way to Total Control over Afghanistan?

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It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Washington’s operation in Afghanistan has come to a screeching halt. Seventeen years after the initial invasion, the Pentagon has no means of pacifying the local population or establishing a stable government. Over the last two decades there has been a lot of events on the international stage, a lot of skirmishes between American soldiers and Afghan militants, but the main thing remains unchanged – the US just cannot win. Yet, in spite of all the accusations voiced against the American political elites, they are reluctant to put an end to their “peacekeeping” mission in Afghanistan.

Of course, Afghanistan looks like a perfect base for the Pentagon. By holding the Afghan Republic in its deadly grip the United States is capable of destabilizing the entire Central Asian region that includes such countries as Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Further still, by allowing ISIS to build its training camps in Afghan mountains, Washington can ensure that this terrorist group will be prepared to infiltrate all of the states that share a common border with Afghanistan, thus turning Central Asia into a new bloodbath. ISIS represents the great threat that the states of Central Asia are facing these days, especially in a situation when a considerable number of nationals from these countries are fighting within its ranks. Should local players fail to address this challenge properly, the destabilization of the entire Central Asian region will have grave consequences for Russia, China, and Iran, which Western elites would describe as the main opponents of the United States today.

President Barack Obama made a pledge to put an end to the Afghan war before the end of his presidency, but failed to fulfill his promise. All we’ve seen was a sort of a rebranding, with operation Resolute Support replacing operation Enduring Freedom. When this new operation was announced, the general public believed that American soldiers would cease engaging the Taliban in direct hostilities. However, everything turned out quite differently.

Today, an ever increasing number of political observers are confident that the war that has been raging all across Afghanistan for almost four decades cannot be ended on the battlefield, instead they advise the international community to try their luck at the negotiating table. In Afghanistan, neither the political elites nor the residents are contended with the persistent American military presence in the region. People are fed up with the war, with mounting death tolls and the so-called American peace-keepers that shoot locals on site whenever they feel like doing so. In this situation, the prominent military and political figures of the Republic of Afghanistan are ready to turn for help to most any strong international players to break the stalemate.

Today, no one has any doubt that in one’s approach the process of peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, it is necessary to take into account the position of all parties of the ongoing conflict, including the Taliban. Moreover, the latter remains in control of the better part of the Afghan territory.

Therefore, in recent months the political struggle within this war-torn country has intensified considerably, especially against the backdrop of the upcoming presidential election that is bound to take place on April 20. Initially, the process of registering candidates for the election race was launched on December 23, but in the first couple of days none of the possible candidates succeeded to submit the paperwork required for the participation in the election. This resulted in the Independent Election Commission (IEC) stating that the election was to be postponed for several months.

At the end of December, Pajhwok reported, citing a source in the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan that is headed by Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum, that an associate of Dostum, a local militia leader that goes under the name of Nizamuddin Qaisari, was released from prison after getting arrested by local authorities last summer.

On the eve of the presidential election race, not just the political forces of Afghanistan get particularly active, but their overseas sponsors are just as well. The United States has been particularly restless lately, upon realizing that it has all but lost the war in Afghanistan and that a comprehensive damage management policy should be introduced by American diplomats and NGOs before the actual withdrawal of troops begins. At this point, Washington is planning to call its war of attrition in Afghanistan a daring success and then try to marry the representatives of the Taliban that it has been fighting all along with the sitting technocratic government in Kabul. It goes without saying that those politicians that are standing in the way of these designs are suffering tragic accidents or simply disappearing.

The US has no doubt that the Taliban is going to come to power. The question is only is how many representatives it can put in the future government and will they have to listen to pro-Western figures within it. Therefore, Washington has intensified its negotiations with the Taliban, but has also tried to bring as many of its regional allies aboard in this negotiations, namely the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Pakistan.

Against this background, the death of Abdul Raziq, a prominent Afghan general that was the de facto leader of the Afghan province of Kandahar, looks like no ordinary occurrence. He was a rather inconvenient figure both for the Taliban and the West. At one point, the commander-in-chief of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Austin Miller has reportedly warned Raziq that his excessive independence was going to cost him his life.

This assassination took place at the residence of the governor of Kandahar, where a meeting of representatives of local authorities with general Austin Miller was held. At the end of this meeting, a firefight broke off, during which Raziq was shot in the back. According to the American and Afghan media controlled by Kabul, Abdul Raziq was allegedly murdered by an agent of the Taliban.

However, this version was widely criticized in the Afghan society, especially in a situation where the deceased general was known for his categorical reluctance to engage the Taliban in dialogue, which could be the very reason why he became a rather inconvenient figure to his old friends in Washington. In support of the opinion that the former Western allies of Raziq took his life one can mention reports stating that for a total of five hours after the shooting, the Americans would not allow anyone to even approach the crime scene. This is sufficient amount of time to manipulate the crime scene in a way that it would support the US version of events about the involvement of the Taliban in this assassination. This resulted in the Afghan investigation team finding that bullets were retrieved from the bodies of the victims of the attack, disappearing together with the video camera of a journalist of the state television channel Melli, who was also shot dead at this meeting.

It is noteworthy that on the eve of the meeting in Kandahar on October 18, local authorities took unprecedented security measures in the city – most of the administrative center, including areas of the governor’s residence, were prohibited for entry for outsiders and local residents alike. At the request of the American side, all firearms, including those carried by the bodyguards of the participants of the meeting and the security officers at the residence were collected and temporarily stored in a special room. The only armed men on site were the security officers of US general Austin Miller.

The speed and readiness of the media controlled by the Afghan government to support the American version of the story may also serve as an indicator that the country’s leadership was aware of the plan to assassinate Raziq.

So if other key political figure of Afghanistan are going to suffer the fate of the tried and tested ally of Washington,Abdul Raziq, one can hardly expect peace to arrive to Afghanistan any time soon, as Washington’s desire to dictate its own rules in this war-torn country will not go anywhere.

Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”  


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