Media commentary in recent weeks has focused on the alleged plan of United States president Donald Trump to vacate US troops from Afghanistan. Those troops, together with representatives of other countries including the United Kingdom and Australia, have been in Afghanistan since that country was first invaded in October 2001.
The ostensible reason for the invasion was the refusal of the then Taliban government of Afghanistan to hand over to the Americans Osama bin Laden whom the Americans accused of responsibility for the attacks upon Washington DC and New York City in September 2001. The Taliban government, not unreasonably, asked for proof of bin Laden’s involvement in the “9/11” attacks. The Americans refused to provide that evidence and the consequential refusal of the Taliban to relinquish bin Laden provided the ostensible justification for the invasion.
We now know that the invasion of Afghanistan was decided upon by the Americans long before the ostensible justification of 9/11. Even if bin Laden had been responsible, which this writer does not accept, then the ostensible reasons for the invasion should have disappeared with bin Laden’s death. This event occurred either in late 2001 as the United States writer David Ray Griffin has argued in multiple books, or later following the United States “capture” of bin Laden, and his execution in the course of another illegal incursion by United States troops, this time into Pakistan.
In the same way that bin Laden’s alleged role in “9/11” was not a justification for the invasion and now nearly 19-year occupation of Afghanistan, neither did his alleged execution by the Americans lead to their declaring “mission accomplished” and vacating Afghanistan.
The reason they did not vacate the country, and the reasons why they will not voluntarily do so, remain the same today as they did 19 years ago. There are two major reasons for this situation.
The first reason lies in the rather obvious fact that Afghanistan accounts for about 90% of the world’s heroin production, according to United Nations figures. Those figures are published annually by the United Nations, but those data rarely if ever appear in mainstream western media discussions about either the United States’ continued occupation of Afghanistan or the likelihood or otherwise of their departure.
There is now a mass of data publicly available on the growth of the opium poppy which is processed to create the heroin, its allocation among different factions within Afghanistan, and its export and ultimate sale in Russia, western Europe and the United States.
Again, referring to United Nations data, about 5% of the opium production is sold by the Taliban and used to finance the ongoing war against the puppet government in Kabul and United States and Allied forces occupying their country. A further 20% is in the possession of the various warlords that exercise a measure of control over a diminishing portion of the country. The remaining 75% is exported, flown out on United States military aircraft for sale where the revenue provides a significant contribution to CIA “off the books “income.
The special chemicals needed to process the opium into heroin are flown into the country on the same CIA planes used to export the finished product. None of this is news to those who have bothered to research this fundamental facet of the US occupation. An understanding of this process is essential to an understanding of why, whatever Trumps professed wishes for US troops to leave Afghanistan, is not going to happen, either under him or his likely successor, Joe Biden, who is equally captive to the US “deep state” and its CIA enforcement arm.
The very fact that western mainstream media studiously avoid ever discussing the geo- political reality is itself noteworthy.
The second major reason why the United States has no intention of ever voluntarily leaving Afghanistan is seen from the simple exercise of examining a map. Afghanistan shares borders with seven countries, none of whom could be accurately described as allies of the United States despite some token efforts at cooperation, as in the case of Pakistan and India.
Of the remaining countries the various “stans” that were previously part of the USSR are at best wary of United States professed interest, as with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to the region. Their leaders are far from stupid and can immediately recognise the geopolitical self-interest that motivates United States overtures.
The other two geopolitically crucial countries that share borders with Afghanistan, are Iran and China. These latter two are the object of unending vilification, sanctions, hostile propaganda and attempts to persuade other countries to cease or reduce any form of contact.
The Trump administration’s hostility to Iran is not new and has been ongoing in one form or another since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the puppet regime of the Shah and established the Islamic Republic. The unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the joint comprehensive plan of action by the Trump regime was not a surprise. A great surprise was that it was agreed to by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in the first place. On the American’s track record with Iran it was probably a safe bet that regardless of whether Trump or Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 United States presidential election, the agreement would not have survived. The truly disappointing result has been the lukewarm adherence of the remaining signatories to the agreement.
From Iran’s point of view the United States disregard of the agreement would have come as no surprise. Iranian foreign policy has remained basically unchanged, and that includes pursuing policies that eliminate as far as possible United States presence in the region.
More significantly in the shorter term has been Iran’s ever closer relationship with both Russia and China, neither of whom were unsurprised by the United States action, and both of whom have made major strides in recent years, not only in strengthening their own relationship, but also steadily gathering support throughout the greater Eurasian region in multiple projects, of which the Belt and Road Initiative is the biggest, but far from the only project of fundamental changes in trade and wider developments among an ever-growing number of participating States.
At last count more than 160 nations and international organisations had signed agreements with China on the BRI, a statistic that tells us more about what is really happening in China’s relationship with the rest of the world than the tireless negative propaganda issuing from, into alia, the United States and Australian mainstream media.
All of this suggests a decline in US geopolitical power in not only Afghanistan, but in the wider region beyond. It would be naïve to assume that the United States will accept this fundamental shift in the world’s multilateral arrangements. The apparent defeat of Trump’s professed plan to withdraw United States troops from Afghanistan is best interpreted as the powerful forces that actually control US foreign policy being determined to maintain the status quo for as long as they can.
Therein lies the greatest danger. The United States for multiple decades after the end of World War II saw itself is the world’s dominant power, constrained to a degree by the
USSR. The collapse of that arrangement in 1991 gave the Americans a situation unparalleled in their history. The greatest mistake was to assume that what was would always be.
The resurrection of Russia in the 21st-century and the inexorable rise of Chinese economic power in the same period has created a situation the United States barely understands, let alone accepts that its period of dominance is now well and truly over.
The United States is now waging war on China. Thus far it is an economic, political and propaganda war, but the ultimate intention is clear: to undermine China’s role in the world by every means within their power. Their history would suggest that measures
Taken will include the attempted military overthrow of their opposition, either directly, or as seen in Hong Kong and Xinyuan by the use of proxies and an unrelenting propaganda campaign.
That will fail, as the ever-growing number of countries signing up to the various multilateral trade deals would suggest. That does not lessen the danger. It would be comforting to think that a change of United States president later this year would lead to a change in both attitude and behaviour. There is likely to be a vain hope.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.