Socialist Worker

Stumbling into more war in Afghanistan

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2079

The Taliban are on the verge of overrunning Kabul, they control over half of Afghanistan and are fast becoming the only legitimate power in the country. These are the conclusions of a study released last week by The Senlis Council – a right wing think tank.

In its report, Stumbling in Chaos: Afghanistan On the Brink, Senlis claims that “the security situation has reached crisis proportions. The Taliban has proven itself to be a truly resurgent force. Its ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt.”

According to the Senlis research, the insurgents now control “54 percent of Afghanistan’s land mass” and “exercise a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change.

“The insurgency now controls vast swathes of unchallenged territory including rural areas, some district centres, and important road arteries,” the report warns.

The failure of the occupation lay in its broken promise to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered economy, tactics that result in the mass killing of innocent people and a failure to hold areas that have been conquered.

Vacuum

This has created an economic and political vacuum that the Taliban has succeeded in filling.

“The Taliban are the de facto government authority in significant portions of territory in the south, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure,” the report argues.

The failure of “reconstruction” is now a matter of record. According to Oxfam much of the annual $6.4 billion foreign aid is absorbed “by profits of [US] companies and sub-contractors, on non-Afghan resources and on high expatriate salaries and living costs.”

A foreign “consultant” in Afghanistan can expect up to earn up to $500,000 a year.

This failure is undermining the credibility of the government, says Senlis, leading to growing discontent that is translating into support for the Taliban.

This compounds the fact that foreign troops and their Afghan allies have failed to deliver a decisive military blow against the insurgency.

“With limited ground troops and facing massive resistance, Afghan security forces supported by Nato are struggling to contain the return of the Taliban.

“These forces are engaged in a war of attrition, where bitterly fought territorial victories are actually pyrrhic given the inability to defend captured towns.”

Exaggerated

The report has caused consternation among the occupation authorities and their Afghan allies as it punctured the claim that they were gradually gaining the upper hand.

Since the 2001 invasion successive announcements by the US and Britain have attempted to create the impression that unlike Iraq, they were winning the war in Afghanistan.

Yet despite the truths behind much of their findings, the Senlis report exaggerates the level of threat posed by the Taliban – they argue that if the West doesn’t act soon the Taliban could seize Kabul in 2008. They use this threat to justify calls for a massive surge in foreign troops – called the Nato Plus plan.

Senlis is calling for the number of foreign troops to be doubled to 80,000 – including a sizeable contingent of soldiers from Muslim countries – and the removal of all the “caveats” that limit the combat role of European troops.

The surge would, as its central aim, seize control of all population centres and place them under permanent military occupation.

This would allow the occupation to strip away Afghans who have become part of the resistance through necessity – the “grassroots component” – from those who are committed to driving all foreign forces out of the country.

Areas under foreign control would be rebuilt while the rest of the country would be allowed to slip further into poverty, creating of a series of “green zones” under the rule of the gun.

In its report Senlis paints a number of “nightmare scenarios” where the resistance would copy tactics used in Iraq to erode the will of some governments to back the occupation.

In one scenario the Canadian or Dutch parliament (two allies in the occupation of Afghanistan) begin to withdraw their forces following mounting losses and growing pressure at home.

This withdrawal would then create a series of events leading to the collapse of the occupation and a devastating blow to the credibility of western military power and the “war on terror”.

Stumbling Into Chaos: Afghanistan On The Brink, by The Senlis Council, can be found at » www.senliscouncil.net


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.