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America’s Way Out from the Afghan Maze

Posted by yourpakistan on July 6, 2011

“Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again wants to make it clear that the solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately and (while) this does not happen, our armed struggle will increase from day to day,” – Taliban spokesman

Dan Qayyum, Editor

US President Barack Obama has announced steps for a phased pullout of 100,000 troops from Afghanistan to end a costly war launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks and switch the focus to the troubled economy.

But the Afghan Taliban, resurgent a decade after being toppled from power, dismissed Obama’s announcement as symbolic and said only a full, immediate withdrawal of foreign forces could stop “pointless bloodshed.” They rejected any suggestion of U.S. gains against the insurgents.

Reports and selective leaks from the US media also imply that the US had started to directly talk with the Taliban while excluding Pakistan from these talks.

Pakistan is America’s supposed regional ally, as well as Afghanistan’s largest neighbour which has suffered directly due to cross border infiltration of militants from Afghanistan into its territory. Nearly 40,000 civilians and aroud 4,000 soldiers and paramilitary forces have been killed in terror attacks in Pakistan in the last few years and Pakistan’s economy is said to have suffered to the tune of around 60 billion dollars in the last decade since the American invasion of Afghanistan.

The Taliban, or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as they call themselves, for their part dismissed the American hype over direct talks by striking the fortress-like Intercontinental Hotel within the heart of Kabul’s secure zone, humiliating US and NATO claims of having weakened them. The attack occurred hours before a scheduled conference, backed by the US, on transition plans for the country.

The Taliban in recent years have demonstrated a startling determination to repeatedly expose the weaknesses and humiliate the US led coalition forces, particularly after each public claim by the United States to have gained an upper hand in controlling the insurgency.

“Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again wants to make it clear that the solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately and (while) this does not happen, our armed struggle will increase from day to day,” said a Taliban spokesman in a statement to the media.

Any U.S. suggestion, they said, of “making headway in Afghanistan and Obama’s proclamation of them being in a stronger position are nothing more than baseless claims and propaganda.”

From absolute certainty, to absolute embarassment

When the US invaded Afghanistan weeks after the 9/11 attacks in New York, two things seeemed absolutely certain to international observers and US military planners. First being that the Taliban are barbaric killers and terrorists with whom the US would never negotiate – and the second being that America and its allies will gain a swift victory after annihilating the Taliban within weeks.

Ten years later and with millions killed and billions spent, reality must feel like a slap in the face for President Obama and his military advisers. Not only are the Taliban in ascendancy and in control of over 70% of the Afghan territory, they also have the US on its knees begging the Taliban to enter negotiations for a face-saving safe exit.

In most military conflicts the first side to offer terms for negotiation is usually the one that has unexpectedly taken a beating so severe that it feels it cannot carry on with the status quo. Those in control of the war and expecting big gains in the near future have no reason to negotiate with the enemy.

Searching for a swift victory the US today faces absolute defeat in a long drawn out, expensive and messy war. US officials claim almost every week, proudly, that the US is talking directly to the Taliban. Their claims are almost always followed by a swift Taliban rebuttal and often a deadly attack on US and NATO forces, as if to drive home a point.

Hamid Karzai, CIA’s puppet in Kabul implanted by Washington too seems to be itching to switch sides. Openly criticizing the US military actions in his country, he has started tapping into the terminology usually associated with the Taliban, by calling for ‘American invaders’ to behave. ‘Behave’, not ‘leave’ however, as he believs his fate may not be too different to that of Najibullah, the Soviet puppet who was dragged to his death behind a truck in the streets of Kabul after his capture at the hands of the Taliban from a UN compound. Najibullah’s bloodied body was later hung publicly in Aryana Square.

Economic Collapse – Shades of USSR?

Back home in Washington, the US stands on the verge of bankruptcy. TIME Magazine reported last month that a panel of academics experienced in war accounting says the 1 Trillion figure released by the Pentagon last month is just a down payment — and that War on Terror’s real, total cost is around $5 trillion.

Five trillion dollars: that’s $16,000 per American; $64,000 for a family of four.

The final official tally of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan will reach at least $3.7 trillion, and could go as high as $4.4 trillion, according to a study done by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

“Our estimate is larger because we include more than the direct Pentagon appropriation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the larger global war on terror; wars always cost more than what the Pentagon spends for the duration of the combat operation,” the report says.

The study’s estimate of $4 trillion also includes items not counted by the Pentagon, including homeland security, veterans care and various developmental efforts. Then there is the additional $1 trillion in interest payments on the war debt. Many international ecnonomists and observers have predicted the collapse of the US economy within months, some even arguing that the country stands bankrupt as of today.

The reluctance of Obama to pull troops out without a negotiated settlement with the Afghans is purely to save face internationally and avoid the humiliation that a defeat in decade long war that has bankrupted the US economy, will bring. Coupled with economic collapse, an American pullout from Afghanistan that excludes any hint of a ‘gain’ for the Americans, will spell the death of America as we know it.

The Afghan terrain has throughout history been a maze for foreign invaders. Every promising opening for the invaders bring them to a dead end. Every corner is a false hope. The only way out of this maze – as the Soviets, the British, and many others before them have found out – is the realization that there is no way out.

Dan Qayyum is an editor at and an Af-Pak defence analyst for various tv and print media. Dan can be contacted on


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