The Afghan Taliban have written an open letter to the US Congress and people, stating that they are willing to come to the peace table and reach a negotiated settlement with the Kabul government in return for a full US military withdrawal form the country. China, Russia, Pakistan and perhaps surprisingly even Iran are all in favour of a dialogue based peace process which would see moderate elements of the Taliban forge a power sharing agreement with the fledgling government in Kabul.
Such a peace process which would not only drag the Taliban in from the cold, but also end America’s isolation over its Afghan policy which is rejected by most of Afghanistan’s neighbours. Sadly but predictably, the prospect of multi-party reconciliation fallen on deaf ears in the United States.
The truth is that, while the US involvement in Afghanistan is often painted as a rudderless war without a goal or purpose, this is a gross simplification. The US does indeed have multiple purposes to its seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, even though it is careful to conceal these purposes. The US is so bent on concealing these purposes that Washington has actually allowed the attractive but misleading “quagmire narrative” to go largely unchallenged even in western circles.
2. Make sure to get US hands on as many Afghan resources as possible, including minerals, poppies (as cultivated in the lucrative narcotics trade) and precious metals.
3. In the event that the US is unable to obtain Afghanistan’s resources, make certain that countries like China are not allowed to do so by using an endless US military presence in the country to disrupt any One Belt–One Road links through Afghanistan.
4. Use Afghanistan as a terrorist base from which to launch attacks on Pakistan’s strategically important Balochistan province, which is home to the Chinese built Gwadar Port.
5. Use Afghanistan as a terrorist base from which Daesh and other Takfiris can enter Iran.
6. Use US control of the roads in Afghanistan to sow further conflicts between India and Pakistan, using Iran’s Chabahar Port’s proximity to Afghanistan to trap Iran into taking an overly pro-Indian side vis-a-vis the longstanding Indo-Pak disputes, due to Indian investments in Chabahar.
Such a war does not and cannot have a penultimate victory, as the strategy relies on the US merely maintaining endurance in order to achieve the aforementioned goals. Thus, one sees an obstructionist policy that the US is more than content with, so long as the protracted occupation of Afghanistan remains tenable in the sense that it does not cost more than that which Congress is willing to accept and does not result in the mass casualties that could spring a dormant anti-war movement to life on the streets of the United States.
This contrasts sharply with the initial US goal in Syria which was to topple the Syrian government. While this specific goal has been thwarted by Syrian resilience combined with steadfast support for Damascus from international partners including Russia and Iran, the US has nevertheless not given up in Syria, but is instead switching to a microcosmic version of it’s Afghan policy which is best described as obstructionist war.
From the US perspective, the war in Afghanistan is not meant to be won, but to be endless, so that a win-win economic/diplomatic victory secured by Russia, China, Pakistan and possibly also Iran, becomes increasingly difficult. Likewise in Syria, while the US is all too aware that Turkey will not stand for the establishment of a Kurdish statelet under US protection on Turkey’s soft southern border, the US is hoping to test the will of regional countries in both the Syrian and Afghan wars, in the hopes that the combined diplomatic, military and economic pressures that the neighbours and partners of Syria and Afghanistan can exert, will never exceed the US ability to use its military to obstruct regional progress around both states. US rivals need a peaceful resolution, which is their form of a victory, while the US needs only to keep bending while not breaking. In the meantime, the US has the added benefit of occupying Syria’s oil rich regions, while also helping itself to Afghanistan’s rich mineral resources.
While the US cannot win in Afghanistan or Syria, other countries can. In Syria, the government and its allies look forward to a peace process which will pave the way for massive reconstruction projects involving China, Iran, Russia and possibly other BRICS partners and beyond.
China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran seek a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan that will allow the progress of One Belt–One Road through Afghanistan, thus enhancing local peace through the prospect of shared regional prosperity.
A recent exclusive interview that Sputnik conducted with General Boris Gromov, the last commander of the Soviet military contingent in Afghanistan (the 40th Army), reveals that contrary to the public US narrative which equates the US quagmire in Afghanistan with an alleged Soviet quagmire in the country during the 1980s, in reality, the USSR had clear goals in Afghanistan that were largely achieved.
Unlike the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the USSR entered Afghanistan in 1979 at the request of the legal government in Kabul. Once there, the USSR worked with the government to pacify US backed Mujahideen and secure the good will of locals.
As Gromov correctly states,
“By the time of our withdrawal, the local government was capable of autonomous operation, provided that it would continue to receive financial and economic support from the USSR”.
Gromov also correctly states that while the Afghan government remained stable in 1989, it was due to the fall of the USSR and the effective “non-foreign policy” of the Yeltsin regime, which ultimately led to the Afghan government of Mohammad Najibullah to fall in 1992.
The USSR therefore achieved a military victory by the standards set by Moscow and Kabul, but ultimately, Moscow’s Afghan allies suffered a defeat due to the lack of post-Soviet political support for Afghanistan’s legitimate government after 1991.
This contrasts sharply with the US goal of permanent obstruction in Afghanistan. In this sense, while the US has long conceded defeat, they are able to “win” so long as no other state is allowed to help Afghan society achieve peace, functionality and genuine sovereignty.