Yesterday, two Americans and Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq were killed after Afghan guards opened fire shortly after the conclusion of a meeting between Raziq, Kandahar’s governor and General Austin S. Miller, the Commander of US troops in Afghanistan. Today’s blood-soaked events make it abundantly clear that the “just a bit more time until peace” narrative that the US publicly offers as well as the “Taliban vs. everyone else” narrative that the Kabul government continues to proffer are equally detached from the realities on the ground.
Yet in spite of the fact that the attack was an un-ambiguous assassination attempt on General Miller, most major US media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post and Drudge Report have buried the story far below the latest updates on the Khashoggi murder and news surrounding the forthcoming midterm elections. While the mysterious and tragic fate of Jamal Khashoggi and forthcoming US elections are indeed important stories, the attempted assassination of America’s top soldier in Afghanistan has even greater long term significance. As the US war in Afghanistan represents the longest ever military operation of American forces overseas, it remains possible that a theatre of operations that has existed throughout three presidencies may well last well into a fourth or even a fifth. To put matters into further perspective, long after Turkish police finish their investigation into what happened to Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and long after November’s US elections are over, there is a high likelihood that American troops will retain their presence in Afghanistan for a variety of strategic reasons (however misguided and counterproductive some of them are).
While American news followers have been questioning the implications of Washington’s long standing alliance with Saudi Arabia in light of Jamal Khashoggi’s apparent murder, this same demographic ought to be questioning America’s long running war in Afghanistan in light of the fact that yesterday’s events made it clear that the life of the top US commander is not safe in the country whose official government is an ally of the United States.
While Afghans grapple with the reality that the Taliban now control as much if not more territory than the government while other war lords and minority factions compete for socio-economic and political influence, against this background the choice that American voters will soon make between Republicans and Democrats suddenly appears quite mundane, even given the current political atmosphere in the US.
And yet while past wars involving the US have tended to dominate headlines, Afghanistan has long faded from the public consciousness in America. This is the case in spite of the fact that when compared to the far more publicised war in Syria in which comparatively few US troops have been active let alone killed, Afghanistan has been a tactical disaster even while it retains strategic importance for the Pentagon.
In terms of strategy, it would appear that long before the arrival of Donald Trump to the US political foreground, a decision was made that in the words of George Orwell, “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous”. In this sense, the US does not need anything remotely resembling a traditional tactical victory in Afghanistan so long as the following negative goals are achieved in respect of other interested parties to the conflict:
–Reduce Pakistani influence in the region while also maintaining leverage against Pakistan by prolonging the threat of terrorism along The Durand Line.
–Create as much chaos as possible along crucial routes in the Belt and Road network.
–Use Afghan territory to prevent or at minimum retard the rapprochement between Iran and Pakistan
–Maintain malicious assets along the borders of both Pakistan’s Balochistan province as well as Iran’s neighbouring Sistan and Baluchestan province
–Encourage the pro-Indian tendencies of Kabul’s government in order to further agitate against Pakistan
–Threaten Russia’s trading networks and de-facto security zones in central Asia by sowing instability on the borders with Russian ally Tajikistan
–Extract minerals from Afghanistan at the expense of possible regional partners
–Maintain an iron grip on the narco-trade flowing from post-2001 Afghanistan
Crucially, none of the aforementioned goals have anything to do with the direct safety or prosperity of the ordinary American. Likewise, the 2001 era goal of removing the Taliban from power has clearly been a failure as the Taliban are back and more organised than ever as a socio-political machine.
With this in mind, if the moral implications of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are now of concern to many ethical minded ordinary Americans who follow the news cycle, than surely the presence of American troops in a tactically failed war that is being fought for purposes that are largely if not entirely in contravention of the US constitution, against the interests of America’s “one time” Pakistani ally and furthermore a war that now severely endangers the life of a top US commander in the region, than surely there should be more of a public outcry regarding opposition to the continued presence of Americans in Afghanistan.
The fact that neither right nor left wing US media outlets seem to be giving yesterday’s watershed development in Afghanistan the attention it requires means that either ‘war fatigue’ has led to journalistic negligence or otherwise, that both left and right leaning media outlets are all obey either direct or indirect orders to silence the truth about a highly important development in the world.