Today a US soldier has been severely wounded after a member of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces opened fire on what on paper was an American ally in Kabul. This comes weeks after 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 like those from October 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 a wave of attacks on American personnel in Afghanistan have been committed by Afghan “allies” of the United States, most major US media outlets and political figures have tended to ignore or dismiss the very serious issue of not so “friendly fire” that is costing life and limb to US troops in a protracted conflict that should have never been instigated in the first place.
.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 watchers have been questioning the implications of Washington’s long standing alliance with Saudi Arabia in light of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, this same demographic ought to be questioning America’s long running war in Afghanistan in light of multiple Americans in uniform being gunned down by self-evidently disgruntled Afghans in uniform. While the large presence of conscripted American soldiers in Vietnam during the 1960s and 70s tended to open the eyes of the US as a whole to the futility of America’s war in Vietnam, the smaller number volunteer forces in Afghanistan are looking an even bigger quagmire in the eye, yet few domestic eyelids are being batted.
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 paying attention to the increasingly systematic attacks on US forces in Afghanistan – not by Taliban militants but by members of the US backed Afghan security forces, one can deduce that ‘war fatigue’ has led to journalistic negligence or otherwise, that both left and right leaning media outlets are obeying either direct or indirect orders to silence the truth about highly important developments in the world that impact the well-being of US soldiers.
Adding insult to injury, while many in the US opposition have decried the perfectly legal movement of American troops within the country to the southern border with Mexico, the presence of US troops in far off Afghanistan is neither being reported nor scrutinised even as the “mission impossible” they are fighting is calming ever more American lives, limbs and morale.