War in Afghanistan

A futile war grinds on, this time in Afghanistan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am


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In the midst of the Taliban attacks in central Kabul on Sunday, a journalist called the British embassy for a comment. 'I really don't know why they are doing this,' said a diplomat. 'We'll be out of here in two years' time. All they have to do is wait.'

The official line is that two years from now, when US and Nato forces leave Afghanistan, the regime they installed will be able to stay in power without foreign support. The British diplomat clearly didn't believe that, and neither do most other foreign observers.

However, General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said that he was 'enormously proud' of the response of the Afghan security forces, and other senior commanders said it showed that all the foreign training was paying off. You have to admire their cheek: multiple simultaneous attacks in Kabul and other cities prove that the Western strategy is working.

The Taliban's attacks in the capital targeted the national parliament, Nato's headquarters, and foreign embassies. About 100 people were killed or wounded. If this were the Vietnam war, we would have reached about 1971.

The US government has declared its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan in two years, just as it did in Vietnam in 1971. Richard Nixon wanted his second-term presidential election out of the way before he pulled the plug, just as Barack Obama does now.

The Taliban are obviously winning the war in Afghanistan now, just as North Vietnam's troops were winning then. The American strategy at that time was satirised as 'declare a victory and leave', and it hasn't changed one whit in 40 years. Neither have the lies that cover it up.

'It's like I see in slow motion men dying for nothing and I can't stop it,' said Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, a US Army officer who spent two tours in Afghanistan. He returned home last year consumed by outrage at the yawning gulf between the promises of success routinely issued by senior US commanders and the real situation on the ground.

Davis wrote two reports on the situation in Afghanistan, one classified and one for public consumption. He sent copies of the classified version to selected senators and representatives in Congress. But no member of Congress is going to touch the issue in an election year. So American, British and other Western soldiers will continue to die, as will thousands of Afghans, in order to postpone the inevitable outcome for a few more years.

Whatever political system emerges in Afghanistan after the foreigners go home, it is unlikely to want to attack the US. Pity about all the people who will be killed between now and then.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist