Going, Not Gone

Deputy Chief Editor
Going, Not Gone
Going, Not Gone

Thirteen years and a disastrous war later, the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Alliance finally ended its war in Afghanistan on Sunday. In 2011 the 50-nation military alliance had 130,000 troops in the impoverished and strife-torn country ostensibly to defeat the medieval Taliban and its stone-age al-Qaeda patrons.

Now it is said that Nato ‘has ended its war’ but will keep close to 18,000 troops to assist the Afghan military and police fight the vicious militia that since 1996 has spread death and destruction in Iran’s immediate neighbourhood.

For now at least, the foreign military force says it is going, but has not gone. And probably never will. The terrible consequence of the unwanted and unhelpful military presence on the fragmented Afghan landscape is for all to see.  The nation of 30 million is in the grip of a worsening insurgency, violence is widespread as child-killers and suicide bombers expand their enterprise on a daily basis, and ever increasing numbers seek refuge wherever available.

Hopelessness is the only game in town for the rulers and the ruled alike, though Kabul may want to give a different impression. However, this is what Nato commander US General John Campbell told a secret ceremony in Kabul on Sunday before the group’s latest failure and one-trillion-dollar misadventure was put on hold: "Together we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future." Really?

For the sake of honesty, history and clarity of purpose, the likes of Campbell and their masters would do better to let the Afghans at home whose lives and hopes have been shattered, plus the millions of refugees speak their mind about the contentious subject.   

The proud and traditionally-minded people hardly ever came to terms with Nato presence and what it and others had to offer in the way of fighting terror and “restoring stability” to the country long torn by internecine fighting and the unending horrors of ethnic, religious, political and social conflict.

Having so intimately involved themselves in Afghan affairs, western governments now cannot evade responsibility for the consequences of their involvement. According to published reports, during the extended Nato presence at least 20,000 Afghan civilians were killed.

Denial, deception and distortion cannot and will not help when it comes to responsibility and accountability. Ask the six million Afghans who fled to Iran and Pakistan over the years.

Hard-line and ultra-conservative groups (some of which were incubated, armed, financed and trained by the West and its regional protégés) have recently conveyed to the western world in no uncertain terms that pain, misery and the loss of near and dear ones is not something that they alone will bear. It would be a shared burden, to say the least!

Afghanistan was one of the least developed countries in the world before the former Soviet, American, Nato, al-Qadea, Wahhabi and Salafist invasions. Three decades of non-stop war and internal strife has left it poorer, more desperate, less trustful and deeply traumatized.

Keeping or kicking out the residue Nato force is of course the function of the Afghan people and government. However, if the three decades of wars, instability, terror, displacement and humiliation is anything to go by, representatives of foreign interests have almost without exception generated popular acrimony and ill-will in this poor but proud Muslim society.

Those with intimate knowledge of Afghan affairs concur that the moment for the rehabilitation and coherence of the country may have been lost due largely to the interference of extraterritorial powers with their disastrous and hardly clandestine agendas.

They also will tell you that the western military alliance under American tutelage, with little or no understanding of the deep complexities of this great Muslim nation, made two colossal errors of judgement: starting the Afghan war and losing it.