'Kabul Taliban attack proves entire US-led campaign was a failure'
RT:The Taliban reportedly say they are increasing the attacks because of the security agreements that allow foreign troops stay in the country. But their combat mission will be officially over by 2015 - so why are we still seeing the violence?
Chris Bambery: Well, we still see these attacks because there is still going to be major international presence, mainly centered in Kabul with Americans the main but with the British also training Afghan forces who they hope can deal with the Taliban. There is also a massive western diplomatic presence, intelligence, security and secret service in Kabul. And what the British will be desperate to know is whether today’s attack was carried out by Taliban with the knowledge that they were attacking the British diplomatic convoy, or whether it was a chance attack on a road which is used very much by westerners: contractors, diplomats, NGOs, security people all the time, maybe they were trying their luck. The British will be desperate to know, because if the Taliban actually targeted a British diplomatic convoy, this is quite serious, because the West needs to maintain a very strong diplomatic and security presence in Afghanistan, the Afghani government will be not be able to survive without that, it will not be able to survive without Western finance which is coming in. And if the Taliban were able to carry out these attacks which were seen in Kabul and targeted attacks on things like a British diplomatic convoy, which is after all very, very protected, then this is a serious issue for the West. So there will be a lot of worry, not just in London, but in Washington as well about the ability of Taliban to carry out the attacks on such high-profile targets as a British diplomatic convoy.
RT:What about the timing of the attack?Is it connected to the London conference next week?
CB: Yes, this is obviously in part timed by the London conference next week and the Taliban wants to embarrass the West by carrying out these attacks. But it can also be the Taliban is deciding on a strategy of moving towards very high-profile attacks in Kabul targeting the center. And for those with memories, for instance, the Irish Republican Army moved at the end of its military campaign to attacking high-profile targets in London realizing that the impact of attacks in the City of London, in Heathrow Airport and indeed 10 Downing Street, the Prime minister’s residence, were much more effective and gained much more publicity than any attacks within Northern Ireland itself. Maybe the Taliban are copying the IRA and going for targeting Kabul and high-profile targets, knowing that is going to put pressure on the West, who will be feeling whether the price of maintaining it, the heavy presence they have in Kabul, is worth it, if they are going to be targeted in this way.
RT:Is there going to be any Western presence after foreign troops are withdrawn?
CB: There is going to be an American and western presence in Afghanistan anyway as I said, not on the same scale, and the drone attacks will continue both in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, but what the Taliban must be hoping is that they know that America wants a deal with them, they have been desperately having this discussions in Dubai in the Gulf with the Taliban. The Americans want to reach some accord and the Taliban maybe doing this in order to up their advantage in those talks so they can gain more. Affectively, they want to control much if not all of Afghanistan and the Americans want to deny that by maintaining the Afghan government, while the Taliban are putting the pressure up and say “We want a better deal from the Americans in exchange for some form of a ceasefire.” And again this is exactly what happened with the IRA here in Britain by targeting for instance Downing Street, the Prime minister’s home, in the end they brought the British government to the negotiating table.
RT:There are reports that President Obama is actually planning to extend the number of troops that would stay in the country over the next couple of years. What do you think is the main reason to expand the US mission?
CB: Well, the main reason is first of all the lack of any security: the western occupation clearly failed to alter the security situation in Kabul and elsewhere in any serious way. Secondly, the inability of Afghan forces to combat the Taliban. But I also think there are strong limits now into the Americans’ ability to maintain any stronger military presence in Afghanistan. It is not only unpopular at home, but the Americans are actually full stretched, they are engaged in a war against ISIS in Iraq and in part in Syria, they are engaged in a military build-up elsewhere in the world, they have these problems. If you remember Obama was elected on a promise to withdraw American troops from first Iraq and then Afghanistan, to rebuild the American military presence in Afghanistan is going to make Obama unpopular. But more important… it is going to put pressure on Hillary Clinton, the likely Democrat contender in the next presidential election. So I think there are limits on how far Americans can commit extra forces back into Afghanistan.
RT:Speaking about the results of the Western presence in Afghanistan, are there any signs of success?
CB: No, I think today’s attack and the deteriorating security situation in the capital Kabul reflects the failure of the occupation because if the Americans, the British and the Afghan allies cannot control Kabul, what does that say about the effects of these years of occupation by the Americans and NATO forces? They failed even to make the capital safe. And in every other index whether it’s trying to stop the opium trade, in controlling [the Province of] Helmand, all the other things we were told, women’s rights… all those issues you are looking at, every index of American occupation in Afghanistan has been a failure. There is nothing the West can point to say “this has been a success and we can be proud of this operation”.
RT:Do you think NATO's plan to further train local forces will help them deal with insurgents? What does Afghanistan need to defeat Taliban once and for all - or can a resolution can be reached there through the dialogue?
CB: The Taliban can’t be defeated because they have a solid base in parts of the country, of course there are other parts of the country where they don’t have such support, but there has to be an agreement with the Taliban. But this has to be an agreement inside Afghanistan involving the Afghans and really the Americans need to get out because the record of Western intervention in Afghanistan is a dreadful one.
RT:What are the reasons for such Taliban attacks and what do ordinary people in Afghanistan think about them?
CB: Well, there is going to be a major Western presence in Afghanistan, diplomatic presence, military presence for training the Afghan forces, intelligence and security service and secret service inside Afghanistan. And this is unpopular with the Afghanis who want an end to the occupation. So the Taliban are targeting them because they understand it’s popular. The second reason is that they know that by attacking those people in, what is essentially, the green zone of Kabul which should be the safe area, that wins them publicity and it wins them credos inside the Afghanis. And what the British today must be very worried about is whether or not the Taliban were targeting the British diplomatic convoy, whether they knew about its movements or whether it was just a chance attack and what is after all a major road to Jalalabad road used by the west NGO’s, contractors and diplomats and so on a regular basis. Maybe the Taliban were chancing their arm by taking an attack and hoping they got a good target. But if it’s the case that the Taliban were targeting a British diplomatic convoy, there will be a great deal of worry not just in London but also in Washington because that leaves the remaining western presence in Afghanistan vulnerable.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.