US Afghan campaign ‘an ignominious failure’
Afghanistan is braced for spring when the Taliban traditionally resumes its offensive after a winter break. The UN has warned that a large part of the country is at risk of being retaken by the group. That is despite Obama's decision to halt US troop withdrawals, saying they were needed to protect the country from the Taliban's resurgence.
RT:What's behind the resurgence of the terrorist group?
Brian Becker: It’s clear now that the US military efforts in Afghanistan that began in October 2001 from a military point of view are an ignominious failure. They are also a failure in terms of the ability to reconstruct Afghanistan. They have resulted in a great deal of human suffering: tens of thousands of Afghans are killed; thousands of Americans are wounded, more than a thousand dead. The Pentagon says that it can’t account for a hundred billion dollars in money for reconstruction aid. In other words it has all the markings of a colossal failure. And I see as we see now that the US has to wind down its military presence even if it’s not fully out. The Taliban and the other resistance forces - and there are probably 250 armed groups - are poised to take over a greater part of Afghanistan. The UN report states that this is exactly what is happening today.
RT:Last year President Obama said that the US intervention in Afghanistan had "devastated the core of the al-Qaeda leadership…and disrupted terrorist plots.” Can you comment on that?
BB: We know that Leon Panetta who was both CIA Director and then Secretary of Defense under Obama said that the number of al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan was less than a hundred, that was several years ago. If the objective was simply to get rid of al-Qaeda why is the US still there? Why has it been there for the last four years? Why did the Obama administration surge and send another 60,000 troops to Afghanistan which led to a great deal more suffering and bloodshed on both sides. If the objective was simply to oust al-Qaeda, perhaps that’s happened but the US seems to have another objective right now which is to avoid the reason they are not ending the war, to avoid the perception of being defeated not by al-Qaeda but by the Taliban and the other armed resistance groups. The Obama administration is trying to delay that until after Obama has left the White House, he doesn’t want to have another debacle as in what happened after the US left Iraq in 2011. So avoiding the perception of defeat is what the US is really fighting for. It’s not about al-Qaeda; I think it’s just that.
RT:President Obama has already abandoned his pledge to bring US troop levels in Afghanistan down to 5,000, saying the current force of about 10,000 will remain. Do you think this decision will help bring stability?
BB: 10,000 troops cannot stabilize a country where the US has lost, as the UN report says, more than a half of the territory to the Taliban and other armed resistance groups. Ten thousand, it’s for two purposes: one – so that Obama can’t be blamed for the eventual takeover of the country by the Taliban as he was after the US withdrew its troops in Iraq in December 2011. He was blamed then for the rise of the Islamic State even though clearly the Islamic State’s rise is the result of Bush’s original invasion of Iraq. It would be happening otherwise. So Obama is playing a damage control on the political front. And also of course if there are 10,000 troops in Afghanistan they need bases and that allows the US to project forward bases in a geo-strategically important part of the world again not to stop al-Qaeda not even to prevent a Taliban to take over, but in order to project American power, that’s a secondary objective but a real one for the Pentagon.
RT:What could be the consequences for the country and the region as a whole, if the Taliban take over?
BB: It depends. The Taliban of course is an odious, reactionary movement. The US through the CIA in its efforts to topple the previously socialist government in Afghanistan supported the Mujahedeen and the other elements that morphed into al-Qaeda. The US is now experiencing blowback from that. The people of Afghanistan are experiencing blowback. I think a Taliban take over Afghanistan would be as disastrous this time as it was for the people in Afghanistan when they took over in the mid-1990s. But of course for the US I don’t think they really care about the form of government in Afghanistan. They tolerated the Taliban before; they tolerate regimes like Saudi Arabia. I think the question really will be - and I think the US will try to do this - have an accommodation with the Taliban and some sort of quid pro quo that will allow the Taliban either to be the government or to be part of a coalition government which is almost inevitable now in Afghanistan.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.