There is no end in sight to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history. Despite past promises to end the war and bring all the troops home and later promises of a substantial drawdown, President Barack Obama announced on Oct. 15 that the present level of 9,800 U.S. troops would remain for a year. He also confirmed plans to pass the occupation on to the next administration, with at least 5,000 official U.S. troops still in place.
The announcements regarding numbers of troops are intentionally deceptive. They do not include the thousands of troops from the 42 other countries the U.S. has piled onto this debacle. Nor do they include the more than 30,000 contractors and mercenaries currently in Afghanistan. Each time a drawdown or surge of U.S. troops is announced, the number of contractors fluctuates. The number of contractors, considered a “disposable army,” has reached the level of 155,000 during this 14-year war.
Currently the U.S. funds an Afghan military force of 350,000 personnel.
During his re-election campaign on June 12, 2012, in Baltimore, Obama promised that “by 2014, the war in Afghanistan will be over.” On Sept. 2, 2012, in Boulder, Colo., he declared, “We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. And I’ve set a timetable. We will have them all out of there by 2014.” (whitehouse.gov)
On May 27, 2014, the White House promised that U.S. troops would be out by the end of 2016. (New York Times)
The current timeline not only pushes back the withdrawal date, but also calls for the U.S. to maintain an indefinite presence in Afghanistan.
Obama’s announcement that the nature of the mission has not changed makes it clear that there will not be any re-evaluation of the policy that has been a howling failure, even for U.S. aims. For the people of Afghanistan it has meant years of chaos and ruin.
Despite more than $1 trillion of U.S. tax funds to military contractors and corrupt officials, Afghanistan remains the poorest country in the world. Today one in three Afghans are living in what is considered “absolute poverty” by the U.N. Half of the urban population is without access to potable water. Public facilities have collapsed. More than 2.5 million people are homeless war refugees.
As the U.S. war on terror continues, it is clear that the real terrorists are the U.S. occupation army and their collaborators, mercenaries and contractors. Terror tactics, including drone attacks, use of torture, mass round-ups, assassinations, bombings of hospitals and civilian centers, and targeting of peasants working in the fields and every conceivable social gathering, including weddings, parties and funerals, are standard operating procedure.
The occupation is committed to continuing its payoffs to the most corrupt officials on a local and national level. The policy of pitting one nationality against another, while intensifying rivalries and old national antagonisms, will continue. There will be no change in these terror tactics or even in the number of troops.
Women suffer greatest loss
Women face mounting violence, including threats, sexual assaults and assassinations. The U.S. media regularly describes the Taliban’s reactionary position on women’s rights. But the government held in place by U.S. troops is full of reactionary, feudal figures whose position is not any different toward women. The few laws to supposedly support women, which were window dressing of the U.S. occupation, are not even implemented.
Women have suffered car bombings, grenade attacks on homes, killing of family members and targeted assassinations. Arranged marriages, even of pre-teen girls, the sale of women and rape continue unchallenged. Eighty-five percent of women still have no formal education and are illiterate. The life expectancy of women is 51 years, while infant and maternal mortality are at world record highs.
This is because the U.S. military has been in an alliance with the same reactionary and corrupt military officials and feudal landlords that the U.S. colluded with against the Afghan Revolution in 1979.
Afghanistan today is less stable — with far greater hatred of U.S. occupation after 14 years than of the Taliban. The role of U.S. bombers in the continual bombarding of the well-marked hospital in Kunduz on Oct. 3 is just the latest war crime among hundreds of attacks on civilian targets. These crimes are never prosecuted, just as racist police killings in the U.S. are routinely covered up.
Two weeks after that war crime, on Oct. 15, an armored vehicle forced its way through the hospital gate in Kunduz and “destroyed potential evidence.” In an email to NBC News on Oct. 16, Doctors Without Borders, which ran the hospital, claimed the tank contained a “U.S./NATO/Afghan investigation team.”
The growing number of U.S. troops, NATO troops and contractors regularly targeted by the Afghan soldiers they are assigned to train confirms the depth of anger among Afghan people at the racist insults, routine humiliations and cultural offenses committed in training sessions. These attacks, labeled “insider attacks” or “green-on-blue attacks,” are so routine that the number of attacks has been classified.
Continued occupation will only increase the resistance. An American F-16 fighter jet flying over Afghanistan on Oct. 13 was forced to land at its base after being shot, according to Pentagon officials. The shots fired from the ground damaged the jet and forced the pilot to release its fuel tanks and damaged munitions.
Although Obama ran on a platform to end U.S. wars in the Middle East, it has never happened because, despite campaign promises then or now, policy is set by the needs of Wall Street, U.S. corporate power and the Pentagon. For the military industries, banks, oil companies and contractors, war is profitable, even when they are losing. We pay; they profit.
The only solution for the people of Afghanistan is a total end to the U.S. occupation.