Apr 26, 2021
“It’s time to end the forever war,” said President Biden when he formally announced that all 2,500 U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.
But in no way is the U.S. finally ending the war it is waging in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon and U.S. spy agencies make clear that they intend on continuing this war long after the troops leave. These agencies are “refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force,” confirmed the New York Times (April 15).
The U.S. military has a lot more forces in Afghanistan than just the troops that are being removed. These forces include special operations and CIA paramilitaries, who operate under a total veil of secrecy, which is an advantage for U.S. policy makers. Besides that, the U.S. has an unknown number of trainers and technicians. Combat forces from other agencies and departments—like the DEA, State Department and FBI—operate under the guise of battling drugs, human trafficking and corruption. These forces may remain and also be beefed up.
Added to that are all the private contractors operating in Afghanistan. Currently, the private contractors outnumber soldiers 7 to 1. As U.S. troops are withdrawn, the private contractors’ role will most likely grow. This is confirmed by the fact that 54 different defense companies are right now advertising job openings in Afghanistan, looking for technicians to do everything from intelligence analysis and “terrorist” targeting to air conditioning repair.
The U.S. military also has massive military forces that have been targeting Afghanistan from outside the country. These include dozens of squadrons of manned attack aircraft and drones stationed on land bases and on aircraft carriers in the surrounding countries, and hundreds of cruise missiles on ships and submarines.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan is almost two decades old. How did the U.S. military get bogged down in such a “forever war” from which it can’t extricate itself?
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, a brief but powerful U.S. attack was supposed to demonstrate to the world that the U.S., as the only superpower, was still to be feared.
U.S. policy makers chose Afghanistan as the target for this demonstration because it appeared to be an easy target. It was one of the poorest countries on earth, and had already been devastated by 22 years of war and destruction, thanks to previous U.S. interventions.
When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, U.S. officials had assured the public that it would be out in a few months, that the U.S. was not in the business of “nation-building.”
In the first weeks of the war, U.S. forces, with substantial help from its allies that included Iran, easily drove the embattled Taliban government out of Kabul. The war was deemed to be a spectacular success at the time.
But instead of withdrawing, the U.S. expanded its targets to include not just the Taliban, but the Afghan population. The U.S. bombed and destroyed entire villages suspected of harboring the Taliban. To further terrorize the population, U.S. forces carried out systematic night raids, assassinations and mass arrests. At the same time, the Afghan warlords, whom the U.S. government installed as the heads of its new puppet government, used their positions to smuggle, plunder, rob and rape, cloaking themselves in brutal religious fundamentalism.
These attacks provoked the former Taliban and other warlords and tribal chiefs to take up arms against the Afghan government and the U.S. authority. Besides that, because the fighting had left the economy in a shambles, with so many people having lost their land and often their families, it provided a ready mass of people with no other prospects than to join up with local guerrilla commanders.
Thus, the U.S. occupation fed an ever growing cycle of violence and war. The more troops the U.S. military brought in, the more the U.S. bombed, the more U.S. forces created insurgents. U.S. occupiers became mired in an endless tug-of-war, with the Afghan population caught in the middle.
The last years of the war have been among the most violent and chaotic. In 2019, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Afghanistan than any other year since the Pentagon began keeping a tally in 2006. According to figures released by the U.S. Central Command, U.S. warplanes dropped 7,423 bombs and other munitions on Afghanistan, a nearly eightfold increase from 2015. After 2019, the U.S. stopped publishing data about how many bombs it dropped.
At the same time, there have been a growing number of assaults by CIA-backed Afghan militia units that roll into villages at night and leave a trail of death and destruction. The units are “responsible for extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, indiscriminate airstrikes, attacks on medical facilities...” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
The toll has been truly barbaric. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Millions more suffer the physical effects of the war, not to speak of the mental trauma. The people live in constant fear.
And there’s nothing to live on. The country has been almost completely destroyed. There’s no infrastructure. The education system is horrible. So is healthcare. Even in the capital, Kabul, there is no regular electricity, nor water, food, etc.
And there’s no work. Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, himself admits that 70% of the population lives on a dollar a day. Millions have been driven from their homes. Currently, there are about a million-and-a-half internally displaced people, and another 3 million who have left the country completely, the Afghan diaspora, with many more looking for a way to get out.
U.S. imperialism perpetuated endless years of war, first as an example of their military might, and beyond that, to subdue and subjugate the population. Finally, instead, they further destabilized not only Afghanistan, but the surrounding region, something the U.S. military definitely had no interest in doing.
With no viable state, economy, or infrastructure to stabilize the country, the “forever war” will continue, but it will be hidden from the view of the U.S. population.