Sunday, March 1, 2009


Soviet leader accepted defeat and brought his troops home from Afghanistan 20 years ago


Twenty years ago this week, the last Soviet forces pulled out of Afghanistan. During the Soviet occupation (1979-1989), 1.5 million Afghans died at the hands of the Red Army and Afghan Communists.
The new Soviet chairman, Mikhail Gorbachev, proved a leader of great humanity, decency and intellect. I rank him with Nelson Mandela. Gorbachev determined the Afghan war, begun by his dim predecessor, Leonid Brezhnev, and a coterie of party and KGB hardliners, could not be won.
Gorbachev courageously accepted defeat and brought his soldiers home. Soon after, the Soviet Union, a bankrupt imperium held together by fear and repression, began to crumble. Gorbachev refused to employ force to hold the Soviet empire together.
The new president of the bankrupt American imperium should heed Gorbachev’s wisdom. Barack Obama’s inauguration offered a perfect opportunity to pause the U.S.-led Afghan war and open talks with Afghans resisting foreign occupation (both the Soviets and U.S. branded them “terrorists.”)
Instead, Obama vowed to intensify the eight-year, $62-billion war. Ottawa’s cost: $600-800 million in 2009 alone.
President Obama just declared he will send 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan on top of the 6,000 troops dispatched by George W. Bush.
Another 13,000 will follow. Reinforcements are supposed to come from the U.S. Iraq garrison. But the Pentagon is trying to delay or thwart the drawdown from Iraq.


Welcome to President Obama’s war. Obama just defined his goals in Afghanistan as: “Preventing it from being used as a launching pad for attacks on North America” and “defeating al-Qaida.”
He also allowed that some sort of negotiations to split the Taliban might be tried.
Both goals are patently bogus. The 9/11 tragedy was organized in Germany and Spain, allegedly by Saudis and Pakistanis. Attacks on New York, Washington, London, Madrid and Mumbai were plotted in apartments and houses, not the mountains of Afghanistan.
If Obama plans to “crush” anti-U.S. groups in South Asia, he will have to invade Pakistan, a nation of 167 million. Al-Qaida never had more than 300 men and is today reduced to a handful hiding in Pakistan. Its primary role, as my new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?, explains, was as a guesthouse and data base for foreign mujahidin fighting the Soviets, not a worldwide “terrorist organization.”
By expanding the Afghan war, Obama fuels the growing threat of a major explosion in Pakistan. Today, U.S. warplanes and CIA killer drones operate from three secret Pakistani air bases. Washington has rented 120,000 Pakistani troops for $100 million monthly (plus secret CIA payments) to support the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.


Pakistan’s government, a key American ally, is being paid by Washington to attack its own people, and allow U.S. forces to do the same. Pakistan is bankrupt. Its last U.S.-backed regime stole whatever money there was. Yet at some point, Pakistan’s rent-an-army is going to rebel and turn against the government that orders it to kill its own people.
Our high expectations for Obama are fading fast. His administration seems set on continuing many of the illegal, repressive policies of the disgraced Bush White House it vowed to end: Torture, kidnapping, wiretapping, assassinations, constitutional infringements, denial of due process.
What happened to the Obama who was supposed to bring change? Leftover hardliners from the Bush days appear to be driving Obama’s foreign policy in the Mideast and Afghanistan.
Soviet veterans of Afghanistan warn the U.S. and its dragooned allies face defeat there. I suspect Obama politely suggested to his hosts in Ottawa this week, “if you want to keep GM in Canada, keep your troops in Afghanistan.”
The Obama White House cannot even articulate a coherent political strategy for Afghanistan. Its latest big idea is to kick out the hapless President Hamid Karzai and install a new puppet.
Washington hopes U.S. troop reinforcements finally will bludgeon the Afghan national resistance into accepting American domination. Then the long-planned pipeline from the Caspian Basin across Afghanistan to Pakistan can finally be built. George W. Bush must be smiling.

Courtesy: Writer is a Contributing Editor of the daily Toronto Sun. He can be reached at hi his site

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