Military Review

Followed by Britain and the Soviet Union - America

Followed by Britain and the Soviet Union - America
Looks like Obama’s Afghan strategy crashes

The resignation of US General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is a reflection of the deteriorating situation in this country. It is possible that we are talking about the pre-search for the culprit in the defeat of the international coalition, which is becoming more and more likely.

The formal reason for the separation of the White House and the Pentagon with the warlord who gave the United States armed forces nearly 40 years of life was his interview with Rolling Stone magazine, in which he critically responded to a number of high-ranking representatives of the current US administration, including President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, in relation to their Afghan policy. Such a demarche is a blatant violation of the chain of command: neither the officer, nor the general has the right to publicly criticize the leadership of the state as long as they remain at their post. Such things are unacceptable in any country of the world, especially in the USA, where the principle of unquestioning obedience of the military to politicians is faithfully observed.


Of course, McChrystal is well known. However, the general possessing enormous military experience understood that restrictions on the scale and timing of the operation, as well as the style of its management, leave the troops of the United States and its allies little chance of winning. It is not excluded that now the former commander simply decided to ask for a scandal in order not to turn into the main scapegoat responsible for the very likely failure of Washington in Afghanistan. Yes, and perhaps get a chance for a political career in the Republican ranks. After all, now the main problem for them is the lack of a strong candidate, who in two years could be put up against Obama, who is rapidly losing popularity. The general may be very helpful here.

We turn, however, to Afghan affairs. Although the number of US troops in a very distant Asian country of America has recently increased significantly, the military believe that the deployed reinforcements are still not enough. But not only in this snag. Worse, in accordance with Obama’s strategy, the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan should begin in a year. And regardless of the results achieved. When care ends, is unknown. But, as a rule, such a process cannot be delayed. On the contrary, after the launch, it is gaining momentum.

There is nothing to say about other coalition members: they are ready to go home right now. Even the British and Canadians, the most persistent allies of Washington, began talking about the need to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. However, the contingents of the European member states of NATO, which are now in the "heart of Asia", have little sense, since they refuse to fight for fear of loss.

Even worse, the Americans themselves are fighting the Taliban in a somewhat strange way. They broadcast their operations (in Helmand and Kandahar) a few months before they begin (in fact, the operation in Kandahar has not yet been carried out, but has already been best announced). As a result, the enemy successfully evades battle. The American units “liberate” the territory already abandoned by the enemy, but they lack the strength to permanently hold it.

And what about the Afghan army? She is still completely incapacitated, desertion from her ranks is widespread and there is no tendency to decrease it. The losses of the US and NATO troops are growing, almost 80% damage is caused by landmine explosions. That is, the Taliban do not want to join direct clashes, except for suicide bombers and snipers.

In this regard, we can recall: in 80-ies, the command of the Soviet "limited contingent" in Afghanistan did everything in order to keep the information about the planned operations to a maximum. Often they were even hidden from senior and senior Afghan officers, because even the army of the Kabul regime had big problems with combat capability, but information about the upcoming attacks quickly became suspicious of the enemy. By the way, general desertion in the Afghan army units was also an incurable disease.


Speaking last year at West Point, Obama described the “three key elements” of his Afghan strategy - “military efforts to create conditions for a transitional period, public support and effective cooperation with Pakistan.” Formally, this looks quite sensible, but in practice the effectiveness of the proposed components of the strategic concept of the President of the United States raises all doubts.

Undoubtedly, it looks at parallels with the Iraqi situation. In Mesopotamia, there was also an increase in the grouping of the armed forces of the United States in conjunction with the strengthening of local formations, which brought quite real success and created the prerequisites for the withdrawal of American troops. The difference, however, is that George W. Bush did not announce a departure date in advance. He decided that he needed to win first and then leave Iraq. And achieved the result. Sunni militants realized that Washington was not going to lose, because the American tactics of their involvement in the war against al-Qaeda worked. As, incidentally, in Chechnya, the “nationalist” militants went over to the side of Russia in the fight against Islamist extremists when they saw that even if it was the second time, but Moscow decided to “press” the latter.

And the current owner of the White House has informed both the American and the world community that the US troops will leave Afghanistan, regardless of the result achieved. And their withdrawal will begin during the presidential term of Obama, who, it is believed, wants to remain at the head of the overseas superpower after January 2013, which means that he will be forced to keep his promises. That is why the Taliban for this period can either just lay low or go to Pakistan, creating the illusion of victory for Washington. Then to turn around "in full".

Previous historical experience shows that the Saigon regime did not last long after the withdrawal of the Americans from South Vietnam and the Kabul pro-communist authorities after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Announcing the departure of the "senior comrades" very often leads to the fact that their local allies begin to look for ways to surrender, and by no means are mobilized for decisive resistance.

Perhaps the exception will be Iraq (although there is no complete certainty yet). But here, first of all, the Americans’s readiness to go to the end, and not before the deadline, played a role, and secondly, oddly enough, Saddam Hussein’s policy of building a multinational secular Europeanized state on the land of the Old Interfluvial Region. dictatorship). As a result, the Iraqis simply rejected the Islamists with their barbaric ideas: a significant part of the country's citizens, they seemed more evil than the American occupation. Many Afghans, alas, are now willingly accepted.

Obama's hopes of "public support" in Afghanistan are ephemeral. The local population sees that Western troops cannot cope with the Taliban. And it begins to decline to their side, although quite recently the attitude of the Afghans towards them was generally extremely negative.

In 2001, most of the Afghan society welcomed the overthrow of the Taliban Islamic regime. But rather quickly the situation in the country was revived, which once allowed the IDT to seize the reins of government in the country: the absolute power of the field commanders, the main (more precisely, the only) occupation of which is drug trafficking. And the Taliban make huge profits from selling drugs. And since practically all the leaders of the armed formations in Afghanistan, including those loyal to the Western coalition, live in the same craft, the Americans and their allies do not even try to fight drug trafficking. Otherwise, all the powerful forces of Afghanistan will go over to the enemy camp. But because of this, the Taliban have no financial problems.

In addition, as it was recently officially recognized, the Americans in fact sponsor the Taliban themselves. For transport convoys coming from the main bases of the United States and NATO to the points of deployment of coalition troops are guarded by Afghans (for a substantial fee, of course), and field commanders who provide security on the routes simply agree with the Taliban about passing car caravans, sharing the money received from Americans. This fact shows very clearly that the level of corruption in Afghanistan is notorious. In fact, corruption is Afghanistan.


As for cooperation with Pakistan, everything is also very difficult and ambiguous. We must not forget that the Taliban created the Pakistani intelligence, which still considers it its most important ally and resource. At the same time, the main ways of supplying the forces of the western coalition in Afghanistan go through Pakistan. Because of this, Washington is forced to pretend that Islamabad is its most important strategic ally in the fight against international terrorism, “not noticing” that the Pakistani military “in combination” support this very terrorism.

It may be recalled how the Pakistani army pointedly stopped the offensive against the Taliban in North Waziristan, despite all the demands of Washington. Last year, the Taliban clearly exploded, establishing full control over the Swat valley and launching an attack on Islamabad from there. Government units repelled the onslaught, liberated Swat Valley, but did not finish off the enemy. Because no he is not an opponent, but an ally, somewhat overestimated his capabilities.

The strategic goal of Islamabad is to return the Taliban to Kabul and turn Afghanistan into a reliable strategic rear in case of a war with India. Pakistan is too incapable of achieving this goal too openly now, but is not even going to abandon it. Perhaps, Washington thinks about this, but in essence they cannot do anything.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai perfectly sees that the prospects for the anti-Taliban operation, to put it mildly, are not encouraging. In addition, he was bored with the constant reproaches of Americans (quite fair, it should be noted) about the extreme corruption in the country and the not completely obvious purity of last year’s elections, as a result of which he retained his post. Finally, to all appearances, Karzai’s next of kin are not entirely alien to the process of growing drugs on an industrial scale. The brother of President Vali heads the provincial council of Kandahar Province. The turnover of the local drug cartel is about a billion dollars a year ...

As a result, Karzai, who was recently considered an American puppet, began to challenge the United States. From the lips of the president, there were even statements that the Taliban could turn into “the forces of legitimate national resistance,” and he, if the pressure on him from the Americans continues, will join the Taliban himself. In addition, the head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan began rapprochement with China and Iran: he visited Beijing in March (the visit resulted in a statement that there were no political differences between the countries), and soon after that visited Tehran.

Interestingly, Obama did not find anything better than to then invite Karzai and his associates to Washington, thus showing that he has no alternative for the United States and can thus do anything. The American president gave a direct order to his subordinates to stop putting pressure on his Afghan counterpart. In the end, the parties demonstrated reconciliation and unity, which did not fundamentally change the situation. After all, the Americans did not cancel their departure. And they did not begin to fight in such a way that this led to a real rout of the Taliban. Accordingly, the issue of finding new patrons for Karzai becomes very relevant, so his contacts with Tehran and Beijing will continue and even most likely become more intense.

It must be borne in mind that the Taliban is the worst enemy for Iran. It was thanks to the help of Tehran, as well as Moscow and Tashkent (but not Washington at all) that the Northern Alliance did not suffer a complete collapse at the end of the 90, when the Taliban controlled almost the whole of Afghanistan. Moreover, Tehran and Taliban Kabul have balanced several times on the brink of war. But at the same time, Iran is strongly interested in the Americans leaving Afghanistan. It is only natural that Karzai probes the possibility of transition under the auspices of the western neighbor of the IRA.

As for China, for this country Pakistan has always been the most important strategic ally. And with the Taliban during the period when they controlled the 90% of the territory of Afghanistan, Beijing was in very good relations. At the same time, the Chinese also perfectly find a common language with Karzai. Extreme pragmatism in relations with other countries, complete indifference to the nature of their regimes are extremely characteristic of the PRC’s foreign policy. The Middle Kingdom does not suffer from any political complexes about "democracy", "human rights" and other Western "nonsense." Beijing is ready to cooperate with any regimes, establishing personal, often overtly corrupt ties with them. Therefore, as a patron, he is even more promising for Karzai than Tehran. Moreover, from a military and economic point of view, China is many times stronger than Iran.

However, recently the topic has taken a completely new turn. An article appeared in the New York Times that Afghanistan has reserves of various minerals (copper, gold, cobalt, lithium, etc., etc.) totaling a trillion dollars. For Beijing, access to this wealth would be of great importance. The PRC is experiencing a colossal, and constantly increasing, resource hunger. With gold reserves of almost 2 trillion dollars, China is actively acquiring depreciating assets abroad. Primarily shares of mining companies in developing countries. He is no less active in capturing the elites of the developing countries in which the minerals are located.

"Buy" Kabul Beijing could easily and cheap. Moreover, penetration into Afghanistan would have enormous geopolitical significance for the PRC. It would complete the deep strategic environment of its main enemy in the region - India (for this, China has already established the closest possible relations in political, economic and military spheres with Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh), got a direct connection with friendly Iran and “backed up” from south Central Asia, from where Russia is now successfully squeezed out.

This would greatly facilitate for the PRC access to oil and gas, which could be pumped to China via safe land pipelines, and not transported by tankers along military lines that are unreliable from a military point of view. It is likely that Chinese troops would appear in Afghanistan. Not at all to fight the Taliban, Beijing has never quarreled with them, but to consolidate its geopolitical positions.


On the other hand, there is an incentive for Americans not to leave Afghanistan. Even not only in order to develop the Afghan minerals themselves, how much then, so as not to let the Chinese to them. And do not let them take such a convenient strategic position. This will be a real "big game". Then the whole strategy will have to be revised.

So far, however, the former strategy is in effect and McChrystal has been replaced by General David Patreus, who led CENTCOM - the Central Command of the US Armed Forces, which also includes Afghanistan. Therefore, formally Patreus was demoted. But, of course, there is no question of a lowering: Afghanistan is too important for Washington. For the Central Command, the part is more important than the whole.

The Iraqi experience was clearly in favor of the new commander. It was at that time when he led the actions of the American group in Mesopotamia that a decisive change was made in favor of the United States. Since the middle of 2007, American losses have declined sharply (for example, in May 2007-s lost 126 people killed, and in December 23 people lost 5,5 times less), and Al-Qaida began to lose.

The success was based, firstly, on the deployment of reinforcements and uncompromising in conducting operations, and secondly, on the formation of "vigilance troops" ("sahwa") from Sunni militants who had previously fought against the Americans. Petreus managed to play on the fact that a large part of Iraqi society rejected Al-Qaeda’s Islamic radicalism and drag Sunnis, who fought against the invaders, to their side, but not for the World Caliphate.

Obviously, it is assumed that now this experience will be transferred to Afghanistan. Although it is not very clear who will be “Saha” here. Is that some "moderate Taliban", the search for which the Americans have been for quite some time. True, unsuccessfully. Perhaps because the search object is simply absent in nature. At least, no one has yet seen the “moderate Taliban.”

Transferring the Iraqi experience to Afghanistan will also be difficult because the Afghan society is an order of magnitude less Europeanized and secularized than the Iraqi one. In addition, Iraq has never had its own Pakistan. Iran does not fit this role. Paradoxically, Washington and Tehran in Iraq have the same enemy (al-Qaeda) and the same allies (Shiites).

By the way, Patreus already has experience of participation in Afghan affairs. In early May, it was he (still in his former post as commander of CENTCOM) who was engaged in settling the conflict between McChrystal and the Karzayev clan. The general personally held talks with Wali Karzai to allow him to carry out the operation in Kandahar. It seems in exchange for guarantees of immunity of the drug business. So it is possible that McChrystal was removed not only because of insubordination and because he asked for it himself. Perhaps the “Afghan comrades” insisted on changing the commander.

Patreus has a year to adapt the Iraqi experience to Afghan conditions. If they fail to do this, they will either have to admit defeat, or declare the struggle no longer with the Taliban, but with China.

Afghanistan is not the first to crush empires. The British superpower crashed on it, the USSR broke down on it. Now the turn of the United States. Maybe the Celestial?
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