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28.01.2013 09:16

Valery Ross

Last week Washington hosted the talks between B.Obama and H.Karzai, at which it was decided that by the end of 2014 a small American military contingent will remain in Afghanistan.By spring of 2013, the U.S. troops will complete most of the operations and will switch to support the Afghan military.

“Beginning with this spring, our troops will have a different task: training, counseling and assistance to Afghan forces,” said President Obama. In a statement issued after the talks, said that the Afghan military are currently conducting more than 80 percent of military operations. By February, as expected, they will provide security in the areas where 90 percent of the population live. The process of training of Afghan security forces by American instructors, according to the parties' joint statement, is so successful that it “exceeds all expectations”. According to the foreign press reports, the U.S. military will hand over to Afghan authorities the guard of prisoners, which, according to Karzai, is an extremely important political moment.

The military recommended B.Obama to leave in the country from six to 15 thousand servicemen. True, it is stipulated that the Afghan government itself must offer it to Americans, and guarantee immunity from local law. Obama said he will take into consideration the military's recommendations and once again confirmed that the U.S. does not intend to leave permanent bases in Afghanistan. Both Obama and Karzai supported the idea of talks between the Afghan government and the leaders of the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

Good words but even American analysts understand that case scenarios after the U.S. troops withdrawal are not too optimistic: the forecasts vary from making of contract with the Taliban on terms not too favorable for the Afghan government, to the country's slow slide into civil war.

So, Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst, the Brookings Research Institute, believes there is no reason to be hasty in complete withdrawing troops. “Yes, Americans are tired of this war, but they understand that we have invested a lot in it for the last 12 years - and that, unfortunately, our success is still very fragile,” he said in an interview with the Voice of America. “We need to make this process of withdrawal more gradual, not to focus on figures. The withdrawal of troops can be completed by both 2018 and 2020. By 2015, the Afghan military will still need air support, the evacuation of wounded. This does not mean they have to stay there forever.”

According to the analyst, at this point, the Afghan forces alone are unable to hold back the Taliban and control the territory. Incidentally, a recent Pentagon report claims that of the 31 Afghan battalions only one can be considered full mission capable, and many Afghan units depend on the American even in such things as food supply. Indeed, the fragile achievement.

But what drives the analyst out of his wits most of all is the comparison of withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan with the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops. “It's a stupid comparison,” he says. “The Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and bombed villages, killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans. The Soviet troops behavior could justifiably be compared only to the war in Vietnam. There is no doubt that the U.S. has handled the war in Afghanistan by far better, and we leave there local army and police, which will eventually be able to ensure the security of citizens. Since the beginning of the war there were free and democratic elections - twice. We gave the Afghans the right to make decisions independently.”

Indeed, it is stupid to compare the presence of the Soviet and American troops in the country and their withdrawal from Afghanistan. But, as the saying goes, from this point on we will consider the analyst's opinion in detail.

“The Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan”.

There was no occupation. As is known, the Soviet troops entered the country after repeated appeals of the Afghan government to help establish order and stability in Afghanistan torn apart by seven groups, each pursuing its own goals and having its foreign sponsors. The Soviet Union intervened only when the outcome of the struggle between the groups could soon threaten the southern borders of the USSR. The size of the Soviet troops was agreed by the Afghan leadership and the troops were asked neither to create nor to maintain the occupation regime.

The official pretext to the U.S. troops' entry into Afghanistan was counter-terrorism and the reason thereof were the attacks on September 11, 2001. Then, as was reported, terrorists hijacked five passenger planes. Three planes crashed into the Trade Center in New York, which led to their collapse, and one crashed in an open field. Thanks to TV coverage everybody saw on-line the burning and collapsing towers in Manhattan. About 3,000 people were killed, for which the whole world mourned. The debris of the crashed aircraft was also presented to correspondents. However the fifth aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, and in such a big way that even the ubiquitous photo and video correspondents could not capture on film a single fragment. Neither on the day of the disaster, nor later. Investigations conducted by independent researchers, as they say in the West, led to the conclusion that the large-scale terrorist act was organized by the American intelligence agencies themselves and a cruise missile that hit the Pentagon could not be launched by al-Qaeda militants. Even the organization leader, Osama bin Laden, who gladly boasted reporters about the terrorist acts, carried out by his militants against the U.S., never took responsibility for this action. Indeed, it is stupid to compare the reasons for the two countries' troops' entry in Afghanistan.

“They bombed villages, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.”

It is foolish to deny the inevitable civilian casualties during combat operations, it would be blasphemous to compare when they were more - in 1979-1989 or in 2001-2012.

However, the American analyst has forgotten that the bombing of Afghan communities began up before the entry of the U.S. troops into the country. The U.S. military by brutal bombing “the areas” sought to inspire the Afghans with fear and break their will to resist. Soviet pilots were never noticed in such bombings.

Already by early November 2001 the White House faced growing international condemnation of the bombing of Afghanistan and the wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Muslim countries of the Middle East. According to the surveys, support for the U.S. bombing campaign significantly decreased in all European countries too. To intensify the propaganda campaign against the United States the Talibs began to admit to the country some Western journalists and organize visits to the bombed villages. Thanks to al-Jazeera Qatari channel's reports, the world saw pictures of children killed by mistake and crowds of refugees.

According to Western experts, in the period 2001-2011, victims of the campaign against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan were 225-258 thousand people, of which were about 6,100 American soldiers (in Afghanistan - more than 2,000), about 139,000 people of these two countries, and 3.5 thousand of Pakistanis. From 20 to 51 thousand militants were killed. Some 7.8 million people became refugees.

It should be noted that at the present time, we are witnessing the end of the longest war ever fought in the U.S. that lasted more than 30 years. According to the American analysts, the U.S. war in Afghanistan began after the Soviet troops entered in December 1979. Then the United States together with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan organized and supported the Afghan resistance. The core of this resistance were Mujahideen, the militants whose main motivation was Islam. In those years, with the support of the Americans the formation of the Taliban radical Islamic movement began. Washington's goals had nothing to do with Afghanistan itself, but were connected with the US-Soviet rivalry in the region. The United States did not participate in the war itself, but furthered it. Please note that then the strongest Mujahideen group was led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (who oriented to the U.S.) and his field commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Currently, the same G.Hekmatyar is already struggling against the presence of Americans in the country.

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the country the Civil War began, which resulted in 1996 with the support of Pakistan in coming to power of the Taliban that gave shelter to the al-Qaeda militants, who began to carry out terrorist attacks against Americans world wide. Thereafter, the United States agreed with the groups opposed to the Taliban in the civil war and defeated. Among them were: The Northern Alliance that maintained close ties with Russia, groups of Shiites in the west of the country connected with Iran and India, as well as other groups. These groups supported the U.S. out of hostility to the Taliban and/or due to substantial bribes paid by Americans to the group leaders. As a result, the U.S. made its protege, Karzai, the leader of Afghanistan.

“There is no doubt that the U.S. has handled the war in Afghanistan by far better, and we leave there local army and police, which will eventually be able to ensure the security of citizens.”

Independent experts have long been proven that Najibullah's regime in Afghanistan fell only because after 1991 the USSR's help completely stopped, while support for the Mujahideen intensified every year. This support was expressed not only in military supplies and training of Mujahideens in special camps in Pakistan, but also in political actions of the U.S. and its allies on the international level.

Currently, it is difficult to get reliable figures on the number of Afghan army and police. According to NATO command's official data, already by October 2012 they were to amount to 352 thousand people, and in the future instructors of the alliance “will only deal with improving their training quality”. In this case, according to the alliance military, it is worth noting that the Afghan forces are short of communication facilities and electronic coordination and planning devices". It bears mentioning the low level of literacy in the enlisted personnel, and a high level of Afghans' commitment to their tribe and clan. It is difficult to talk about their loyalty to the existing regime. In addition, in the last two years the killings of NATO servicemen by Afghan soldiers became more frequent - 11 in 2011, 29 in 2012.

Which Afghanistan and its army do the Americans leave?

Currently, Afghanistan is a country with an extremely weak, war-torn economy, where the main crop is opium poppy. Corruption of the state machine in the last decade has assumed a scope unprecedented even for this country, Hamid Karzai's regime lives exclusively on foreign donations. Thus, foreign partners will have to also pay for the maintenance of the Afghan army.

In spring 2012, experts estimated the amount of the future funding of Afghan forces at $4.1 billion. According to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “it is cheaper to fund Afghan forces than to have foreign military in the country”. According to preliminary information, the Afghan army and police will be financed from a special trust fund of the alliance. It is expected that the U.S. will contribute to it more than others - $2.3 billion. The remaining money is to be found by NATO and its partners. The leading NATO countries have decided on the size of their contributions, but half a billion dollars per annum is missing.

It is no wonder that the maintenance of such a large NATO force is a too expensive task. Therefore the United States expects already by 2017 to reduce the Afghan security forces to 228.5 thousand, in the hope that by this time the situation in the country will have been fully stabilized. From 2001 to 2012 the U.S. spent on the war in Afghanistan about 500 billion dollars, it is almost impossible to give an exact figure.

Who is planned to be left in Afghanistan for further training of local security forces and supporting them? It is easier to answer this question. As far back as 2011, the United States began to recruit commandos of all stripes, i.e. among green and black berets, navy seals, etc. According to U.S. military commanders, commandos are better able to implement the U.S.' strategic plans in this politically difficult and important region. For example, it is assumed that 16 special forces fighters by their effectiveness are equal to hundreds of ordinary soldiers. At present, the U.S. forces number about 61 thousand commandos stationed throughout the world. In Afghanistan there are about seven thousand of them. It is not known how many they will be after 2014, but even now on the Afghan territory for them and for the forces to arrive there and strengthen them, if necessary, a military infrastructure is being created.

On January 11, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will not leave permanent military bases in Afghanistan. However, since 2010 in different parts of Afghanistan a complex of military bases has been under construction. At the same time, the facilities vacated by Americans are transferred to the Afghan forces. Fundamentally new facilities are being built; there is an in-depth reconstruction of existing ones, including those remained after the limited contingent of Soviet troops.

Thus, at an airfield in Kandahar a two-story concrete building of a base of the Center for reconnaissance and combat drones command and control is under construction. There will be more than 650 square meters of offices, meeting rooms for briefings and conferences, major command operations center for “processing, use and dissemination of data”. It is planned to build a Special Forces Allied Command Operations Center in the same Kandahar. A structure of 3,000 square meters designed for command offices, conference rooms, training and confidential talks will be the basis for future missions for Special Forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan, supposedly after the last “combat troops” of the U.S. will have left the country in late 2014.

At Bagram Air Base (65 km north of Kabul) a major transit point is being created. As stated in 2011 by an American engineering department officer, they “are going over to the long-term, 5-year, 10-year vision of the prospects of the base.” It should be understood that certainly the politician's words are important, but practical deeds are more significant, especially as there are reasons for this.

Not to mention the weakness of the Afghan government forces needing support, there are also political and resource reasons for the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The region is very important in terms of geopolitics. The power presence there allow to influence the development of the situation in almost all neighboring countries, including Pakistan, Iran, India and China. Through the country a corridor opens also for direct impact on the countries of Central Asia and Russia.

As for the resource motive, then from 2004 to 2010 several U.S. geological parties worked in Afghanistan under the cover of the Pentagon. In the course of geological exploration it was revealed that the country is rich in large deposits of iron, cobalt, gold, copper, niobium, molybdenum and lithium. In addition, there are alos uranium and emeralds. The reserves of lithium in Afghanistan are most impressive, for which it was named the Saudi Arabia of lithium. Preliminary assessment of the country's natural resources in the range of 900 to 910 billion dollars. But American companies can start their development only after full termination of the war in Afghanistan. It is also one of the reasons that Washington curtails combat operations there and withdraws the troops. And it is the green berets that will apparently have to agree with the Taliban and ensure the power presence and the U.S. companies' safety.

As in any war, money is of primary importance. Out-of-line expenses related not only to the conduct of the war, but also to financial support of the Afghan government and its security forces, as well as the cost of benefits for families of killed Americans soldiers and material aid to the wounded forced the U.S. administration to begin to curtail combat operations. However, the power presence importance in the strategically important region, and the interests of American business structures incite the U.S. to retention of troops in Afghanistan. Material and technical basis for the remaining troops is being already prepared. A number of NATO member states said they too will have withdrawn their troops in 2014, but there are also those who wish to retain their troops in Afghanistan.

Thus, the U.S. and NATO can not prevent the development of events in Afghanistan in an unfavorable direction for them and, therefore, they are leaving to stay.