America, not Pakistan is to blame for failings in Afghanistan

“Comment: The narrative that Pakistan has hampered American efforts to ‘rebuild’ Afghanistan is a fallacy that American governments are happy to peddle to avoid criticism, writes Usaid Siddiqui.

Over the past few months rumours had been circling that US President Donald Trump was extremely frustrated with US policy in Afghanistan. Under Obama and his predecessors, US policy had seen a US presence the country for almost 16 years.

During his candidacy and since becoming president, Trump has repeatedly criticised the war, leading some to hope that he would pull the plug and finally end US involvement in the central Asian nation.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

As always, the military industrial complex had its way. Last Monday 21 August, Trump announced his government will authorise the deployment of additional troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and other militant groups.

During his speech, he singled out Pakistan for the losses the Americans have suffered in Afghanistan, calling the nation out for harbouring terrorist groups and for essentially being an unreliable ally in the “War on Terror”.

While Pakistan is no way undeserving of criticism, Trump singling out the country for America’s failings is naive at best, and fraudulent at worst. American misfortunes in Afghanistan are overwhelmingly of its own doing; utterly failing to provide a viable alternative for the Afghan people who have been in a state of war for nearly four decades.

“American misfortunes in Afghanistan are overwhelmingly of its own doing”

In fact, it is Pakistanis, second only to Afghans, who have paid the biggest price for America’s one-dimensional and imperialist adventures in the region.

American failure in Afghanistan

It was never going to be too complicated for the US military — the mightiest force in all of human history, to overthrow a force like the Taliban — essentially a glorified guerrilla army. The Taliban were kicked out of Kabul within weeks but there was little planning on what a viable and stable post-Taliban era would look like.

Instead of attempting to build trust with the civilian population, the Americans handed over to a government filled with corrupt warlords and strongmen — who together with their militia groups, have reigned terror on Afghans.

“American boots on the ground represent a face to most Afghans that has persistently trampled on their basic civil rights and liberties”

A 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report asserts that “More than 13 years after the overthrow of the Taliban government, Afghans continue to suffer serious human rights abuses by government and military officials and their agents.”

The report also makes clear that since the fall of the Taliban, human rights concerns and civil protections have all been “subordinated” to “short-term political and security objectives”.

Afghan activist Malalai Joya in an interview with leftist magazine Counterpunch said the US essentially “replaced [the] Taliban with fundamentalist warlords who are mentally the same as Taliban but only physically different”.

America’s own pugnacious role in the killing of Afghans has made it easier for groups such as the Taliban to resurge, from a point at which they were ready to surrender to US and NATO forces.

Last year the US dropped over 1300 bombs in the country. This year it dropped what was the most powerful non-nuclear bomb dropped in its combat history, whose repercussions are yet to be fully determined.

Read more: America first, everywhere else second, Afghanistan last

Night raids and relentless drone attacks, coupled with an interminable US and NATO presence, has only heightened the animosity Afghans have felt towards western forces.

In an interview with The Intercept, a Taliban allied commander revealed that after every drone strike “people, sometimes the whole clan, join our fight. Especially when women and children get killed, the anger is enormous, they don’t have any other choice than to fight”.

Former commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, no friend of the Afghan people, too admitted the consequences of escalating American violence in the country.

“Because of CivCas [civilian casualties], I think we have just about eroded our credibility here in Afghanistan” McChrystal said in 2010.

Blaming Pakistan

Pakistan has extensive links and sympathies with the Afghan Taliban. Few scholars and students of the region would deny this.

Its continuing legacy of the 1980s, cultivating and harbouring religious fundamentalist groups for its foreign policy objectives, has been a shameful one — a strategy that has led to great suffering for both Afghans and Pakistanis.

“Pakistan is just the latest in line of scapegoats that the Americans have sought to blame for its own mishaps”

The South Asian nation’s attempt to carve out its own interests across its western border, has often been short-sighted and counter intuitive, and deserves to be judged harshly.

However, the narrative that Pakistan has hampered American efforts to “rebuild” Afghanistan is a pure distraction that successive American governments are happy to peddle to avoid criticism.

By June 2011, there were over 130,000 US and NATO troops in the country. It is highly unlikely that against a force so armed to the teeth on the ground and in the air, that Pakistan’s supposed cunning ways and evil designs led to America to lose their grip over war-torn Afghanistan.

Perhaps Pakistan’s gravest error was to involve itself at all in the US led War on Terror that has cost Pakistanis dearly. By most estimates, some 60,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the war.

Former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf’s decision to wage war in Pakistan’s tribal belt, to flush out a small contingent of Afghan Taliban fighters at the behest of the Bush White House, paved the way for the Pakistani version of the Taliban. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)have in turn wreaked havoc on the nation’s economy and security apparatus.

As they pointed fingers at Cambodia for failures in Vietnam, and at Iran for the collapse of post-Saddam Iraq, Pakistan is just the latest in line of scapegoats that the Americans have sought to blame for its own mishaps.

Even if today Pakistan were to fix its ways, there is no winning strategy in Afghanistan. American boots on the ground represent a face to most Afghans that has persistently trampled on their basic civil rights and liberties, while empowering the most repugnant group of leaders to rule over them.

Afghanistan remains the graveyard of empires. Escalating this war further, no matter how brute the force, will only end in further disappointment.

Usaid Siddiqui is a freelance Canadian writer. He has written for PolicyMic, Aslan Media, Al Jazeera America and Mondoweiss on current affairs. 

Follow him on Twitter: @UsaidMuneeb16

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

Usaid Siddiqui

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