So, what are we doing in Afghanistan? Let's ask some intelligent Afghanis.
It's near-impossible to find anyone in Afghanistan who doesn't believe the US are funding the Taliban: and it's the highly educated Afghan professionals, those employed by ISAF, USAID, international media organisations – and even advising US diplomats – who seem the most convinced.
Where does this story come from? The Guardian, which actually takes an interest in digging a little deeper than most U.S. media outlets: Afghans believe US is funding Taliban by Daniella Peled.
Americans are often baffled, if they bother to travel and interact with the natives in a realistic way, at how differently people view the world. For people in the rest of the world conspiracies are normal. False flag events, double-crosses, double-dealing are well known in cultures with long oral traditions. Indeed, had we in America been much interested in history we would realize that there are plots all over the place about all kinds of major and minor issues. Yes, people are not honest. Shocking.
Is there merit to their argument?
As background, I am a non-believer in American Exceptionalism. I believe the United States Government is like any other government at any time in history--not better and not really worse. The United States as an entity has certain interests and priorities. All senior government officials get special training in ongoing government strategy in foreign affairs both officially in institutions like The Army War College and unofficially in seminars, war-gaming exercises, and so on. Strategy and tactics are well developed and proceed from administration to administration which is one reason why there is never any change in foreign affairs other than a gradual drift. Contrary to what people think the Bush regime did not radically alter U.S. foreign policy in just seized the moment and instituted plans already in the pipeline that has been thought about and studied for some years. From time to time there are some changes in policy as can be seen post 2006 with the rise to power of William Gates who believed that the prior regime had been stupid, crude and full of factional infighting. Bush brought in Gates to settle things down and bring a more unified foreign policy (military policy and foreign policy is now the same thing and the DOD is the point organization for FP).
Among the things everybody knows are that Afghan national army troops report taking over Taliban bases to find identical rations and weapons to their own US-supplied equipment. The US funds the madrasas both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, which produce the young Talibs. US army helicopters regularly deliver supplies behind Taliban lines. The aid organisations are nothing more than intelligence-collecting agencies, going into regions the army cannot easily reach to obtain facts on the ground. Even the humblest midwife-training project is a spying outfit.
Whether any of this is true or not (I don't think for a moment it is that simple) such thinking by people who interact with the (largely) Anglo/American enterprise in Afghanistan is a serious issue. It matters what intelligent and educated Afghans think--wouldn't you say?
This also begs the question as to what the non-educated tribal people believe about U.S. interests in that country.
At any rate let me give you my own view of what they might be thinking. Could it be that the United States wants to continue the war and maintain tensions there? If so why? If we look at a map we see how close it is to very important parts of the world. It borders Iran, Pakistan, China and some Central Asian Republics and it is within a few hundered miles of India. It is relatively sparsely populated and divided into tribal areas that can be easily influenced by outsiders. It is also the world center of opium production, it's chief export which causes strange bedfellows to say the least.
As background we have to remember that the U.S. has been closely involved with Pakistani intelligence and military since the 1950's and that the Taliban are a product of Pakistan's ISI and Saudi intelligence working together. It was the Saudis as most will remember that funded the Madrassas inside Pakistan and the Pakistani military that controlled the country for most of its life and chose not to fund public education.
What has the U.S. done to actually help Afghanistan? It has installed, by all accounts, a corrupt regime deeply embedded in the drug trade and weak allowing for regional war-lords, including the Taliban, to rule areas under their control. Very little political progress has been made. You have highly publicised offensives followed by government-in-a-box (a very strange notion indeed) potemkin village that dissolves as soon as the cameras go away. Everything I've read or know about that war is deeply paradoxical. There are bursts of military activity then everyone talks about civil society and then more military strikes then talks of negotiations and we forget that this war has gone on for nearly nine years. Nine years!
What's the advantage? Who profits? Well obviously the MIC does very well as do private security firms and the growing population of defense and intel consulting companies in my hometown (inside the beltway). But strategically it keeps the U.S. engaged and working on new weapons and techniques that can be used anywhere in the world particularly as has been publicised recently in the MSM, covert operations which I would guess are modeled on the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. At any rate keeping the U.S. bogged down, so to speak is a good idea if you want military bases in the region and no central government to harass you so that the field is open for any and all military actions and instillations.
Is this a worthwhile war to pursue? Is it really a war at all? I welcome thoughts on this.