Reversing earlier promises to end US military involvement in Afghanistan, president Obama has announced that US troops will remain indefinitely. He says they will not be fighting on the ground, but will act as trainers and advisors to the US-imposed warlord-landlord-capitalist regime.
The decision is a desperate attempt to save the puppet government, which is suffering loses to the anti-US opposition.
The announcement comes as leaked internal documents detailing the US drone program were provided to the independent news organisation Intercept by a whistleblower in US intelligence. The exposé casts light on why the Washington-imposed Afghan regime is in trouble and needs indefinite US military support.
The documents cover drone strikes mainly in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. They show that Washington falsifies and significantly understates the number of civilians killed. The classified materials show that the US military describes fatalities from drones as “enemy killed in action” even if their identity is unknown or if they were not the intended targets.
The documents also corroborate previous reports that all foreign males in a target zone have been treated as “militants” to use the military’s jargon – unless they have been proven innocent after death.
Amnesty International said that the leaks should spark an independent inquiry over “whether the USA has systematically violated international law”.
Documents detailing a mission called Operation Haymaker showed that drone strikes killed more than 219 people in north-eastern Afghanistan from January 2012 to February 2013. In one five-month period, nearly 90 percent of those killed were not the intended targets. The unnamed source said that US government statements minimising the number of civilian casualties were “exaggerating at best, if not outright lies”.
The intelligence the US relies on, the documents acknowledge, is “poor and limited”. The strikes by drones and manned aircraft are targeted largely on the basis of electronic communications data, tips from the governments involved or individuals holding grudges against proposed targets. A secret group called the Deputies Committee tries to analyse this information before drawing up files they call “baseball cards” of individuals who may be targeted.
Then they arrange these “baseball cards” in order, and make recommendations about who should be killed. The intelligence source said that the people in these meetings, which are far from the war zones, enjoy “playing God”. The recommendations then go up the military chain of command and eventually to the White House.
There they are examined by lawyers of top administration officials before approval by a Principals Committee composed of all tops heads of the cabinet, National Security Council, the CIA, etc. and the president.
So the decisions about who to kill are made by people far removed from any actual intelligence on the ground, which itself is “poor and limited”. Then Obama gives the order, and the military has 60 days to carry it out, which gives lie to his assertions that strikes are only carried out when there is an “imminent threat” of an attack.
We must assume there is some rationale behind all this, some purpose. And indeed there is. Many reports from people in Afghanistan indicate that the drone strikes terrorise the population. It is not only the families and friends of those killed who are terrorised, but whole communities.
The rationale in the imperialist mindset is that creating such terror will force the population to acquiesce and flock to the puppet government to avoid being associated with the “Taliban” opposition and thus becoming a target.
Civilian “collateral damage” furthers that aim. That’s why the strikes continue, even though the government is fully aware of the casualties.
This was also seen in the recent bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (known as MSF for its French initials) hospital in Kunduz. The city had been taken over for a time by the Taliban, a demonstration of its growing strength in the country.
The US decided it had to teach the population a lesson, and started bombing the hospital, the only medical facility in the region.
Washington now says that was a “mistake” – but that is a joke. MSF charges that the bombing was deliberate, as the coordinates of the hospital had been given to the US and Afghan militaries many times. Once the US planes started bombing, the hospital staff alerted the US military. Disregarding this information, the planes kept coming in waves, with precision attacks, for another half an hour, killing many doctors, nurses and patients, and wounding many others. Many are still missing.
The hospital had to be abandoned, leaving the population of Kunduz and the region without any medical facilities. That’ll teach them for “allowing” the Taliban to overrun their city!
Besides terrorising the population, the bombing also was aimed at terrorising MSF itself. The hospital treated wounded combatants from either side in keeping with its stated purpose to administer to all those in need of medical attention in regions of conflict. That purpose runs counter to imperialist aims.
Doctors Without Borders has called for an independent investigation. But that would require permission from Washington and Kabul – don’t hold your breath.
As we saw with the initial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US terror campaign backfires. “Shock and awe”, as then secretary of defense [war] Donald Rumsfeld gloated over the initial massive bombing of Iraq, led to disaster.
As Intercept reporter Jeremy Scahill noted, “The Taliban as it exists today is not the Taliban that existed on 9/11. Taliban is a generic term at this point … People are sick of the occupation, the Taliban are actually Muslims, rather than [US soldiers] kicking down doors. The Taliban actually do have indigenous support … in large swaths of the country. They’re also brutal thugs, gangsters and murderers … [But US terrorism] opened the door for the Taliban to retake power in parts of the country”.
US policy is driving Afghanis into supporting the Taliban, which has now caused the US to double down and once again embark on indefinite war.
The only way out of this vicious circle is for the US to get the hell out of Afghanistan and the whole region.