In the early hours of Monday 2 May, Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and the most hunted man in the world, was assassinated after US Navy Seals raided his residence in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.
The raid, dubbed Operation Geronimo, had commenced on a dark night, with highly modified ‘stealth’ helicopters, designed to avoid detection, flying secretly from their base in Afghanistan, through Pakistani airspace and across the farmlands of the Orsah valley towards their target. Their mission, entrusted to them by US President Barack Obama, was allegedly to ‘capture or kill’ bin Laden in the compound that US intelligence had discovered to be his residence. At the time of the raid, it was lived in by eight or nine children aged between two and 12, three women and at least four men.
The raid left five people dead, including bin Laden and his 20-year-old son Hamza, and several injured, including bin Laden’s wife, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, 29, who was shot in the calf, and his 12-year-old daughter, variously named as Safina, Safia or Ayesha, who was shot in the foot.
Their murderous mission accomplished, and with the clock ticking and anxiety that the Pakistani air force might be scrambling fighter planes to intercept them, the assassination squad hurriedly collected a ‘treasure trove’ of computers, CDs, DVDs, data sticks, computer disks and hard drives (even though we are told that bin Laden’s hideout had no telephone or internet connection) for subsequent examination by computer forensic experts and intelligence officers as a means of gaining clues about the organisation bin Laden was leaving behind.
Before leaving, the assassins blew up one of their own helicopters (which had been wrecked earlier in the operation), presumably in an attempt to stop its cutting-edge technology from falling into anyone else’s hands. They then picked up the badly-mutilated bodies of bin Laden and his son and flew off into the dark, back to Afghanistan. Only the loss of one of their helicopters, leaving them with no space for passengers, prevented the assassins from kidnapping all those in the compound.
According to White House officials, a comparison made back at their base in Afghanistan with pictures and a DNA check against family members provided US intelligence officers with certainty that they had indeed got bin Laden. By 11.00am on Monday, the bodies of bin Laden and his son, having been wrapped in white sheets and placed in weighted bags, were thrown from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier into the North Arabian Sea.
Pakistani officials, who arrived soon after the Americans had left the scene of carnage in Abbottabad, took bin Laden’s wife and daughter into custody. As we write, they are being debriefed and cared for in a high-security military hospital in Pakistan.
Justice – US style
Soon after the raid, President Obama made a televised broadcast, in which he told the American nation that the world was a better and safer place following bin Laden’s killing, adding “justice has been done”.
But shooting in cold blood, without a trial, without evidence and without the barest chance to defend, is not anyone’s idea of justice. It violates all principles of justice, rule of law, and the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty – all of which the spokesmen of the bourgeoisie prattle on about endlessly.
Benjamin Ferencz, an American lawyer who was a US prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of leading Nazi war criminals, and who now lives in New York state, questioned whether the killing was justifiable self-defence or a premeditated illegal assassination. His preference would have been to capture bin Laden alive and put him on trial.
The 92-year-old Mr Ferencz said: “The picture I get is that a bunch of highly trained, heavily armed soldiers find an old guy in pyjamas and shoot him in the chest and head, and that borders, without access to more facts, on murder.”
Alluding to the head of the Luftwaffe, he added: “Even [Hermann] Göring had a right to a trial.” (Quoted in Guardian, 5 May 2011)
US Attorney General Eric Holder, interviewed on 12 May during a visit to the UK, was asked by the BBC’s defence correspondent why bin Laden was not captured instead of being shot dead. Mr Holder, lying through his teeth, stated that there was “no opportunity” to arrest him. On being pressed further on whether the shooting dead of an unarmed person did not amount to murder, Holder came up with the astounding explanation that shooting bin Laden was an act of national self defence as the latter had been, he said, responsible for so many American deaths.
The logical conclusion from Holder’s remarks is that, since the US has been responsible for millions of deaths around the world in the course of its predatory wars – from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya and innumerable other places – the political and military leadership of the US must be a legitimate target for assassination without trial by the armed forces and citizens of any of these countries. Very interesting indeed!
The truth is that the mission of the raiders of 2 May was to kill, not to ‘capture or kill’. If captured, bin Laden would have had to have been put on trial, during which he would, in all probability, have turned his prosecutors into defendants, reminding the world that they had repressed, tortured and killed literally millions of people in the Middle East for the purpose of looting the Arab people’s fabulous mineral wealth, and for safeguarding their markets and avenues of investment.
In self-defence, bin Laden could have repeated the statement he made on 23 August 1996, three months after his expulsion from Sudan, when he addressed the imperialist powers, especially the US, thus: “Terrorising you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and demanding duty.”
Emphasising the qualitative difference between the patriotic youth from the countries victimised by imperialism, engaged in a just fight against imperialist brigandage, and the mercenary imperialist soldiery paid to wage predatory wars for plunder and spoliation, he added: “Your problem would be to convince your troops to fight, while our problem would be how to restrain our youths to wait for their turn in fighting.”
Osama’s imperialist prosecutors would have found unanswerable the logic permeating his last statement, made on 28 October 2010, which addressed the imperialist occupiers of Iraq and Afghanistan as follows: “How is it right for you to occupy our countries and kill our women and children and expect to live in peace and security? … The equation is clear: you are killed as you kill and abducted as you abduct … The way to safeguard your security is to cease your oppression … most importantly your … ill-fated Bush war in Afghanistan.”
Besides, he might have talked about how he was inducted into jihad, his contacts in the early 1980s with the CIA and MI6 during the involvement of the Soviet Union in the Afghan war, his cosy meetings in Islamabad with Prince Turki, head of Saudi intelligence, the Bush family’s business contacts with the bin Ladens – and God knows what else!
The 48 hours following the raid proved extremely embarrassing for the White House, forced onto the defensive for providing contradictory accounts of the assault on Abbottabad, which raised questions about the legality of the killings.
On Monday 2 May, the White House asserted that Osama bin Laden had been armed at the time of the raid and had died in a fire fight after putting up resistance. They further declared that he had used women as human shields, including his wife, who was killed in the process; that he had been living in the lap of luxury; and that his son Khalid had also been killed. Two days later, the White House was forced to admit that Osama bin Laden had not been armed and that there had been no fire fight before he was gunned down; that his wife had not been used as a shield, nor had she been killed; that bin Laden, his family and other inmates of the house, lived a spartan existence, consuming a simple diet of dates, olive oil, walnuts, dried meat and eggs; and that it was his son Hamza, not Khalid, who had been killed.
Immediately following the assassination of bin Laden, the imperialist media swallowed without question the first line coming out of the White House, which claimed that bin Laden had died in a fire fight, that he had acted in a despicably cowardly way hiding behind his wife, and that he was living high on the hog. Two days later, after some of the truth surrounding the 2 May raid oozed out, the mercenary journalist fraternity was forced to beat a retreat – without a word of self-criticism, naturally.
The US resolved not to release images of bin Laden’s body lest, it claimed, such images should act as an incitement to further violence or serve as a medium of propaganda in the hands of bin Laden’s followers. President Obama stated in a television interview on 5 May: “The fact of the matter is you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
The real reason for not releasing the photos could only have been that either the man killed was not bin Laden but someone else (very unlikely), or that such pictures would furnish clear proof that the aim of the raiders all along had been to kill, and not to capture, their quarry.
Following President Obama’s broadcast announcing the death of bin Laden, people in the streets around Ground Zero (New York) greeted the news with smiles, fist-pumping, loud cheers and jubilation. Many were overcome by a mood of imperialist jingoism. A construction worker by the name of Thomas Cox created, made copies of, and distributed, a poster with the Statue of Liberty clutching bin Laden’s severed and bloody head. “It’s pay back! I am hoping that the fish and the crabs are having a good meal on his eyeballs,” said Cox. Another man said: “We should have mounted his head on a spike.”
The front page of the New York Daily blared the headline “Rot in Hell”. The New York bar scene erupted into a spontaneous party. All across the US, a similar sense of euphoria and triumphalism pervaded the local newspapers. In Idaho, the Press-Tribune exclaimed that “justice had been done”. “Butcher of 9/11 is dead”, shrieked the Examiner in San Francisco.
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robson wrote the following morning: “Triumphalism and unapologetic patriotism are in order. We got the son of a bitch. ” A conservative columnist for the New York Post drew this message from bin Laden’s assassination: “We are still here. And he rots in hell. ”
Minutes after Obama’s announcement of the news, the first revellers reached the outside of the White House and kept up the chant “Ding, Dong, bin Laden is dead.” As the bars emptied, the perimeter of the White House turned into an impromptu party zone. The US flag turned up out of nowhere. There was even a bikini with stars and stripes. The whole affair had the air of a sporting occasion.
Nearly a decade ago, when the masses in the Middle East (and elsewhere) greeted the events of 11 September 2001 with jubilation, they were denounced by the imperialist media, as well as by the political and ideological representatives of imperialism, as being the inveterate enemies of the western values of freedom and democracy, and as sadistic enemies of human life.
Far from it. As the chief victims of imperialist exploitation and predatory wars, they knew only too well the pain and suffering consequent upon the unnecessary and violent loss of one’s nearest and dearest, which for them is a daily occurrence. They greeted with jubilation the 11 September attacks because through these attacks, the weak, the meek and the wretched of the earth had struck back at US imperialism, which has for over a century acted as a counter-revolutionary gendarme and executioner of freedom all over the world.
The spectacle of the burning Pentagon, from where US imperialism daily plans its aggression against other peoples; the sight of the crumbling twin towers of the World Trade Center, from where imperialist financial manipulators and capitalist swindlers planned their robbery of the working-class and oppressed people, which results in the deaths of 13 million children a year through starvation, must have appeared like manna from heaven.
By contrast, the jingoism on display in the US following the murder in cold blood of an unarmed opponent is in the worst possible tradition – a celebration of imperialist banditry, a celebration of the foul deed of an imperialist assassination squad. Such people might as well celebrate the murder through a Nato air strike of Colonel Gaddafi’s youngest son, 29-year-old Saif al-Arabi, and his three grandchildren, two-year-old Carthage, daughter of Hannibal Gaddafi; 15-month-old Seif Mohammed, son of Mohammed Gaddafi; and 5-month-old Mastura, daughter of Colonel Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha. Murdered on the same day as bin Laden, these babies passed for the ‘command and control’ centre targeted by Nato in the name of ‘protecting civilian lives’.
Osama bin Laden was killed not in the lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, over which the Pakistani state has little control, but in Abbottabad, situated a mere 50km from the capital, Islamabad. This town of half a million people is Pakistan’s equivalent of Sandhurst and is the nerve centre of the Pakistani army. The location of bin Laden’s hideout for five years so close to the gates of the Pakistani military academy serves to emphasise the fault lines, not only of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, but also of the relationship between the US and Pakistan.
The raid on bin Laden’s home in a town which is the headquarters of Pakistan’s Northern Army Corps’ Second Division has seriously compromised Pakistan’s army and intelligence agency (ISI – Inter-Services Intelligence). They have been accused of incompetence and complicity in equal measure.
Was it really possible, question the critics, that the powerful Pakistani army and the ISI did not have a clue that bin Laden was living in a house right next to Pakistan’s leading cadet college and under the noses of the army establishment? Only the previous month, General Kayani, the chief of staff of the Pakistani army, had visited the academy and declared that Pakistan had “cracked” the forces of terrorism, an assessment received with much scepticism in Washington.
Second, why did the Pakistani military establishment and its intelligence arm fail to detect the US helicopters that flew the US’s special forces personnel into the heart of the country, close to sensitive military installations and possibly even more sensitive nuclear sites?
Third, what does it say about the trust between the US and Pakistan, and their respective military and intelligence establishments, that the US felt unwilling beforehand to inform the Pakistani authorities about, let alone seek their permission for, the 2 May raid? Leon Panetta, the outgoing CIA director, told Time magazine that Pakistan could not be trusted with knowledge of the American plan. “It was decided,” he said, “that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets.” A more damning assessment of the lack of trust between the two countries would be hard to imagine.
The whole affair has become an occasion for both the traditional foes and friends of Pakistan to question the Pakistani military’s commitment to the US’s ‘war on terrorism’. Brahama Chellaney, an Indian defence analyst, wrote with great relish that “The scourge of Pakistani terrorism emanates more from the country’s Scotch-whisky-sipping generals than from the bead-rubbing mullahs. ”
These views of an Indian opponent of Pakistan are reflected by highly-placed American friends of Pakistan. Quite a few US legislators have insisted that the US stop all aid to Islamabad. “Before we send them another dime,” said Frank Lautenberg, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, “we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism.”
The US raid has served to bring into even sharper relief the growing strains in relations between the two countries that have been only too obvious for quite some time. Ahead of the visit in 2009 to Washington by Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the US ambassador, Anne Patterson, sent a cable expressing impatience and the need for firmness with a shifty partner: “The US needs to lay down a clear marker that Pakistan’s army/ISI must stop overt or tacit support for militant proxies such as the Haqqani network, Commander Nazir and Lashkar-e-Taiba (militant groups), ” adding ominously: “Kayani, who was ISI chief from 2004-07, does not want a reckoning with the past. ”
In January this year, CIA agent Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight at a traffic junction in Lahore. This incident incensed the public in Pakistan, forcing the government and the military to issue statements highly critical of the US. Following the shooting, General Kayani asked the US military to reduce its special operations training force and to remove CIA contractors from the country, including CIA personnel conducting the drone campaign from an airbase in southern Baluchistan. However, completely ignoring Pakistani objections, the drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas have continued unabated.
Two weeks preceding the raid on Abbottabad, just before his meeting with General Kayani, the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, publicly scolded the Pakistani military for not stopping the Haqqani network from freely crossing the border from Pakistan’s tribal areas into Afghanistan and inflicting casualties on US and Nato soldiers.
Bin Laden, now removed from the scene, was another source of discord, with US officials suspecting that he was being protected by elements of the ISI. When questioned on this, ISI officials would either say that he was dead or that they knew nothing of his whereabouts.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Pakistan has been attempting to persuade Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, not to enter into a long-term partnership with the US, urging him instead to seek the help of Pakistan and China in striking a deal with the Taliban and reconstructing the Afghan economy.
This attempt was made at a 16 April meeting in Kabul between Karzai and the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, during which the latter told the Afghan president that the Americans had let both of them down, and that he should decline long-term US military presence in his country.
Among others, the Pakistani delegation at the 16 April meeting included ISI Chief Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha. US officials have accused the ISI of supporting the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan, despite the ISI supposedly being the CIA’s partner in the fight against ‘terrorism’. Gilani referred to the US’s “imperial designs” and to China as their “all-weather” friend.
Pakistan’s attempt to cut the US out of Afghanistan’s future is the clearest signal that Washington’s relations with Islamabad, nominally an ally, have reached a very low point. With the bulk of US and Nato troops scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and the country’s neighbours – Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia – jockeying for influence, Pakistan’s stance is threatening to sink US plans for ending the Afghan war on more or less acceptable terms.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Pakistani officials maintain that they no longer have much of an incentive to follow in the wake of the US in their own back yard. “Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest, ” said a senior Pakistani official. “We’re not looking for anyone to protect us, especially the US. If they’re leaving, they’re leaving and they should go. ” (‘Pakistan lobbies Afghans to drop US partnership’, 27 April 2011)
The 16 April meeting took place following the beginning in March of formal negotiations between the US and Afghanistan on the Strategic Partnership Declaration (SPD), under which the US wants to maintain military bases in Afghanistan after 2014.
Following the 2 May raid, the US-Pakistan relationship has hit its nadir. It is bound further to exacerbate tensions between the two countries and raise serious doubts in Washington about the Pakistani military’s ability or willingness to help the US in its predatory war by curbing the cross-border activity of the Afghan resistance.
Under pressure from his generals, General Kayani is less than enthusiastic about the alliance with the US. Close to half of Pakistan’s 11 corps commanders, the generals comprising the senior command, are said to entertain serious doubts as to the wisdom of the alliance. As to the younger, mid-ranking officers (majors and captains), they harbour greater sympathy for the anti-American militants than enthusiasm for fighting them.
Since 9/11, the Pakistani authorities – the government and the military – have engaged in a delicate balancing act between supporting the US in the latter’s ‘war on terror’, and the mass Pakistani sentiment that looks upon the anti-US militants with, at the very least, a benevolent eye. The US and its actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are deeply unpopular. No wonder, then, that, according to an early 2010 Pew poll, 68 percent of Pakistanis held a negative view of the US.
Through the 2 May raid, Pakistan suffered a significant loss of self-esteem and national sovereignty. Since the 9/11 events, Pakistan has lost 34,000 lives, with thousands of people displaced from their homes consequent upon the combined activities of groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani army. In 2010 alone, the country experienced 500 bomb blasts. All this because Pakistan joined the US’s ‘war on terror’, in pursuit of which the Pakistani military launched attacks on its own tribal people. If the authorities do not extricate themselves from this US war, Pakistan faces a very bleak future indeed, with the possibility that the armed forces could split, thereby bringing the country to its knees.
Pakistan’s economy has also suffered from this war. According to Imran Khan, former Pakistani cricketer and now the leader of a minor political party, while Pakistan has received $28bn as assistance – mainly military – from the US, its economy has lost $68bn.
Pakistan has already paid a heavy price for US action. On Friday 13 May, 80 people were killed and over 100 injured when two suicide bombers attacked a Pakistani military training fort in the north-western town of Shabqadar near Peshawar. The Pakistani Taliban, claiming responsibility for the attack, stated that it was the first of many attacks in retaliation for the killing of bin Laden. Most of the dead were young paramilitary recruits.
Because of its participation in the ‘war on terror’, Pakistan has become a victim twice over. It is forever being blamed on the one hand by the US for not pulling its weight in the ‘fight against terrorism’, while it is blamed by armed groups on the other for doing the US’s bidding.
In order to safeguard the lives of its own people, and, indeed, the very fabric and existence of the Pakistani state, its government and armed forces must, somehow or the other, extricate themselves from US imperialism’s predatory war in Afghanistan, fought under the fraudulent cover of the ‘global war on terrorism’.
Clearly angered by US action, Pakistan’s military threatened to stop its cooperation with the US in the event of a repeat of the 2 May kind of attack. On Thursday 5 May, an army statement said: “The chief of army staff made it very clear that any similar action, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan, will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the United States. ”
The army statement also demanded a reduction in the number of US troops deployed in Pakistan, at present about 300, to a ‘minimum’ so as to reduce the threat of further unilateral action. The army statement was partly designed for domestic consumption, as critics in Pakistan have lambasted the army for failing to protect the country’s air space. During the 40-minute raid, the radar system covering Pakistan’s northern regions was frozen while the Navy Seals flew in aboard their stealth helicopters. Two F-16 fighters were scrambled by the air force, but the pursuit was stopped, for the shooting of US forces would have stopped dead in its tracks all future cooperation with the US.
Notwithstanding the lack of trust between the two sides, there is unlikely to be a complete parting of the ways between the US and Pakistan, for the US badly needs Pakistan’s assistance. “You can’t trust them and you can’t abandon them,” said Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina.
The administration in Washington is fully aware of the vulnerability of its war in Afghanistan in the event of Pakistan refusing cooperation: “If not for our ability to take our equipment through the port of Karachi up on a 1,000 mile [journey] through the Khyber pass, we could not supply our troops,” said Barry McCaffrey, a retired US general, adding “Pakistan is primary to our ability to continue this struggle.”
This is precisely the reason that President Obama praised Pakistan for its help in hunting down bin Laden, even though its role was minimal.
Effect of bin Laden’s killing
There is no dearth of bourgeois pundits who have deluded themselves into believing that after the September 2001 attacks on the US, the Americans invaded Afghanistan for one simple reason, namely, that the Taliban government in that country was harbouring bin Laden and refusing to surrender him to the US authorities. They are now arguing that, since bin Laden is no more, the US has a golden chance to advance the cause of reconciliation through contacts with Taliban representatives with the aim of staging a phased withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan over the next four years.
“No longer can it be argued, ” said the Financial Times in its leading article of 3 May, “that the military mission in Afghanistan is a matter of life and death for western civilisation.” (‘Making the world a safer place)
According to Gideon Rachman, the death of Osama bin Laden offers an opportunity to “Declare victory and end the ‘global war on terror’” – a war which, he asserts, “distorted American policy and led directly to two wars – in Iraq and Afghanistan”, adding that the “death of bin Laden gives president Obama the cover he needs to start quietly unwinding some of these mistakes” [!!] (‘Declare victory and end the “global war on terror”’, Financial Times, 2 May 2011)
David Cameron, the British prime minister, in a statement to the House of Commons, said that the killing of bin Laden marked “a strike at the heart of international terrorism” that provided an opportunity to reach a political settlement with the Taliban and hasten the UK’s exit from Afghanistan, which is scheduled for 2015.
Mr Cameron told the BBC: “It’s changed something, in that the head of al-Qaeda is no more,” adding that if “we can therefore get a political reconciliation in Afghanistan, persuading the Taliban that now is the time to achieve the goals they have through political means rather than military ones, we could get a more rapid solution”.
Either the gentlemen quoted above are too stupid to understand the nature and purpose of this war, or they are attempting to throw dust in the eyes of the public, for the war in Afghanistan has been waged for a decade neither in the interests of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, nor in the interests of fighting ‘global terrorism’, nor to safeguard ‘western civilisation’ – nor was the war simply a ‘mistake’. Whatever the pretext, it has been a predatory war, just like the war in Iraq, and now the war against Libya, waged by the principal imperialist powers, especially the US, for controlling the mineral wealth, and the gas and oil pipeline routes, of the entire region stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia; a war for markets and avenues of investment – a war for domination.
Likewise, the resistance in Afghanistan has very little to do with bin Laden or al-Qaeda. It is a resistance against foreign occupation, for liberation of the country from the jackboot of imperialist armies. As long as the occupation lasts, the Afghans will continue to resist. That the Afghan resistance is winning; that it cannot be defeated, is known to all the highly-placed military officials, as well as to statesmen in the centres of imperialism, who have any knowledge of the country.
The Taliban regime overthrown by the invading imperialist armies had nothing whatever to do with the events of 11 September 2001, any more than did the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
Since the statesmen, ideologues and the mercenary journalist fraternity of imperialism have propagated the myth that the reason for Nato’s war on Afghanistan was to kill or capture bin Laden, the killing of the latter has removed any excuse for the continuation of this barbaric war.
David Cameron, in his above-quoted remarks, said that “something” had changed with the removal of the leader of al-Qaeda that paved the way for reconciliation. He did not, however, explain what that “something” was that had changed.
The fight of the Taliban, even since the invasion and occupation of their country by Nato forces, has been to expel the armies of occupation from Afghanistan. Since the occupation is a continuing reality, the Afghan resistance to the occupation not only continues but gathers strength with each passing month. So, in reality, nothing has changed following bin Laden’s removal from the scene, except that the excuse given for launching that war has disappeared, while the real reason for its continuation has become clearer than ever.
David Cameron admitted that much, albeit implicitly, by saying that, through reconciliation, the Taliban might perhaps be persuaded to achieve their goals by “political means rather than military ones”. Since the goal of the Afghan resistance is the ending of the occupation, that goal could be literally achieved overnight by the occupying forces making for the exit. There would then be no occasion for the resistance to resort to ‘military’ means. Equally, apart from the resort to arms, the resistance has no other powers of persuasion to make the imperialist armies of occupation see reason and leave.
Of course, if Mr Cameron and his fellow criminals from the US, France, Germany etc, seeing defeat staring them in the face, want to use the killing of bin Laden as a face-saving formula to avoid being driven out of Afghanistan amid scenes reminiscent of the fall of Saigon in 1975, neither the resistance in Afghanistan, nor progressive humanity at large, can have any objection to it.
Attempt at permanent occupation
Imperialism is being beaten, but has not yet been beaten thoroughly enough. It is, therefore, still trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. When US president Obama announced a surge of 30,000 troops last year, he at the same time set July 2011 as the date to begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. A little later, the US and its junior partners in Nato began to talk in terms of a ‘transition’ period, with a ‘gradual’ handover of control of the war to the Afghans, until eventually pulling out in 2014. Now, however, the emphasis has shifted to what happens after 2014.
The US and Afghanistan are negotiating on the terms of a Strategic Partnership Declaration – a euphemism for an agreement on the establishment of permanent US bases to aid the US’s strategy in the region beyond 2014. These talks began in March under Marc Grossman, who replaced Richard Holbrook as the US administration’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan after the latter’s death in December. (See ‘Afghan talks focus on long-term strategy’, International Herald Tribune, 19 April 2011)
The US’s latest plan runs like this: the US will build up the Afghan National Army (ANA) to a strength and standard that would enable it to maintain control over the main towns in the Pashtun heartlands without the aid of US ground forces. The US will withdraw most of its troops, leaving behind a force of 20,000-30,000 in permanent bases currently being negotiated, from which US fighter planes will operate to squash any attempt by the resistance to capture the cities. And US special forces will continue their operations targeting fighters and leaders of the resistance.
The Obama administration finds this course of action attractive for a combination of reasons. First, reducing US troop numbers in Afghanistan would result in reduced US costs and casualties. Second, it would avoid the perceived humiliation of having to negotiate with the Taliban leadership, whom the US administration has spent a whole decade denouncing. Third, it would secure bases for the US in this strategically situated country to serve as means for threatening Iran, conducting raids into Pakistan, and encircling China and Russia.
The problem with this nice little scheme is that it will not work, for the resistance has made it perfectly clear that it will not cease fighting as long as foreign troops remain on Afghan soil. Without US ground forces, the ANA and the rotten puppet regime will simply collapse under the hammer blows of the resistance.
Faced with such a situation, the US will either be obliged to pull out, making way for the victorious resistance to enter Kabul triumphantly, or will have to bring vast numbers of US troops back again to restart the ground war – with no more hope of winning it than hitherto.
It would, therefore, be wiser to read the writing on the wall, use the pretext of bin Laden’s killing, and come to a settlement with the Taliban, removing the occupation armies and leaving the Afghans to sort out their lives without external interference.
Such a course, sensible though it would be, is presently unlikely to be followed by the US. So, in the near future, the imperialist terror is set to continue, for the real terrorists in the centres of imperialism – Washington, London, Paris and Berlin – are bent upon prosecuting this predatory war. Only further defeats on the battlefield will help drive sense into their skulls.
Victory to the Afghan resistance!