AF-PAK STRAT­EGY Alive and Kick­ing

Af­ter hav­ing ‘killed’ Osama bin Laden, Amer­ica is look­ing for a per­ma­nent mil­i­tary pres­ence in Afghanistan.

Southasia - - Cover Story - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

Let’s get it straight at the very out­set. What Amer­ica still calls its war on ter­ror (WoT) was ac­tu­ally a fight be­tween al-Qaeda headed by Osama bin Laden and the United States. The ca­sus belli was U.S. pres­ence on Arab soil, par­tic­u­larly Saudi Ara­bia, and its blind sup­port for Is­rael de­spite the lat­ter’s ex­cesses against the Pales­tinian peo­ple. Amer­ica made the is­sue global by play­ing up bin Laden as a threat to its Euro­pean al­lies as well and cor­ralled them into a coali­tion against al-Qaeda.

In this way Amer­ica con­trived to con­vert its war with al-Qaeda into a clash of civ­i­liza­tions, cre­at­ing deep per­cep­tion in Mus­lim minds glob­ally that it is a cru­sade in which, like in the olden days, the Chris­tians are tar­get­ing Mus­lims.

There­fore, even though Amer­i­can of­fi­cials and states­men of­ten ad­mit that al-Qaeda has been dis­man­tled, dis­rupted and de­feated in Afghanistan, as promised by Pres­i­dent Obama and bin Laden has been killed, yet, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion seems re­luc­tant to va­cate its oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan. It talks of a “long haul.” A “draw down” of troops may start from July, but, both the out­go­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates and in­com­ing Leon Panetta, fa­vor Amer­i­can pres­ence in Afghanistan well be­yond the 2014 dead­line an­nounced in Madrid.

In fact, the U.S. seems so de­ter­mined to pro­long its oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan, that out­go­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates de­liv­ered a blis­ter­ing at­tack on NATO at Brus­sels in June in a vale­dic­tory speech. He lam­basted mem­bers for fail­ing to lend all out sup­port in men and re­sources to the U.S. war ef­fort in Afghanistan.

In his bluntest warn­ing to the Euro­peans, Gates fumed that that NATO had de­gen­er­ated into a “two-tiered” al­liance of those will­ing to wage war and those only in­ter­ested in “talk­ing” and peace­keep­ing.

Ac­tu­ally, Afghanistan has, in re­cent times, as­sumed a piv­otal sta­tus in Amer­ica’s South-Asian strat­egy. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton have re­al­ized their folly in leav­ing Afghanistan af­ter the Soviet with­drawal. They are not go­ing to re­peat the same mis­take again.

More­over, the sit­u­a­tion has also changed re­mark­ably. To­day there are other fac­tors as well, be­sides en­sur­ing that Afghanistan never again breeds an en­emy of the “Amer­i­can peo­ple.” Most im­por­tant is Afghanistan’s con-

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