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In an exclusive--and revealing--March 8 interview with The New York Times, President Barack Obama declared that the United States "was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq."
The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are "reconcilable" and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said.
Several European officials said that the overarching theme behind the Afghanistan review was that NATO was looking for a way out of Afghanistan, and that everything done now was toward that end. "The goal now is simply to get to a point to prevent Afghanistan and Pakistan from becoming a place from which you can launch attacks on the West," a senior European official said. (Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker, "Obama Afghan Plan Focuses on Pakistan Aid and Appeal to Militants," The New York Times, March 13, 2009)
Recently in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Karzai people thought they had handed Hekmatyar the famous "offer he can't refuse": asylum in Saudi Arabia first, then return to Afghanistan with full immunity. They forgot that a proud Hekmatyar does not want asylum. He wants a piece of the action in Kabul--preferably the meatiest part. (Pepe Escobar, "Taliban set to burn the Reichstag?", Asia Times Online, March 13, 2009)
Instead of arranging a meeting with a broad spectrum of resistance leaders, ISI offered the CIA's envoy an alliance with its own Afghan client, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the small Hezb-i-Islami guerrilla group. The CIA accepted the offer and, over the next decade, gave more than half its covert aid to Hekmatyar's guerrillas. It was, as the U.S. Congress would find a decade later, a dismal decision. Unlike the later resistance leaders who commanded strong popular followings inside Afghanistan, Hekmatyar led a guerrilla force that was a creature of the Pakistan military. After the CIA built his Hezb-i-Islami into the largest Afghan guerrilla force, Hekmatyar would prove himself brutal and corrupt. Not only did he command the largest guerrilla army, but Hekmatyar would use it--with the full support of ISI and the tacit tolerance of the CIA--to become Afghanistan's leading drug lord. (The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991, pp. 449-450)
The anti-fundamentalist and anti-occupation women's rights group states: "The very first outcome of the surge for Afghan people will be increase in the number of civilian casualties ... In the past seven years, thousands of innocent people have been killed or wounded by the US/NATO bombardments. In the past weeks under Obama's rule, around 100 Afghan civilians have been killed."
RAWA adds that "The surge in level of troops will also [result in a] surge in protests against the US/NATO in Afghanistan and it will also push more people towards the Taliban and other terrorist groups as a reaction against occupation forces and their mistreatment against people."
Fenton writes, "Contrary to the elite, bipartisan consensus inside North America that supports the war's escalation, and echoing fears that are common among Afghans, RAWA argues that 'We think the 30,000 extra troops will only serve the US regional strategy in changing Afghanistan to its military base, it will [have] nothing to do with fighting the terrorist groups, as they claim'."
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.