Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homecoming of American Troops

June 28, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

At long last, the American soldiers would start returning to homeland. The end of a decade long war on the soil of Afghanistan seems to be in sight. The return of the American fighting force from Afghanistan is markedly different from that of Vietnam.

Although both these wars were triggered to defeat the enemy without any conclusive outcome, yet the comeback from Vietnam was sheer humiliation and complete disaster.

The American troops coming back from Afghanistan are definitively in a more gratified situation as it is not a retreat in haste or the result of a rout or panic but a peaceful draw-down.

The enemy in Vietnam was egregiously tenacious, lethally ferocious and highly organized and nationally motivated to brace against a mighty war machine unleashed by a super power to annihilate the ranks and file of the communism and to check the advancing menace or bulwark of the ideological enemies.

Because the Vietnamese people’s army, both uniformed and civilians were aided and beefed up by both China and Soviet Union, the impossible feat that America wanted to accomplish had remained elusive.

The Vietnam fiasco that must be metaphorically defined as historic was one of those rare debacles that America suffered in her two hundred years of existence as a nation. The Vietcong victory against the best well equipped and well trained army was incredibly stunning and phenomenal that perhaps has no parallel in the war history, because a tiny county, whose land and jungles were subjected to carpet bombing, finally prevailed.

In Afghanistan the fight was not against a matching militarily powerful county and it was not an ideological war. It was to avenge the 9/11 tragic mayhem and to destroy the arch perpetrator Al-Qaida.

The United States, in these ten years, has been impressively successful in dismantling and destroying the network of an outfit that could wreak havoc all over the globe through their highly motivated and organized cadres.

The United States with her NATO partners started Afghan war on October 7, 2001, codenamed “Operation enduring freedom” with the stated objective of dismantling the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization in Afghanistan as well as removal of the Taliban regime to be replaced by democratic set up.

While makeshift democratic government has been in place ever since, the Taliban presence has not been totally liquidated. Rather Taliban have gained more strength during the last ten years.

The cost for such an undertaking has been enormous. The casualties both dead and wounded run into thousands. The financial cost has been staggering and stands somewhere near two trillion dollars. The psychological burden on American people has been exacting.

The overseas spending on war efforts have its telling impact on the indigenous quality of life, undermining development plans and projects that had to be slashed and put off for want of funds. The richest country of the world at the end of day stands more mired in debt to the alarming level that is equal to its GDP.

The United States strategy now is to negotiate and reconcile with Taliban and make them fight against those factions of Taliban that would remain hostile to United State.

Nevertheless, United States has been markedly successful in dismantling the al-Qaida network not only in Afghanistan but elsewhere albeit at a huge cost both financially and in human loss. The death of Osama Ben laden also warrants sending forces back home.

On June 22, President Obama announced that 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and an additional 23,000 troops will leave the country by the summer of 2012. The United Military strength stationed in Afghanistan is 103700 comprising all cadres.

This projected withdrawal primarily would be confined to the troops that were sent Afghanistan as surge troops numbering 30000. The actual drawdown would merely be 3 000 soldiers.

While withdrawing, concurrently US would maintain its military presence in a different way. It is busy in building several big and small military airports where bulk of the US armed forces would maintain permanent presence. The bases being built in Herat, Helmund, Mazar Sharif, Bagram, Sheen, and Dund are scheduled to be completed in ten years’ time.

It means that out of 100,000 plus troops and personnel, some 70,000 would still remain behind in Afghanistan. Huge cargo airplanes would unload merchandise and weapons and soldiers directly without land routes such as through Pakistan.

United States would not completely vacate Afghanistan militarily for the following objectives. It wants to outbid China in exploiting the trillion dollars precious mineral deposits discovered by American geologists in 2010. Afghanistan has oil and gas deposits also. Secondly, it could keep close watch over the region including both China and Russia.

The possibility of deployment of missiles that America wanted to install in Poland could now be installed in Afghanistan. From Afghanistan America would be in a much stronger and ensured position to watch also Iran and beyond the Arab countries.

Let us keep in mind that the United States’ war against Al-Qaida has not yet ended.
It would continue and no one can guess how long It could also annihilate the al-Qaida and adversarial Taliban via a prolonged tussle and confrontation. So there are multiple advantages for the US to remain in Afghanistan where it has invested so heavily.

Moreover, United States is visibly lifting its anchor from Afghanistan but the withdrawal of forces is simply piecemeal for the time being. The bulk of the NATO and American forces would stay in Afghanistan for quite some time. As to when the total drawdown would be completed is hard to forebode.

As already stated United States is not leaving Afghanistan lock, stock and barrel. This country is going to prove a prized strategic location to America that would be like a watch tower and a gubernatorial military base enabling her to supervise the region from Nile to Central Asia.

It would be another Saudi Arabia that would facilitate United States for exploring and utilizing Afghanistan’s enormous minerals and oil deposits. It is also going to be a precious meeting point between Europe and Asia.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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