Tuesday, December 6, 2011

America is Burning Money in Afghanistan

December 1, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The United States has spent roughly 800 billion dollars in Afghanistan on a war that seems to be interminable and futile. This amount spent or wasted over a period of almost 8 years comes to 2 billion dollars a week. A gallon of gasoline or petrol costs 100 dollars to reach Afghanistan. America spends a colossal amount of money for transportation of supplies via two overland routes for its forces and that of NATO and ISAF to continue war. These routes are one via Pakistani territory and the other through central Asian states.

After 8 years with thousands of collateral casualties both dead and maimed, the aim to completely clear Afghanistan of Taliban and al-Qaida militants looks elusive. The Taliban are resurging and al-Qaida seems to have gone in the background or in the oblivion to wait for better times to strike again.

Their activities are replicated and echoed elsewhere on the globe particularly in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and, Syria and Mauritania. The electoral victories of the religious radicals in Tunisia and Egypt are indicative of the forthcoming political scenarios in these countries.

While the conflagration is still raging in Afghanistan and United State with their western partners are trying to neutralize the impact and presence of anti-American forces namely Taliban and Al-Qaida militants, America has opened another front against a powerful country Iran for the same reason that impelled her to invade Iraq with a mammoth military extravaganza in 2003.

It was the weapons of mass destruction alleged to be possessed by Iraq which later proved to be a hoax. Libya remained under innervating sanctions for several years but survived despite living under the stigma of a pariah state till the peoples uprising removed the dictator Qaddafi. So the sanctions not only hurt the victim but also the imposer because the latter is also deprived off certain lucrative benefits and privileges.

Because of sanctions the international trade seldom stops and there are always other avenues available for transactions between the target country and the outside world. If it is desired that Iran’s economy would cripple and the country would be isolated, then such strategy is fallacious and runs out of steam in due course. The imposition of sanctions by United States against Iran is patently at the behest of Israel and also due to their strong and invincible supportive lobbies within the United States.

Coming back to Afghanistan, the latest ugly episode of NATO air strikes on Pakistani check posts has caused massive impairment to the already strained relations between a very earnest ally Pakistan and indeed the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been tremendously helpful to the American endeavors for keeping the anti American Taliban and radical militants at bay for all these years. But when you bite the very hand that feeds you, what could be the reaction from the bitten party.

If the relatively easier supply route that runs through Pakistan remains closed even for a month or so, the NATO and ISAF troops that are fighting in Afghanistan would start starving and the helicopters and tanks, armed cars and SUVs would come to a partial standstill.

If Pakistan is bombed and coerced to open the route, NATO would be deprived of the cooperation from Pakistan that is still there. If all the merchandise is arranged via the arduous and long Russian route then it would put additional enormous burden on NATO partners and the United States particularly as the main financier for war in Afghanistan?

So the strategy of blowing hot and cold and giving carrot and kick on the back of a friend is a double edged sword that can hurt both the parties: the wielder as well as the victim. Instead that Pakistan should be appeased and consoled with all possible nice words, the NATO is caught in nuances and jargons of merely regretting and not apologizing for an act that is murderous and outright massacre of the Pakistani soldiers fighting for America.

Now if the United States and its apron strings NATO and ISAF do not withdraw from Afghanistan, the status quo would linger on without throwing up a clear and desired outcome in consonance with the wishes of the United States. With that the budget on war and even to maintain presence in this barren land would soars astronomically. That would heavily undermine and negatively impinge upon the American domestic economic situation now sliding down terrifically.

The United States is frittering away her money on a war that is meaningless. It is like burning the tax payers’ money in furnace. To eliminate or keep the radical militants under the tab and dysfunctional or debilitated, United States will have to maintain a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. How long that state of affairs would continue and how long United States would keep footing the colossal war bill at the appalling cost of its domestic priorities?

Afghanistan does not possess oil reserves. The minerals deposits of Afghanistan cannot be utilized unless these are tapped at a huge cost over a prolonged period of time. Would United States wait interminably for the day when it could benefit from the precious minerals and other hidden natural resources of Afghanistan?

Would not in the meantime a national liberation army come into being to fight against the foreign occupation forces that might also be joined by Taliban and other militants now fighting with NATO for almost over a decade? In a nutshell, to stay in Afghanistan is solely a shattering liability and unsustainable undertaking that would become more burdensome in the longer run.

Instead United State should focus on the formation of a union of the regional states of Pakistan Afghanistan, neighboring central Asian states as well as India and Iran, to maintain peace, undertake and carry out the reconstruction, foster and protect a democratic set up, and act as a bulwark against the fundamentalist or radical forces to capture power.

It is time for the United States to change its tracks from armed belligerency and war mongering to peace efforts that would be of lasting value and would be lauded and supported and welcomed by the people of Afghanistan and the regional states. In the present scenario United State is neither here nor there. The outcome of Afghan war is murky and fraught with unpredictable ramifications, one of which could be an unceremonious exit of NATO from Afghanistan.

The United States should avoid that day when it will have to leave Afghanistan with a legacy of hostility and bitterness. It can earn enormous good-will if she calls off war efforts and substitutes it with reconstruction of Afghanistan and rehabilitation of its destroyed institutions and by putting in place a genuinely elected government as it has belatedly done in Iraq.

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