Friday, September 29, 2006

Afghanistan: Why NATO cannot win

By M K Bhadrakumar
Asia Times

"The fatality rate of the 18,500-strong NATO force averages about five per week, which is roughly equal to the losses suffered by the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Indeed, in withering comments to The Sunday Telegraph newspaper last weekend, Soviet commanders who oversaw Moscow's disastrous campaign have predicted that the NATO forces will ultimately be forced to flee from Afghanistan.

General Boris Gromov, the charismatic Soviet commander who supervised the withdrawal in 1989, warned, "The Afghan resistance is, in my opinion, growing. Such behavior on the part of the intractable Afghans is to my mind understandable. It is conditioned by centuries of tradition, geography, climate and religion.

Clearly, a huge crisis is shaping up for NATO. Its credibility is at stake. Sir Cyril does not foresee that the alliance will come up with the required military resources "to beat the Taliban on its own ground". No wonder Lieutenant-General David Richards, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and former assistant chief of the general staff of the British army, ominously warned in a recent television interview, "We need to realize we could actually fail here."

At any rate, the stratagem aimed at exploiting the Afghan problem to seize geopolitical advantages was not so apparent at the beginning. But it didn't take long before it became clear that the US agenda was to exploit the "war on terror" for establishing a client state in Afghanistan, and for gaining a sought-after military presence in Central Asia. And in the event, the US military presence incrementally paved the way for creating a base for NATO in the region.

No amount of pious homilies about NATO's role and objectives can obfuscate the geopolitical implications of the Western alliance's occupation of a strategically important country far away from the European continent, which lies at the crossroads of vast regions that are becoming the battleground for global influence.

Without doubt, in the perceptions of regional powers, NATO's defeat in Afghanistan can only mean the scattering of the US blueprint of domination of Central Asia, South Asia and the Persian Gulf."

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