Questions regarding the End Game in Afghanistan

Editor’s Note: We share two articles here with our readers.First by Dave Llindorff, a cross post from his blog ‘This Can’t be Happening’ and the other by Gen Talat Masud(R) published in Express Tribune looking at the question from purely Pakistan’s perspective.

No Country for Young Men as Old Men Play for Time: The

End in Afghanistan is Totally Predictable

Dave Llindorff


John Kerry, back before he was a pompous windsurfing Senate apologist for American empire, back when he wore his hair long and was part of a movement of returned US military veterans speaking out against the continuation of the Vietnam War, famously asked the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing, “How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?”

That was 1971, and the Vietnam War continued to drag on for two more years, with more Americans dying, and with many more Vietnamese being killed, until finally the last US combat troops were gone. But even then the fighting continued, with the Army of South Vietnam armed and financed by the United States, until April 30, 1975, when the last resistance ended and Vietnam was liberated and reunified and finally at peace.

During those two terrible years between Kerry’s statement and the end of US combat operations, American soldiers stationed in Vietnam knew that the war was lost, and knew they were there for no reason other than keeping President Nixon from looking like he had lost a war, particularly as he faced re-election during the campaign year of 1972. There was, understandably, massive resort to drugs, including marijuana, opium, heroin, LSD and others, as well as alcohol. There was the fragging of commanding officers who were too aggressive about sending their troops into danger. There was insubordination and insurrection and there was desertion.

Now consider the situation in Afghanistan. Once again a war has been lost by the US, this time to forces far weaker and more poorly organized than the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army.
Once again American troops are being asked to keep fighting for a mistake — this time the 2001 fantasy of the Bush/Cheney administration that it could make a client state out of Afghanistan, a mistake that President Obama doubled down on after taking over the White House, when he called Afghanistan the “good war” and committed another 30,000 troops there, plus ordering up an aggressive kill campaign of night raids, assassinations and the heavy use of pilotless armed drone aircraft.

John Kerry (l) testifying at the Senate in '71 and Iraq/Afghan War vets lining up to return medals to NATO in ChicagoJohn Kerry (l) testifying at the Senate in ’71 and Iraq/Afghan War vets lining up to return medals to NATO in Chicago a few days ago
The difference this time is that these troops are hearing their commander in chief tell the American public that he is going to end the whole thing at the end of 2014 (assuming of course that he is still commander in chief then). He is saying that the war, now opposed by almost three-fourths of the American people according to recent polls, will be ended in two and a half more years no matter what the situation is on the ground in Afghanistan.

The American forces in Afghanistan know they have already lost the war there. And they also know that as the drawdown of troops begins from that war-torn country, they will be hit harder and harder by the Taliban and other forces trying to take back the country from the US and from the compradore leaders who have been serving as the lackeys to the US. They know too that as soon as the last of them has boarded the last plane out, or perhaps even earlier, the current corrupt Afghan leadership will be hopping a commercial flight out too, to join their money in Switzerland or Abu Dhabi or some other safe haven, and the Taliban will come marching into Kabul to take over from them.

How much worse must those soldiers feel than the US soldiers in Vietnam, who at least didn’t have an end-point held out in front of them to taunt them. Today’s American soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan fight staring at a surrender date at which point all their fighting and killing and dying and being will be acknowledged as having been in vain. The American soldiers in Vietnam in 1971 or 1972 could at least pretend that after they left, the South Vietnamese government might at least try to fight on and establish itself.

In Afghanistan, the soldiers being ordered to fight on can have no such illusions. Soldiers in the Afghan army and police, whom US forcers are training, supposedly to be able to take over from them, are turning their guns on the Americans with alarming frequency. Just today, the Pentagon cited, as “good news”(!), word that Afghan security services had disrupted 160 planned attempts by their uniformed countrymen to kill US soldiers and marines.

That’s gotta be a downer if you wear a US uniform over there.

I predict that the next two and a half years of pointless war in Afghanistan will be a terrible scene of drug abuse (there’s no shortage of opium and heroin in the country, perhaps the leading producer of the drug in the world), of terrible carnage of civilians as increasingly automated remote killing methods are employed to make up for the lack of motivation among the troops, and of US casualties, as the Taliban resistance grows increasingly confident of its power and its impending victory.

The “government” of Afghanistan, meanwhile, knowing its days are numbered, will be preparing its exit, with money spirited out of the country, while the police and army, knowing that they will ultimately pay a deadly price for serving the US master, and too poor to buy their way out of the country, will increasingly turn on American forces, or simply switch to what they know will be the ultimate winning side. This is all totally predictable.

The end, then, is not in question.

The only question is, why on earth would we here in America allow this disaster to drag on for another two and a half years, just to provide cover for our current failed crop of political and military leaders?


Beyond Chicago

Published: May 22, 2012

The writer is a retired lieutenant-general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The summit in Chicago is primarily meant to focus on issues related to Nato matters. It is expected to provide President Barack Obama an opportunity to show his people how he has handled relations with allies. With the US and Nato forces drawdown in Afghanistan planned for 2014, Pakistani presence at the conference became relevant as Afghanistan’s security and stability have a direct bearing on the former’s security.

But several questions come to mind as Nato and US forces withdraw. What is the likely scenario that will emerge once Nato and the US withdraw? Can the Afghan forces hold up to the Taliban onslaught and are there any chances of a negotiated settlement? What role, if any, should Pakistan play to facilitate an orderly withdrawal?

The prognosis is that once the US forces leave, Afghanistan could lapse into civil strife because though the Afghan National Army has come a long way, it has yet to gel into an effective national force to counter the Taliban and warlords opposed to the government. Moreover, President Hamid Karzai’s government has not been able to win the confidence of the people due to pervasive corruption, poor governance and failing security. Capitalising on these weaknesses, Afghan Taliban enjoy local support, at least, in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

Pakistan faces a huge dilemma. Immediately after 9/11, president George W Bush addressed Pakistan in his famous remarks “either you are with us or against us”. General Pervez Musharraf took no time to be on the side of the US and to become a frontline state. For if we had not allied ourselves with the US and Nato, India would have played the key role in Afghanistan and extended maximum facilities for transit and enhanced its regional influence. Paradoxically, since then, Pakistan has been an ally of the US but also sided with forces against the US.

On the one hand, it supports the US in its policies in Afghanistan, but it can also not ignore the Taliban with whom it has maintained functional, if not friendly, relations. Further, Washington itself has been engaging the Taliban leadership, albeit not with much success. These conflicting demands make Pakistan — in the eyes of the US and Nato countries — an unreliable partner and part of the problem rather than the solution.

The irony is that the military leadership now realises the inherent dangers for Pakistan in an allout victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It will inspire the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to intensify their insurgency and it is also possible that the Afghan Taliban may turn their sights on Pakistan — the strategic depth in reverse.

The question, then, is, how are Pakistan’s interests best served in this complex situation? The ideal approach would be to leave it to the Afghans to decide in an ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process’, but that does not seem feasible in the current scenario. Islamabad finds itself trapped and is unable to navigate the political and diplomatic conundrum. The period from now until the end of 2014, however, provides a narrow window of opportunity to work with Nato and the US to develop a shared strategy that protects our national interests.

But a major impediment lies in taking this course. If India remains the main enemy in Pakistan’s security paradigm, Islamabad will continue the policy of co-opting militants, including the Afghan Taliban. By pursuing the same old policy of looking at every security problem through the Indian prism — while facing declining resources, internal turmoil and international isolation — it will result in increased reliance of Pakistan on militant proxies.

We are at the cusp of a situation where the moment of truth has arrived. This moment requires that we decide how the interests of our country can best be served. The militants with their pseudo religious-militaristic ideology and resources, generated through illegal means, continue to gain strength while the state is weakening. Any further indecisiveness on the government’s part and military leadership on how to deal with the Afghan, the TTP and other militant groups will only worsen the present situation.

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  • Sherwood Ross  On May 23, 2012 at 3:30 am


    “Horrible but fabulous” is how the Smirking Chimp site describes this poem. It is a poem that is a warning about a nation gone wrong. It is offered to you for publication for $100 American payable to the poet for newspapers of 500,000 circulation or less and $200 American for newspapers over 500,000. The author formerly worked for major dailies and wire services and civil rights organizations. A brief bio of the author follows this poem. —- Sherwood Ross

    America, The Imperial

    © 2010 by Sherwood Ross

    I write to you in my last hour
    In the last hour of the night
    The hour of fear before the light
    The hour of persecution and execution
    Of the headsman’s bloody institution
    Of prisoners dragged from their cells
    Hearts pounding, legs trembling
    Piss-soaked with fright.

    I write to you from the land of discredited dreams
    Of delicate white petals spilled upon the floor
    Like semen wasted in the fingers of a whore
    Of American dreams twisted into nightmares
    Of a president’s lying schemes
    For which Christ has no parable, no metaphor.
    I write to you when poets are beaten in the streets
    When students are shot dead for protesting war
    When men earn their bread making killing machines
    And never question what their work is for.

    I will show you the land of the dying cities
    Where the many see little hope to get ahead
    Where few among the poor wear caps and gowns
    And lines are lengthening for hot soup and for bread.
    The gardens of pleasure of my youth are withered
    The gray Tudor mansions stand in ruins along the beach
    I would not dare to step inside and eat a peach.
    High winds off the Atlantic drive the rain
    Through the broken shards of windowpane
    And the wind slams the unlocked doors
    TaBANGah! TaBANGah! TaBANGah!
    And tidal surges spill inside and rot the floors.

    In America, The Imperial,
    The generals are solemn, the generals are stiff
    Their work requires perpetual attention
    To details: “Send this detail here! Send that detail there!”
    After all, war is no Saturday sail on a pleasure skiff
    War is a guided missile fired from a battleship.
    War is the champagne of the Pentagon brass
    Intoxicating! Effervescent!
    Billion dollar bubbles of planned obsolescence
    Step right up and try the latest weapons
    We got your wars right here!
    Cold wars! Hot wars!
    Chocolate and vanilla
    Step right up and kill a guerrilla!”

    I write to you of Panama and Viet Nam
    From the ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan
    Of nations where our armies’ flags have flown
    And from Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, and Iran
    Among the many nations we have overthrown.
    I write of plots to shake the planet from its course
    Not cheap schemes to fix the action on the Paris bourse
    But to move great armies onto foreign soil
    To gain control of pipeline routes and precious oil.

    I will take you to the dungeon
    I will take you to the cell
    Let us pay an uninvited visit
    To one American white hell.

    Hakim was an Afghan artisan
    Wrongly thrown in jail
    The Americans allowed no lawyers
    No Red Cross and no bail
    They forced him to go naked
    They shaved off his beard and hair
    When they put the hood over his head
    He thought he’d die for lack of air.
    Hakim had nothing to confess to
    Still, they knocked him to the floor
    Soldiers stomped his back and kicked his legs
    Until he could stand no more
    They chained his hands to the ceiling
    For ten days and ten nights
    Longer than Jesus hung on Calvary
    So much for human rights.

    Holy Mary, Mother of God
    Pray for us sinners
    Now and in the hour of our death.

    Hakim pleaded and begged,
    “Tell me which way is Mecca?
    Let me face the holy city.”
    But the soldiers denied him
    Hakim pleaded and begged,
    “Let me read my Qur’an”
    Yet the soldiers denied him again
    And their boots made pulp of his legs
    So that he never again would stand.
    Hakim believed that in the end time
    He would see his wife and children
    For the Qur’an prophesied the Qiyamah
    When God will pass judgment upon all men
    And Hakim believed loved ones would be reunited in His mercy.
    How his family must wonder of his whereabouts
    For he vanished from the earth and from their sight
    Rendered, kidnapped by the Americans
    And subjected to shrieking music, blinding light.

    Holy Mary, mother of God
    Pray for us sinners
    Now and in the hour of our death.

    Doctor Abraham Finerman in his last days
    Named for the father of his race
    Reflected melancholy, his grave face sad.
    He had lived too long; he had seen too much
    And endured nightmares he could not erase.
    Once the idealistic, studious student
    From a renowned science high school in the Bronx
    He owed his medical education to the Army
    And so he performed for them as he was told
    They made of him the arbiter of
    How much pain prisoners’ could endure
    Abraham, how quickly you grew old!
    It was strictly against the Hippocratic Oath
    Sworn to do no harm, he went along when
    He might have resigned. Let this man
    Hang in chains ten hours more
    Let that man shiver naked overnight
    Upon the rough, concrete prison floor.
    Some were dead in the morning, doctor,
    Some were dead. Others by the thousands
    By the ten thousands
    By the hundred thousands
    Dragged from their homes
    Never prosecuted, never even charged
    Flung into a hundred prisons
    From Thailand to Morocco
    From Poland to Iraq
    By the United States of Corrections
    Jailer to the world! King of Incarcerations!
    Prisons in abandoned airplane hangers
    Prisons in open, uncovered fields
    Prisons in the holds of creaking ships
    Prisons in CIA compounds
    Prisons on islands in the tropic seas
    Secret prisons in secret places
    A “safe house” in downtown Bucharest, Romania,
    A riding academy in rural Lithuania
    Prisons for ghost prisoners
    Prisons for forgotten men, forgotten faces
    Prisons hidden from the Red Cross
    Prisons of the hopeless
    Prisons of the lost
    Prisons of the Yankee double cross
    Prisons of men
    Of women
    Of girls
    Of boys
    Stripped of their clothing
    Their dignity, their rights
    Set upon by maddened dogs
    Bathed night and day in artificial lights
    Teenage girls hosed with icy water
    “Why are you doing this to me?” One
    Girl kept crying. “Because you are a
    Terrorist, it’s no use denying.”
    Teen boys assaulted by criminal guards
    Here are tortured Everyman’s son
    Everyman’s daughter
    Children covered with mud before their father’s eyes
    Men told to talk or the jailers would rape their wives
    A seraglio of suffering Made in USA
    A quarter of a million arrested in error
    In the name of the fraudulent War on Terror
    As one Arab businessman
    Wrongly imprisoned would crack:
    “I’ve bought my last Cadillac.”

    And many a man they accused of jihad
    They threw in isolation until he was driven mad.

    I write to you in the hour of the false dawn
    When morning only deepens the darkness
    When prisoners yearn for the sun and there is no sun
    Only the white lights of their illuminated rooms
    The twenty-four hour lights of their illuminated tombs.
    The twenty-four silence of their isolation cells.
    The twenty-four hour lights of their illuminated tombs.
    The twenty-four hour silence of their isolated hells.
    The twenty-four hour lights of their illuminated tombs.

    Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners, Now and in the hour of our death.
    While doctor Finerman examined Hakim’s swollen legs and hands
    The guard said, “He’s talking crazy, out of his head.”
    “Remove the chains,” Finerman replied,
    Thinking the man was close enough to being dead.
    And on his watch too many Hakims had already died.

    Hakim could not know his wife came seeking him each day
    She came so often to police headquarters to inquire
    The Americans threatened to arrest her as well
    By now she guessed Hakim suffered inside an isolation cell
    Nothing now remained of her but smoldering desire
    To prepare herself for martyrdom
    To perish quickly in the explosion and the fire.
    On her last morning she kissed her darling children
    Not letting them know it was for the last time ever
    And went to those making the jihad
    And they strapped the explosive belt around her waist
    She thought of Hakim jailed since the American invasion
    And the blast took out the walls of the police station.

    The Army gave doctor Abraham a medal
    Which he felt obliged to keep, yet
    The medal ceremony repeated frighteningly
    In his sleep as he turned and tossed
    Abe dreamed it was the Nazis
    That gave him the Iron Cross. Well he knew why
    The medal gleamed upon his breast
    Why he was promoted to colonel
    Just before his discharge; why he was
    Sent into retirement for a well deserved rest
    To enjoy the lilacs from the hammock in his own back yard
    Even doctors’ now must have a changing of the guard.
    His promotion: payment for services rendered
    He had passed each loyalty test and thought
    “How easily to evil I surrendered!”
    His wife, Naftalia, wondered
    About the dreams of which Abe never spoke
    His moaning, tossing, his psychosomatic cough
    His integrity gone up as in a puff of crematorium smoke
    Abe lived like a man with his skin peeled off.

    Imperial America!
    Once the land of the free! Once the proud
    Land of the Wright Brothers, Edison, creativity
    Edison who gave the world the phonograph,
    The motion picture, Hollywood, the electric light
    The inventor whose genius transformed night
    Into day—an American and a benefactor
    Of all humankind, honest and proud,
    A man of a thousand inventions
    Sprouting like dreams from his fertile mind.
    So different from today’s death scientists
    In the Pentagon’s secret laboratories
    Hunched over the incubators of germ warfare,
    Space warfare, nuclear warfare,
    Shells with radioactive ammunition
    Creating infants in Iraq stillborn with one eye
    And other unimaginable grotesque conditions.
    Behold the progeny of gangster presidents,
    War criminals, and liars
    Whose Statue of Liberty
    Shines wrapped in barbed wire.

    Hakim was among those let go
    Crippled for life,
    Crushed when he learned of his martyred wife
    As long as he had breath, he would tell the tale
    Americans are torturing the innocent
    Inside a hundred hellish jails
    Each president claims he’s Christian
    But Jesus denounced perdition
    What sane man turns back the clock
    To the Spanish Inquisition?

    O, beware Americans! Americans beware!
    We are slaving on the pyramid of Pharaoh
    Slaving on his monument to death
    Building his war machine with every sucking breath
    O, beware humanity! Humanity beware!
    With our deadly, flying chariots
    We are become a nation of Iscariots.

    Holy Mary, Mother of God
    Pray for us sinners
    Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

    (Sherwood Ross is an American whose poetry has been published on local television in Miami and broadly on the Internet, as well as in the latest (2012) anthology of the Florida State Poet’s Assn. He worked as a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and the Chicago Daily News, as a workplace columnist for Reuters wire service, as News Director for a major civil rights organization, as host of a Washington, D.C., radio talk show on WOL, and as a public relations consultant to scores of national magazines, growing businesses, colleges and universities from Harvard to Colorado State. He has also publicized nearly 100 national magazines from “Business Week” to “The New Yorker.” His has written articles for national magazines including “The Nation” and “The Humanist” and is the author of two plays on Japan, “Baron Jiro,” produced at Live Arts Theatre, Charlottesville, Va., and “Yamamoto’s Decision,” read at the National Press Club, where he is a member. For further information consult his website “Sherwood Ross Associates.”

  • Faisal Imam  On May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    What is he trying to say?(Gen Talat)
    Drop the Taliban and join NATO?
    Look at Pakistan first?
    Do what is best for our future?

  • MUHAMMAD CHAUDHRY  On May 23, 2012 at 6:50 am

    An interesting and well-founded depiction of ground realities by Dave,ending with a pertinent and vexing question for American people
    However the brief of Talat poses more daunting and complex proposition for Pakistani leadership.Apart from the requisite positive traits,it calls for a lot of guts and nerves to wiggle out of this fiasco successfuly,safeguarding Pakistan’s interest in short term and long term implications.Unfortunately not any good can be expected from the current breed as it’s of the same ilk as Karzai, rather worse so they will follow the que sooner than later in case of eventuality,leaving hapless 180 million Pakistanis to face the burnt,whatsoever.

  • ID  On May 23, 2012 at 6:59 am

    What a sensible and unblemished viewpoint. I fully concur with Mr Llindorff’s projection and prognosis.

  • Shakir Lakhani  On May 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Won’t the U.S. need Pakistan to keep India in check (after NATO troops withdraw)? India is spending a billion and a half dollars every year in Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan and to extend its reach to Central Asia.

    • Nusrat Kamlal  On May 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

      An excellent observation. But it will still be a dilemma for the USA. Indian market, India to check China etc; the equation would be in favor of India any way. With India the USA adjusts. And Pakistan can be talked-in or -out as usual both by India and the USA!
      And this explains why:
      ویسٹ انڈیز کیلیے براین لارا
      انڈیا کیلیے لارا دت
      پاکستان کیلیے لارا لپا

  • ID  On May 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

    By Gen Talat: Good analysis. What’s coming is nobody’s business! It will be cataclysmic. The downfall of the western empire and their proxies. Money down the drain, economy down the drain, panic up the drain.

    Sent from my iPad

  • Nasim Siddiqui  On May 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Article by Gen Sahib:
    Masha-ALLAH History well written But what is the solution. We all are aware of our national short histort of problems & of unending dilemma , weought to think in revolutionary way of its resolution ( adventurism & arrogance & sitting on the fence is not the solution) We have enough of oratory & opportunism. BestWishes Nasim

  • Ijaz ul Haq  On May 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

    There is no End Game but an Exit Game.

  • Kimberlee Horwood  On May 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Good site, thanks for share this article with us

  • Rauf  On May 25, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Ijaz Ji,
    US will exit alright. But leaving behind enough mess, so the next decade or
    so continue to persist mayhem in the region. The same way they did after
    soviet pulled out from Afghanistan.

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