Of late it has become common practice for those politicians and media pundits who supported the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, to claim that if only before the invasion the Bush Administration had factored in plans for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan after the US military had defeated Saddam Hussein and the Afghan Talaban, then all would have been well. Whether they be pro war newspaper Columnists, Bloggers, Government Ministers or minor members of the British royal family, these people are still making 2+2 come out as 5 when it comes to understanding the situation in these two abused nations. This is hardly surprising given their past history for they are all totally unable or unwilling to accept a single pertinent fact, that the current desperate problems the people of Iraq and Afghanistan face all stem from a single event, to put it in Clintonese, “Its the occupation Stupid!”
From George W. Bush downward this single pertinent fact just does not seem to have entered the heads of these sorry excuses for politicians and pundits. I know not whether this is because were they to accept the aforementioned analyzes, they would also have to accept their share of responsibility for the chaos, hopelessness and bloodshed these two countries are now experiencing.
The largest army of occupation the world has ever seen was that which the Allies sent into Germany at the end of WW2, Yet despite its overwhelmingly superior firepower over those they occupied, all leading Allied politicians and military planners of the day understood clearly that any occupation must be kept to as short a time as was humanly possible. Whilst foreign troops were to remain in Germany for decades, the actual in your face occupation by US, British and French armies was ended by the early 1950s and to be fair something somewhat similar happened in the eastern sector of Germany where the writ of the Red Army ran.
That is four years in all and then the military army of occupation either returned to their barracks or caught the boat home, leaving the policing of Germany to the local administration in Bonn. In Iraq the coalition are soon to start their fifth year of occupation and in Afghanistan it is into it’s seventh; and in truth as far as winning the hearts and minds of the locals they are no further forward than they were in their first year, if anything the reverse is true and the occupying forces are more hated today than they ever were.
Whilst an Iraqi Army and police force of sorts has been created its command structure is not secure, thus it is not fit for purpose as it cannot be relied upon to act in a non sectarian manner. Even within northern Iraq, the one area of the country where a type of normality prevails, there is not a centralized command and control structure, whether it is the military, police or the economy, peoples loyalties are to the Kurdish administration in Erbil, not the US/UK supported Government in Baghdad.
Despite all the media created optimism and hype around the ‘Petraeus Surge’ in Iraq, anyone who has any understanding or experience of insurgencies will know that its success will almost certainly be short lived. As the US military is unable to keep the current troop levels on the streets of Iraq indefinitely and because the Iraqi military Resistance have repeated what insurgent forces have done throughout the ages when faced with a large influx of enemy forces who possess superior fire power. They have withdrawn from all avoidable combat situations and either melted into the civilian population or temporarily moved outside of their home areas into communities where there are lower levels of US troops. Where Iraqi resistance forces will be taking a spot of R@R and in all probability will be using the lull in the fighting to hone up on their military skills.
We saw this in Ireland when the British army launched ‘Operation Motorman in 1972* which was designed to crush the PIRA by taking back the ‘no go’ areas in Belfast and Derry, which had allowed the Provos to have a free reign to operate and attack the British army. However the PIRA made no attempt to hold this ground, as they lacked the necessary armaments and numbers for a direct confrontation with the army. The British Army employed an overwhelming force of troops (roughly 4% of the whole British Army). By the end of the day there were no more no-go urban areas in the north of Ireland, but nor was there a defeated PIRA; and more to the point the war was to continue with increased ferocity for another thirty plus years and no go areas were to reappear in South Armagh. Looking back, all that Operation Motorman achieved was to antagonize the vast majority of the nationalist population of Derry and Belfast and to such an extent that many of them became active supporters of the PRM and the rest silently acquiesced in their presence within their communities.
However the British government and opposition seem to have learnt none of this, as instead of awaiting the outcome of the ‘Petraeus Surge’ before deciding on future tactics, they have decided to rush a British military force with extra firepower to Afghanistan, it will be made up of all three battalions of the Parachute Regiment who will provide the backbone of 16 Air Assault Brigade. With these three regiments all of whom played an important role in prolonging the conflict in the north of Ireland, due to the way they brutalized both civilians and prisoners, there is not a hope of bringing the Afghani people alongside.
I’m not criticizing the Paras, they are a hard, harsh, fighting machine and that is what they do, and do well,
they are not into winning hearts and minds, and to send such regiments on peace keeping missions is a contradiction of terms. Thus it is obvious the UK government is responding to a decision made by the US administration after they have concluded that the only way Afghanistan can be subdued is to kill the Talaban and terrorize the Afghani people. Indeed Condoleezza Rice the US Secretary of State all but said this, when she said in London this week that the war in Afghanistan is no longer about winning the hearts and minds of the Afghani people.
As the Soviet Red Army have already tried a similar senseless tactic when they attempted to cower the Afghani people, we can expect over the next few years nothing but blood and heartbreak from that poor begotten nation, but as sure as night follows day the US military occupation and anyone who is fool enough to join them will eventually leave Afghanistan exhausted. Tragically in the meantime another generation of callous, dim witted and greedy politicians will have sacrificed other peoples sons on the Afghan plains, mountains and deserts; and for what? What the west desperately needs is a Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, who recognizes the reality on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq and acts upon it.