By James O’Neill*
The least surprising news item in the past week was that the United States government under President Biden had decided that American troops would after all, despite Ex-President Trump’s order, remain in Afghanistan. This breaks an agreement that had been reached by the Trump administration and the Taliban that US troops would all be gone by May 2021.
It was unclear in the Trump agreement whether the withdrawal of “US Forces” included the United States mercenaries who for at least the past year have outnumbered formal US troops. What Trump’s negotiated agreement meant for the other “allied” forces in Afghanistan remained unclear at the time of the announcement and remains equally unclear today. The mainstream media persist in referring to those troops as NATO forces, but they include Australian troops who are not members of NATO.
The Australian government has been strangely silent in the light of Trump’s original announcement that US troops would be leaving, and they remain quiet in the light of the new administration’s revision of the Trump plan. It is a safe bet that whatever the Americans finally do will be agreeable to the Australians. There has not been the least hint of an independent Australian position. The actual role of the Australian troops remains a non-topic of discussion in the Australian media. Even the recent scandal of Australian troops abusing and killing locals was a five-day wonder and has now disappeared from media coverage.
The ostensible reason for Australian troops remaining in Afghanistan is to “train” the Afghan forces. This was always a singularly unconvincing reason, not least because such “training” has been spectacularly unsuccessful with the high death rate of those troops, their even higher rate of defections, and a singular unwillingness to actually fight being their dominant characteristic.
The ostensible reasons for the Biden administration’s change of heart about withdrawing US troops was the unsettled nature of the government and their inability to control the countryside which is variously described as overrun with foreign ISIS fighters; not under Afghanistan government control (certainly true); or uncertainty about the political directions of a Taliban government, including protecting the rights of women in the country.
What never ceases to amaze one is the inability of the western media, and the Australian version are a classic example, to even hint at the real reasons for staying, when the foreigners who occupy Afghanistan are manifestly unwelcome. The protestations of the Afghan “government” that they appreciate the presence of foreign troops on their soil is manifestly self-serving. Their survival rate post-liberation could be counted in days.
The real reasons for the American intention to stay were concealed from the very beginning. United States president Bush justified the invasion on the alleged refusal of the Taliban government that then ruled the country, to give up Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the attacks in New York City and Washington DC on 11 September 2001.
Even if that was a legitimate reason, and it manifestly was not, the refusal to surrender bin Laden surely disappeared the day he died, which was in December 2001 from natural causes. His obituary was even published in the New York Times. We were later treated to the charade of an American foray into Pakistan to “capture” bin Laden with the body then being buried at sea. The troops responsible for this charade were later all killed in a helicopter crash. The mainstream media remained singularly incurious about the amazing sequence of events.
The real reasons for the invasion, and the continuing occupation nearly 20 years later, and the reason the Americans and their lackeys will stay as long as they can are twofold: drugs and geography.
One of the real reasons the Taliban government had to be deposed in 2001 was that they had drastically reduced the growing of the poppy in the areas of Afghanistan they actually controlled.
That poppy production in turn was processed into heroin, for which Afghanistan is once again the major source in the world. It provides the CIA with their greatest “off the books” revenue. They are not going to relinquish that money and the multiple benefits of controlling the world’s largest source of heroin it gives them, without putting up a major fight.
It is one of the enduring disgraces of the western mainstream media that this factor is almost completely ignored. When the importance of heroin to the world is acknowledged it is almost always totally bereft of any discussion of the CIA’s crucial role. One can read more about the role of heroin in UN reports than one can in the mainstream media.
The other major reason that the United States is reluctant to leave Afghanistan is its geography. Afghanistan shares borders with seven nations, including China. It has friendly relations with none of the seven, all of whom look to either Russia or China or both as their most important friends. All of those countries belong to one or more of the various organisations set up in recent years to facilitate their development, including the Shanghai Corporation Organisation.
During the latter months of the Trump administration the appalling Mike Pompeo tried very hard to woo some of those nations to his anti-China crusade. That he failed to make much headway is a matter of record, but that failure does not mean that the Americans have given up on their ambitions for the region. One can expect similar efforts to be made by the Biden administration, whose antipathy to China took very little time to become apparent.
One can hardly be surprised at the stances being taken by the Biden administration. He, like much of the senior people he has surrounded himself with, are essentially reruns from the Obama years. The old saying goes that one cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and that is becoming more true with each day of the Biden administration.
The positive point is that while the United States administration looks more and more like a rerun of the Obama years, the world has moved on, and nowhere more so than in the Asian – Europe landmass.
It is already economically the most dynamic region in the world and that is expected to continue. Fortunately for the world Eurasia is reasserting itself. The big question is: will the Americans recognise that and scale down their ambitions. Frankly, the signs are not promising.
Geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at email@example.com