USA in Afghanistan: To lose without losing face

The United States is facing not an easy task: to find a way to supply and maintain the Afghan national army and police. Despite the apparent desire of America to bid farewell to the protracted war, the Taliban, criminal gangs and rebels continue to terrorize most of the territory of Afghanistan. The administration of the International Security Assistance Force believes that substantial military assistance and support will be needed after the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of 2014.

One of the fundamental stages involves the transfer of powers to the Afghan army and police. Afghan national security forces, as expected, are to take over a nominal role in planning and directing all operations against rebels, who, as they say, account to about 85 percent of the population. However, the U.S. and other countries believe that ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) are still far from effective leadership, command, control, logistics and medical evacuation. The training of military personnel and Afghan police is held quite effectively, but drawbacks are unlikely to be eliminated before 2014.

In the end, ensuring the future of Afghanistan is likely to become more expensive than Washington expected, given the fact that the U.S. defense budget was reduced, and European NATO countries should comply with the policy of austerity. Since last year's presidential election, Obama administration officials say that the United States would insist on early withdrawal from Afghanistan. By the end of 2014, the withdrawal of troops is to be fully completed and the Afghans will bear full responsibility for their own future.

In this regard, political analysts point out that in the foreseeable future, the democratic government of Afghanistan will remain corrupt and weak, whereas much of the country outside of such cities as Kabul, Heart and Kandahar will not be linked with the central government. It is likely that in such a situation, the Taliban will be able to take power into its hands again.

In many rural areas of Afghanistan, a combination of local, often corrupt interests of warlords, drug lords, tribal chiefs or rebels will dominate. However, most details concerning the withdrawal of NATO troops have not been coordinated yet. While Obama, by the end of 2014, aims to withdraw the remaining 63,000 U.S. troops, the U.S. administration is still negotiating strategic partnership with Karzai. The latter insists that NATO should leave from 5,000 and 10,000 of its people in Afghanistan. The Taliban, as they say, has a total of about 30,000 fighters. Of all NATO countries, only Germany formally proposed to provide a military contingent of 800 soldiers.

The report from the Special Inspector General for the reconstruction of Afghanistan says that the Afghans failed to provide the numbers of necessary funding. As expected, the funding gap in 2015-2024 could reach $70 billion and billions of dollars in additional costs. In turn, Afghan officials also talked about long-term commitment, which, in their opinion, is the only way to marginalize the Taliban.

NATO and Taliban

Despite permanent NATO statements saying that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan will be won, this year saw a sharp increase in the number of attacks of insurgent. The head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General Joseph Dunford, said that despite the challenges, there are real facts that demonstrate improved security across the country. Such facts, among others, are 8 million schoolchildren vs. 1 million in 2001, 85 percent of Afghans received access to basic health care vs. 9 percent in 2001. Women became members of the Afghan parliament and took about 25 percent of all seats. NATO military point out that 80 percent of enemy attacks occurred in the areas inhabited by less than 20 percent of the population. Main battles took place in the north of Helmand province and in the western part of the province of Kandahar.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Afghans will no longer tolerate the repressive policies imposed by the former Taliban government. As noted above, the Afghan forces will soon take over responsibility for the national security of the country. It should be noted that some analysts, though, are less confident in the abilities and motivation of Afghan forces that suffer from high levels of desertion. They predict the collapse of the Western-backed government and a return to civil war.

The President of Afghanistan and the CIA money

According to the monitoring group of Transparency International, Afghanistan is the most corrupt country in the world, along with North Korea, Somalia and Myanmar. To confirm this fact, it has been reported recently that Hamid Karzai had been receiving tens of millions of dollars from the CIA during ten years.

In turn, Afghan government officials are not going to either criticize Karzai or accuse him of personal corruption, because it can neutralize efforts to extend strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan. In addition, Afghan politicians claim that the country's reputation is exaggerated from the point of view of the level of corruption. Such a state of affairs is reminiscent of a story of a married couple, when two people are fed up with each other, but can not find a reason for divorce.

Illegal economy is fully integrated into the process of globalization, including lines of credit and transportation. Karzai continues to deny allegations of personal corruption, including the money from the CIA. He insists that most of that money was spent on public employees. 

In their aspiration to win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan, the Pentagon went even further and gave cash directly to American officers to finance the construction of wells, schools and clinics. Rapid and visible results were the goal, but the funds, as a rule, would usually go into the pockets of those in power. According to some reports, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has lost about 90 cents from every dollar directed to a certain project. It is clear that the underdeveloped economy of Afghanistan did not offer opportunities for legitimate and profitable investment. Thus, most of the money invested, eventually, flowed into banks and real estate in the Gulf emirates.

As was recently revealed, a part of the money of the CIA was used to pay salaries to CIA warlords and politicians, many of whom had ties with drug traffickers, and in some cases, with the Taliban.

It is worth recalling that it was the United States that inundated Afghanistan with military men and assistance funds, while losing the process of control. As a result, Operation Enduring Freedom smoothly developed into Operation Enduring Corruption. Today's Afghanistan lacks social, political and economic changes that could create a model of accountability, objective assessment of the historical, cultural and political realities in the country. Key questions remain unanswered. What are the real terms, who is going to make decisions, will there be real struggle against corruption? The absence of answers to these questions threatens the weak government. The country risks to return to conflicts and uncertainties that existed ten years ago.

Sergei Vasilenko


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov