AfPak: War on Two Fronts

As more NATO trucks were being torched in Peshawar last week, a Karachi student managed to fling his shoe at warmongering US journalist Clifford May during his address to the Department of International Relations on “Pakistan’s Role in Countering the Challenge of Terrorism”. In Washington, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced bitterly the US probably knows Osama Bin Laden’s where-abouts. He neglected to draw the appropriate conclusion about what the US is really up to in AfPak. Also in Washington, within hours of the decision of the Nobel Peace committee, US President Barack Obama met with his War Council.

It’s getting to the point that it’s hard to tell who is the biggest opponent of Obama’s plans to bring peace to AfPak: the Taliban, the Pakistani government, or the Nobel committee. Oh yes, or virtually the entire world beyond the Washington beltway.

As the world marked the eighth anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan on 7 October, the Taliban were stronger than ever – their forces have increased nearly fourfold since 2006. “We fought against the British invaders for 80 years,” Mullah Mohammad Omar reminded the world on the Taliban’s website. “If you want to colonise the country of proud and pious Afghans under the baseless pretext of a war on terror, then you should know that our patience will only increase and that we are ready for a long war.” A statement from the leadership insists, “We had and have no plan of harming countries of the world, including those in Europe. Our goal is the independence of the country and the building of an Islamic state.” They call for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops as the only solution.

So far, there is no hint that Obama is even considering this no-brainer. On the contrary, the war is now being fought on two fronts, with the US and Britain starting an extensive training programme for Pakistan ’s Frontier Corps (FC) in Baluchistan, the new battleground.

It is part of the Obama administration’s massive military aid package to AfPak – Pakistan will get $2.8 billion over the next five years in addition to $7.5 billion in civilian aid, but only if it satisfies US benchmarks by making progress in “anti-terrorism and border control”. The Pakistani government and army are furious, not to mention the 60 per cent of Pakistanis who see the US as the greatest threat to Pakistan – with good cause. In the past few months, US forces have stepped up their aerial bombardments of villages in the northern tribal areas. According to the Pakistani press, of the 60 cross-border US drone strikes between January 2006 and April 2009, only 10 were able to hit their targets, killing 14 Al-Qaeda leaders and 687 civilians. Even official US policy (to kill no more than 29 civilians for every “high-value” person) is being violated. At least 23 Al-Qaeda leaders should have been killed, nine more than the actual 14. This assassination campaign is a more ruthless version of Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, and can only spur the Taliban and Al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts.

True, Taliban control of the Pakistan frontier province SWAT was brought to a brutal end during the past six months by the Pakistani army, though civilian corpses continue to be dumped, with accusations of revenge and official terror labelled at the army. And the almost complete lack of reconstruction aid by the Pakistan government – with winter approaching – means the Taliban will probably regain SWAT. Local opposition to the war against both Afghanistan and Pakistan’s frontier region, especially Baluchistan, continues to grow, with the long-simmering Baluchi campaign for independence gaining new life daily.

Obama’s war plans have reached a critical stage. In an arrogant gamble, much like General MacArthur’s challenge to president Harry Truman in 1951 over the Korean war, General Stanley McChrystal recently demanded publicly that Obama provide 60,000 more troops for Afghanistan, boldly stating the war would be lost without them. Faced with a similarly outspoken MacArthur, Truman just as publicly fired him.

McChrystal is said to have offered the Commander in Chief several alternatives “including a maximum injection of 60,000 extra troops”, 40,000 and a small increase. Common in military planning is to discuss three different scenarios in order to illustrate why the middle option is preferable, though this is usually done privately. But the Obama administration faces growing hurdles within his Democratic Party if he decides to go with even the middle option.

Obama’s review of AfPak is now centring on preventing Al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan – a narrower objective that could require fewer, if any, new American troops. Obama-Biden no longer see the primary mission in Afghanistan as completely defeating the Taliban or preventing its involvement in the country’s future, a policy strongly opposed by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gates-Clinton have a point: once the Taliban are acknowledged as legitimate players who are of no strategic danger to the US, then the horror of the past eight years becomes excruciatingly clear. The defeat of the whole criminal project becomes inevitable and will be just as devastating for the US as the Soviet defeat was for the USSR.

But the Gates-McChrystal super-surge is just about impossible in any case. The Institute for the Study of War reported recently that the US military has only limited troops ready for deployment, meaning that forces might not reach the warzone until the summer of 2010. There are only three Army and Marine brigades – 11,000-15,000 troops – capable of deploying to Afghanistan this year. Troops are plagued by a severe lack of helicopters and all-terrain vehicles.

Whatever Obama decides – 60,000, 40,000 or 2 – the troops will have little time after they arrive to turn things around. Even super-loyal Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just reaffirmed that Canadian troops will under no circumstances stay in Afghanistan after 2011. Any plans for the indefinite occupation of Afghanistan as touted by some NATO and US officials are fantasy; Canada’s retreat will be part of a flood. Canadian government support for the war, like that of its bigger brothers the US and Britain, has all along been motivated by Afghanistan’s untapped resource potential. The TAPI gas pipeline – so named for its 1680 kilometre path from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eventually India – is slated to be constructed starting next year on the very soil that Canadian and US troops now occupy in southern Afghanistan.

Harper’s best-case scenario is for the pipeline to go ahead with Canadian participation and for a miracle to occur – the Taliban’s sudden and unexpected defeat, allowing Canadian troops to come home, the pipeline and other resource deals signed, and assuring him of a Conservative majority in the next election.“ Canada has the potential to beat rivals because it has such an uncheckered history in that part of the world,” argues Rob Sobhani, president of Caspian Energy Consulting. “People like Canadians, Canadians are apolitical.” Even if the miracle doesn’t happen and the pipeline deal collapses, Harper realises his political goose is cooked unless the troops come home, so he is forced to wash his bloody hands of this betrayal of Canada’s traditional international role of peacekeeper.

Obama needn’t rely on the Taliban as advisers on how to end the war. Deputy-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies Li Qinggong reflected official Chinese thinking on 28 September in Xinhua: The United States should first put an end to “the anti-terror war” and “end its military action. The war has neither brought the Islamic nation peace and security as the Bush administration originally promised, nor brought any tangible benefits to the US itself. On the contrary, the legitimacy of the US military action has been under increasing doubt.” Obama should take advantage of international opinion to withdraw troops immediately. This is no doubt also the hope of the Nobel committee that put its own credibility on the line by awarding him the Peace Prize. The UN Security Council permanent members should “draft a roadmap and timetable”, including deployment of an international peacekeeping mission.

The delicious irony of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (and Iraq) is that it is China, the US ’s real international rival, that has benefited most. Chinese investments (and workers) have been pouring in to both US warzones. The main effect of George W Bush’s two wars and Obama’s AfPak has been to promote Chinese business interests, leaving the US bankrupt and its army in tatters.

Eric Walberg is a journalist who worked in Uzbekistan and is now writing for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo. He is the author of From Postmodernism to Postsecularism and Postmodern Imperialism. His most recent book is Islamic Resistance to Imperialism. Read other articles by Eric, or visit Eric's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. dan e said on October 14th, 2009 at 3:11pm #

    is the link to the most interesting version of the “war for oil” snowjob that I’ve seen in quite a while. To me the rehearsal of the historical record has some value since even though I followed the series of events when they were happening I tend to forget exactly who said what when.
    Likewise Mr Wahlberg’s take has considerable merit, but to present an analysis of the “AfPak” aspect of the Bush/Obama global militarist offensive without mentioning the role of the Zionist Power Configuration is to expose yourself as a hypocrite:)

  2. Max Shields said on October 15th, 2009 at 5:10am #

    dan e I read the Counterpunch article and found it well within the realm of credibility.

    I’ve read from a few here that “oil” or regional dominance is not the reason the US empire supports some 800 bases world-wide, and has been fighting endless wars either directly or through proxies for as long as most alive can remember.

    It just seems to me the burden of proof, that these are about Zionism, must fall squarely on those who make the allegation. While not denying Zionists place in certain Middle Eastern (and perhaps African) military projects, I find it rather incredulous to think of that ideology as more than a confluent element with US centuries old manifest destiny and exceptionalism that has fueled the US Empire since it emerged after the enslavement of Africans, the genocide of the indigenous people in the North American Continent, and after the bloody Civil War of the mid-19th Century. With, T. Roosevelt and W. Wilson the stage was set and the march has been steady.

  3. Max Shields said on October 15th, 2009 at 5:12am #

    To add, this empire has been calculated and built on the “shoulders” of many US administrations. The US historical lineage must be taken into account. It just seems myopic to ignore it in favor of a Zionist framework to explain US invasions and occupations, even if such an idological match up exists here and there.

  4. JJ said on October 15th, 2009 at 8:24am #

    The Canadian public has not indicated it has any real difficulty with its troops in Afghanistan. None of the political parties including the left leaning New Democratic Party is willing to take on the ruling minority Conservatives over this issue. Furthermore, the myth of Canada’s “peackeeping” role, is just that. Canada has always been ‘Satan’s little helper’ to imperialist designs, and only acts as “peacekeeper” when those interests are served by doing so. As in Afghanistan, if warmaking is required, we’ll go that way.

    JJ. Toronto

  5. Eric Walberg said on October 15th, 2009 at 10:57am #

    good point re canada’s hypocrisy, tho you must acknowledge we weren’t in vietnam or iraq, at least officially.
    while the cdn public is not ‘up in arms’ over afghanistan, a solid majority is for ending canada’s involvement toute suite. it is definitely not gung-ho. of course, the media brainwashing is key to keeping the lid on protests. it’s hard to blame people too much for being brainwashed.

  6. dan e said on October 15th, 2009 at 1:39pm #

    That the US State Apparatus existed before it was hijacked, taken over by the Zionist Power Config and close allies is not subject to dispute. That there is a degree of confluence between the interests and aims of the formerly hegemonic “goyish” fraction of the US ruling class, i.e., the Rockefellers/Morgans/Mellons and allied families, on the one hand, and the currently hegemonic Zionist fraction is obvious. Both fractions do exist. Some investors rely mainly on realizing profits from the sale of commodities. Such folks have and continue to support military action which facilitates their business interests, but oppose military activity which tends to injure their business interests. Another class of investors prefers to rely on guaranteed profits derived from the US Defense budget. Closely linked with this class are those who rely mainly on operations in the Financial Sector, that is, on legalized robbery facilitated by the Federal Reserve, US Treasury, US Congress, plus the Bank for International Settlements and the redesigned IMF/Worldbank.
    The leading operators in this realm of massive theft are all Zionist Jews or employees of Zionist Jews. Of course this is all completely coincidental and has nothing to do with Ashkenazi or any other Jewish subculture;)
    You can compare it to the legacy of the Slavery culture in the US South: of course not all White Southerners were slaveowners, and not all are racists today. But if you find yourself at a NASCAR event and think you notice something sick about the atmosphere, it must be because you are a bigot, right?
    I was invited to attend a conference put on by a group of “progressive”, “pro-peace” Bay Area Jewish organizations. When I walked into the big hall for the Plenary, I was struck by something in the atmosphere. I said to myself “why this is Sick! I haven’t been in a room so pervaded by a sense of Sick Sick Sick since I was briefly in the Wash DC Greyhound Bus depot back in ’57 when Jim Crow was still in full swing.”
    Zionism and Capitalism: Since capitalism began there have always been Jews playing prominent parts in it. Exactly HOW prominent has been a subject of debate and still is, even here on DV — but there is no mistaking the dominant role of the Zionist Power Config in the US Capitalist State Apparatus, as well in other capitalist metropoles such as France.
    However, Rockefeller et al are not entirely out of the game, or McChrystal wouldn’t have to go through such gyrations trying to escalate the AfPak plan to reduce Pakistan to one stone sitting on top of one other, and Iran would have been bombed into the paleolithic by now.

  7. Max Shields said on October 16th, 2009 at 6:13am #

    dan e “That the US State Apparatus existed before it was hijacked, taken over by the Zionist Power Config and close allies is not subject to dispute.”

    But of course it’s open to dispute. It is here that the crux of the problem lies and we can’t simply push it away in one cavalier whish.

    I think you are implying that Robert Rubin and Larry Summers are Zionists in the sense that their financial ideology is tuned to Israel’s well-being. I know you have not mentioned their name, but let’s just use them as the basis for a large cadre of Jewish financiers. It makes for a clearer discussion than coyness.

    If this is the case then you need to connect the dots. I’ll admit that there are Zionist in the baronhood – like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, but he doesn’t run US policy even if you has more influence than you and me as part of the elite money class.

    In the end, dan e, you have made no connection between Zionists in the US military complex.

    If you said, Rahm Emmanuel is a Zionist situated in a high position within the Obama Administration and therefore there is pressure to support Israel/Zionist policies, I would say you have a clear point and one that lies squarely and unequivocally on Obama’s shoulders.

    I think we both agree that the Zionist movement has been a force in US policy, mostly in the Middle East and more specifically with regards to Israel/Palestine. No one is questioning that, certainly I’m not.

    But when we extrapolate this relationship to the overarching US foreign/domestic (tightly coupled) policies, I do think the case is being overblown. When that happens we no longer keep our eyes on the ball and start framing everything from a Zionist perspective. The legacy of US imperialism and it’s bases throughout the world and its endless conflict and wars did not simply get replaced one day with Zionism.

  8. dan e said on October 16th, 2009 at 11:39am #

    Max, you insist on ignoring all the anti-Zionist Power scholarship that has been published last five yrs. Summers and Rubin are a couple of minor figures, retainers of the real owners of the banking system. The Rothschilds are still the biggest single force, followed by the Rockefeller/Morgan/Mellon-Scaife bunch who once ran the show but got in the habit of delegating more and more to Jewish employees and supposed financial allies that they now find themselves playing second fiddle to Goldman Sachs.

    But I don’t have time to really explain everything I’ve discovered. The upper echelons of Imperial Governance are not transparent, it’s not easy to assemble reliable information in a form that will convince people who have an intellectual investment in thinking things work in a certain way.
    No, the US expansionist/imperialist power structure did not, as a matter of fact, “simply get replaced one day with Zionism”. The process whereby the Zionist fraction of the capitalist class came to be able to dominate the policy-making process took place over several decades, with a marked accelleration after 1948 and an even more marked same after 1967. And the US capitalist power config that consolidated with the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction has not vanished, it’s just lost its undisputed hold as top dog.
    When we consider Zionism in the US, we have to keep in mind Jewish Capitalist Solidarity, which was an important element in capitalism everywhere capitalism existed before Zionism became a widely discussed ideology. Consider the amazing coup pulled off by Nathan Rothschild in the 24 hrs after he learned Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo until the British Gov’t got the news.
    So there has always been a big Jewish element in capitalism, dominated at least since Waterloo by people whose outlook was Judeocentric chauvinism, perhaps best described as “proto-Zionist”?
    But I have a medical appt & have to go.

  9. Deadbeat said on October 16th, 2009 at 1:23pm #


    I hope you have time to later to complete your argument. You clearly are providing a very interesting historical linkage which has been suppressed by the so-called “Left” who would rather shift attention solely upon the oil interests which I would guess historically Jews have played little to no role in thereby shifting scrutiny away from them.

    The net affect of this misdirection has been to curtail analysis and to diffuse the confrontation of Zionism which in turn has led to an overall weakening of confronting white supremacy racism and Capitalism.

  10. dan e said on October 16th, 2009 at 3:04pm #

    Treasury’s Cohen Cracks Down!…well, not on *everyone*
    P U L S E Media

    The Treasury Department’s assistant secretary David Cohen
    addressed the American Bankers Association on Monday.
    Cohen implored the assembled executives to understand that
    money laundering sometimes involves “good money being put to
    bad use,” a standard the G7 Financial Action Task Force adopted
    way back in 1989. Cohen outlined Treasury’s efforts to “detect, deter
    and deny” money launderers access to the financial system by
    naming and shaming “facilitators” from the Gulf petroleum producers
    to Mexico. He also warned that there would be “reputational and legal
    consequences” for banks that didn’t pull at the yoke of expanded
    Treasury powers assumed under Executive order 13224 (PDF).

    Audience members were visibly uneasy during camera pans. There
    was little interest in questioning the Treasury’s new employee. Perhaps
    with good reason. James G. Carr, the chief federal judge in northern
    Ohio, recently ruled that Treasury was acting unconstitutionally when
    it froze a US charity under suspicion of terrorist ties. US courts are only
    beginning to weigh in on the vast new powers assumed by Treasury.
    Until now there has been little visibility into its overseas activities.
    Treasury maintains that the Bank Secrecy Act, a money laundering
    law, empowers it to deny FOIA requests.

    If Cohen and his AIPAC approved mentor Stuart Levey truly wish to
    test their ability to fight the largest unaddressed remaining terrorism
    motivator in the Middle East, they could score a “slam dunk” without
    trampling on the Constitution or even leaving US shores. Since 1977
    US nonprofit charitable corporations and individual donors have helped
    launder $50-60 billion into illegal West Bank settlements, violating US
    criminal statutes and Israeli laws. If Cohen wants to “name and shame”
    the kingpins financing the construction that undermines the Obama
    administration’s policy, he can start with bingo entrepeneur Irving
    Moskwitz and diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

    Full Post

  11. dan e said on October 16th, 2009 at 3:06pm #


    thanks for comment. will respond more fully at first oppty:)

  12. lichen said on October 16th, 2009 at 3:28pm #

    Oh, how dare anyone not nod in agreement with your anti-zionist conspiracy theories, even though obviously it doesn’t matter and doesn’t bring about any more effective solution than people who don’t bother with it.

  13. Eric Walberg said on October 17th, 2009 at 2:53am #

    of course the zios are at the heart of imperialism, just as jews were there long before 1948. this is the focus of my book — alas still unpublished. you can read the intro and see the table of contents at

    i’m usually accused of being obsessed with the zios and find it refreshing to be able to write something without dragging them in. they are lurking there but not necessary to my overall argument here.

  14. dan e said on October 17th, 2009 at 12:10pm #

    Lichen, I have to admire you:) You’re a true hardhead:)

    Why it matters: observe that in the US in 2003 millions of people took to the streets hoping that by vigorously protesting they could prevent a fullscale US attack/invasion of Iraq. Observe also that at present there are millions of US citizens politically active to demand redress from the policies of various branches of government.
    Now look again and see erstwhile “leaders” of the anti-Iraqwar movement actively supporting the US occupation of Afghanistan, and their close allies in “progressive” circles promoting Obama’s bullshit “Healthcare Reform”.
    We who have found our efforts to improve conditions in our local communities frustrated by the massive obstruction placed in our path by elements advertising themselves as “progressive” have been forced to study these elements, to try to discern whence they derive their power.
    Like Sun Tzu said, Know Your Enemy. In politics it is important to be able to distinguish between Us, Them, and Confused/Wavering.
    And to distinguish between major offensives and relatively minor activities.
    Of course those with big investments in petroleum extraction sponsor and support all kinds of gangsterism and skullduggery on every continent, but most of this stuff is on a scale small enough to fly under the MSM radar and never become a topic of public discussion. What we need to concern ourselves with is the underlying causes of the major imperial militarist initiatives like PNAC and the now redesignated “war on terror”, its major thrusts
    into Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, plus the current cold war (which may or may not turn atomically hot very soon?) against Iran.
    If you don’t realize that the same power center which is beating the drums for a first strike on Iran also controls the so-called “Democratic Party” and its main constituent components right down to the local school board level, you remain doomed to waste your time and energy running round and round in the ratraces they have set up for you.
    An obvious case that has recently come to light is CodePink (which I myself have been in the habit of referring to as ColdFink;).
    The Art of Ruling is primarily the art of getting other people to rule THEMSELVES. Yes the perfection of Technology, of ever-slicker weaponry and militarist organization is vitally important– but Tricknology is more important still. Getting you to internalize the values and desires of your masters without being coerced: THAT is the real key to Empire. So help me Time Warner:)
    Beware of MISLEADERS. Always remember Father Gapon.

  15. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 17th, 2009 at 1:11pm #

    Both the historical and jewstorical records prove that people can become rich only by robbing other people ‘legally’. And, i stress, only ‘legally’. Or in other words, by enacting laws that are composed so that it can be only intepreted- never ever known- only, i repeat, interpreted.

    Such writs can be only interpreted because true-or false answers do not pertain to commands, wishes, conclusions, inferences, promises, verbal brilliancies, condemnations, etc.

    And by whom? But, of course, by people who have composed them. Now, this is not a novelty.
    Such laws have [un] written by robbers since probably ca. 10-15 k yrs ago.
    Constitution or any writ or utterance for that matter is an interpretative writ.
    It cannot ever be known- only interpretative.

    Thus the structure of deceit appears simple. No need to go to school or any one to tell you how simple or ancient this structure is: Say anything. Only you know what you mean. Pay another to dig up your meanings out of the utterance.
    And, presto, you are always right. Even if the next interpretation of the utterance wld differ s’what or lot, do not fear, the interpreter wld come up with exact meanings desired.

    That’s why an american pol or prez cannot ever be wrong while in service of the ‘country’ [read, please, ruling class]. A prez can wage a second limited nuclear war and he’d be correct and i f need wld arise beatified for it.
    He, self may later regret it or live in hell, but the ruling class paid him/her well for his services; so the ruling class wld tell him to shut up already?

    A soldier may do wrongs in combat or peace, but s/he’s in lower category of service; thus, s/he may be punished in order to sooth the nerves of bigger wrongdoers! tnx

  16. Don Hawkins said on October 17th, 2009 at 1:38pm #

    Yep and in the first part of the twenty first century the wrongdoer’s if allowed to do it wrong and so far that is the path as for the last 10k years well human’s get to go into the history books for the last time. It is strange as the wrongdoer’s so far are using knowledge compared to what is known that can best be described as stone age thinking. It is strange to watch and hear.

  17. kalidas said on October 18th, 2009 at 9:01am #

    As Lenin said, if you want to control the opposition, then lead it!