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Overstretched Obama’s talk of Afghanistan exit

by Judith Orr

Barack Obama announced last week that “the tide of war is receding”. He talked of a corner being turned in Afghanistan and stated that US troops will start to pull out next month.

He claims that 10,000 will be withdrawn by the end of this year, and that 33,000 will go by September 2012.

Obama has seen this as his war—the “good” war—from the start of his presidency. He sent in 53,000 extra troops, bringing the total to 100,000. Another 100,000 Pentagon contractors are also deployed.

So even after his announced withdrawal there will be more troops there than at any time during the George Bush years.

Talk of the end of the war is premature. But with a presidential election looming, Obama is responding to domestic public opinion, which shows the majority oppose the war.

Imperial

It is also a response to the problems of imperial overstretch at a time of economic crisis.

The US has spent $1 trillion on war over the past ten years. Obama is winding down the occupation in order to concentrate on “nation building” on the home front.

And there have been many claims of corners being turned since war began in 2001.

But the Taliban is stronger than ever, and the US admits they are already in talks with the Taliban to make a settlement.

All the lofty ideals over which we were told the war was fought have been dumped—such as democracy, women’s liberation and ending corruption

Afghanistan was recently judged by an international survey as the “most dangerous country on earth to be a woman”.

Corruption is rife. For example investigations have not been able to discover what has happened to $850 million that “disappeared” from the privately owned Kabul bank.

This involved a fraud where unsecured bank loans were made to shareholders close to the Karzai regime.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed during the war. And over 1,500 US and almost 400 British soldiers have died.

The whole region is more unstable. The war has dragged the nuclear state of Pakistan into its wake. US drone attacks have killed as many as 2,000 in Pakistan since Obama’s election.

The assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, which the US carried out without any consultation with the Pakistan authorities, has led to calls for Pakistan to stop facilitating the US mission in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported that within days of Bin Laden’s assassination, Pakistani officials travelled to Bejing to invite China to operate a strategic port on the Arabian Sea. They also talked about oil pipelines, railways and even setting up military bases for the Chinese navy.

This instability, the plans for permanent bases in Afghanistan and the continuing war in Libya, mean Obama’s claims that the wars are winding down ring hollow.


Article information

International
Tue 28 Jun 2011, 17:57 BST
Issue No. 2258
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