Monday, December 20, 2010

Afghanistan War: To Be or Not To Be, That's the Question -- 1

The above image shows the stakeholders in the Afghanistan War
(you may click on the above image to view an enlarged version of it)

Layout and design (Toronto: Dec. 16, 2010) © Jerome D'Costa

The present war in Afghanistan is running in its ninth year. After the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, the US with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies embarked on this war with the goal of eradicating the terrorist roots that took hold in the favourable climate of Afghanistan. The war is still being fought with no end in sight. It is like a bone stuck in the throat -- neither can it be swallowed nor can it be vomited out!

Background of the War

When Iraq, under President Saddam Hussain, attacked Kuwait in 1990 during the Persian Gulf War, the neighbouring Saudi Arabia, apprehending Iraqi attack on it soil, sought immediate succour of the USA. As a result, the US govenment deployed its troops in Saudi Arabia. This is how US troops started to be deployed in that country. During the US-Iraq war in 2003, there were upto 10,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia, considered a country of Islamic holy places by devout Muslims.

This very presence of foreign and "infidel" (not believing in Islam) troops of the USA, gave Al Qaeda chief Bin Laden a cause to oust them from the holy soil of Saudi Arabia. To realize this goal, Bin Laden and his followers began and extended their efforts in many different ways in different countries. Ultimately, on August 7, 1998, simultaneous car-bomb attacks on US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, hundreds of people were killed and several thousand wounded. In retaliation, US missile-bombed Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan adjacent to Pakistan border on August 20, 1998.

On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda-influenced Muslim militants plane-attacked the Twin Towers of New York. The US took it as a war on soil and formed a coalition of allied countries and attacked Afghanistan in October, 2001 and drove out the pro-Al Qaeda Taliban government from power. Some of the top Taliban government leaders along with Osama bin Laden and his senior members are still in hiding.

Presently, armed forces from US, Britain, France, Canada and 38 other countries are involved in fighting the ousted Talibans and their supporters with heavy casualties. As of December 14, 2010, there were a total of 2,193 coalition soldier deaths in Afghanistan -- USA losing 1,361, UK 346 , France 52 and Canada 152 soldiers.

A Difficult War

The Afghanistan War, instead of being a face-to-face army war, turned into a guerrilla war. In a guerrilla war, regular troops face the invisible enemy who mingle with the common people without any battle dress and attack the troops and vanish and take shelter among general population. A guerrilla war cannot be won if the guerrillas get support of general population within the country and regular funding, arms supply and shelter from neighbouring countries. Such is the situation in Afghanistan now. This situation only prolongs the war without any positive outcome. For the regular troops, a guerrilla war is a waste of manpower, money and material.

The USA had faced similar situation in Vietnam War (1965-1975) and abandoned it. The Soviet army faced the same situation in Afghanistan in its ten-year war (1979-1989) there and gave it up, too.

The Stake Holders of the Afghanistan War

There are many stake holders of the Afghanistan War (please see the above image for details). Each stake holder is pulling the war in a different direction because of its different interest in the war. It is difficult to lead a war if one has to appease some stake holders, ingratiate some others, bribe some more and directly fight out others.

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