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ISAF pullout from Afghanistan heralds failure of US Middle East policies

October 29, 2014, 15:56 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, October 29. /TASS/. The thirteen-year-long presence of US Marines, British military and their allies in Afghanistan has failed to quash resistance put up by the Taliban, which looks determined to fight for power to the bitter end after the International Security Assistance Force leaves the country. The coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan heralds utter failure of United States policies in the Middle East and South-West Asia, the director of the International Security Centre under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksey Arbatov, told Tass.

Last Sunday the Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion bases lowered the state flags of Britain and the United States, and also the flag of NATO. Afghanistan’s three-colour flag was hoisted instead. The Afghan government forces took over both strategic facilities, hitherto subordinate to the United States and NATO. Their US and British personnel will leave for home soon. The exact departure date has not been disclosed for security reasons.

During the active phase of the operation in Afghanistan, held in 2010-2011, during Barack Obama’s first presidency ISAF military bases in Afghanistan numbered some 800. After December 31, 2014 only 30 foreign military bases will be left. Foreign military presence in Afghanistan will be down to 12,500 men, who will no longer participate in combat clashes with the Taliban to focus entirely on two tasks - training Afghanistan’s own security force and conducting anti-terrorist operations. The total number of US military in the country after the main US force leaves will be 9,800 officers and men. The British contingent will number 500.

“The thirteen-year-long ISAF mission in Afghanistan is the classical example of how a tactical victory may bring about a strategic defeat. The ISAF’s remarkable success to quash the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 was reduced to nothing with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which merely caused the Islamic radicals to rally together. The current expansion of the Islamic State in the Middle East was the net effect,” Arbatov said.

“The ISAF mission was carried out within the framework of international law, on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution,” he recalls. “The anti-Taliban coalition incorporated many countries, which presented a common front against the enemy. Russia took an active part in training Afghan military. The operations against the militants on the ground were conducted by Afghan army units, which allowed the United States and NATO countries to minimize their own losses in the fight with the Taliban. But starting from the moment of the United States’ invasion of Iraq the situation in Afghanistan turned for the worse. The Iraqi campaign steered the whole region of the Middle East and South-West Asia up a dead end and the United States’ grave defeat,” Arbatov remarked.

“Had Washington invested one trillion dollars not in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein but in Afghanistan’s post-war reconstruction and the reform of its agriculture in order to substitute the opium poppy with other crops, these days we would have a sample Islamic state and, what is more important, a peaceful one,” he believes.

“Iraq has siphoned off huge US resources that might have been used for addressing the Afghan problem. In political terms that adventure ruined the international coalition created for fighting the jihadists. In moral terms US aggression against Iraq caused the Islamic radicals to unite and create the Islamic State, which has now seized vast territories in Iraq and Syria. Now Washington and its allies are forced to bomb Islamic State militants the United States itself had brought into being,” Arbatov said.

“That the coalition force is leaving Afghanistan is a sure sign US policies in the Middle East and Southwest Asia have suffered utter failure. Apart from protecting the central government in Kabul and the liquidation of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden the foreign military have achieved nothing. Both Al-Qaeda and Taliban are still there. The recent presidential election in Afghanistan has brought about a situation of unstable diarchy. Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are crusading for power again. The thirteen-year-long ISAF operation has reached nowhere,” Arbatov concluded.


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