London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is
the world’s leading think tank for military affairs. It represents the
top echelon of defence experts, retired officers and senior military
men, spanning the globe from the United States and Britain to China,
Russia and India.
I’ve been an IISS member for over 20 years. IISS’s reports are always
authoritative but usually cautious and diplomatic, sometimes dull.
However, two weeks ago the IISS issued an explosive report on
Afghanistan that is shaking Washington and its Nato allies.
The report, presided over by the former deputy director of Britain’s
foreign intelligence agency, MI-6, says the threat from al-Qaeda and
Taliban has been "exaggerated" by the western powers. The US-led mission
in Afghanistan has "ballooned" out of all proportion from its original
aim of disrupting and defeating al-Qaeda. The US-led war in Afghanistan,
says IISS, using uncharacteristically blunt language, is "a
Just recently, CIA chief Leon Panetta admitted there were no
more than 50 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet US President Barack
Obama has tripled the number of US soldiers there to 120,000 to fight
The IISS report goes on to acknowledge the presence of western
troops in Afghanistan is actually fuelling national resistance. I saw
the same phenomena during the 1980’s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Interestingly, the portion of the report overseen by the former MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service deputy chief, Nigel Inskster, finds
little Al Qaeda threat elsewhere, notably in Somalia and Yemen. Yet
Washington is beefing up its attacks on both turbulent nations.
Abandoning its usual discretion, IISS said it was issuing these warnings
because the deepening war in Afghanistan was threatening the west’s
security interests by distracting its leaders from the world financial
crisis and Iran, and burning through scarce funds needed elsewhere.
The IISS’s findings are a direct challenge to Obama, Britain’s new prime
minister, David Cameron, and other US allies with troops in
Afghanistan. This report undermines their rational used to sustain the
increasingly unpopular conflict. It will certainly convince sceptics
that the real reason for occupation of Afghanistan has to do with oil,
excluding China from the region, and keeping watch on nuclear-armed
The report also goes on to propose an exit strategy from the Afghan War.
Western occupation troops, IISS proposes, should be sharply reduced and
confined to Kabul and northern Afghanistan, which is mostly ethnic
Tajik and Uzbek.
Southern Afghanistan – Taliban country – should be vacated by
Western forces and left alone. Taliban would be allowed to govern its
own half of the nation until some sort of loose, decentralised federal
system can be implemented. This was, in fact, pretty much the way
Afghanistan operated before the 1979 Soviet invasion.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is turning against the increasingly
wobbly western occupation forces. The US-installed Afghan leader, Hamid
Karzai, openly prepares for direct peace talks with Taliban and its
allies – in spite of intense opposition from the US, Britain and
Pro-government Afghan forces are increasingly demoralised. Only the
Tajik and Uzbek militias, and Afghan Communist Party, both supported by
India, Russia and Iran, want to keep fighting the Pashtun Taliban.
Taliban leader Mullah Omar last week proclaimed the western occupiers
were rapidly losing the war. He may well be correct. Nothing is going
right for the US-backed Kabul regime or its western defenders. Even the
much-ballyhooed US offensive at Marjah, designed to smash Taliban
resistance, was an embarrassing fiasco. Civilian casualties from US
bombing continue to mount.
Europeans are fed up with the Afghan war. Polls report 60% of Americans think the war not worth fighting.
The IISS bombshell comes on the heels of the most dramatic part of the
British Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the invasion of Iraq.
Baroness Manningham-Buller the former head of Britain’s domestic
security service, MI-5, testified that the Iraq War was generated by a
farrago of lies and faked evidence from the Blair government. What we
call "terrorism" is largely caused by the western invasions of
Afghanistan and Iraq, she testified.
The truth about Iraq and Afghanistan is finally emerging.
Afghanistan may again prove to be "the graveyard of empires".
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