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Rex Tillerson says US is ready to work with Taliban…while fighting them

US policies on Afghanistan are either devious or based purely on ignorance.

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US policies on Afghanistan continue to delve deeper into total strategic dissonance. Many observers used to mock the fact that after 2001, the US fought to depose the Taliban after weakening the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, something which led to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The left-wing Afghan government eventually fell in 1992 and the Islamic State of Afghanistan (no relation to the group ISIS/Daesh which coalesced 10 years later in Iraq) was established. Beginning in 1996, the ethnic Pashtun Sunni hard-line group Taliban took full control over most of the country and proclaimed the Islamic State of Afghanistan. After 2001, the US fought to destroy a Taliban it had a hand in bringing to power.

While the US is now fighting a group whose prescience in Afghanistan was made possible due to the strong US backing of Mujaheddin terrorists in the 1980s, in their fight against the socialist Afghan government of the time, this is no longer even the most embarrassing feature regarding America’s Afghan debacle.

Today, most of the world understands that peace in Afghanistan will not be possible while the Taliban remains excluded from any formal peace process. This has less to do with the Taliban’s ideology, than with the ethnic complexities of Afghanistan and the territorial realities on the ground.

First of all, the Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns who are the ethnic majority of Afghanistan. Because of this, they have accrued a natural support base which due to Afghanistan’s tribal nature, will not be easily broken at this point in history. This helps explain why the Taliban control as vast amounts of Afghan territory. By some accounts, the Taliban control 40% of all Afghan territory while others put Taliban control at over 50%.

Making matters all the more awkward for the US, while the US continues to attempt and fight the Taliban while treating the group as a kind of terrorist organisation, in reality, the Taliban are in fact the “moderate rebels” which the US once spoke about in Syria, even though in Syria, moderate rebels objectively do not exist. Yet in a country, where there is a “moderate rebellion”, the US continues to take a generally hard-line approach. This attitude goes against the grain of world opinion including that of Russia, Pakistan and China who each favour military de-escalation and a peace process that, once certain conditions are met, would include the more amiable factions of the Taliban.

As I previously wrote:

“Many have long lamented and continue to lament the fact that the US hasn’t really had a plan for Afghanistan since the time in 2001 when George W Bush formally ousted the Taliban who had controlled virtually all of the country since 1996. Since 2001, the official US plan has looked like a strategy best defined as “now what?”

The truth, however, is that the Americans do more or less have an Afghan strategy. The problem is that they don’t know it. All one needs to do in order to find it is dust off Barack Obama’s Syria strategy.

In Syria there was and there remains an experienced, broadly popular, secular central government whose Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party has governed the country effectively since 1963 and governed it stably since 1970, the year Hafez al-Assad (the current president’s father) came to power.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration insisted that it should fully back and arm the “rebels” it had largely created along with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Israel providing the hallelujah chorus of “intelligence” to back the operation all the while.

In spite of reams of evidence to the contrary, Obama and his secretary of state John Kerry insisted that the future of Syria lay in the hands of the so-called “moderate rebels” and that no peace could be brought to the country without such “moderate rebels” playing a leading role.

Then two things happened. First of all, it became apparent that the only effective forces opposed to the Syrian government were those moderate enough to behead civilians with a sharp rather than a rusty blade. No matter how much the mainstream media tried to suppress this grim truth, it gradually came out.

Second, when Russia began helping Syria militarily after 2015, it became increasingly clear that the previously strong central government of Bashar al-Assad was not going anywhere.

Today, the myth of moderate rebels has been abandoned quietly by its former champions in Washington and Ankara. The Saudis and Qataris have descended into a moderate cold war in the desert and Israel is kicking and screaming about the fact that it didn’t get its way and likely never will in respect of seeing through regime change in Damascus.

This same plan of Obama’s that has abjectly failed in Syria is ironically one that, with slight modifications, could succeed in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, there exists a very weak, divided government with an extremely dubious historical pedigree. The opposition Taliban factions have perversely become forces that, in spite of an ideology that would be as foreign in Los Angeles as in Pyongyang, are increasingly seen by many Afghans – and crucially many former opponents both in Afghanistan and in the wider world – as a force that must be dealt with diplomatically if there is to be any lasting compromise settlement for the turbulent country.

After years of war between feuding warlords, militant factions and former governing factions, the Taliban are all of a sudden those “moderate rebels” that the US tried so hard to create and then locate in Syria”.

Adding confusion to the hypocrisy and shortsightedness, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s deeply compromised Secretary of State, has said that the US is willing to speak to the Taliban, but only after a further period of fighting them.

Tillerson said during his recent stop in Afghanistan,

“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government. There’s a place for them in the government if they’re ready to come renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan”.

However, Tillerson also stated that the fight against the Taliban would continue “in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory”.

If Tillerson admits that there are moderate voices among the Taliban, something Pakistan, China and Russia have been alluding to and in some cases stating directly for years, then what is the point of a prolonged military engagement before an inevitable negotiation? The only answer other than utter stupidity, is that a prolonged crisis in Afghanistan will allow the CIA to continue their exploitation of poppy harvesting in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has a lucrative poppy sector as well as untapped minerals worth millions. While the US will find it hard to get its hands of all of Afghanistan’s wealth as perpetually unwanted “visitors”, what the US can do is prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe and prosperous state, one which borders key areas along China’s One Belt–One Road. Indeed, Afghanistan could potentially be part of One Belt–One Road were the situation to stabilise. While America cannot win the war in Afghanistan, they can attempt to make sure that others, namely China, lose out. This is the key element behind America’s strategic dissonance in Afghanistan. On the one hand, they want a good clean win for US business interests. On the other hand, knowing such a thing is next to impossible, they want to proverbially salt the earth before China or any other potential economic partner can reap any benefits from Afghanistan.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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