“I WANT to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years,” US President Donald Trump reportedly raged following news of more murder and mayhem in Afghanistan. “We aren’t winning. We are losing.”
The trigger-happy president in the White House imagines that his armies are in difficulty because he can’t get the staff: US officials say he has pressed for the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, to be fired.
Nicholson is the 17th Nato commander in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion took place in 2001, so singling him out might seem unfair.
Admittedly his job is harder than his predecessors’ because the war he’s tasked with was declared over by Barack Obama at the end of 2014, which makes the continuing deaths of soldiers and civilians in the central Asian country more embarrassing for Washington.
The killing of a Georgian soldier and two Afghan civilians on Thursday, following that of two US troops on Wednesday, show the Taliban remains a lethal adversary.
But the Islamist group — which itself grew out of the mojahedin insurgents armed and funded by the US and its allies in their successful bid to destroy the socialist and secular Afghanistan of the 1970s and 1980s — is no longer the country’s last word in Wahhabi extremism, since Islamic State (Isis), a child of the US and British invasion of Iraq, is now also busy murdering police officers and Red Crescent workers.
(This provided the rationale for Trump to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Nangarhar province in April, killing around 100 supposed Isis fighters and shattering windows and damaging homes within a two-mile radius).
Those who naively hoped Trump would cut a less warlike figure on the world stage than his rival Hillary Clinton, whose hysterical pre-election threats against Russia and Iran raised terrifying prospects of a new world war, have been disappointed: the US continues to play with fire in Ukraine, Korea and Syria while the conflict in Afghanistan, the first battlefield of the endless “war on terror,” is still claiming lives.
But Trump’s assumption that a “win” could have been racked up in Afghanistan given a different commander or alternative tactics is common in this country too, and enables politicians to beat the drum for further conflicts even when the disastrous consequences of the previous war have become clear.
We were told that Libya was different from Iraq and that Syria was different from Libya.
But the experience in all three countries and over 16 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan demonstrates that Western intervention has been a godsend for extremist groups and has created a more violent and unstable planet.
The left has made serious advances in Britain over the past two years. Labour’s huge gains in the June election on an anti-austerity manifesto have silenced — for now — those elements of the party’s right who promote privatisation under the guise of “reforming” public services.
But the attachment to a US-led global order where the richest nations reserve the right to impose their will by force is as strong as ever — hence the current crop of liberal interventionists attacking Jeremy Corbyn for declining to cheer on the US-led bullying of Venezuela.
This weekend as we mark 72 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima we must remember that the peace movement is as vital as ever, and recognise that the fight against militarism and imperialism is an urgent priority for the whole of Britain’s left.