International

NATO Bares its Imperialist Teeth for Afghanistan

Of course Obama’s logic of withdrawal is driven by political expediency. He would want to face the American electorate, for his re-election bid in 2012, by proving to them that he’s cutting his losses in Afghanistan just as he did in Iraq. There’s more guile to his policy on Afghanistan than gall.

History proffers but scant few examples of a land so viciously and barbarically invaded-at regular intervals-as Afghanistan. Fewer still would be examples of an invader so shamelessly insisting on its ‘right’ to stay on in its invaded land as Afghanistan’s latest occupation force, made up of US and its Nato western allies.

Nato has been part of the combined western campaign to subdue Afghanistan ever since a supine and feckless UN endowed it with an official ‘mandate’ to invade and occupy Afghanistan in the wake of the cataclysm of 9/11. It’s the same UN which has been desperately striving to dodge its moral obligation to pursue a formal enquiry into the dastardly act of piracy committed on the high seas by Israel, in May this year, against an unarmed Turkish flotilla of humanitarian aid workers trying to take badly needed supplies to Gaza’s incarcerated people. Under its comical Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, this very same UN that moved with utmost alacrity against Afghanistan, back in 2011, dare not displease Israel and its powerful western friends and mentors.

Some of Nato’s more exuberant and ambitious member states, such as Britain and Canada have been in the forward trenches of battle along with the main fighting force of US, while countries like Germany and France have been content to stay at a safe distance away from battle and leave the fighting to those with a more pressing imperialistic hunger for territory.

However, it now seems that those among the motley Nato crowd who have been less conspicuous on the battle-front than others are more anxious to prolong their stay on the Afghan soil for yet unexplained reasons. And these ‘more-expansionist-than-others’ have found an aggressive and eager spokesman in the current Nato Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Rasmussen was in Kabul to attend an international conference there, on July 20, at which along with him 67 other delegates from different countries and international organizations concerned with Afghanistan put their heads together to ponder over what should be done about it. Another luminary in attendance was US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who had spent two days before descending on Kabul in Islamabad to lecture the Pakistanis on what was expected of them-vassals of the globe’s sole super-power-to acquit their responsibilities and obligations as America’s key, front-line, ally in the war against terror and, more so, in the context of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Since the Kabul gathering drew in mostly people representing governments loyal and committed to Washington’s current strategy of using a powerful fist against the Taliban resisting US and Nato onslaught, there was overwhelming and categorical approbation for the American plan to deploy a powerful punch against the enemy, the Taliban, to ideally knock them out of the strongholds from which they have been menacing US and its Nato allies jumbled under the umbrella of ISAF ( International Security Assistance Force). The sole voice of dissent came from the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Muttaqi, who lambasted US for its policies of expansionism, which has been a principal disruptive force in the region and is responsible for much of its political instability and disharmony.

But Rasmussen stole the limelight, not at the conference but outside it, at its end, when he haughtily declared to the media, seeking his views on a likely exit strategy and date of troop withdrawal by Nato when guns fall silent in Afghanistan, that ‘Nato is here to stay beyond the war.’ He repeated his mantra the next day in Islamabad after calling on the Pakistani leadership and hoping to enlist the support of Afghanistan’s most important neighbour in this policy.

Rasmussen, a former Danish PM, comes from a European country that couldn’t help itself to the spoils of the great scramble for colonies in Asia and Africa because Denmark, at that juncture of history, was itself colonized by the then powerful Sweden. So it’s quite likely that Rasmussen, like other Danes who may have read the history of the 19th century mad rush by European colonizers to enrich themselves on the bountiful colonial assets, has carried a remorse in his heart for having missed that historic opportunity to feast on the colonial bounty but sees a chance belatedly, now in Afghanistan, to make up for that lost opportunity.

Rasmussen’s arrogant pronouncement, at this particular time when a decisive military offensive by ISAF is in the final stages of preparation before launch, poses a variety of questions. Indeed, coming from the head of an organization that has been so overtly and thickly involved in the collective western adventure in Afghanistan this eye-opening policy projection deserves to be thoroughly dissected.

On the face of it, this Rasmussen ‘doctrine’ of indefinite stay by Nato forces in Afghanistan-where the majority of Afghans has demonstrated they aren’t welcome-flies in the face of President Obama’s well-articulated policy that American troops will start withdrawing from Afghanistan, come August 2011. Hillary Clinton relayed the same message to her fellow delegates at the Kabul conclave.

Of course Obama’s logic of withdrawal is driven by political expediency. He would want to face the American electorate, for his re-election bid in 2012, by proving to them that he’s cutting his losses in Afghanistan just as he did in Iraq. There’s more guile to his policy on Afghanistan than gall.

But Obama is also coming under enormous pressure from the right-wing war-mongers and neo con hawks-such as his 2008 Republican challenger, John McCain, to not pull out of Afghanistan for as long as possible. McCain & co. represent America’s lunatic fringe that believes its raw military power should be continually deployed, somewhere in the world, to keep the global community in perpetual awe of American might.

The recent brouhaha that accompanied the announcement by geologists and other ‘experts’ of discovery of huge mineral deposits in Afghanistan, said to be more than a trillion dollar worth, is part of this new gambit. Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, a puppet like no other of western interest in his country, upped the ante by proclaiming at the Kabul gathering that those mineral deposits could be worth more than 3 trillion dollars.

Of course Karzai would ideally desire his western mentors, backed by well-armed troops and state-of-the-art weaponry, to stay on in his country for as long as possible because they are his sole basis of power; without their bayonets and bullets this Afghan Quisling will not be able to last a day in power.

So, Karzai seemed anxious, at the Kabul gathering, in more ways than one, to egg on his western guarantors to prolong their stay on the Afghan soil. The assertion by him that his Afghan forces would be ready by 2014 (which meant not before this deadline, in simple parlance) to take over both the roles of defence and policing of the country, was a fillip to Rasmussen’s claim that Nato will be around much longer than anybody thought.
The way Nato has worked, in the 6 decades of its existence since the end of WWII, it’s unimaginable that its

Secretary-General-irrespective of which country he belonged to-would make a policy projection of such sensitivity and relevance to its mission in one of the hottest areas of global interest, without prior consultations with Washington and clearance from its administration.

Seen in this light, Rasmussen’s bravado makes all the sense in the world for any student of Afghanistan.

The Nato chief couldn’t be more helpful to Barack Obama on this account. Obama’s gut sense may well have dictated his initiative to set a timeline when American forces should commence the process of withdrawal from Afghanistan. But now that the hawkish backlash has been whipped with ferocity Obama can ill-afford to ignore it entirely. That could spell trouble for him in his re-election bid.

So that’s where the Rasmussen initiative could come in so handy to him. A continued Nato presence in Afghanistan would mean a hefty US component of force in it as well. Obama would thus have the classical double advantage of eating his cake and having it too: the bulk of American forces could be out of Afghanistan, as he proposes over the next 3 or 4 years but a sizeable contingent could still be left over there under the Nato flag. The peaceniks would be happy and so will the war-mongers be appeased.

Rasmussen has, from the Nato and western perspective come up with a gem. The western powers, with their countries’ huge corporate interest-the euphemism for 21st century imperialist grab-comfortably tucked underneath the Nato wings would have the exploitation of Afghan riches to their hearts’ content. The western empire builders of18th and 19th centuries could be regaling in their graves at the brilliance of their worthy off-spring’s masterly plan to loot and plunder Afghanistan and the countries of Central Asia around it in spades.

In Hamid Karzai, the western imperialist lust has a most loyal and obedient vassal who would do exactly as told. No wonder that shrill voices in the west calling for Karzai’s political demise because of wholesale corruption of his kith and kin have lately become muted. Corrupt he may be to his bone-marrow but he’s worth his weight in gold as an unquestioning factotum giving primacy to western interest in Afghanistan over that of his own people. So his latest boast at the Kabul gathering that his country is primed to become “The Asian roundabout” for trade in the region has been accorded prominent place in the media coverage of Afghanistan in the west.

But Afghanistan alone wouldn’t sufficiently guarantee the safe-guarding of Nato’s imperialist presence and expansion in the region. Pakistan is an equally important cog in the wheel, along side Afghanistan, if not more. Rasmussen dashing off to Islamabad on the heels of his unfurling of the imperialist flag in Kabul amply underlines Islamabad’s key relevance to the new undertaking.

In the Pakistani capital Rasmussen parleyed with the whole spectrum of Pakistani leadership-both in mufti and khaki-and dilated on “Nato 2020” a policy paper on its ambition of a global role; this paper is set to be unveiled in September this year. He also repeated the mantra he had proclaimed in Kabul that “the transition will not be driven by the calendar; it will be driven by conditions.” In plain words, what he was saying was that deadlines, such as Obama’s date of withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, shouldn’t be taken as sacrosanct.

Pakistan’s strategic importance in the context of Afghanistan is beyond dispute. Therefore it makes all the sense for any Nato policy initiative on Afghanistan to have a special place for Pakistan in it.

However, dovetailing Pakistan as a key component of Nato’s nakedly ambitious and imperialistic thrust into the region beyond Afghanistan is a clever, if not mischievous, ploy, for it could not only compromise Pakistan’s position as an independent state taking its policy initiatives entirely on its own but also spawn complications in its relations with some of its most important and sensitive neighbours, such as China and Iran.

Nato’s genesis was in the lap of the Cold War in which it was conceived to play a major supporting role to US confrontation against the then Soviet Union, a rival super-power. Soviet Union may well be defunct but US expansionism now regards China as an emerging rival power for global influence and domination. Nato staying on, ad infinitum, in Afghanistan, and assured of Pakistan’s capacity to play an active supporting role in its regional forays, could be a frontal policy ploy of US and its western allies, vis-à-vis China.

Iran, likewise, has long been in the cross-hairs of American and European aggressiveness, especially on the issue of Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. Pakistan could easily find itself on the horns of a dilemma in making up its mind if confronted with the choice of keeping its historic relations with Iran in a proper frame, while being called upon to serve as an extension arm of Nato in confrontation with Iran. Any sensible Pakistani leader, worth his or her salt, would hate to be confronted with such an unpalatable choice. But, then, the emphasis is on ‘sensible’ which can’t be attributed with any amount of certainty in regard to its present ruling elite. They seem to be taking pride in Pakistan being cast as a ‘global partner’ of Nato and receiving promises of aid focused on building its ‘capacity’ to fight terrorism the way the west, in particular US, would want it.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2010 on page no. 26

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