by James Corbett
August 4, 2018
It's not often that you see an MSM headline that tells an entire story, complete with a plot and sub-plot, but when you do it's usually in a tabloid. Such is the case with this recent doozy from The Daily Fail:
Talk about a headline. But look at what it tells us: The longest war in American history may finally be coming to an end, not because any strategic objective has been met but because . . . someone is scared that Trump might end the war? What on earth is going on here?
The story itself is relatively straightforward. The much-ballyhooed Afghan surge (or is that Surge II: The Surgening?) that Trump ordered last year is floundering. (I'll pause while you catch your breath from that shocking revelation.) US troops are no closer to taking the country back from the Taliban. The US installed puppet regime in Kabul is barely in charge of Kabul let alone any part of Afghanistan outside of the capital city. There are no great breakthroughs or victories to hail, and, with a new government in power in Pakistan that is thinking about cutting off the US supply lines to Afghanistan, things might be about to get even worse.
And so, in the midst of this mess, it seems the US is doing what it woulda/coulda/shoulda done a very, very long time ago: meet with the Taliban. Specifically, the State Department's Alice Wells met with a four-person Taliban delegation in Doha, Qatar last week to discuss a possible ceasefire.
. . . Oh, you don't know Alice Wells? Why, she's the deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the US State Department, of course! OK, OK, so it's not exactly a Trump-Kim level summit, but it's a start. Maybe. I mean, all they actually did was agree to meet again at some future date and "resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue" (Of course! Why didn't I think of that?) but it's better than nothing, right?
Well, there sits the MSM side of the story, more or less. So, as the ZeroHedge article on the negotiations advises, to get the real scoop here you're going to have to go beyond the MSM to the handful of alternative outlets that have picked up on it.
Outlets like the always insightful Moon of Alabama blog, which points out that the sole US demand in the negotiations—that the US be allowed to keep its military bases in the country—is a non-starter both for the Taliban and the Pakistani government that supports them. And for once Uncle Sam isn't in a position to press the matter.
"The Taliban are ready to accept a peaceful retreat of the U.S. forces. That is their only offer. They may agree to keep foreign Islamist fighters out of their country. The U.S. has no choice but to accept. It is currently retreating to the cities and large bases. The outlying areas will fall to the Taliban. Sooner or later the U.S. supply lines will be cut. Its bases will come under fire."
And as Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute notes, this whole gambit comes directly on the heels of a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction showing how the US government lost $15.5 billion in Afghanistan via waste, fraud and abuse between 2008 and 2017. Note well: This is not the total cost of the war itself, nor the cost of US supplies, equipment and aid to the Afghan government. This is just the money that was lost due to fraud and waste. $15.5 billion. With a b. (If they shake out a few couch cushions in Rumsfeld's old Pentagon office I'm sure they'll find at least half of that, though.)
So it's getting harder and harder to even pretend to justify this ongoing expense to the American public when there is not only little to show for it, but a potential humiliating Fall of Saigon-style pullout in the near future. One might well imagine that the State Department's best and brightest might have figured out by now that it is better to negotiate now and walk away rather than having the whole operation collapse in a bloody mess. Hence the talks.
So is this the latest stop on "Trump's peace train" as some speculate? Well, if that train ever actually stops at a station long enough for peace to actually eventuate between the US and . . . well, basically anyone, then no one on this planet will be happier than myself. But I'm not holding my breath, and I'm not counting and peace chickens before they hatch.
No, this negotiation with the Taliban is born of desperation, not principle, and the US Empire has painted itself into a corner in Afghanistan that no amount of dollar bills is going to get them out of.
So, take heart. There is a possibility that sometime in the not-so-distant future we may see an actual American withdrawal from Afghanistan, not from a principled position of peace and non-interventionism but an aversion to being routed in yet another humiliating defeat. Either way, I'm sure we'll all be happy to take it if we can get it.