Junaid S. Ahmad, Professor of Law at Lahore University says after fourteen years of occupation nothing has improved, none of the objectives have been met, the situation is far worse and the US is in greater threat
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. After months of discussions with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, President Obama has announced his plans to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan but reduce them from the current 9,800 to 5,500 before he leaves office in early 2017, essentially abandoning the commitment he made early in his presidency and during the 2008 campaign to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end. Obama cites the deterioration of security and weakness of Afghan forces as the reason for keeping the troops in Afghanistan. Here is what he had to say. U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The bottom line is in key areas of the country the security situation is still very fragile. And in some places there’s risk of deterioration. Fortunately in President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah there is a national unity government that supports a strong partnership with the United States. During their visit earlier this year President Ghani and I agreed to continue our counterterrorism cooperation. And he has asked for continued support as Afghan forces grow stronger. PERIES: Several Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush and Chris Christie praised the move, reflecting perhaps the shared position by both parties on U.S. foreign policy. The announcement comes weeks after the U.S. resumed bombing in Afghanistan, where on October 3 the United States Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked Medecins Sans Frontieres’ hospital in Kunduz, killing 22 people, injuring 30, and 33 remain missing. The Taliban forces have withdrawn from the city, and since then the UN is saying that they have begun flowing essential supplies and food to the city. Now joining me to discuss all of this is Junaid Ahmad. Junaid is a director of the Center for Global Dialog in Lahore, and is also a professor of law and politics at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. Thank you so much for joining us, Junaid. JUNAID AHMAD: Wonderful to be with you. PERIES: So Junaid, let me get your take on President Obama’s announcement today. AHMAD: Well, I think it’s an extraordinary admission of what most serious analysts know of the situation, which is that basically now more than a decade and a half after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 nothing has improved. None of the so-called objectives have been met, and in fact the situation is far worse. That is to say that the invasion and occupation has been a complete failure, and while the U.S. and NATO forces do want to somewhat wash their hands away from the larger mess that’s been created, they can’t allow it completely to go to those forces that are going to be hostile to both the Afghan government and to larger U.S.-NATO interests in the region. So I think that what, what Obama’s declaration today of maintaining this true presence there is an admission of is that the country is in fact far more unstable, the situation is far more fragile, in fact, than it was even in 2001. And that’s largely because of the U.S.-NATO occupation, all the crimes that have accompanied it, and the incompetent and corrupt government that it installed in Kabul that just continues today in the face of President Ashraf Ghani. PERIES: And cite what you think are the reasons for such a failure after 14 years. AHMAD: Right. Well, I think that first of all it wasn’t exactly very clear what the objectives were even in the first place. You know, today President Obama again cites, we have to be there to prevent Al-Qaeda from doing anything harmful there or against America. Al-Qaeda is insignificant there. It was even then. And it is even moreso now. And in some ways this continues to be this incredible bogeyman used to deflect attention away from real resistance that emerged right away to foreign occupation in Afghanistan. Now, that came largely under the banner of the Taliban. But the Taliban itself became an umbrella group for a whole bunch of various resistance forces in Afghanistan. And of course now you have the added dimension of a far greater terrorist threat, if you will, and that’s in the form of ISIS. So this is a real scandal. Now, there’s so many reasons that have emerged to motivate this resistance. It of course includes the criminality of the occupation itself, you know, just recently. Basically a war crime committed in terms of targeting this Doctors Without Borders hospital. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Such types of things have happened routinely throughout this more than now a decade and a half of this occupation. All sorts of war crimes, drone attacks, special forces, invasions into homes that have humiliated the population. Add to that the puppet regime, you know, first of Hamid Karzai that was parachuted into Kabul and the corruption, the arrogance and incompetence of that regime, which simply siphoned off billions of dollars to its cronies and its allied warlords. And all of this of course, you know, the Afghan population did not take too kindly of. And so that’s why so many grievances have emerged that have provided the reservoir of support to any resistance force that has emerged against the occupation and the government in Kabul. PERIES: And one thing that President Obama had said, Junaid, is that part of the reason for retaining the troops in Afghanistan is actually our national security here in the United States. Here’s what he had to say. OBAMA: But as your commander in chief I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests and preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation. PERIES: So Junaid, do you think there is still a threat to the United States inside the borders here? AHMAD: Yeah, I mean, this is just absolutely ridiculous. And what is the most absurd and scandalous part of [inaud.] Obama is saying here is the failure to recognize that in fact it has been the policy of this very aggressive, incompetent, humiliating occupation which has only increased the likelihood of a greater security threat to the United States. The Taliban resistance forces that have emerged in Afghanistan are very much waging a local struggle. Whether you like them or not, and of course most, most of us disagree vehemently on [inaud.]. But their struggle is a local one. [Inaud.] for power in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda had its global ambitions. It became largely irrelevant. Of course what has happened now is, and same thing that’s happened in Iraq and in Syria is the emergence of a real threat, and that’s ISIS, which has of course been, you know, the emergence of it has been precipitated by the type of social conditions created by the wars and occupation, not just in Afghanistan but of course in Iraq as well and what’s been going on in Syria. So you know, it’s kind of disingenuous for the U.S. administration to cite the emergence of such forces that continue to perhaps present a threat when in fact it’s their policies which create the conditions for the radicalization of people who see nothing but despair and deeply repressive and violent policies being undertaken in their region. PERIES: I want to take up these issues you’re raising about the conditions on the ground for ordinary Afghanistan and how it’s been exacerbated in the last 14 years. So let’s continue our discussion in segment two, and thank you for joining me.
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