Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Farcical War on Terror: Afghanistan


The Farcical War on Terror: Afghanistan

Peter Schultz


            Some passages from Anand Gopal’s book No Good Men Among the Living:


            “In December 2001, an American Special Operations Forces unit pulled into an old Soviet airbase on the outskirts of Kandahar city. They were accompanied by a team of Afghan militiamen and their commander, a gregarious, grizzly bear of a man named Gul Agra Sherzai, an anti-Taliban warlord…. In return for privileged access to American dollars, Sherzai delivered one thing US forces felt they needed most: intelligence. His men became the Americans’ eyes and ears in their drive to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Kandahar. Yet here lay the contradiction. Following the Taliban’s collapse, al-Qaeda had fled the country, resettling in the tribal regions of Pakistan and in Iran. By April 2002, the group could be no longer be found in Kandahar – or anywhere else in Afghanistan. The Taliban, meanwhile, had ceased to exist, its members having retired to their homes and surrendered their weapons. Save for a few lone wolf attacks, the US forces in Kandahar in 2002 faced no resistant at all…yet US special forces were on Afghan soil with a clear political mandate: defeat terrorism.


            “How do you fight a war without an adversary? Enter Gul Agra Sherzai – and men like him around the country. They would create enemies where there were none, exploiting the perverse incentive mechanism that the Americans – without even realizing it – had put in place. Sherzai’s enemies became America’s enemies, his battles its battles. His personal feuds and jealousies were repackaged as ‘counterterrorism’….” [pp.107 & 109]


            This meant that Afghanis who were supporting America and the Karzai government were being targeted by American forces, killed, captured, tortured, and sent to Guantanamo. In late January 2002, American Green Beret forces attacked a schoolhouse that housed several supporters of the Karzai government. Neither the Americans nor the Afghan government officials realized who they were fighting but “Either way, every official was killed. In twenty minutes, the violence was over.” [122]  


            At least that violence was over, because down the road from the schoolhouse was the governor’s compound, which housed the locally appointed governor, Tawilder Yunis and his allies. The Americans rushed in, and the battle began with Yunis telling his allies that the Americans were “our friends.” Well, not so much. One sixteen-year-old boy was found later with a bullet in his head.


            “The survivors of both attacks were rounded up and loaded into helicopters…. In the governor’s compound, they found that the attackers had left behind a calling card. Emblazoned with the symbol of an American flag, it bore a handwritten message: ‘Have a nice day. From Damage, Inc.’”


            The death toll from the two attacks were twenty-one pro-American leaders, twenty-six taken prisoners, and some who couldn’t be accounted for. There were no members of either the Taliban or al-Qaeda among the dead or the survivors. “Instead, in a single thirty-minute stretch the US had managed to eradicate both of Khas Urozgan’s potential governments, the core of any future anti-Taliban leadership – stalwarts who had outlasted the Russian invasion, the civil war, and the Taliban years but would not survive their own allies.” [123-24]

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