Vice President Joe Biden recently claimed U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if the Afghans, at that time, "want it," insinuating the outcome would be based on the will of the Afghan people -- an act that would be noteworthy in and of itself, considering more than three decades have passed since the Afghans last exercised anything resembling self-determination.
Afghans will most likely have no voice in determining when occupying forces leave their country because the future will be dictated, as usual, by U.S. domestic politics and corrupt powerbrokers in Afghanistan and Pakistan who, contrary to popular belief, never want the U.S. to leave.
And why would they? Afghan President Hamid Karzai's family has siphoned billions off U.S. largesse over the past 10 years and Pakistan, which is on the verge of financial collapse, subsists on foreign aid, largely American. And Islamabad understands U.S. aid is tied to security objectives, so instability ends up being in the Pakistani government and military's best interests.
Instead of even entertaining the "insane" concept of withdrawing post-haste, U.S. officials are still under the delusion that military progress is being made and that, by some unforeseen act of science or nature, Kabul under Karzai will suddenly start becoming less corrupt.
Not only are the Americans not leaving anytime soon, it seems they're bent on ensuring a political settlement is struck that would blend Islamic fascism with Karzai depravity -- something the Afghans never asked for.
In my most recent article I stressed that the road to stability in Afghanistan need not run through Islamabad or Langley as it has for decades, and it was time to let the Afghan people choose their own destiny. Well, it appears the U.S. is content on easing down that same old road, seeing it as the least-resistant, as they abdicate to Pakistani General Parvez Kayani's demands to be a chief interlocutor in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Karen DeYoung from the Washington Post quoted an Obama administration official this past weekend, who said the U.S. recognized Pakistan must play an important role, if not a dominant one, in any reconciliation talks.
According to U.S. estimates, the war cannot be won until Pakistan eliminates insurgent safe havens in North Waziristan, where the lethal Haqqani Network has found sanctuary. But not only does Kayani envision them as a post-NATO anti-Indian asset, the general wants to see the Haqqanis strike a power-sharing arrangement with Karzai.
The White House is "making a virtue out of necessity" because the U.S. fears it could be excluded from settlement negotiations, especially in light of last week's dialogue between Karzai's High Council for Peace (HCP) and Pakistani leaders in Islamabad.
The meeting was significant, for it revealed a recalculation on the part of Pakistan and certain elements within the Taliban, who derided the HCP as pro-northern and anti-Pashtun primarily because it was being headed up by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a Tajik war criminal who has a lot of Pashtun blood on his hands.
But the plot thickens, because Rabbani and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have deep connections dating back to the 1970s when Rabbani was one of the original cast members of the "Peshawar Seven" during the jihad against the Soviets, fighting side-by-side fellow mujahideen like Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Although Mullah Omar has publicly denounced Rabbani from the start, Pakistan is likely elated at the thought of a leadership team in Kabul stacked with former ISI clients. It would be a reunion of sorts of the same forces, in the wake of the Soviet retreat, that attempted to install an interim Islamic radical regime in Jalalabad that most Afghans found appalling (and an effort fully funded by the CIA).
American officials had previously rejected Kayani's plan to negotiate with Haqqani, who is seen by many military leaders as the coalition's fiercest enemy. The U.S. went so far as to question Pakistan's wisdom for even considering the Haqqanis "reconcilable" given how tightly-entwined they were with al Qaeda.
But now Pakistan sits in the driver's seat as the U.S. is desperate for a quick-fix that would provide the requisite amount of regional stability, by 2012, to secure Obama with a second term. Islamabad's concerns, however, are not short-term and political but long-term and existential.
But American officials must know this because, presumably, the U.S. is prepared to sell-out both the Afghan people and India in order to assuage Pakistan. According to M K Bhadrakumar in the Asia Times, in addition to passively allowing the potential installment of the Haqqanis in Kabul, the U.S. is also willing to intensify intelligence-sharing arrangements with Pakistan on India's activities in Afghanistan.
So, before the new drawdown date of 2014 (Biden's asterisk aside) -- rather than just going away -- the U.S. has made a strategic decision to first sacrifice an ally's security and then potentially bless a deal guaranteed to ignite endless civil war.
By doing so the U.S. will have accomplished something previously undreamed of by bestowing upon the Afghan people an abomination of a society that will feature the brutal sadism of the old Taliban regime while lacking the only redeeming quality that existed under Taliban rule, which was the semblance of order.