Trouble persists despite Obama 'end' to Afghan WarBy Askia Muhammad -Senior Correspondent- | Last updated: May 14, 2012 - 5:12:17 PM
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan May 1 to sign a strategic agreement with the Afghan government and to deliver an election-year address to a war-weary U.S. TV audience touting the end to the longest war in U.S. history.
Mr. Obama announced a new Strategic Partnership Agreement signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai which pledges U.S. support for Afghanistan for 10 more years after the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldiers at the end of 2014.
“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon,” Mr. Obama said from Afghanistan’s Bagram air base in an address televised nationwide at dinner time in this country.
“Today I signed a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries, a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states, a future in which war ends and a new chapter begins,” he said.
Mr. Obama promised that details about the U.S.-Afghan strategic agreement would be filled in at the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago May 20-21. “This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year,” he said from Bagram air base.
“In Chicago, we will endorse a proposal to support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force,” Mr. Obama said. And in Chicago, “the international community will express support for this plan and for Afghanistan’s future.”
Critics of the U.S. effort remain unconvinced. “Why is he there?” Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani political commentator, and editor of the New Left Review asked rhetorically on Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now!”
“It’s clearly a lot more to do with the re-election campaign, where the execution of Osama bin Laden is obviously going to be a key feature, and they’ve started using it, and secondly, to pretend that somehow this war is over. But it’s not over, because the United States can stay there or use the so-called Afghan bases until 2024.
“And forgotten, are the pools of blood, the embers, the cries of rage, the sobbing of women and children, and the horrors that have been inflicted on that country. And this is what the real cause for continuing terrorism is,” Mr. Ali continued.
“I noticed the president saying, ‘I am in Bagram Air Base, 7,000 miles away.’ He could have said, ‘And not far from here is Bagram Prison, where prisoners are still being tortured without any recourse to law at all.’ So it’s essentially a PR visit designed to aid the re-election campaign. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, everyone, including the Pentagon, knows that this war is unwinnable,” said Mr. Ali.
The strategic agreement was hammered out over months of contentious negotiations. It covers U.S.-Afghan relations in the spheres of security, governance, and economics and is meant to transition the United States from a foreign presence at war in the country to partner for a “sovereign” Afghanistan.
The agreement smoothes over calls by President Karzai for a quickened withdrawal of U.S. forces from his country following a series of embarrassing episodes, including the burning of Holy Qur’ans at a U.S. base, the emergence of a video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the corpse of a dead Taliban fighter, and the massacre of 17 civilians, including nine children, by a U.S. soldier.
In his speech, President Obama also renewed his call for the Taliban to join Afghan-led reconciliation talks and said his administration has been in direct contact with the Taliban to that end. “The path to peace is now set before them,” he said. “Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan security forces, backed by the United States and our allies.”
President Karzai may in fact be simply “posturing” about troop deployment, Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies told The Final Call.
Other critics agree. “And who does (President Karzai) speak for?” said Tariq Ali. “He’s not a sovereign leader. Afghanistan is not a sovereign state; it’s an occupied state. So having President Obama go there and sign a deal with a puppet president who represents nobody and who can barely travel inside the country itself is a joke.
“And for this guy to agree that U.S. forces can use the bases ‘til 2024 is a total joke, because he won’t be there. If the Americans really leave Afghanistan, they’d be well advised to take him with them.”
Ironically, just hours after Mr. Obama’s departure from Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility for several bombings in Kabul that killed at least seven people.
Mr. Obama wasted no time before he parlayed his secret trip to Afghanistan into political ammunition. The president attacked presumptive Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s stance regarding the military, specifically the war in Afghanistan at a campaign kick-off speech May 4 in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Old Confederacy.
“He said he won’t set a timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said of his rival, according to published reports. “Well I have, and I intend to keep to that timeline. After a decade of war that’s cost thousands of lives and more than a trillion dollars, the nation we need to build is right here.”
The enthusiastic reception Mr. Obama received from U.S. troops during his Bagram air base visit, bolstered the president’s image in the face of Republican complaints that he had symbolically “spiked the ball” in the end-zone concerning the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Mr. bin Laden.
Afghanistan: A war with no end (FCN, 10-14-2010)
Ignoring bad news won't win Afghan War (FCN, 08-09-2010)
Four lessons for President Obama on Afghanistan (FCN, 11-19-2009)
Is Oil The Motive For War (FCN, Minister Louis Farrakhan, 02-17-2002)
Afghanistan, the Taliban and the United States (Media Monitors Network, 05-02-2001)
FinalCall.com Exclusive Interview with Taliban Ambassador (FCN, 01-09-2001)
Taliban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline (BBC News, 12-04-1997)