How the Afghan war ends

Penticton Western News columnist Gwynne Dyer writes about pulling NATO troops out of Afghanistan

Last weekend’s NATO summit in Chicago was mostly about how to get NATO troops out of Afghanistan without causing too much embarrassment to the Western governments that sent them, and a little bit about how to ensure that the Taliban don’t take over again once the Western troops leave.

The timetable for NATO’s withdrawal is now graven in stone: all Western troops will be withdrawn from actual combat by the end of 2013, and they will all be out of the country by the end of 2014 (except the French, who will all leave by December of this year).

This timetable will be adhered to no matter how the situation on the ground develops — or more likely, degrades — in the next two years. After that, it’s entirely in the Afghans’ hands.

There was some pretty rhetoric to soften this harsh fact: “As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone,” declared President Barack Obama. But alone is exactly where they will be, although NATO is promising to send the Afghan government $4 billion a year to enable its army to stand up to the Taliban.

The Western alliance has finally accepted that if the foreign troops cannot defeat the Taliban in 11 years, they are most unlikely to do so in 13 or 15 years.

So if NATO is now conceding that the Taliban cannot be crushed by military force, then why is it going to keep its troops in Afghanistan for another two-and-a-half years before acting on that conclusion? Some of them will die as a result of that decision, and quite a few Afghans will be killed because of it, too. Apart from temporarily saving the face of various Western governments, what purpose will their deaths serve?

NATO’s argument is that another two years will leave the Afghan army in a better position to defend the US-installed government of Hamid Karzai after Western troops leave, but there is absolutely no evidence that it is true. Indeed, of the 150-odd Western troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year, twenty were killed by the Afghan troops that NATO is supposed to be training for this role.

The “Afghan National Army” is not fit for purpose, and the outcome after NATO troops leave will probably be the same whether they all go home this year or stay until 2014. So what is that probable outcome?

Karzai may not fall immediately: the $4 billion a year that NATO is promising to pay for the maintenance of his army will probably preserve the status quo for two or three years. But no more: it is most unlikely that the subsidy will be extended when it comes up for review in 2018.

That’s the way the Vietnam war ended. The last U.S. troops left South Vietnam in 1973, but the regime they left behind survived until Congress cut off the flow of military aid in 1975. It happened exactly the same way when the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989: the regime they had supported lasted three more years, until the flow of funds was cut off after the old Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991.

The same thing will almost certainly happen this time. Even the $4 billion that NATO is now pledging will only pay for an Afghan army two-thirds of its currently planned size. When that external funding ends, the roof will probably fall in on Karzai’s regime.

The Taliban will doubtless keep control of the Pashtun-speaking provinces where they recruit most of their fighters. (For all NATO’s efforts, they never really lost it.) The Afghan National Army will probably disintegrate and be replaced by the separate but allied Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek ethnic militias that held the north of the country before 9/11. They may be able to hold it again.

In other words, the likeliest outcome is a reversion to the pre-9/11 distribution of power in Afghanistan, perhaps with the Taliban in control of Kabul, perhaps not. That’s not a wonderful outcome, but it’s not such a terrible one either.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Just Posted

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
5-storeys still too tall for Penticton’s downtown, votes city council

Vote against new development leaves one councillor questioning validity of city’s zoning restrictions

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Cheetahs can’t roar

Your morning start for Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Highway 3, east of Osoyoos was closed all Monday due to a liquid tar spilled all over the road.
Highway 3, east of Osoyoos, is now open to single lane traffic

The highway was closed all Monday due to liquid tar spilled all over the road

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

(Pixabay.com photo)
No COVID-19 baby boom in Summerland

Pandemic has not resulted in surge in births in 2020 and 2021

Teenagers make their way to Truswell Road after a party is broken up by police at the end of Mission Creek (Lorraine Besner/Contributed).
Kelowna residents concerned about ongoing alleged underage beach parties

Public urination, property damage, drinking and drug usage have become weekly concerns

Six United Way chapters around the province are merging into United Way B.C. (News Bulletin file photo)
6 United Way chapters merging around B.C.

Money raised in communities will stay in those communities, agency says

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Regulations needed for short-term rentals in Summerland

Summerland still does not have bylaw rules that govern the management of short-term rentals

A new air cleaning technology will be installed at Unisus School in Summerland. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Virus cleaning pilot set for Unisus School in Summerland

Summerland-based lighting company to install technology at private school

A West Kelowna man was seriously injured in a single-vehicle collision early on Tuesday morning. (Black Press file photo)
Single vehicle collision seriously injures West Kelowna man

The man was driving a pickup truck that went off the road and caught on fire

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

Kelowna artist Bobby Vandenhoorn recently completed mural of late Canadian rock icon and activist Gord Downie now adorns Brenda Dalzell’s Sicamous business, the Bruhn Crossing Urban Market. (Contributed)
Canadian rock legend, activist Gord Downie inspires Sicamous mural

Business owner hopes artwork will help foster ongoing conversations around reconciliation

Most Read