By the end of next year, most Australian troops will be out of Afghanistan. All US and NATO combat troops plan to quit the country by the end of 2014. What they won’t admit is that Afghanistan remains a mess—and the Western occupation is to blame.

In reality the US and Australia won’t leave completely leave. The bases they have built are designed to ensure what the military terms “permanent access”. The elite Australian SAS will continue to “train” Afghan troops for many years.

The US signed a 10-year Strategic Partnership Agreement with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May that enables a military presence until 2020.

The West has occupied Afghanistan for ten years. Yet the country is now more unstable, with August 2012 the second deadliest month on record, ending in 374 civilians killed.

Recently US, NATO and Australian troops have been plagued by “green on blue” insider attacks by their own supposed allies, the Afghan soldiers they are training to take over control of the country.

The US admits that the Taliban has been responsible for only 25 per cent of these attacks on US forces, with 75 per cent carried out by “unaffiliated” Afghan soldiers and police acting on their own.

Why? Foreign troops have earned the hatred of the Afghan population for routine drone attacks, raids on houses and the killing of civilians. The US has installed a corrupt government that includes vicious warlords responsible for terrible human rights abuses during the 1990s.

Terror raids

Australian troops routinely extra-judicially execute Afghan people. This was starkly admitted by Ian McPhedran, News Limited’s defence reporter after the death of the 39th Australian soldier in late October.

In reporting Corporal Scott Smith’s death by a bomb, McPhedran explained that, “SAS troopers and commandos routinely raid qalas [mud-walled Afghan houses], usually at night to capture or eliminate insurgent leaders and bomb makers.”

What they do when they “eliminate” people is execute them on the spot. No “rule of law” exists for the people of Afghanistan.

This “routine” behaviour by the US, Australia and other foreign troops shows why they have been incapable of “winning hearts and minds”.

The reality is the US and Australian governments have a blithe inability to understand they are occupiers, in a land that has defeated British imperial occupations in 1839, 1879 and 1919 and Russian imperial occupation in 1979.

Australian involvement

Australia has now had 39 soldiers killed and spent $10 billion over ten years on the war. Many have questioned why the Gillard government has remained involved in the war in the face of the abject failure of the occupation.

But Afghanistan is of enormous strategic value to the US. It lies on the fault lines between Russian and Chinese imperialism. And it lies next to the two other important powers the US wants to court—India  and Pakistan.

The West can't win in Afghanistan because Afghans hate the war

Afghanistan has become more important as the US has lost its base in Uzbekistan and looks like it may lose its base in Kyrgyzstan.

And the US alliance is important to Australia’s ruling class. Gillard admitted this in justifying the Afghan commitment at the end of October, by saying it was in “Australia’s national interest” to “stand firm with our ally the United States”.

This explains why the Australian government continues to back the war despite almost 70 per cent opposition to it in opinion polls.

Few people believe Gillard when she says that, “the campaign remains on track”. She has simply parroted US war commander General Joe Allen who earlier this year claimed, “the campaign remains on track”.

Successive Australian governments have failed to explain the real reasons they are staying on in Afghanistan, because the war was never about liberation but about advancing US power.

The occupation has been a disaster, and so they have little “progress” to point to in order the justify continuing the war.

What is certain is that, despite the talk of withdrawal, there will be future Australian troop deaths. Defence Minister Stephen Smith warned recently, “We have to steel ourselves in the knowledge that there could be more casualties.”

Foreign occupation has been a disaster for Afghanistan. But the struggle against US efforts to control the country are far from over.

Tom Orsag

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