That July 2011 "exit date" from Afghanistan has always had the phony feel of window-dressing, as confirmed here, which has failed to cloak the massive American build-up of infrastructure in the area that seems less short-term and makeshift than reorienting and permanent.
More proof of the exit fantasy was confirmed yesterday at the State Department. It subsequently showed up in the Indian press but, as far as I can tell, clear missed the US media.
From the Hindustan Times:
The US has reiterated its long term commitment to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, allaying India's concerns over America's stated policy to start withdrawing its troops from the war-torn country beginning July 2011.
"We're not leaving Afghanistan or the region at the end of next year," State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters at his daily news briefing.
Crowley was responding to questions about India's apprehensions on withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
New Delhi fears that after America withdraws troops from Afghanistan, the war-torn country will again slip back into the hands of Pakistan and anti-India elements.
"Our commitment to regional security is a significant one. We are going to be engaged with countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India for a long time, because it is in our interest to do so," Crowley said.
What "interest" is that? And is it the same "interest" in all three of those countries?
The "interest" that brought the US to Afghanistan was the Taliban government of Afghanistan that harbored al Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11. The toppling of the Taliban and rout of al Qaeda was in our interest. Nearly a decade later, is it still in our interest to remain? I say no, advocating a repositioning of our forces to execute what Gen. Paul Vallely describes as the "lily pad" strategy.
But won't al Qaeda return to Taliban safe havens if we depart? This question is the by-now old chestnut that tells us we must remain in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda Taliban safe havens as though the Taliban offered the only potential safe havens to al Qaeda in the world. Sorry, gang. What we persist in blindly branding as "al Qaeda" is absolutely everywhere -- from Gaza to Thailand to Mumbai to London to Madrid to Yourtown, USA. These facts on the ground, however, are disconnected to the national security debate.
Yes, we have an "interest" in Pakistan: their neutralization-needy nukes. But that's not at all the same thing as common cause with Pakistan, no matter how much summiteering Richard Holbrooke does. As Moorthy Muthuswamy writes in his book Defeating Political Islam, Pakistan, along with Saudi Arabia and Iran, forms "the axis of jihad," and as such is one of the most aggressive purveyors of "political Islam." The sooner we recognize this and accordingly reconstitute our international alliances to include the natural foes of jihad, the greater our likelihood of survival becomes.
Which brings me to India, a natural foe of jihad. But even this shared anti-jihad interest doesn't require the presence of US troops as a means of "engagement."
Back to PJ Crowley and the Hindustan Times story:
"We have, per the President's decision, increased our military capabilities and force levels in Afghanistan. The timeline that the President outlined back in December is well known," he said, adding various reviews including those by NATO and Washington would come up at the end of this year.
"As the President said, we see July 2011 as an important transition point, but remember that we have both a military and a civilian component to our strategy. You know, the military element is not open-ended," he said.
The spokesman said American and international forces would gradually withdraw as Afghan forces build up its capabilities.
Clearly, $25 billion to build up those capabilities just wasn't enough.
As per the Kabul Conference, the Afghan plan is to provide security responsibility to the home forces throughout the country by 2014, he said.
"So we are there to help stabilise the security situation in Afghanistan. We are there to begin to grow legal economy in Afghanistan, increase the capacity of the Afghan government at all levels -- national, regional, local.
None of which is in the American interest.
But our commitment to Afghanistan -- we will be there for many, many years," Crowley said.
"Over time, obviously the military element of the strategy will be reduced, and the civilian element of the strategy will, you know, continue apace.
It's exactly what's happening in Iraq, for example," he added.