Strategic review

Basically, the Trump administration can’t seem to decide whether to go for a troop surge in Afghanistan or to send in the mercenary private security contractors. The talk about withdrawal being an option on the table is sheer deception. Clearly, this much-trumpeted and much-delayed strategic review is aimed at sustaining the military occupation of Afghanistan not ending it. You’d need a revolution in the US for such drastic reorientation, not a strategic review under Trump.

Though he has been painted as an anti-establishment warrior ready to take on the globalist elite, the outsider all eager to clear the deep-state swamp, Trump is no such thing. He’s a wildcard pulled out by Uncle Sam to deal with a world slipping out of his hegemonic hold. Trump’s unpredictability creates the desired confusion and his shamelessness provides the perfect cover to adjust to changing international realities without admitting defeat. Otherwise, Uncle Sam is just as determined to snuff out any challenge to his hegemony under Trump as he was under Obama.

Scandals about Trump’s links to Russia and the hype generated by western mainstream media, around the spurious investigations and through fake news, are distractions aimed at keeping the myth of him being Russia-friendly, and hence being anti-establishment, alive. The tussle between various factions of the establishment is projected as a war between Trump-the-outsider and deep-state insiders. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam pushes ahead with his unchanged plans for world hegemony.

There’s nothing to suggest that Uncle Sam has become any wiser under Trump. Even the most promising signs, Trump’s bonhomie with President Putin and his expression of willingness to cooperate with Russia to resolve the crisis in Syria, are proving to be little more than a smokescreen to continue the US agenda of regime change and balkanisation with new tactics. The US would not leave Syria alone unless it is forced to do that. And the same holds true for Afghanistan.

So let’s not hold our breath waiting for the so-called strategic review to be revealed. It will be yet another blue-print for continuing the military occupation of Afghanistan and controlling its government. If anything, the talk about a surge in US troops based in the country, or sending in mercenaries, indicates that the US is getting ready to up the ante in Afghanistan. They’ve already brought in their proxy terrorists from Daesh to add to the mayhem.

It should be clear by now what the US game plan in Afghanistan really is. It would like to retain its military foothold in the country and use it to not only keep the country destabilised, but also to bring that instability to the neighbouring countries. Quite like what it did in Iraq, it would like to use the lawless territory under its control to spawn and spread terrorism within Afghanistan and to neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Iran, Central Asian states and the Muslim-majority regions of China and Russia.

The trillion-dollar poppy trade that already exists and the trillion-dollar worth of minerals under Afghan soil are all very well but, to my mind, they are more like bonuses of imperialism in this case and the US would have stayed in Afghanistan even without them. After all, a military foothold bang in the middle of Eurasia is just what it needs to destabilise the region through its terrorist proxies and hence disrupt the various processes of regional connectivity and integration unleashed by China and Russia. A puppet government dependent on the occupying forces for its survival comes in handy as well.

Had Uncle Sam wished to change course in Afghanistan, we would have seen some constructive engagement with Afghanistan’s neighbours. The US has refused to get involved in the Russia-China-Pakistan initiative on Afghanistan that envisages regional countries collectively taking up the responsibility of ensuring security and stability in Afghanistan and the region. It would rather partner with India to grind subversive mutual axes.

The so-called strategic review is obviously not going to change the sordid trajectory of US policy in Afghanistan. It is more about redistributing the blood-soaked spoils of war. Downgrade CIA’s Syria assignment but give it a bigger role in Venezuela. Give CIA’s job in Syria to Pentagon but do not add to its role in Afghanistan. Give the contract of keeping Afghanistan in a mess to the mercenaries. And so it goes.

After all, war is big business in the US. The various lobbies that run the US government need to be fed like hungry dogs. Trump must balance the bones he throws to the CIA, the Pentagon and private security contractors. These deep-state linked firms have emerged as a strong lobby in the US, landing billion-dollar contracts. They are supposed to work better because they tend to be more brutal and the US government doesn’t have to bear the brunt of their actions and deaths.

What the Trump administration can’t seem to decide is how to divide the trillion-dollar spoils of war, and that’s pretty much it. The so-called strategic review was never intended to review the objectives of US policy in Afghanistan. There are only two things that could bring about such deeper reflection that could lead to a US withdrawal; a revolution in the US or a concerted effort by Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours aimed at ending the US occupation of the country.

There is a growing realisation among Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours about the nefarious role of the US in Afghanistan and they are helping each other quell the menace emanating from the occupied country through bilateral and multilateral frameworks. It is time for these overlapping forums to give way to a tightly-knit alliance between China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and the five Central Asian States to work towards a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. They must accept the responsibility of security and peace in the region.

Here’s the point: A withdrawal of US-led forces is a pre-requisite to establish peace in Afghanistan and to bring stability in our neighbourhood. Waiting for a revolution to start in the US is a waste of time. It would come when it comes and we can’t sit on our hands waiting for it to happen. Regional cooperation is the only answer.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at