Friday, December 20, 2019

Afghanistan Pt 2: Lies and psy-ops revealed

Written by: (Contributed) on 21 December 2019
(Above; US-Taiban talks)

A trove of United States government records about military considerations and Afghanistan have shown what observers have long speculated and departments in Washington and the Pentagon denied.

Following the US-led military invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, defence officials used Psychological Warfare Operations (PWOs) or psy-ops, to deliberately convey a misleading and distorted vision of operations to justify the US-led occupation of the country. US-led military planners, however, totally under-estimated the forces in Afghanistan which opposed their presence; they have been unable to achieve any of their original objectives.

The fact the Trump administration is now desperately attempting to establish a lasting peace agreement with the ruling administration in Kabul has shown they want to reduce troop numbers and withdraw as soon as possible before there is greater damage to US credibility.

On 9 December 2019, the Washington Post finally published a story about the US-led military involvement in Afghanistan, following a three-year legal battle to secure access to about two thousand pages of documents regarded by the Pentagon as restricted. (1) The fact the Pentagon hid behind legal technicalities for three years remains proof, in itself, of the military organisation seeking to hide incriminating material. The following day the Australian published three short columns covering the same story, a remarkably brief account given the commitment from Canberra to follow US directives. (2) But then, Canberra would appear to have had no wish to divulge more than the mere basics of information which at the very least cast US imperialism in a very dim light. 

During the period 2001-14, US-led military planning for Operation Enduring Freedom resulted in a coalition of over forty countries, including all NATO members, backing an invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. US military planning for Operation Freedom's Sentinel from 2015 has continued to the present day. There are still an estimated 15,000 US-led troops stationed in the country.

The military documents revealed the Pentagon knew the war they were fighting in Afghanistan was not winnable despite a total of 775,000 US troops being deployed in the country from 2001 to the present day, at an estimated cost of US$934-978 billion. Fatalities, to date, include 2,300 soldiers together with a further 20,589 injured; the estimated costs of the war also do not include medical expenses.   

Behind the scenes the Pentagon deployed Psychological Warfare Techniques or 'psy-ops', to deflect unnecessary attention from the military fiasco which included 'distorted statistics … issued and false statements made by officials from Kabul and Washington to give the impression that progress was being made'. Military officials were held responsible for 'hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable', and used techniques in which 'every dot-point was altered to present the best picture possible'.

The seemingly efficient manner in which the US imperialists were able to manipulate news with distorted and unreliable information about the Afghan war has also thrown light upon their control of the media. The notion of the so-called free press would appear almost meaningless in the context, and the natural outcome has strengthened the old maxim that the first casualty of war is the truth. Coverage of US-led military operations in Afghanistan appears to have been based more on downright lies than sensible journalism.

One US military official, Colonel Robert Crowley, who was a leading figure in the counter-insurgency during the 2013-14 period, was actually quoted in an interview as stating 'truth was rarely welcome', and that 'bad news was often stifled'.

A rare insight into the distorted and perverted thinking of then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was also included in the trove of documents. He claimed that 'we are never going to get the US military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave. Help!' It is not difficult, therefore, to observe the very real uses of psy-ops as a means through which senior officials in the Bush administration hid the truth for political expediency and self-preservation.

There is still controversy over the original US-led military aims surrounding the invasion of Afghanistan. While ostensibly it was the outcome of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the fact so many of those in the Bush administration were linked to senior positions in oil and natural gas corporate bodies has led some observers to conclude the US wanted to use Afghanistan as a 'energy bridge' to serve what were deemed as 'US interests'. Natural resources from the former Asia republics of the Soviet Union, rich in oil and natural gas, could be exported by pipeline to port facilities in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Piping the oil and natural gas across the Russian Federation was regarded as potentially problematic.

During the early days of the US-led occupation media releases also publicised a stated intention of establishing a multi-party democracy and market-based economy together with an independent police and military. There were also planned moves to emancipate women through free educational facilities in a country where semi-feudal social relations have historically favoured men.

These pipe-dreams, formulated in Washington-based think-tanks to serve neo-colonial US-interests, have conspicuously failed in a spectacular manner; they will remain forever an example of the so-called New World Order where the US placed itself at the centre of the newly globalised world economy and sought to dictate terms and conditions to sovereign countries to serve 'US interests'. The grandiose idea, more an outcome of megalomania than sensible economic planning, would appear to have serious implications for the people of Afghanistan. The trove of documents, for example, has revealed that US policies fostered 'mass corruption' and actively encouraged the cultivation and production of opium. It is no coincidence Afghanistan is now the biggest producer of the narcotic in the world. (3)

In December last year the Trump administration had talks with the ruling Taliban grouping in Kabul in the United Arab Emirates. For nearly two decades the US-led military operation in Afghanistan was designed to remove the Taliban from power. The US, now however, is desperate to seek a peaceful solution so as to withdraw 4,000 troops and recognise the ruling administration in Kabul. (4) In reality they do not have any other option. Further talks took place in February this year hosted by Qatar. To date, nevertheless, the US-led occupation of Afghanistan has continued: an estimated 300 Australian Defence Force personnel are also based in the country under Pentagon command.

There has been, to date, a notable lack of any open political discussion in Canberra or elsewhere about the Australian role in the US-led fiasco in Afghanistan. Just what had Australia, as a country, to gain from military involvement in Afghanistan?

And those in senior positions in Washington and the Pentagon clearly do not want any publicity about the problem; their sycophants in Canberra are only too pleased to oblige and stifle publicity here.                                    

We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     At War with the truth, The Washington Post, 9 December 2019.
2.     US public lied to about Afghan war, Australian, 10 December 2019.
3.     See also
4.     Bid to drag Bolton into impeachment probe, Australian, 17 December 2019.

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