Saturday marks 16 years since the US invasion of Afghanistan after the then-President George W. Bush accused the Afghan government of sheltering the Al-Qaeda leaders who masterminded the 9/11 attacks.
Ahead of the anniversary, hundreds of people have been protesting in the Afghan capital, Kabul against the continued presence of US troops in the country, while the UN released new figures showing an increase in casualties from the previous year.
RT asked investigative journalist Gareth Porter to comment on the future of the American campaign in Afghanistan and what its final goal might be.
RT: How different is the situation with the US military in Afghanistan we have right now from the huge troop surge that Obama carried out in Afghanistan a few years ago? Seems like the US is not learning from its mistakes.
Gareth Porter: Clearly, they are not learning anything from the past, but I would argue that the system that we are using to make foreign policy and national security policy is not geared to learning from the past, because it is really not in the interest of those institutions, those bureaucracies to learn the lessons of the past, because if they did, they would essentially be out of a job. We would regard the kinds of policies that they are being asked to carry out as ridiculous and not helpful to the US and its interests.
But the big difference here is clearly that the US is trying to do the job that it was doing during the earlier period of the Obama administration with far fewer troops. As everyone knows, the US was unable to achieve the goal that it has set for itself – which was basically, put the Taliban movement on the defensive and prevent them from being able to continue their advance. Instead, the Taliban showed that they could continue their advance despite the fact that the US carried out a troop surge in Afghanistan.
Now we’re seeing the US apparently trying to do something along the same lines with far fewer troops. Obviously on the face of it, it is an absurd idea. One cannot fathom how they could imagine that they could be successful in this… I don’t believe they think they can be successful in doing what they are doing.
RT: What is the end goal in Afghanistan?
GP: The only end goal that one can objectively discern here is for the US military to not have to admit that they failed in Afghanistan. That means having to go on indefinitely with the military presence that we now have or roughly along those lines. That is the reason that we’ve heard one figure in the military say that the US is going to have to remain in Afghanistan for another decade. That is the minimum that one can say about the prospects for this policy.
RT: Do you think that the current US administration, after the result of their policy in Iraq, is weighing this decision? Is there… consideration that they won’t be able to succeed in achieving their goals in Afghanistan, and therefore of withdrawal of their troops from the country?
GP: Look, they’re probably going to have the aspiration to improve the statistics that are collected quarterly on the war in Afghanistan to show that the Taliban doesn’t control quite as much territory as it did before this policy went into effect. I would imagine that that is the aspiration that they have.
So, three months from now or six months from now, we could be reading a headline that says: “US military achieves a two percent reduction, or three percent reduction in Taliban control of territory,”and they will shout to the rafters that this shows that they are succeeding and that the US should remain in Afghanistan indefinitely.
That is the kind of playing around with figures that we’ve seen in the past that has resulted in simply the extension of time for the US occupation, or US military operations in Afghanistan, but no real difference in a final result. Everyone, I think, who has followed this situation within the US government really understands that there is no way to prevent the Taliban from continuing to dominate that country, and to be ready to take over at some point in the future. We just don’t know when that is going to happen.
RT: Do you think there is a chance of the US [conducting] further negotiations with the Taliban?
GP: Yes, the US must negotiate some sort of agreement with the Taliban. I think there is an awareness of this. They are simply not politically willing to publicly accept that point. But ultimately, they will have to do that, and there will be some sort of face-saving withdrawal agreement. I believe everyone understands within the US government that that will ultimately result in a Taliban-dominated government.