US to stay in Afghanistan

US forces will continue to occupy Afghanistan until at least the end of 2016. In June, President Obama announced that around 9,800 troops will remain after the end of this year when combat forces are supposed to be withdrawn. That number is intended to be halved by the end of 2015. In an agreement with the Afghan government, the US will retain without trial around 50 prisoners at Bagram air base and be able to incarcerate anyone else they regard as ‘enduring security threats’.

The run-off vote for a new Afghan president was held on 14 June, but within days one of the candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, was calling for the count to be halted because of ballot rigging. Abdullah had made similar claims when he lost to Hamid Karzai in the previous election in a vote that proved to be overwhelmingly corrupt. In this election, observers claim there were 20 million voting cards in circulation, yet only 12 million people were eligible to vote. When the count was completed, Abdullah’s opponent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former economist with the World Bank, had won with 56% of the vote, having picked up Pashtun votes from candidates defeated in the first round. Abdullah Abdullah then threatened to form a parallel government. The US government stepped in and said it would withdraw all support if he tried to do so. The two candidates have since agreed to try and form a coalition. This is probably appropriate, since it will make little difference who rules to the bulk of the Afghan people. Both candidates are tied to the same corrupt elite of gangsters and warlords as outgoing President Karzai and both support the continued presence of US forces.

At the beginning of June the Taliban released a captured US soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo. The US reneged on a similar deal some years ago, forcing the Taliban to withdraw from initial peace negotiations. Sergeant Bergdahl was captured when he walked off his army base in 2009 in disgust at the US army and how it was treating the Afghan people. In an email to his parents before his capture Bergdahl wrote ‘(The US army) is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools and bullies ... In the US army you are cut down for being honest ... I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.’

Jim Craven


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