SHAFAQNA – The US has only made progress in Afghanistan in terms military interventionism, but nothing has been done to empower the local population to fight against terror, says Catherine Shakdam, Director of Programs at Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.
At least four people have been killed and 14 others injured in a suicide bomb attack at Bagram Air Base, the largest US military facility in Afghanistan. The Taliban has claimed the responsibility for the attack.
“We said that we were going to reverse the Taliban’s momentum. And so you went on the offensive, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds. Look, everybody knows Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place. Insurgents still launch cowardly attacks against innocent civilians. But just look at the progress that you’ve made possible,” he said addressing the troops. “That’s your legacy. That’s what you did… We said that we were going to strengthen the capacity of Afghan forces so they could take more responsibility for their own security. So you’ve been training Afghan forces and building Afghan forces up. And we know they’ve still got a long way to go. But for nearly a year, Afghans have been in the lead…”
RT: Obama admitted Afghanistan was a dangerous place, but is it a surprise that two years later the US base was targeted in this way?
Catherine Shakdam: I don’t think that’s really a surprise. The first thing you put on question is… the US ability to secure their own military bases. That’s one. The second thing, when it comes to strengthening Afghanistan forces, I don’t think the US has done that at all, ever. All they have done is trained the Afghans, but the Afghans have had training for the past decades. They very well know how to do war, they know how to fight, they know how to defend themselves. What they needed is the ability to have access to weapons, and this has been denied time and time again when the US preferred to put guns in the hands of [their] own soldiers rather than to enable and empower the Afghan Army. Afghanistan has said it time and time again. It’s not the question of training; it’s the question of enabling and empowering the military and the security forces to be able to push back against the Taliban… as well as to be able to reconstruct the country in terms of civilian infrastructure so that people won’t feel the need or be compelled to fall into the arms of the Taliban because they are too poor to see any other alternative. I don’t think the US has empowered anybody but its own military. And it is paying the price for its ridiculous policies.
RT: Do you think any progress has been made within the past two years?
CS: No I don’t think so, to be honest. It depends on how you look at it. If you look at military interventionism – yes, it’s been great progress because there are more bases everywhere. But if it comes to empowering local populations to fight against terror – not at all. If anything, the Taliban has learned a great deal from ISIS and now is able to tap into networks and infrastructure that the Islamic State has set up, where terror has become almost the expression of national sovereignty to some extent. It has declared itself a state, it has set up a shadow economy… It very much functions as a nation. That’s a danger, because what do you do when terror groups actually imagine themselves as being state entities, nation states? You face a big problem and there is an issue where Afghanistan can actually reinvent itself, according to the rules of terror and parameters of terror. And this is itself terrifying. I don’t think that people should underestimate the power of the Taliban, ISIS, and all the terror groups we have today because they have been empowered by the US military’s ridiculous policies and by this arrogance of western nations.
RT: Will there be any changes in policy under the Trump administration?
CS: I should hope so, at least that’s what he said anyway. I don’t know how he is going to be able to manifest some of the things that he said in terms of demilitarization and trying to scale back in favor of diplomacy and trying to build bridges as opposed to bombing. I don’t think he is going to be allowed to… When you see these kinds of attacks taking place in Afghanistan today, the question we need to ask ourselves is – “Is it a set up? Is it a desire to force the hand of the next president, Donald Trump, to force him to accelerate one more time, to send more troops, to make the argument that America needs to still be very present in Central Asia and in the Middle East?” There is always this danger. Terror has been manipulated and played by foreign powers. When you look at these attacks, you must ask yourself a question: what is the immediate goal and what is the long-term goal? I am afraid that a narrative is being built now where Donald Trump wants to walk away from war, maybe some people are trying to make the case for war… We should always think about this possibility in perspective and try to learn from mistakes made before. Fighting wars blindly doesn’t help anybody. What you have to do is to go back to the ideology of terror, try to deconstruct terror and try to play into it.