As Taliban and Kabul government negotiators undergo the compulsory week long Covid-19 induced quarantine, a couple of developments ahead of the impending intra-Afghan negotiations (IAN) are unmistakable;
First, Amrullah Saleh, the vice president made a comment that evoked unusually harsh responses not only by several Afghans but also American leaders; “No Afghan politician of national stature can overlook the issue of Durand Line. It will condemn him or her in life & after life. It is an issue which needs discussions & resolution. Expecting us to gift it for free is unrealistic. Peshawar used to be the winter capital of Afghanistan,” Saleh said in a September 7 tweet.
His tweet attracted an articulate response by none other than Alice Wells, former chief US diplomat. “Afghan politicians of national stature know that the Durand line is an internationally recognized border. Fanning nationalist or irredentist claims detracts from negotiating peace and economically beneficial ties between two countries.”
Then came yet another attack on Saleh’s cavalcade Wednesday morning. He fortunately survived, the Taliban distanced themselves from the bloody incident which took over a dozen lives but triggered a string of speculation as to why such an attack just a day after Saleh’s tweet on the Durand Line?
Following this was the announcement by Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the current CENTCOM chief, on the withdrawal of several thousand from Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military?would ?draw down to 3,000 troops in Iraq by end of September and 4,500 in Afghanistan by November, McKenzie said. This left many hawks within the security establishment shocked. Equally disappointed were a few key stakeholders in Afghanistan who had dismissed the pullout promise as a “bluff”, hoping the real decision might be taken only after the outcome of the November 3 Presidential election. Equally disappointed were those key stakeholders in Afghanistan who had considered the pullout vows as a “bluff” and had hoped this might come about only after the results of the November 3 Presidential election.
Then came the thunderbolt from none else by the “matter-of-fact plain-talking businessman” Donald Trump. He delivered stinging remarks on an issue that many used to dismiss as “conspiracy theory.” “I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy,” said President Donald Trump in his press conference on Sept 7.
With this Trump called out the Pentagon leadership – the generals – for pursuing wars only to please the companies producing military hardware for it. “But we’re getting out of the endless wars; you know how we are we doing. We defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate – 100 percent. A year later, I said, “Where is it?” “It’s all gone, sir. Because of you, it’s all gone,” because of my philosophy. But all gone. And I said, “That’s good. Let’s bring our soldiers back home. Some people don’t like to come home. Some people like to continue to spend money.” One cold-hearted globalist betrayal after another, and that’s what it was,” said Trump.
He also took a swipe at Joe Biden by accusing him of sending “our youth to fight in these crazy endless wars. And it’s one of the reasons the military – I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are.”
Coincidentally, with this Trump resonated what one of his predecessors – President Dwight Eisenhower had alluded to over six decades ago; the omnipresent influence of the military industrial complex (MIC). Eisenhower cautioned the nation on the MIC In his farewell address on January 17, 1961 with the following conclusion: The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
Trump’s rather scathing words for the Pentagon generals – and the indirect attack on the informal alliance between Pentagon – the nation’s military – and the defense industry i.e. military industrial complex came as no surprise to those who familiar with his cold “matter-of-fact” judgements.
Donald Trump clearly dislikes generals who he thinks are harbingers of war on the behest of the military industrial complex and has pursued endless, meaningless wars abroad at the cost of the American lives. He had promised a pullout. He has almost done that. He had pursed the intra-Afghan dialogue. It is almost at hand. The message from the Trump camp is: Take his words on the face value. There is nothing in-between.