US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has wooed the US media into believing he’s the greatest thing to ever happen in the Pentagon. Maybe this is true, but the US media doesn’t need much convincing to toe Washington’s line. The same praise won’t be found outside America, where Cold War budget cuts haven’t diminished Gates’ symbol of militarism and deception among the masses.
"The key here is that the fight against corruption needs to be Afghan-led," Gates said today in Kabul. "This is a sovereign country."
He added of the war in general, "It is important to be honest about this. The United States is spending over $100 billion a year in this fight in Afghanistan. America's sons and daughters are being killed. The American people need to know that 15 years from now we are not going to still be fighting this fight."
First and foremost, the Afghan people must know that US troops won’t be occupying their country in 15 years. They might be at the rate Afghanistan is headed, whether they must stay that long or return at a later crisis. Gates’s “honesty” is nowhere to be found in US strategy, evidenced by President Barack Obama outlining his Afghan policy in two paragraphs the day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for a strategic review. Though Gates claims July 2011 is “set in stone,” his partner and chief general in Afghanistan, David Petraeus, is working feverishly to chisel a new date into the rock.
Now, as Gates declared Afghanistan a sovereign country next to Karzai, his actions demonstrated how big of a lie that really is.
Earlier in the day, NATO released a report claiming success after an airstrike in the Rustaq district of the northern Takhar province. 12 insurgents had been killed, including a commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). So says Washington. Abdul Wahid Khorasani, who claims he was riding among the targeted convoy, told another story after reaching the hospital. A candidate in September’s parliamentary election, Khorasani said he had been campaigning with extended family when the missiles struck. 10 people were killed, all civilians working on the campaign.
Karzai would condemn the raid and announce at a joint press conference with Gates, "The rationale for the airstrike still needs to be fully investigated.” Gates responded that he had not heard about civilian casualties, but insisted, "I am able to confirm that a very senior official of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was the target and was killed.”
Though Gates may be accurate, the way he goes about denying reports isn’t effective counterinsurgency. Neither is lying. The US and Afghan lines have split into a usual dichotomy, indicating anomalies in one side’s version, and for now the US position seems fabricated (as Wikileaks revealed so often happens in Afghanistan). Takhar Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa called the incident an “obvious mistake,” saying there were no Uzbek militants, foreigners, or members of the IMU in Khorasani’s convoy. "There aren't even any Taliban in this area," Taqwa said. "They were all working on Mr. Khorasani's campaign."
Khorasani explained that the windows of six vehicles in the convoy were draped in campaign posters. He did admit that he was traveling with a man named Amanullah, who had been allied with a local Uzbek warlord and recently returned from Pakistan. Amanullah was killed, possibly the “senior IMU commander” in Gates’s version of reality, but Khorasani believes that political opponents used US forces to eliminate a rival and demanded an investigation. How beneficial is an investigation though when NATO has already made up its mind?
"What I can say is these vehicles were nowhere near a populated area and we're confident this strike hit only the targeted vehicle after days of tracking the occupants' activity," said Maj. Gen. David Garza, the deputy chief of staff for joint operations in Afghanistan.
"We stand by the information in the release, and it is important to note that there was considerable time spent watching and waiting prior to the engagement," added James Judge, another NATO commander.
Honesty and sovereignty are nowhere to be found in US strategy towards Afghanistan, except in the skewed images inside Robert Gates’s head.