The Afghanistan War: A History of Assassinations

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Spc. Steven Schwigert stands outside the entrance to Observation Post in Kunar province, Afghanistan. (Photo: AP - David Goldman)

By: Shahira Saloum

Published Monday, September 12, 2011

The US invasion of Afghanistan turned into a failed mission of democratization and state-building. Washington’s only claim to success was its long practiced strategy of assassinating its enemies.

Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan ten years ago, successive US administrations have been unable to claim moderate success in Afghanistan by engineering a happy ending to their occupation or cutting down their losses. Moreover, they have not com up with a ‘dignified’ manner in which to end the global war on terror.

In the meantime, the US grasps for achievements amid this bleak sea. The US has led successful strikes against al-Qaeda and its Taliban ally, one of the very few US accomplished thanks to CIA scheming and the support of private military companies. The US, through a special program launched in 2004, managed to kill over 60 Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders before assassinating al-Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden this year. Other targets include Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, aide to the new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Except for Bin Laden, who was killed in an operation by US special forces, the majority of al-Qaeda cadres were killed by air strikes carried out by US reconnaissance planes in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Among those killed were Sheikh Mansour and Abdul Basit Usman, as well as bomb-maker Mansour al-Shami and the leader of Lashkar-e-Zil (Shadow Army), Abdullah Said al-Libi and his colleague Zouhaib al-Dhahab. Other prominent members were also killed, including the leader of the organization’s internal network, Saleh al-Somali, al-Qaeda trainer Abdallah Hamas al Filinistini, as well as Osama al-Kini, wanted for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In 2008, Abdallah Azzam al Saudi was killed as was the head of al-Qaida’s intelligence branch Abu Jihad al-Masri, explosives expert Abu Hamza, bomb-maker and head of the weapons of mass destruction program, Abu Khabab al-Masri, Abu Hareth al Suriyye, his colleague Abu Laith al Libi, in addition to Bin Laden’s oldest son.

Contrary to what public discourse might suggest, the assassination strategy forms the main pillar of US 'war on terror,' which has extended into Pakistan. Former CIA director and current US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called it the “only game in town.” That is why the US administration exaggerates its achievement against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, attempting to mask its overall defeat in other endeavors.

In addition, the US-led international alliance has failed to lay the ground for a democratic system and a strong and transparent government to replace the Taliban. After a war that cost thousands of lives and more than US$450 billion, corruption continues to plague the government and the drug trade is flourishing, with poppy fields still covering the Afghan landscape. The US government encouraged the Afghan government to combat corruption and opium production, using a stick and carrot approach. Their efforts were met with little success; after all, those accused of corruption are warlords and US allies. Chief among them was brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was killed by the Taliban. Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan forces together could not defeat the Taliban. Any expectation that Afghan forces, which lack the necessary equipment and training, will succeed against the Taliban seems far fetched.

The US administration is proud of advances in women’s rights and specifically the increasing number of Afghan girls attending school, after the Taliban ended education for girls. But there has been no advance in other civil and political rights. Each election that has taken place since the US invasion has been marred by fraud, including the re-election of President Karzai.

As for infrastructure and development, foreign aid did not build a self-sufficient state, relying instead on unsustainable strategies. This conclusion was reached by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The committee noted that the conduct of international donors created a culture of dependence, distorted the free market, and spread anxiety in Afghanistan.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


"failed mission of democratization"?

WHAT mission? and WHAT democratization? The mission was an usual for imperialism - to grab a country and install a puppet in interests of USA multinationals and to hinder rivals (Russia, China, Iran). This mission was achieved - and if not too successful it is not for lack of trying.

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