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Welcome to Saigonistan

By       Message Pepe Escobar     Permalink
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As for the Afghan police, it is widely despised as a bunch only good enough to set up roadblocks, search vehicles and extort cash.

The 11-year-old Afghan war is now virtually invisible in the US, even during a drawdown of 33,000 US troops ordered by President Obama by the end of the month (still 68,000 will remain). A majority of Americans want the war over by... yesterday -- as in proclaim victory, cut our losses, and leave.

Now, with the new NATO dispensation, it's fair to assume most of the 150,000 Western troops -- and fat cat contractors -- will get out of Dodge by the end of next year.

As for the Pentagon's obsession in keeping Special Forces on the ground until at least 2024 -- as a useful tool in monitoring both Russia and China -- it depends on a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) that the Pentagon must convince Hamid Karzai's government to sign.

Ten years ago, in Paris, I asked Hamid Karzai in person how could an Afghan army be configured with a sectarian bent -- mostly Tajiks and not including the Pashtun majority. He cut me off -- insisting it would be a success. Now Mullah Omar has answered my question.   

After robbing the country blind for over a decade, along with his deceased brother Ahmed Wali, the most probable outcome is that Karzai has already booked his Saigon-style helicopter exit from a roof in Bagram base.

Or he might pull a Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, not sign the SOFA, and thus pack the US and NATO bags home for good. As Karzai is no more than a US puppet, that's unlikely.

In Iraq -- as part of a Machiavellian plan devised by Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani -- Maliki had the Pentagon believe it would enjoy a SOFA similar to South Korea's. But then, at the eleventh hour, Maliki added a clause to the treaty; US troops/contractors would have to abide by Iraqi law. The deal collapsed.

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Without a SOFA, there's also the question of what to do with all the hardware. The US alone holds at least 100,000 containers in Afghanistan. A lot of the hardware will be sold -- or "donated" -- to allies. That unimpeachable democrat, Uzbekistan's dictator Islam Karimov, for instance, would love to lay his hands on most of the loot for his military.

Meet me at the graveyard

When Washington cannot even trust the "natives" it is leaving behind to cover the exit -- and that's not even counting the extended families of the women and children who became "collateral damage" to US/NATO air strikes -- all conditions are in place for a Saigon remix.

Until recently the debate was whether the Taliban would agree not to attack US/NATO troops if a deadline for a total retreat was set in stone. Now the Taliban don't even need an agreement.

As historical ironies go, few beat Russia moving into the US/NATO vacuum -- light years after the USSR retreated from Afghanistan along that fateful bridge over the Amu Darya river in February 1989. 

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Afghanistan won't be back to a murderous civil war as in the first part of the 1990s -- before Islamabad unleashed its secret weapon, the Taliban. This time, the most probable outcome is a partition of the country between the Taliban and local warlords, with Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia positioning themselves as the ultimate arbiters.

There will always remain the dodgy angle of the West's latest Afghan adventure being all about heroin -- which implies private banking's humongous money laundering profits. Talk about a bulky Western army providing security for global drug lords. Precedents abound -- as in the Opium Wars.

But whatever angle is examined, the fact is the overwhelming majority of Afghans -- no matter their ethnicity -- just want the foreign invaders to leave. Their hearts and minds were never conquered in the first place; after all, the invaders have not even managed to speak Pashto or Dari. 

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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