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The road map to the Afghan endgame

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Then there's the fascinating case of former Taliban commander-in-chief: Mullah Mohammed Fazl.

Will the Americans drop him in Kabul or directly in Doha -- straight from Guantanamo? From butcher of Shia Hazaras in Afghanistan to Guantanamo resident and then senior Islamist politician -- now that's the career move of the ages.

All that if Mullah Fazl is back -- and that's a major "if." Some kind of panic has already set in Washington, as in serial denials there's any deal over the release of Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo.  

The end, beautiful friend

Doha is a Hail Mary pass. The Obama administration had to come up with something; after all there's a NATO summit in Chicago next May. The eurozone is imploding. 2012 will be a hardcore social unrest year all across Western Europe. There's simply no more collective stomach -- not to mention wallets -- for the interminable AfPak quagmire.   

At least the Obama administration has not committed the monster strategic blunder -- anyone counting them yet? -- of starting a war with Pakistan.

Betting on its staying power after November 2012, the Obama administration knows Washington will have to leave in 2014.  

The Pentagon will literally move the Hindu Kush to keep at least some Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) bases in Northern Afghanistan to monitor China, Russia and Iran; that's a crucial part of the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine.  
Yet by any possible measure the Taliban will never allow permanent outposts of the US Empire of Bases. Their maximum concession is to sever links with al-Qaeda.  

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) wants an Afghan solution for the country, with input from all neighbors. SCO top members Russia and China, as well as observers (and on the way to become full members) Pakistan and Iran, all want no US bases.

If the SCO has its way, it's bye-bye to the Washington-concocted notion of a New Silk Road.  

Until 2014, Washington still will have to face Islamabad's new rules on the supply lines from Karachi to both Chaman and the Khyber Pass, plus Moscow's rules concerning the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). In both cases, bluster is a self-defeating option for Washington.

After 2014 no one possibly knows what will happen. Certainly the Afghan National Army -- most of them Tajiks -- will control Northern Afghanistan, trained and financed by the US.  

That's what's been already spun in Washington as US troops taking an "advisory role," starting already in 2013.   

The Taliban -- overwhelmingly Pashtun -- will control the whole Southwest to Southeast arc, counting on support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

But still the Pentagon remains obsessed with keeping an army, however slimmed-down it may be, fighting the Taliban until ... kingdom come?

Which brings us back to Doha.

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Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His regular column, "The Roving Eye," is widely read. He is an analyst for the online news channel Real News, the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and (more...)
 

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