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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/12/21

America's Afghan War Is Over, So What About Iraq - and Iran?

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by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies

At Bagram air-base, Afghan scrap merchants are already picking through the graveyard of U.S. military equipment that was until recently the headquarters of America's 20-year occupation of their country. Afghan officials say the last U.S. forces slipped away from Bagram in the dead of night, without notice or coordination.

The Taliban are rapidly expanding their control over hundreds of districts, usually through negotiations between local elders, but also by force when troops loyal to the Kabul government refuse to give up their outposts and weapons.

A few weeks ago, the Taliban controlled a quarter of the country. Now it's a third. They are taking control of border posts and large swathes of territory in the north of the country. These include areas that were once strongholds of the Northern Alliance, a militia that prevented the Taliban from unifying the country under their rule in the late 1990s.

Taliban Claims It Controls 85% of Afghanistan Territory Taliban officials on Friday said the group controlled most of Afghanistan's territory
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People of good will all over the world hope for a peaceful future for the people of Afghanistan, but the only legitimate role the United States can play there now is to pay reparations, in whatever form, for the damage it has done and the pain and deaths it has caused. Speculation in the U.S. political class and corporate media about how the U.S. can keep bombing and killing Afghans from "over the horizon" should cease. The U.S. and its corrupt puppet government lost this war. Now it's up to the Afghans to forge their future.

So what about America's other endless crime scene, Iraq? The U.S. corporate media only mention Iraq when our leaders suddenly decide that the over 150,000 bombs and missiles they have dropped on Iraq and Syria since 2001 were not enough, and dropping a few more on Iranian allies there will appease some hawks in Washington without starting a full-scale war with Iran.

But for 40 million Iraqis, as for 40 million Afghans, America's most stupidly chosen battlefield is their country, not just an occasional news story. They are living their entire lives under the enduring impacts of the neocons' war of mass destruction.

Young Iraqis took to the streets in 2019 to protest 16 years of corrupt government by the former exiles to whom the United States handed over their country and its oil revenues. The 2019 protests were directed at the Iraqi government's corruption and failure to provide jobs and basic services to its people, but also at the underlying, self-serving foreign influences of the United States and Iran over every Iraqi government since the 2003 invasion.

A new government was formed in May 2020, headed by British-Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, previously the head of Iraq's Intelligence Service and, before that, a journalist and editor for the U.S.-based Al-Monitor Arab news website.Despite his Western background, al-Kadhimi has initiated investigations into the embezzlement of $150 billion in Iraqi oil revenues by officials of previous governments, who were mostly former Western-based exiles like himself. And he is walking a fine line to try to save his country, after all it has been through, from becoming the front line in a new U.S. war on Iran.

Recent U.S. airstrikes have targeted Iraqi security forces called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which were formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State (IS), the twisted religious force spawned by the U.S. decision, only ten years after 9/11, to unleash and arm Al Qaeda in a Western proxy war against Syria.

The PMFs now comprise about 130,000 troops in 40 or more different units. Most were recruited by pro-Iranian Iraqi political parties and groups, but they are an integral part of Iraq's armed forces and are credited with playing a critical role in the war against IS.

Western media represent the PMFs as militias that Iran can turn on and off as a weapon against the United States, but these units have their own interests and decision-making structures. When Iran has tried to calm tensions with the United States, it has not always been able to control the PMFs. General Haider al-Afghani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer in charge of coordinating with the PMF, recently requested a transfer out of Iraq, complaining that the PMFs are paying no attention to him.

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Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace and author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. 

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