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US trying to replace the forever Afghan war with Syria-like hybrid war

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It appears that the US is trying hard to replace the forever war in Afghanistan with a Syria-like hybrid war, because the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Taliban has created a profound credibility problem for the US in the region, says former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar.

He pointed out that the British newspaper Daily Telegraph reported that London is considering open-ended deployment of a contingent of elite special forces to Afghanistan while New York Times has reported that General Austin S. Miller, the top American commander in Afghanistan, staying on at his post for at least a couple more weeks.

The UK is now reportedly considering the retention of an "advisory group" of elite special-forces soldiers in the country, the Telegraph reported on Friday. Citing a former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier, who until recently was stationed in Afghanistan, The Telegraph reported that the group would "provide training to Afghan units and deploy with them on the ground as advisers." The deployment will be open-ended, they said, meaning the forces would stay "as long as [the government] continue to see value" in having them stationed there.

Connecting the dots, it appears that the US is trying hard to replace the forever war in Afghanistan with a Syria-like hybrid war, according to Bhadrakumar.

Russian success

The stunning success Russia registered in ensuring the survival of the Assad regime in Syria provides a role model for the Pentagon commanders.

Thus, General Miller will "help transition the American military mission" to a hybrid war. The Pentagon has worked out an "over-the-horizon capacity" whereby American warplanes and armed Reaper drones based mainly in the Persian Gulf will participate or back up the Afghan military operations against the Taliban.

The US still hopes to reorganize the counter-terrorism capabilities and assets in the region. Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were recently invited to Washington for consultations to formulate backup plans that could allow the US to bank upon these two countries. Uzbekistan seems favorably inclined, prompting Afghan President Asharf Ghani to visit Tashkent to follow up.

In effect, Washington is seeking to reposition some forces in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which means that the first-tier troops, drones, bomber planes, and intelligence assets to be placed at bases or appropriate facilities in these Central Asian countries remain available in real time for intervention in the war against the Taliban, Bhadrakumar said, adding:

"As in Syria, local Afghan militia groups can be brought into the fight against the Taliban. Afghan warlords have worked with the Pentagon and the CIA previously. Equally, the lobby of Pentagon contractors is very influential in the Beltway and the White House is all but certain to extend their contracts. Indeed, if the strategy is seen to be working, other NATO countries can be expected to join the fray, as had happened in Syria and Iraq, embedded in the militia groups or Afghan military units.

"The strength of the Pentagon contractors is put at 18000 personnel, the bulk of whom have served in the US military previously. The activities of the Wagner Group in Libya and some African countries apparently provide an inspiring model for the Pentagon. The American media is awash with apocalyptic visions of Afghanistan's descent into civil war. This has helped generate domestic support in the US for the Pentagon and CIA's continued involvement in Afghanistan, even as President Biden extracts political mileage for ending the forever war. Simply put, a hybrid war will be a 'win-win' situation for the White House, Pentagon and the CIA and NATO."

The bottom line is that for geopolitical reasons, the US and NATO are determined to remain as the dominant foreign presence on the Afghan chessboard. Washington visualizes that the regional states Russia, China, Iran or Pakistan may have serious reservations about a long-term US / NATO presence in Afghanistan, but they will not confront the US, Bhadrakumar argued.

China, Russia opposed

Russia and China are opposed to any American military presence in the Central Asian region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has hit out at sections of Afghanistan's ruling elite who are collaborating with Washington's hybrid war plans, accusing them of trying to prolong the negotiation process and scuttle the prospects for an interim government.

"They should think about the consequences of these actions for their homeland," Lavrov said. "Russia is already holding consultations both through bilateral channels and within the Collective Security Treaty Organization to protect its neighbors in Central Asia from any direct and serious threat," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow last week. The remarks were obliquely referring to the US strategists.

But Moscow is not taking chances. Russia's Southern military district (which includes facilities in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) will receive advanced military equipment, including the Sukhoi-34 multirole aircraft. The air-defense capabilities of the Russian base in Tajikistan are being strengthened, including with deployment of the newest Verba portable anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS). President Vladimir Putin had a call with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmanov last week where he pledged all Russian support to strengthen Tajik defense capabilities.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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