Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Out Now! Bring the Troops Home

With bin Laden dead, the U.S. should change its policy

By Bill Fletcher Jr.

The Progressive, May 11, 2011

The killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden provides an opportunity for the United States to make a much-needed change in its policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The United States invaded Afghanistan because al-Qaida used that country as a base. A direct connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and the Taliban government of Afghanistan was never proven. But what was clear was that al-Qaida, the group responsible for the deed, was a network rather than a government. Invading Afghanistan was a conventional solution to a problem that was anything but conventional. It was the equivalent of proposing the bombing of Sicily in order to get rid of the Mafia.

Despite 10 years of war and occupation, the Taliban insurgency has not been defeated. If anything, it has increased in influence. The United States and its NATO allies, through an invasion and support of corrupt warlords, have turned an unpopular, theocratic, semi-fascist organization into Robin Hood’s band.

One final irony: bin Laden was killed not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan, a longtime ally of Washington, and Pakistan was directly responsible for the rise of the Taliban.

The fact that bin Laden was able to exist within Pakistan, so close to a Pakistani military installation, means that Pakistan is, at the least, ambivalent about U.S. objectives in Afghanistan.

U.S. policy in the region needs to change immediately, and it should do so in three ways.

First, Washington needs a political solution with the Taliban. The United States can’t crush the Taliban. The people of Afghanistan will need to settle accounts with the Taliban on their own.

Second, al-Qaida needs to be confronted as any other criminal network is. Drone strikes and conventional invasions are both counterproductive and ineffective.

And third, for peace to come to the region, the question of Kashmir must be settled peacefully and democratically. Lying beneath virtually every dispute in the region has been the decades-long struggle between India and Pakistan over the disposition of Kashmir, a struggle that often ignores the will of the Kashmiri people. The Pakistani ruling elite views India as its enemy, and as long as that particular conflict simmers, there is always the threat of terrorism and nuclear catastrophe in South Asia.

The Obama administration must reassess its military involvement in Afghanistan now, which has proven to be a failure. And it must broker a regional peace. Nothing less will suffice.

Bill Fletcher Jr. is a longtime racial justice, labor and international writer and activist. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the co-author of “Solidarity Divided.” He can be reached at

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