September 06, 2020

From Pentagon to Private Military Companies’ Reign in Kabul

B Arjun

THE US has been fighting Taliban for the last 19-years at a cost of more than $2 trillion. However, President Donald Trump believes that the Taliban might be America’s newfound ally in South Asia in bringing back peace to war-torn Afghanistan.

However, Trump’s hopes were dashed when a faction of Taliban fired roughly a dozen rockets at Camp Dwyer, a large American military base and a joint US-Afghan airfield in southern Afghanistan towards the end of August. A few months back, the US had violated the peace agreement by carrying out airstrikes on Taliban's fighters.

The latest strike by Taliban has impacted the hopes generated by Trump’s recent statements highlighting that the number of US troops in Afghanistan would be reduced from 8,600 to 4,000 by November this year.

At the beginning of Trump's presidency in 2017, there were about 10,000 US military-men in Afghanistan; this was considerably low in comparison to the 100,000 troops back in 2011-12.
Critics have blamed Trump for drawing a withdrawal timeline based on “election clock” rather than on the “Afghan clock”.

Trump is continuing with the withdrawal of troops to send a signal to the American electorate that he is committed to reducing US military’s expenditures on overseas assignments. It is also an attempt by the Trump administration to provide a modicum of stability to the shaky peace process underway in Kabul.

America and Taliban signed a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020, after one-year long negotiations between the United States negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a founding leader of the Taliban. The Afghanistan government was deliberately kept out of the peace process.

According to the agreement, the US military is committed to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by the middle of 2021. Many in the Pentagon believe that it would be difficult to meet the target. Taliban is not likely to fulfill its commitment.

The US foreign policy establishment has consistently maintained that the troop reductions in Afghanistan are dependent on the Taliban breaking its ties with international terrorist networks, especially its links with Al Qaeda.

Taliban is also expected to arrive at a viable power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government and chart a new course for the country's future. There is some progress between the government and the insurgent group as President Ashraf Ghani, has started the release of 400 Taliban prisoners, to kickstart the long-delayed peace talks.
The issue of release of prisoners was approved by Loya Jirga, a body of Afghan tribal elders in accordance with the February agreement, which stipulates that Kabul release 5,000 fighters in return for 1,000 Afghan government prisoners held by the Taliban.

It is hard to trust the US rhetoric that it intends to quit Afghanistan to save money and slip into its isolationist shell.

The American geopolitical calculus doesn’t permit complete withdrawal. The US State department and Pentagon feel that they cannot afford to leave the space for Taliban and Russians to occupy Kabul and for the Chinese to launch their infrastructure projects.  Many in the US establishment allege that Russia has been offering “bounties” to Afghan insurgents to kill US soldiers.
The US will not leave Afghanistan, especially at a time when the geopolitics in the region is becoming more pronounced with Iran, Russia and China combining to extend their influence in Central Asia. The US is likely to employ more private militia and intelligence gathering technologies to control the Afghan security forces and to maintain its primacy in Kabul. According to experts at the Brookings Institute, American may operate “two or three major airfields and hubs of operations for intelligence, airpower, and special forces/commandos – at Bagram near Kabul in the nation’s centre, near Kandahar in the south, and perhaps around either Khost or Jalalabad in the east.”


The talk about ‘withdrawal’ obfuscates the fact that Afghanistan is witnessing transfer of power from the Pentagon to private military contractors. According to reports during Trump presidency, the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan increased by more than 65 per cent .Currently, in Afghanistan there are more than 6000 private militia, employed by the US private military companies.

The US has blatantly used the Iraq and Afghan wars to introduce private security companies in the organised violence matrix, by giving contracts to corporations to not only provide logistic services to the US military but also to participate and conduct combat operations.

The encouragement offered by the US-State to the private military companies has emboldened them to such an extent that Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (now Academi, had become infamous for killing civilians in Iraq) has proposed to the US government to restructure the war in Afghanistan and hand over complete operations to mercenaries, including air operations.

Many in the Afghanistan government including President Ashraf  Ghani have outrightly rejected  Prince’s plan to privatise war on Afghani soil. He has even refused to meet Prince during his visits to Kabul.

Eric Prince, a former US navy officer has a net worth of $ 2.4 billion. His sister Betsy DeVos is married to former Amway CEO Dick DeVos, one of the biggest financiers of right-wing conservatives in America. In an article in USA Today, Prince “pointed to the East India Company during British colonisation as a source of emulation for US policy in Afghanistan”. There is a growing belief in the USA that if the British could control India with just 2000 officers then why can’t Americans run their colonies in the age of technology with minimal staff.

Recently, the US Department of Justice proudly announced that it carried out the “largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran” and stole “approximately 1.116 million barrels of petroleum” without using the US military. This act of piracy was approved by a US district court judge in Washington, using the pretext that the oil is an asset that enhances the influence of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a legitimate military arm of the Iranian state, which the US government has unilaterally declared as a terrorist organisation.

The US is hell-bent on destroying the rule-based international order, undermining the international institutions. The US ruling elite, intends to take the world to the next level of capitalism where private corporations will be authorised to indulge in plunder at sea and also to colonise countries on behalf of the US Congress.

The dominant elite in India, who refuse to acknowledge the presence of the US empire, is blissfully unaware of the speed at which US oligarchs are changing the rules of the game, under the garb of promoting cultural nationalism and fighting the  Chinese “expansionism”.