Bin Laden assassination sets stage for withdrawal from Afghanistan
April has been a bloody month for US forces in Afghanistan, with 45 Americans killed, compared to only 20 last April. And now the Taliban has announced the start of a "spring offensive" that may soon draw comparisons to the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Meanwhile US allies are doing less and less of the fighting in Afghanistan, reducing their share of casualties from 37% in early 2010 to only 25% so far this year. America is gradually being left to fight its war on its own - or not...
So the presumed assassination of Osama Bin Laden by American "spooks" in Pakistan comes at an interesting time. I say 'assassination' because it seems unlikely that the U.S. had any desire to take Bin Laden alive, and because President Obama said that he was killed after a fire-fight, not during one. This would be consistent with other U.S. 'kill or capture' operations, in which even 12-year old children have been summarily executed after being captured and flexi-cuffed by US 'special forces'.
Obama also suggested that Bin Laden's whereabouts had been known for some time, so the timing of the decision to kill him now seems noteworthy. The most serious obstacle that Obama has faced to withdrawal from Afghanistan is political. In Iraq, the "surge" created a narrative by which Americans could see the expulsion of US forces as some kind of victory. But the quest for a "victory" narrative in Afghanistan has always been more problematic, and a year of blowing up villages in Helmand and Kandahar provinces hasn't changed that.
The awkward truth facing US policy-makers on Afghanistan is that its future, like its past, lies in its relations with the great powers that surround it: China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran, not with the United States - as Brian Downing explained a few days ago in Asia Times: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/MD27Df01.html
But, after claiming for ten years that the US had vital interests in Afghanistan that were worth fighting for, how could Obama all of a sudden say that we really don't? Killing Bin Laden provides the US government with precisely the narrative it needs to justify withdrawal from Afghanistan. "We've accomplished what we set out to do. We've avenged 9/11. We can leave with honor. We don't need to occupy the country. We can kill anyone anywhere anyway."
So, if you've been treating the US war in Afghanistan as an American folly that would persist against all reason and beyond your power to stop it, this may be the time to re-engage with the peace movement, call your Member of Congress, organize locally and nationally, and hit the streets. The administration is already committed to doing or saying something in July, and, with enough pressure from the public, what they say could just be "We're out of here!"
Nicolas Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, and the local coordinator of Progressive Democrats of America in Miami (www.pdamerica.org).