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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ben Laden est mort, vive la guerre

by Dominique Bari

Bin Laden Is Dead, Long Live the War

Translated Wednesday 11 May 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Despite the elimination of the leader of Al Qaeda, Washington and its Western vassals are issuing more and more statements on their intention to pursue the military occupation of Afghanistan.

Bin Laden’s death does not mean “the end of the war” in Afghanistan. Hardly had the death of the leader of Al Qaeda been announced when the strategists in the Pentagon, at NATO and among their Paris partners, threw cold water on the last illusions; they confirmed that the final aim of the endless Afghan conflict is a lasting occupation of the country, which is a key position for control of the region and its wealth. The raison d’être for a Western military presence in Afghanistan is just as pressing today, and it will only grow in the coming years. Henceforth, Washington’s concern is to prepare the modalities of that presence with what it considers to be the best allies and actors on the ground.

It’s a delicate operation for Barack Obama. His Afghan strategy, which rests at one and the same time on an increased military reinforcement of 30,000 men, the promise of a small withdrawal beginning in the summer of 2011, and above all on the renewal of dialogue with the Taliban courtesy of Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been sternly rejected by American public opinion. According to an ABC network opinion poll conducted last week, 49% of Americans say they are unhappy with the strategy, as against 41% in January 2011. This general worry has spread to the very heart of the American administration, where legislators who formerly backed Obama compare it to “a sewer filled with blood and capital.”

A strategy of trickery.

It goes without saying that operation “Geronimo” (!) was to polish the blazon of the White House. For all that, Obama’s aims in the region are in the direct line of American policy for the past twenty years: following the implosion of the USSR, it was a question of gaining control of Central Asia and its oil and natural gas riches, to which must be added the enormous reserves in raw materials and minerals which are said to be found in Afghanistan itself. Once this is established, the pretexts put forward by Bush – the struggle against international terrorism and the re-establishment of democracy following the fall of Mullah Omar’s regime – pretexts to justify the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and to persist in a war without any serious political solution nearly ten years after the first strikes on Kabul —throw the light of day on a strategy of trickery aimed at Western public opinion. These pretexts are not refuted by the present administration, but rather reaffirmed under cover of words that are less violent but are every bit as determined.

And for Washington, the end justifies the means, and Obama, like his predecessors, does not look too closely today into the motives of his discussion partners. As long as they cooperated with the American administration in exporting the oil resources of Central Asia and as long as an agreement for the building of an oil pipeline across Afghanistan within five years seemed possible, the White House accommodated Taliban fundamentalism and let enquiries into Bin Laden’s activities drag on.

A decade and several thousand deaths later, renewing discussions with the representatives of the old Mullah Omar regime poses no problem of conscience for George Bush’s successor. The United Nations has effectively taken itself out of the running by giving the green light in September 2001 to military intervention, which the Security Council recognized as a “legitimate defense” operation. The International Security Assistance Force troops came under NATO command in 2003. NATO will help Obama to effect a phoney withdrawal of his fighting troops, which will be re-christened “training personnel” or “security backup forces.” That is to say, a carbon copy of the way the United States staged its retreat from Iraq, and which wound up with permanent bases staffed with GIs.

At NATO’s Lisbon summit last December, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO general secretary, was clear on Western intentions. “We will remain after the transition in a support role… We will stay as long as necessary to finish the job.” And there is no deadline for this job.

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