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Vielleicht muss Obama die Verstärkung für Afghanistan verschieben / Obama May Postpone Afghan Surge

Ernsthafte Probleme bei den Nachschubrouten / Severe Problems in Supply Routes Afflict Aghanistan War Effort

Juan Cole, Professor für Geschichte des Nahen Ostens und Südasiens an der Universität von Michigan, ist einer der profiliertesten Kenner des Afghanistankrieges und des Geschehens im Iran und Irak. Auf seiner Website (www.juancole.com) veröffentlicht er (fast) täglich Analysen zur US-Politik in diesen Weltregionen, die sich durch große Klarheit und politische Parteilichkeit auszeichnen.

Im vorliegenden Text beschreibt Juan Cole die Schwierigkeiten der neuen US-Administration, die geplante Truppenverstärkung in Afghanistan in nächster Zeit durchzuführen. Hierfür gibt es vor allem zwei Hindernisse:

Einmal gibt es zunehmende Schwierigkeiten, militärisches Gerät, Waffen und Munition sowie Versorgungsgüter nach Afghanistan zu transportieren. Die Hauptroute durch Pakistan über den berühmten Khyber Pass wird immer unsicherer, die anderen umliegenden Staaten sind entweder zu abgelegen (z.B. Tadschikistan) oder politisch nicht dazu bereit (Iran). Geeignet wären lediglich Usbekistan und Kirgistan. In Usbekistan hatten die USA von 2002 bis 2005 einen Militärstützpunkt, der dann aber aufgekündigt wurde, weil das Regime befürchtete, die USA wollten in seinem Staat eine "orangene Revolution" anzetteln. Und die Regierung von Kirgistan hat dieser Tage beschlossen, die USA ebenfalls aus ihrem Land hinaus zu komplimentieren ( siehe hierzu Manas macht dicht. Zum zweiten gibt es insbesondere unter den Demokraten erhebliche Zweifel, ob eine Aufstockung der US-Truppen sinnvoll sein könne, solange das Pentagon über kein Konzept verfügt, wie der Afghanistankrieg zu einem guten Ende geführt werden könne. Befürchtungen, hier könne ein zweites Vietnam entstehen, ein unentwirrbares Schlamassel ("quagmire"), machen allenthalben die Runde.

Cole verweist in seinem Artikel mehrmals auf andere Zeitungsartikel hin, aus denen wir im Folgenden einige Originalzitate eingefügt haben (siehe die beiden Kästen) oder die wir verlinkt haben.

Obama May Postpone Afghan Surge

Severe Problems in Supply Routes Afflict Aghanistan War Effort

by Juan Cole

February 8, 2009

While the attention of the US public and the news media here has been consumed (understandably enough) by the congressional debate over the economic stimulus plan, America's war in Afghanistan has nearly collapsed because of logistical problems.

First, the Taliban destroyed a crucial bridge west of Peshawar over which NATO trucks traveled to the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan. 75% of US and NATO supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan are offloaded at the Pakistani port of Karachi and sent by truck through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. Then the Taliban burned 10 trucks carrying such materiel, to demonstrate their control over the supply route of their enemy. The Taliban can accomplish these breathtaking operations against NATO in Pakistan in large part because Pakistani police and military forces are unwilling to risk much to help distant foreign America beat up their cousins. That reluctance is unlikely to change with any rapidity.

(...) A day after blowing up a crucial land bridge, Taliban militants torched 10 supply trucks returning from Afghanistan to Pakistan on Wednesday, underscoring the insurgents' dominance of the main route used to transport supplies to Afghan-based U.S. and NATO troops.
Months of disruptions on the route from the Pakistani port of Karachi through the historic Khyber Pass have forced NATO and American military authorities to look for other transit options. About three-quarters of the supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan -- mainly food and fuel -- are ferried through Pakistan by contractors, usually poorly paid, semiliterate truckers. Many now refuse to drive the route because of the danger.
Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2009

Well, you might say, there are other ways to get supplies to Afghanistan. But remember it is a landlocked country. Its neighbors are Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Pakistan is the most convenient route, and it may be at an end. China's short border is up in the Himalayas and not useful for transport. Tajikistan is more remote than Afghanistan. The US does not have the kind of good relations with Iran that would allow use of that route for military purposes. A Turkmenistan route would depend on an Iran route, so that is out, too.

So what is left? Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, that's what.

More bad news. Kyrgyzstan has made a final decision to deny the US further use of the Manas military base, from which the US brought 500 tons of materiel into Afghanistan every month. It is charged that Russia used its new oil and gas wealth to bribe Kyrgyzstan to exclude the US, returning the area to its former status as a Russian sphere of influence. (Presumably this would also be payback for US and NATO expansion on Russia's European and Caucasian borders).

The expected shuttering of a critical US airbase in Central Asia is forcing the US to come up with a Plan B just as it was to begin shipping more troops and materiel to Afghanistan.
The flap over Kyrgyzstan's move to close the Manas Air Base reflects that country's efforts to negotiate a better aid deal for itself, but also the growing tension over US presence in the region.

The president of Kyrgyzstan announced Tuesday ( February 3) that he would no longer allow the US to use the base at Manas, and gave the US 180 days to move out. That sent US officials scrambling to smooth over tensions but also review their options for getting troops and goods into Afghanistan.
The northern supply route is important to the US and NATO because supply routes in southern Afghanistan are often attacked by Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. On Tuesday, Taliban militants blew up a land bridge near Peshawar, Pakistan, cutting off a central supply route for US-led forces in Afghanistan. The next day, militants torched 10 supply trucks returning from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

But Pentagon officials say the US will be able to maintain operations even with the closing of the base. "While we value the relationship and the arrangements, the United States would certainly be able to continue operations in Afghanistan if we did not have that facility," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday.

The Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2009

Then there was one. The US has opened negotiations with Uzbekistan, which had given Washington use of a base 2002-2005 but ended that deal after it massacred protesters at Andizhon in 2005. Some Uzbeks charged that the US had promoted an "Orange Revolution" style uprising similar to the one in the Ukraine against Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. But even if the US could get a stable relationship with Karimov, the Uzbeks are not offering to be the transit route for military materiel, only for nonlethal food, medicine and other items.

In the light of these logistical problems (which are absolutely central to the prospects for success of the Afghanistan War), and given that no clear, attainable, finite mission in Afghanistan has ever been enunciated by US civil or military leaders, it is no wonder that President Barack Obama is reported to be putting the "Afghan surge" or the sending of 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan on hold until a clearer mission can be formulated. The Times of London writes:

'The president was concerned by a lack of strategy at his first meeting with Gates and the US joint chiefs of staff last month in "the tank", the secure conference room in the Pentagon. He asked: "What's the endgame?" and did not receive a convincing answer.' and adds, 'Leading Democrats fear Afghanistan could become Obama's "Vietnam quagmire".'

This is a warning that I have voiced, in "Salon" [externer Link].

And make sure to read Tom Engelhardt's essential essay on Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires[externer Link].

Aljazeera English reports on the blocking of the supply routes in Pakistan used by NATO to send materiel to Afghanistan, by Taliban in Pakistan. Just a note on the high quality both of the report and the discussion, which includes former State Department South Asia analyst Marvin Weinbaum, former head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen (Ret.) Asad Durrani, and former Afghan/Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mulla Abdul Salam Zaeef. You would almost never get this range of opinion in expert comment on such an issue on American corporate news. Aljazeera's philosophy, of allowing all sides of an issue to be heard, seems to me far superior to the American approach of having a US centrist debate a US far-right conservative about foreign policy (typically even an American left voice is absent over here).

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

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