In August 1990, some say, the US lead coalition opened Pandora’s box a bit. The first gulf war, operation Desert Storm, was ostensibly to stop Saddam Hussein’s aggression against neighboring Kuwait. The fact that Kuwait was oil rich and that Hussein’s Iraq was already suspect to American neo-conservatives, were thought to have had greater influence on American policy than Iraq’s violation of International law.
Pandora’s box was jolted ajar a second time following 9/11. American lead troops ousted the Afghanistan “Taliban al Qaeda friendly” government and then allowed their mission of hot pursuit to morph into nation building.
But the box became fully open when the US invaded and occupied Iraq for the second time in 2003. “Mission Accomplish” which boasted of Saddam Hussein’s capture (and subsequent execution) was clearly the beginning of the Middle East unraveling.
US involvement in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadaffi, and most recently attempted unseating of Bashar al Assad all displayed clearly that the US had not learned from Iraq or Afghanistan.
This week, senior Administration officials are breathlessly describing potential military operations aimed in one way or another trying to close Pandora’s box. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said yesterday that the US military were preparing contingency plans should a Afghan political deadlock prevent a “status of forces” agreement being signed before the US troop departure date.
It should be fully expected that Taliban forces will attempt to retake the Afghan government (by force, if necessary) once US forces leave. It should be fully expected that the Taliban, like the extremists in Iraq, will commit horrific slaughters under the name of Allah in order to retake the government. Hmmm.
So, when American political leaders speak of taking the war to ISIS, or keeping a sufficient residual force in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban, their motivation is probably to prevent wholesale slaughter. A humanitarian motivation one might say. Hmmm.
As the Middle East proverb goes, “if you steal one of my chickens, I will steal two of yours”. Consequently, intervening within Middle East (Afghanistan and Pakistan too) affairs can only lead to an escalation in violence.
The wisest course of action, although not pretty, will be to withdraw and allow the locals to work out a governance solution.
Oh, I bet the more insightful policy makers wish the US had not opened Pandora’s box in the first place and wonder what the Middle East might be like today?