On February 27, US Army General Joseph Votel blamed Russia for “playing both arsonist and firefighter, fueling tensions among all parties in Syria… then serving as an arbitrator, to resolve disputes, attempting to undermine and weaken each party’s bargaining positions.”
The United States has always introduced itself as a Messiah with the responsibility to protect. But has anyone invited Washington to demonstrate its destructive… oops, defensive strategy? So, here’s a blast from the past with Sputnik’s special selection of four countries where Washington had taken on the roles of “arsonist and firefighter,” fanning the flames and then trying to extinguish them (not so much).
In 2001, in response to the horrifying 9/11 attacks in the United States, then-president George Bush announced the Global War on terrorism and the beginning of the operation, codenamed “Enduring Freedom,” to target al-Qaeda and the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. Washington has been mired in the never-ending war for over sixteen years, and despite its initial advances during the campaign, today the Taliban controls about one-third of Afghanistan, “more territory than at any point since the US-led invasion.” But has the plight changed a bit since the launch of “Enduring Freedom”?
The US strategy in Afghanistan was in theory to train an Afghan army that could fight the terrorist groups in the country and then to withdraw. After almost seventeen years of continuous warfare, the country is still devastated, and now the situation has deteriorated further due to relentless airstrikes, a dire economic and humanitarian situation; Afghanistan has been a hotbed of terrorism and drug trafficking, and that has not changed since the Western invasion.
While Barack Obama pledged to pull troops from the war-torn country in 2014, drawing them down to 8,400 by the end of his term in December 2016, forces nonetheless remained there. And it seems that his successor Donald Trump couldn’t just let Afghanistan go, going even further in his decision to retain forces in Afghanistan and to increase the number beyond 8,400.
Former US ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald E. Neumann believed that it was Obama’s announcement that the US was “no longer at war with the Taliban” that eventually gave the movement a chance to retake control of over 70 percent of the territory, thereby prompting the Afghan government to propose to recognize the movement as a legitimate political party to quell the violence.
And – surprise, surprise – Daesh has reached Afghanistan, too, having gained a foothold “under the watch of US military and intelligence forces,” former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said. He blamed the US for supplying weapons to the group in the country, insisting that military action by foreigners would not bring peace, but would foment extremism instead.
“Military action, especially by foreign forces, will not bring peace. Afghans need to evolve a consensus to reach out to everybody, including ‘sons of the soil’ Taliban, to seek a settlement,” he suggested in October 2017.
In 2003 the George Bush Administration justified the Iraq War on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had acquired weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and thereby put in peril the whole Middle East region. The official rationale for the invasion was the need to remove “a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harbored and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world.”
Now, it is a well-known fact that the alliance backed by the US and the UK was accused of faking the evidence of WMD presence in Iraq in order to justify the invasion. Having toppled Hussein and brought the Shiites to power, the United States spurred chaos in the country that, just like Afghanistan, became a cradle of terrorism; the so-called Sons of Iraq, a group of trained rebels, sponsored by the United States, at some point became members of the most violent terrorist group in the history of humankind – Daesh, thus making the West confront a “weapon” it had created itself.
In December 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State, but the United States has not yet left the country. Probably, Washington is still dealing with the fire it started up itself. Rumor has it the US is going to relocate its troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to curb the Taliban…Déjà vu?
In the wake of the Arab spring on March 17, 2011 the UN Security Council passed a US-drafted resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya in order for Washington and its allies to save people from the dictator Muammar Gaddafi and establish democracy in the country.
“We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi—a city nearly the size of Charlotte—could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world,” Barack Obama declared, having chosen the most eloquent words to appeal to people and reassure them that he was doing the right thing.
Later, in a Fox News interview, the former president admitted that it was his “worst mistake,” referring to the aftermath of the intervention.
“Probably failing to plan for the day after, what I think was the right thing to do, in intervening in Libya.”
The overthrow of Gaddafi, who had controlled all signs of extremist discontent at home with an iron fist, a swift regime change and his brutal murder, opened a Pandora’s box of Islamist militancy, destroying the country’s statehood and turning it into a “failed state.”
What struck people the most was the reaction to the death of Gaddafi from the then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said “we came, we saw, he died.”
As a result of the West’s intervention in Libya, the country has lost its sovereignty and has been divided into several parts, with some of them flooded with militants from various groups, including Daesh; thousands of war-weary people have been displaced, others flee for Europe in their quest for a better life abroad, with many being killed in shipwrecks on their route to safe haven; while the United States, with its helpful hand, is reluctant to deal with the mess it has left behind.
Since 2014, the US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh targets in Syria without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Needless to say, Daesh has taken deep roots in Syria, having spread there from Iraq, which was also devastated by Washington.
The United States has been repeatedly accused by Syrian media and Damascus itself of targeting civilians and supporting the rebels.
“The Syrian Arab Republic urges the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility regarding establishment of international peace and security, and act immediately to stop the war crimes being committed by this alliance against the Syrian people, and ensure that they do not occur again,” two separate letters by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates addressed to UN Secretary General António Guterres and rotating President of the UN Security Council Mansour Ayyad al-Otaibi read.
What is more interesting is that while the US claims it has been supplying the rebels with weapons and military equipment, those arms have occasionally wound up in the hands of terrorist groups that eventually use them against members of the international coalition, or Russia and pro-Damascus forces.
Washington’s decisions have serious repercussions for the whole region; having announced the beginning of training a 30,000-strong border force, comprised of the Syrian Democratic Forces allegedly linked to YPG and PKK, in Syria’s Afrin, the US triggered another crisis in an already war-weary country. Turkey has launched a full-fledged military operation, expressing its strong opposition to the creation of what it described as a “terrorist army.”
At the same time, the developments in Eastern Ghouta showcase Washington’s reluctance to deal with rebels it has trained itself that have been shelling Damascus from the area, and contribute to international efforts in providing civilians with a safe escape from the war zone.