The role of Afghanistan and North Korea
Part 1 of this series can be ‘accessed ‘ here. This is Part 2.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]C[/dropcap]ritics of Pentagon’s policy in Afghanistan are questioning America’s role in the country. They argue that Afghanistan has consumed more money than Europe after World War II. The Afghan war is the longest in American history. The enemy, mainly the Taliban, are Orthodox Muslims who make nation-building extremely difficult. Instead of pouring money into Afghanistan, American cities are unsafe and need money to re-build. The American public is weary of perpetual war.
Trump’s explanation for sending more troops, about 5000, to Afghanistan was that it was next to a nuclear power
However, there are sound reasons for an American presence in Afghanistan. Gulbuddin Hekmatyr’ view that all foreigners should leave Afghanistan and let the Afghans rule themselves is valid in principle but not in practice. Former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rakesh Sood has documented the success story. Of the 408 districts, 258 or 63.3% are in the hands of the Afghan Government in 2016 and 70% of the population live here.
Insurgents control just 8% of the districts, mainly in the south, while 28% are contested. Life expectancy has risen from 40 in 2002 to 62 today. Literacy has risen substantially from 12% to 34% in just 15 years.26 Snow adds that tax revenue has increased steadily by 22%. The Government is courting foreign investment by Iran and India for the development of the port, Chabahar; the oil pipeline, TAPI, is going ahead linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India; China has a railroad linking Nantong to Hairitan in Afghanistan.27 Trump asked President Ashraf Ghani what opportunities there were for American companies, especially in the mining industry.
Trump’s explanation for sending more troops, about 5000, to Afghanistan was that it was next to a nuclear power. A more recent decision was to send 3,000 troops and the decision on the level of troops should be with the Pentagon, not the White House. American presence would stop Afghanistan losing its national status. Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence in curbing the aggressive Taliban by denying them safe haven in their country. And, Trump wants India to nullify Pakistan’s power in Afghanistan by increasing its presence there. India has already invested more than $2 billion in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. India’s assistance has extended to military training. Consequently, Trump through his Defense Secretary General Mathis wants to come out on top of this balance of power, knowing full well that Russia also sees the country as access to the Indian Ocean.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]ombing insurgent tunnels with the “Mother of all Bombs” (MOAB) was a sign of frustration, meant to send a signal to the region that the current US Commander in Chief would punish his opponents severely. Although ISIS lost 36 men in its ISIS-K tunnel complex in Aclin district, Nangarhar province, it would thicken its defenses and use the right ammunition. It is small comfort that the Afghan Government was informed of the MOAB drop.28 But former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the bombing “an atrocity” against humanity, which it was since the US gained no territorial advantage.
As expected, the Taliban retaliated just 8 days after MOAB was used. The Taliban attacked the Afghan Army Corp headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif. Two hundred Afghan soldiers died. Foreign soldiers escaped as they were in another area. The Afghan Defense Minister and Army Chief had to resign. If the complaint that the Russians are supplying arms to the insurgents were true, it would resemble the fact that the US and its allies were arming “moderate” rebels in Syria and Yemen. 29 The most significant aspect of this counter-attack was that the insurgents timed it when the soldiers were unarmed, at prayer. The attackers had Afghan uniforms, arms and motor vehicles which might indicate that the attackers had inside contacts. The British could not control the Pashtuns, nor will Trump, it appears.
General McMaster’s declared Grand Strategy for Afghanistan is to “subsidize Afghan defense and policy programs.” This would mean that the US would continue to spend another $23 billion a year on the country, instead of withdrawing completely, as Trump wanted in his pre-President days.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]R[/dropcap]resident Trump thought that he could intimidate North Korea into submission. As a nuclear state it was violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty and threatening the US and its neighbours with nuclear tests: between the end of April and the beginning of May, the world was expecting North Korea to carry out its sixth nuclear test and a .5 megaton thermonuclear underground explosion.30 North Korea has dozens of surface- to-surface ballistic missiles including the CC-21 with a 160 km range. This means that 49K and 28K US troops in Japan and South Korea respectively are at risk; some will be moved to Guam, Hawaii and Australia.31
North Korea’s anxiety is to a certain extent understandable. The US has imposed various sanctions against it, and sanctions are an act of war, according to the North Koreans
The Russians also claim that North Korea has KH-08 ballistic missiles that can reach North America.32 Emulating China, North Korea has started building militarized islands at Sohae, 70 miles north-west of the capital. Whereas it is easy to see the strategic value of the Chinese islands, it is difficult to decipher the value of the North Korean, as there is not much territorial gain.
North Korea’s anxiety is to a certain extent understandable. The US has imposed various sanctions against it, and sanctions are an act of war, according to the North Koreans. The US, with its allies, have conducted “offensive reconnaissance” and naval drills, like the recent Foale Eagle, near the Demilitarized zone. One of the largest subs carrying 150 Tomahawks is docked in South Korea. The US has planted THAAD – A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System – in South Korea. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, most Japanese are opposed to participating in a nuclear war, yet the leadership talks of a pre-emptive strike against North Korean missile bases.33 South Korea depends on US military support, yet it has refused to pay $1 billion and 2% of it GDP, that Trump demands. South Korea declared that it is bound by its original contract which is offering US forces land for protection.34 Trump wanted South Korea and Japan, jointly, to attack North Korea.
Since South Korea is immediately in harm’s way, Japanese residents in South Korea started evacuations. About 25% of Pyongyang’s residents, too, have been evacuated from the capital; the rest would take shelter in bunkers. That’s how great the fear is!
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]E[/dropcap]ven though the US can easily win the war against North Korea, the nuclear fallout is sufficiently dangerous for Trump to rely on diplomacy. His statement that he would be “honored” to talk to Kim Jong Un showed this preference even though the use of the word, ‘honoured’ was controversial in the US. Since China supplied 90% of North Korea’s basic needs, Trump felt that China should apply pressure on Kim Jong Un.
China did bend slightly towards US pressure by requesting North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. But China received a barrage of warnings from Kim Jong Un: China was “stomping on a red line;” and, it was “dancing to the tune of the US;” North Korea’s State Security said on Friday, May 5, 2017 that it would “ferret out and meticulously destroy the terrorists in the CIA and South Korea’s Intelligence for targeting its Supreme Leader.” Associated Press reported that a North Korean student in Russia was ideologically corrupted and bribed to use a “radioactive and nano-poisonous” substance against Kim Jong Un, 35 much like Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in Britain. The English papers in North Korea are full of articles about the threat to eliminate the Great Leader which is part of the strategy to bring Kim “to his senses.”
General McMaster has updated the original Operative Plan 5027 to destroy North Korea. The new Operation Plan 5015 will consolidate old plans, aim for fewer casualties, use guerilla warfare and embody a pre-emptive strike.36 Generals warn that a war seldom operates according to plan A, B, or C, but by Plan D. In this case, China might enter the fray as it did in the Korea War (June 1950-July 1953). The US is using the carrot and stick strategy to reign in Kim Jong Un: while wanting diplomacy, it increased its sanctions, placed an embargo on oil shipments, and demanded to inspect ships in Russian ports near North Korea. Japan’s constitution forbids it to arm itself for a full-scale war, yet its leaders want to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korean launching sites.37 The general populace in both, South Korea and Japan, were furious to hear that their countries were on the verge of a nuclear war.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]outh Korea’s new liberal President seems to offer the US an opportunity to solve the North Korean dilemma. Moon Jae-in is the son of refugees from the North and he won the Presidency by 41.1%. in the May 2017 elections. His aim is to lower tensions among China, the US, and North Korea. Internally he wants to reduce the strong bonds between business and government, and reduce the power of family-owned conglomerates called chaebols. He is against the American defense system called THAAD on South Korean soil; this would please China and North Korea. He is willing to talk with Kim Jong Un and ease tension between the two Koreas. Moon is willing to travel to any of the relevant capitals to achieve his goals. McMaster could solve his problems in North Korea if he worked closely with the Blue House.38
To be continued…
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
- “Elder of Mt. Athos gives frightening prediction for evil to destroy mankind,” pravdareport.com, 26.4.17.
- Maria Dubovikova, “The Syrian imbroglio,” arabnews.com, 25.4.17.
- James O’ Neill, Iran is the linchpin of Russia’s ‘post-west’ order,” russiainsider.com, 11.3.17.
- Rudy Panko, “Lavrov tells it right to Pence’s smug face: Russia will end US-led world order,” russiainsider.com, 18.2.17.
- “Russian FM lavrov: the world is on the edge of destruction,” pravda.ru, 25.4.17.
- Harriet Sinclair, “Elizabeth Warren slams Trump’s ‘erratic’ decision to launch a missile strike against the Syrian regime,” International Business Time, 2.4.17.
- “World War III in the making: North Korea makes final warning,” pravdareport.com, 14.4.17.
- RI Staff, “Haley: US planning on regime change in Syria,” russiainsider.com, 9.4.17.
- WNED TV broadcasts.
- RI Staff, “Israel makes it official: the destruction of Syria will legitimize Israeli land grabs,” russiainsider.com, 24.4.17.
- Jason Ditz, “Trump’s National Security Adviser wants to send 50,000 troops to Syria,” russiainsider.com, 14.4.17.
- “Only 23 US cruise missiles reached their target – Russian Defense Ministry,” pravdareport.com, 7.4.17; see also Harriet Sinclair, “Elizabeth Warren slams Trump’s ‘erratic’ decision to launch a missile strike against the Syrian regime,” International Business Time, 2.4.17.
- Jason Easley, “Trump’s Secretary of State admits Syria missile strike was a bogus charade,” Sun, politcususa.com, 9.4.17.
- Sinclair, op. cit.
- Nancy O’Brien Simpson, “Who gassed the Syrian children?” pravdareport.com, 7.4.17.
- RI Staff, “Russian Defense Ministry: White Helmets staged sarin gas attack videos,” russiainsider.com, 18.4.17.
- RI Staff, “Lavrov dismantles UK-led sarin investigation in 30 seconds,” russiainsider.com, 25.4.17.
- Simpson, op. cit.
- “Russia vetoes draft resolution submitted by UK, France and US – Al Jaafari: the US is pushing terrorist war on Syria towards dangerous levels,” sana.sy, 12.4.17.
- Joyce Karan, “Russia, Turkey take ownership of resolving Syrian conflict,” dailySabah, 30.12.16.
- “War ended: Russia withdraws troops from peaceful Syria,” pravdareport.com, 29.12.16; see also “The new axis: Russia-Turkey-Iran take over Syria,” themosocwtimes.com, December 30, 2016.
- “Serbian military willing to clear mines in Syria – Serbian Defense Minister,” russianinsder.com, 26.4.17.
- AP, “Russia, Iran, Turkey sign on de-escalation zones in Syria,” arabnews.com, 4.5.17.
- Rakesh Sood, “Afghanistan, India, Trump,” thehindu.com, 28.12.16.
- Shawn Snow, “President Trump and the war in Afghanistan: what you need to know,” thediplomat.com, 21.11.16.
- “Afghan government was in the loop when GBU-43 was dropped on ISIS target in Afghanistan,” khamma press, 14.4.17.
- M.K. Bhadrakumar, “US can’t handle the heat in Afghanistan, lashing out at Russia,” russiainsider.com, 26.4.17.
- “North Korea readies to conduct a ‘.5 megaton thermonuclear explosion,’” pravda.ru, 24.4.17.
- Ryan Browne, “Top General: Cheaper to keep troops in South Korea than in US,” cnn.com, 21.4.16.
- Lyuba Lulko, “If North Korea strikes, the West will shudder,” pravdareport.com, 24.8.14.
- “Tokyo demands right to bomb North Korea,” pravdareport.com, 30.3.17.
- Katherine Moon, “Trump can’t deter North Korea’s nuclear efforts. What’s the end game?” theglobeandmail.com, 30.4.17.
- AP, “North Korea accuses US, South Korea of bio-chemical plot against Kim Jong Un,” torontosun.com, 5.5.17.
- “Hackers (in North Korea) steal plan of US war against North Korea,” pravda.ru, 4.4.17.
- “Tokyo demands right to bomb North Korea,” pravda.ru, 30.3.17.
- Ju-min & Christine Kim, “New South Korea president vows to address North Korea broader tension urgently,” reuters.com, 10.5.17.