By Mohammad Mazhari

Afghanistan a failure of goals to the U.S.: ex-White House adviser

May 7, 2021 - 17:55

TEHRAN - An American academic and former advisor to the White House on Russian affairs says that Afghanistan has been a failure case to the U.S. policies.

"I see Afghanistan as a failure of goals. It was unrealistic to seek to build a stable democratic Afghanistan," John Colarusso tells the Tehran Times.

"This is a society in which tribal councils and elders have long asserted significant control."

After nearly 20 years, more than 2,300 U.S. troops dead, more than 20,000 wounded, hundreds of thousands of Afghans maimed or killed and $2 trillion spent, U.S. President Joe Biden has decided the United States has seen enough of the war in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say that all American and allied forces plan to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, the fateful date which led to the American invasion almost two decades ago. Biden's decision came as a result of nearly three months of White House analysis.
However, many political pundits rule out U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan put an end to America's endless wars.

"I do not think that American military action in various areas will cease. It might be diminished, but it will likely be re-applied in existing or new areas where American interests are threatened," Colarusso notes.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you assess Vienna talks? 

A: That these talks are happening is itself important, whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about them. 

Clearly, initial positions are hardline. But, there must be giving away from such initial posturing on both sides for the talks to proceed.

From the mixed reactions to the recently leaked tape of Foreign Minister Zarif, it is clear that factions within Iran do not want the talks to bear fruit. Similar factions exist outside Iran, both in the original five signatory nations as well as in Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

Such outside parties have concerns that must be acknowledged and ultimately addressed, but they are ancillary to the central concerns of these negotiations.

Leaking of tapes, attacks on Natanz - all of these are efforts to sabotage the talks.

But the talks have the crucial goal of limiting Iran's development of fissile uranium. Nuclear weapons are politically ambiguous: they may give a semblance of invincibility to the government possessing them, but they also make that same government into a target.
This is a dark fact that aspiring nuclear powers seem not to grasp.

Q: How do you see Biden's first 100-day? Is there any significant change?

A: President Biden has brought competence and functionality back to Washington. The pandemic is being curtailed, and its economic effects have been blunted. There is guarded optimism in the air of Washington. It is a good time for Iran to seek contact with the U.S.

Q: Do you think that China will be the greatest challenge to U.S. security, or the issue has been politicized?

A: Both. China clearly seeks to convert its wealth into political dominance in Asia. I see one serious problem: by establishing bases in the South China Sea, Beijing has destabilized a crucial trade route that it needs for its economy. Creating railways and roads will hardly compensate for this blunder. Have China's actions been politicized? Yes, to some extent, but the recent meeting in Anchorage suggests that China bears a great deal of responsibility for her image in the world's press.

Q: Do you think Biden can end the endless wars? Is Afghanistan the first step?

A: No, I do not think that American military action in various areas will cease. It might be diminished, but it will likely be re-applied in existing or new areas where American interests are threatened. 

Withdrawal from Afghanistan must be seen as an experiment. If the Taliban or al-Qaeda renew their actions in Afghanistan or elsewhere, the U.S. is likely to respond militarily once more. 

I see Afghanistan as a failure of goals. It was unrealistic to seek to build a stable democratic Afghanistan. This is a society in which tribal councils and elders have long asserted significant control. Any effort to stabilize Afghanistan had to employ this base of social control and stability, for which conventional elections seem ill-suited.

Q: Don't you think that the U.S. needs close collaboration with its rivals (China, Russia, and Iran) to fight against terror instead of fruitless confrontation?

A: Ideally, collaboration among the U.S., Russia, and China over terrorism would be in the interest of these nations. Such efforts should be conducted even against the backdrop of hostile exchanges on other matters. But, in so far as terrorist attacks are also destabilizing, there might be a temptation on the part of two of these nations to see an attack on a third as to their advantage.

So, any accord to track and fight terrorism must be done with a moral commitment that removes this possible flaw. 

I am optimistic about the links between the U.S. and Russia on this. It may be why President Biden wants a summit with President Putin. I am not qualified to express any particular opinion on the position of China with regard to this issue.

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