Dutch government deports Afghan refugee to war

This 2015 Associated Press video says about itself:

Report criticises US for failing to investigate Afghan civilian deaths

The US failed to properly investigate civilian killings, including possible war crimes, which occurred during its military operations in Afghanistan, the international rights group Amnesty International claimed on Monday.

A toughly-worded report by the group focused on 10 incidents between 2009 and 2013 that it said saw 140 civilians killed during US military operations.

Amnesty said the vast majority of family members it interviewed said they had never been interviewed by US military investigators.

Most of the incidents involved airstrikes and night raids carried out by US forces.

Both tactics have sparked heated criticism from Afghan civilians and the government who say the US doesn’t take enough care to prevent civilian deaths.

Two of the cases – one in Paktia province in 2010 and another in Wardak province from November 2012 to February 2013 – involved “abundant and compelling evidence of war crimes,” the report said.

Nicola Duckworth from Amnesty International told a news conference in Kabul that they needed to “ensure that justice and accountability were obtained with the victims now and they are not simply issues that are confined as a legacy of past.”

Qand Agha, a former detainee,claimed that US special forces had killed people in front of his very eyes.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

An Afghan asylum seeker who has worked as an interpreter for the United States army for thirteen years is in danger of being deported by the Netherlands to Afghanistan. Pro-refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk wants the man to stay here because he would be in great danger in Afghanistan; he is in the crosshairs of the Taliban and ISIS.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) acknowledges that the man worked as an interpreter for foreign troops in Afghanistan, but that is not enough to be allowed to stay in the Netherlands. “The IND asks for something more. You have to prove that you are being searched for specifically and that is of course very difficult,” says Jan van der Werff of Vluchtelingenwerk.

Secretive CIA-funded militia accused of war crimes in Afghanistan: here.

Kabul government army kills Afghan wedding guests

This 23 September 2019 video says about itself:

A number of civilians have been killed in an air raid and ground assault … by Afghan special forces in the southern Helmand province.

There were conflicting reports on the number of people killed and wounded in the operation on Sunday night in Musa Qala district …

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reports live from Kabul.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Dozens of people killed at wedding after Afghan army attack

In the Afghan province of Helmand, around forty guests at a wedding died in an attack by the Afghan army. At least thirteen wedding-goers were injured.

The guests were gathered in the bride’s house; the target of the attack was a house nearby. The Afghan authorities claim it was used by the Taliban to train suicide bombers.

According to Reuters news agency, a source in the US military reports that it was an operation against al-Qaeda.

So, contradicting the Kabul authorities’ ‘Taliban’ claim.

United States warmonger Trump sacks warmonger Bolton

This 11 September 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

John Bolton has been fired! Ana Kasparian, Emma Vigeland, and John Iadarola, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Trump fires Bolton as national security advisor

11 September 2019

President Trump fired his national security advisor John Bolton Monday morning in an action revealing the deepening crisis of the administration and bitter conflicts within official Washington after a series of foreign policy debacles.

Trump made the announcement on Twitter only minutes after the White House had announced an afternoon press conference for Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, where they were to discuss new financial sanctions on “terrorist” groups and their alleged supporters.

The suddenness of the decision and the acrimonious character of Trump’s tweets—as well as Bolton’s claim that he had resigned and not been fired—testify to the intensity of the internal disputes within the White House.

It is clear that longstanding differences between Trump and Bolton came to a head last week over a planned agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was to be ratified at a secret weekend meeting with Taliban representatives and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David.

Trump revealed plans for the meeting only after publicly canceling it, again via Twitter, on Saturday. While the president claimed the cancellation was provoked by a Taliban car bombing that killed a US soldier last Thursday, it is now clear that it was conflict in Washington, not Kabul, that led to the meeting being called off.

The Washington Post reported August 30 that Bolton was being excluded from administration councils on Afghanistan because of his opposition to any deal with the Taliban:

His opposition to the diplomatic effort in Afghanistan has irritated President Trump, these officials said, and led aides to leave the National Security Council out of sensitive discussions about the agreement…

Bolton’s isolation on Afghanistan became particularly apparent last month when the president’s top officials descended on Trump’s New Jersey golf resort to discuss the peace deal that would be presented to Afghan and Taliban officials in Kabul and Doha, Qatar, US officials said. In addition to the president, the August 16 meeting included Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper; Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Vice President Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; CIA Director Gina Haspel; and [chief US negotiator in Afghanistan Zalmay] Khalilzad. Bolton was not originally invited out of concern that his team would oppose the agenda and leak the details later, several officials said.

Media reports after the firing suggested that Bolton was believed to be the source of leaks to the press about the internal divisions over Afghanistan, and that he had particularly angered Trump by suggesting that Vice President Mike Pence was also opposed to the deal with the Taliban. At least one press report last week said Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo were no longer talking.

Bolton is the Trump administration official most closely identified with a policy of combining military intervention, economic sanctions and diplomatic threats to achieve regime-change in a series of countries long targeted by Washington, including Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. He was one of the most vociferous warmongers in the administration of George W. Bush and remains an adamant defender of the US invasion and occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to numerous press reports, Bolton pushed hard for the policy of regime-change in Venezuela on which the Trump administration embarked in January, declaring the little-known Juan Guaido the legitimate president and seeking to instigate a military coup against President Nicolas Maduro. Eight months on, Maduro remains in power and Trump has reportedly lost faith in the effort, which has not brought the quick political victory that Bolton apparently promised.

Trump and Bolton also parted company over Iran policy, as Trump decided, only 10 minutes before the missiles were to be fired, not to launch strikes against Iran after Revolutionary Guard forces shot down an unmanned US drone over Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Bolton was also reportedly opposed to Trump’s decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea on June 30, where Trump took a symbolic step across the border into North Korean territory.

The firing of Bolton is in no sense a turn by Trump away from the use of military force to achieve his foreign policy goals. It is only a month since Trump mused that he could win victory in Afghanistan in a matter of days if he were willing to kill 10 million people—an indication of the types of discussions being held in the White House.

The initial Democratic Party response to Bolton’s firing was focused largely on concerns that the evident disarray in the White House might do damage to the interests of American imperialism around the world. The instability of the Trump administration is reflected in its turnover, with three national security advisors, two secretaries of state, three secretaries of defense and acting chiefs in a half dozen top positions.

Bolton served only 17 months as national security advisor, following Gen. H. R. McMaster (13 months) and retired Gen. Michael Flynn (23 days). One press commentary calculated that, counting the acting national security advisors who stepped in for Flynn and now Bolton, Trump has had five national security advisors in less than three years, while presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama combined had seven national security advisors in 24 years.

The conflict between Trump and Bolton is not a struggle between “hawks” and “doves” within the administration. It is part of a conflict over imperialist strategy that has dominated Washington for the past three years.

Trump has tended to view the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which he inherited from Bush and Obama, as distractions from his central focus on the threat posed to American economic dominance by China. His policies of trade warfare and military provocation in the South China Sea, as well as his overtures to North Korea, are interrelated parts of his anti-China focus.

But the US foreign policy establishment as a whole, including its Democratic wing, views Afghanistan as a decisive test of American global leadership. Its loss, like that of Vietnam, would, in their view, have a shattering impact on the worldwide position of American imperialism.

The United States has been involved in Afghanistan for more than 40 years, since the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter began mobilizing Islamic fundamentalist guerillas who later gave rise to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. President Obama called Afghanistan the “good war”—as opposed to Iraq—and escalated the conflict by deploying more than 100,000 American troops.

Trump proceeds on a transactional basis, feeling he can “do a deal” with the Taliban, Kim Jong-un, even the Iranian theocracy, with the right mixture of carrots and sticks. The Democrats, like Bolton, oppose a deal that would in effect turn over Kabul to the Taliban in exchange for a promise of “good behavior”.

Substantial sections of the foreign policy establishment believe such a policy undermines the central strategic aim animating American foreign policy for decades: domination of the Eurasian landmass. This underlies the Democratic Party’s demand to escalate the conflict with Russia and its commitment to war in Afghanistan. Regardless of what the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates say, they have no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan. In this, the Democrats are closer to Bolton’s foreign policy than they are to Trump’s.

Since Trump entered the White House, and even before, the opposition of the Democratic Party has been focused on his desire to pull back in the Middle East, particularly Syria, in order to refocus US efforts on China. Trump sought agreement with Russia on this course, and the Democrats fomented the bogus anti-Russian campaign, including the Mueller investigation, to brand any retreat from confrontation with Russia as treason. The question of reaching a settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan has brought the conflicts over the direction of US foreign policy to a head.

The author also recommends:

Trump breaks off talks on end to US war in Afghanistan
[9 September 2019]

BOLTON’S SUCCESSOR: ISLAMOPHOBIC TIES After Trump abruptly fired John Bolton on Tuesday, Charles Kupperman was selected to be the acting national security adviser. Hours later, a leading Muslim civil rights group called on Kupperman to resign over his longstanding ties to an incendiary Islamophobic think tank. [HuffPost]

Donald Trump continues Afghan war

This 7 September 2019 video from the USA is called Trump‘s Afghan ‘Withdrawal’ Leaves 9k Troops There.

Meanwhile, that non-withdrawal ‘withdrawal’ is off as well.

From Al Jazeera today:

Trump cancels Taliban talks: What does it mean for Afghanistan?

US president says he called off secret meetings with the Taliban and Afghan president, cancels peace negotiations.

Trump breaks off talks on end to US war in Afghanistan: here.

Trump And The US Ruling Class Up To Their Necks In The Afghan Quagmire: here.

Observe 9/11 Anniversary by Calling for an End to the Afghan War: here.

Dying Dutch girl saves Afghan refugee’s life, education

Afghan refugee girl Derakshan Beekzada, now a doctor, photo Linelle Deunk

This photo shows Afghan refugee, Derakshan Beekzada, who recently became a doctor. Her Dutch friend Maartje saved Derakshan’s life and education when she was a teenager; when the Dutch government tried to deport her refugee family back to the Afghan war.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant, 27 November 2018, by Ellen de Visser:

Living instead of Maartje

In 2004, 14-year-old Maartje knew: she is dying. Her friend Derakshan is in danger of being deported. Maartje writes a letter to Minister Rita Verdonk,

a bureaucratic and xenophobic right-winger

whether Derakshan would not be allowed to stay if Maartje would no longer be there. Fourteen years later, Derakshan, in the Netherlands, makes Maartje’s dream come true.

In the fall of 2004, just after she heard that the cancer was back, 14-year-old Maartje van Winkel wrote a letter to Minister Verdonk in which she transfered her place in life. She will die, she will not live for much longer, so a place is available for her Afghan friend Derakshan.

Maartje's letter to minister Verdonk about her friend Derakshan, from Judith Koorn's collection

Five years earlier, Derakshan and her parents and brother came to the Netherlands, fleeing the Taliban, but now she has been told that she must go back. She burst into tears in the classroom.

Two girlfriends, who both know how dangerous their lives are: the timid Derakshan, headscarf knotted under the chin, who still has to find her way, who startles when a man sits down next to her on the bus, at the Breukelen high school befriended the cheerful Maartje who gives her the feeling that she is welcome. After years of war, Derakshan knows what it feels like to face death; Maartje, defenseless against a disease that slowly destroys her, wants to make sure that her friend does have a future.

It is the year in which the conflict about the Dutch gpvernment’s asylum policy started. The government has agreed with Minister for Immigration Affairs Rita Verdonk’s plan to return 26 thousand asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies to their country of origin. The decision leads to demonstrations, resistance by mayors, moving letters, protests by villages, school classes, football teams. Under the title “26 thousand faces”, Dutch filmmakers film asylum seekers who are in danger of being deported, short films broadcast by the public broadcaster.

Derakshan is one of those 26 thousand faces. When the Jeugdjournaal (Youth News) TV show hears about the letter, the story of the two girlfriends becomes national news. On Christmas Eve, a heavily emaciated Maartje, a pink scarf around the bald head, looks into the television camera from the bed in her girl’s room. “Derakshan could take my place if I will be no longer there”, she says. “I always wanted to be a doctor, so she can do that for me.” After the broadcast, 700 letters arrive at the Jeugdjournaal.

It is a reason for the minister to travel a month later to the coucil house home in Maarssen for a personal inquiry. Outside on the street, with a curious cat on the windowsill, the Jeugdjournaal catches her after the conversation. Verdonk understands the emotions, she says. “But we also have laws in the Netherlands. Derakshan has been safe here for a number of years and she can now return to Afghanistan.”

Three months later, on a Monday morning in April, Maartje dies, unaware of the future of her best friend.

Thirteen years later, a weekday afternoon in April, a full lecture hall at the Emma Children’s Hospital in Amsterdam. The same hospital where Maartje, after months of hope, once heard the fatal diagnosis: department F8 Noord, pediatric oncology. Her friends are there. The former neighbours. The vice-president of her school. Nurses from then. The radiotherapist who is already retired. The doctor. The music teacher from her old school wears the framed portrait that has hung with him in the classroom for so long.

Judith Koorn, the mother of Maartje, presents the book that she wrote about the life of her daughter, the heartbreaking story of a girl who, for all her inexplicable complaints, was not taken seriously for far too long. There were doctors who thought she was begging for attention, who referred her to a psychiatrist. When a thorough orthopedist finally had an MRI scan made, it turned out to be too late, there was a tumour in her spine that had caused metastases. The disease showed its cruel side, the cancer ran wild, Maartje had to endure a horrible dying process.

Just before she died, she told about her fear that no one would ever mention her name again. Her mother writes that everything she had said and had done might be erased over time. But ask her doctor, ask the teachers at her school, the doctors who treated her, the presenter of the Jeugdjournaal, the girls from her class, and the fellow villager who left a letter on her grave, and they all tell the same thing: that they have learned so much from Maartje. …

“When she realized that her world was finite, she wondered what else she could do.”

“She could think beyond her own illness”, recalls Liesbeth Staats, presenter of the Jeugdjournaal at the time. “She knew she wasn’t going to make it but she remained clear and sober. Derakshan had to go back and the argument in the asylum discussion was always: there is no place here. Maartje’s response was: then I give up my place, literally, then she can get my social security number and later my scholarship, she doesn’t have to cost anything. There was nothing to argue against that except that Verdonk said no.”…

Derakshan Beekzada, photo Linelle Deunk

Maartje’s legacy has been decisive for one young woman. She sits in the front right of the lecture room that afternoon, attentively and confidently, the long dark hairs loose around her face: Derakshan Beekzada, 29, has made her best friend’s dream come true. Every day she accompanies cancer patients as a doctor at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, the story of her friend is in the back of her mind. “I dedicate my success to her”, she says. “Much later I read her letter, she wrote: I’m dying, can she be me? It can still silence me.”

Escaping from Afghanistan had to be in a hurry, late at night. She hated that she could nottake her doll along. She remembers changing cars again and again, a boat which nealy capsized, endless nightly walks through mud and the last long part in a truck. Somewhere along a Dutch highway they are dropped.

She had never been to school, 11-year-old Derakshan; that was not allowed by the Taliban, who had taken over large parts of Afghanistan four years earlier. When she arrives at the asylum seekers’ center in Driebergen, she can only write her name, but in a year and a half she will learn all the material of primary school. She might go to junior high school, but it became senior high school. She works hard, writes flawless Dutch, is one of the best students in the exact subjects. “I can’t remember her ever scoring less than [maximum score] 10”, her maths teacher says. Director Dick van Steenis can remember her flawlessly after all these years. “If all students would have 10 percent of her perseverance, then everyone would succeed here,” he says in his office.

The first tests in her third high school year are only just finished when everything changes. The Taliban have been driven out, Afghanistan is once again considered a safe country, Derakshan has to return with her parents. She realizes what that means: her father has serious heart problems, her mother is being treated for ovarian cancer, not only will medical care will be lacking there, she will soon also have to earn a living in a country where she does not know her way. And although the Taliban are no longer in power, their influence is still great. Friends and relatives have fled or been killed, her parents are terrified.

The school takes action at the initiative of a few teachers involved. All a thousand students write on a card why Derakshan should stay, a local florist makes roses available and so the class goes on a Tuesday for the Christmas holidays with a thousand roses and a thousand tickets in a bus to The Hague. The camera of the Jeugdjournaal records how Derakshan pushes the wheelchair of the sick Maartje towards the Ministry of Justice, a bunch of roses on Maartje’s lap.

Derakshan pushing Maartje's wheelchair in The Hague anti-deportation demonstration

It is an image that summarizes everything, says Van Steenis, deputy school principal: “A girl whose life would end and a girl whose life might very well end, in a different way.” Only then does Derakshan hear of the letter by her female friend. “It is not easy to write in a letter: I am dying. It was very brave that she could put that on paper”, she says a week later when the Jeugdjournaal comes to film at her home. …

Two years after Maartje’s death, the fourth Balkenende government, of which Rita Verdonk is no longer a member, is putting an amnesty arrangement into effect. A year later, Derakshan hears that she can stay on the day when her father was able to leave intensive care. He had a heart attack in the courtroom during the last case he conducted against their deportation. …

Rita Verdonk says she has no need to look back on the case.

Judith Koorn, Maartje’s mother, describes the Friday afternoon in November when her daughter gets her death sentence in the hos[ital. The chemotherapy that initially seemed to work is no longer effective. The treating oncologist is not there, his replacement tells Maartje that she still has ten weeks to live. It appears blunt and brusque. In the parking garage they discover that they have switched on the light of the car, the battery is empty, the car does not start. Much later they drive home in the dark, through the pouring rain, on the A2 highway, totally devastated.

It will prove symbolic for the misery to come. With the death of Maartje, friends and acquaintances disappear. “I saw people diving away, no one ever called again”, she says. “The outside world will avoid you if you lose a child, that is a nasty loneliness.”

The only one that keeps coming is Derakshan. “I unconsciously tried to take over tasks from Maartje after she died, to become a kind of new daughter. My parents really encouraged me in this. Friends told me they didn’t know what to say to her mother. Could they still remind her of Maartje? Wasn’t that too painful? Understandable. Then, looking away is easiest. …

Yet it is not strange that Maartje’s cancer has gone unnoticed for a long time, says Utrecht orthopedic surgeon René Castelein. The Ewing sarcoma, the malignant bone tumor discovered in her, is rare, he says: every year it occurs in less than ten children. Usually that type of cancer reveals itself in the lower leg or arm, where a bump develops. You don’t see anything on a back. Castelein is alarmed when he examines Maartje, has an MRI scan made and immediately sees what is happening a day later. “But I don’t know,” he says hesitantly, “if the disease had given such a convincing impression at an earlier stage.” The last doctor, he says, the doctor who makes the diagnosis is always right. …

It is no coincidence that she wants to become an oncologist, says Derakshan, when, after her working day at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, she sits down at the restaurant. “What I experienced really plays a role. First my mother got cancer and I had to assist her as an interpreter while I barely spoke the language. And when my mother got well, my best friend died from the same disease. It’s great that I now get the chance to cure people. Cancer patients realize that life can be short, they will appreciate everything so much more. I find that special.”…

She no longer wears her headscarf, after a conversation with her father, she took it off in her last high school year. “I explained to him that it didn’t make me a better Muslim and that the headscarf stopped me from being myself. People look at you differently, I noticed, it stood in the way of my development. That is also my fault, but my father said: if it feels better for you, you have to do it. From that moment on I suddenly succeeded in making it much easier to make contact.”…

A year and a half after Maartje’s death, her mother finds a rainy envelope on her grave. It contains a letter from a girl from the village. She is suffering from a major depression and she has recently attempted suicide. When she returned to school, she had heard that Maartje had died, and she found it so unfair that she had drawn strength from it. “You wanted to live so badly but it didn’t work, I stayed alive while I didn’t”, she writes. “From your day of death I have always told myself that I should be happy with what I have, with who I am. I survoved thanks to you.”…

For fourteen years, Derakshan was afraid she still had to return to Afghanistan, years in which it seemed impossible to become a Dutch citizen because she could not get the birth certificate that was required for this. Four years ago she was finally allowed to pick up her Dutch passport on a Monday morning in March. “Only then did I think: now I can really be someone here.” Every day she puts on her white doctor’s coat at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, she has her girlfriend in mind. “What she wanted to do for me was so great that I can never pay her back. I live my happiness in her name.”

Trump threatens to ‘kill 10 million Afghans’

The 'Mother of all bombs' dropped in Afghanistan by Trump

By Sampath Perera and Keith Jones:

With Pakistan’s prime minister at his side

Trump threatens to wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the Earth”

24 July 2019

US President Donald Trump threatened to “kill 10 million” Afghans in “a week” so as to win a quick victory in America’s longest war, at a joint White House press conference Monday with Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister.

The US Commander-in-Chief cavalierly boasted that he could wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the Earth” if he wanted. But he said that he prefers to “extricate” the US from the eighteen-year-long Afghan War and expects Pakistan to facilitate this by helping secure a “settlement” with the Taliban.

“We’re like policemen”, Trump claimed. “We’re not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win it in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people.”

To underscore that his remarks were meant as a threat, Trump added, “I have a plan to win that war in a very short period of time” and repeated the figure of 10 million dead. He then turned toward Khan and declared, “You understand that better than anybody.”

Pakistan’s prime minister voiced no objection to Trump’s threat to unleash genocidal violence against Pakistan’s northern neighbor. Instead Khan slavishly hailed the US president as the head of the “most powerful country in the world.” Later, he issued an obsequious tweet thanking Trump “for his warm & gracious hospitality” and “his wonderful way of putting our entire delegation at ease.”

The US puppet regime in Kabul was forced to call for a “clarification” of Trump’s remarks, while feebly protesting that “foreign heads of state cannot determine Afghanistan’s fate in the absence of the Afghan leadership.” In contrast, people across Afghanistan reacted with horror and outrage, sentiments shared by tens of millions around the world.

The US media downplayed Trump’s bloodcurdling remarks. The New York Times buried mention of them at the end of an article titled, “Trump Tries Cooling Tensions With Pakistan to Speed Afghan Peace Talks.”

Trump’s Monday remarks are only his latest threat to annihilate a foreign country and reveal that the US president—who has ordered a $1 trillion “modernization” of the US nuclear arsenal and the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia—is actively considering unleashing nuclear violence to forestall the collapse of US global hegemony.

In August 2017, Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea, an impoverished nation of 25 million people. In July 2018, he directed a similar threat again Iran, tweeting that it would “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED”, if it “EVER” dared to “THREATEN” Washington “AGAIN.”

Trump’s crude threats—which recall nothing so much as the menacing rants of Adolph Hitler in the run-up to the Second World War—are viewed as impolitic by much of the Washington elite. But the military-security apparatus and the US political establishment, Democratic and Republican alike, are unanimous in their support for using violence, aggression and war to offset US imperialism’s economic decline.

The Afghan War is only one of an endless series of wars that the US has waged across the Middle East, in Central Asia, and the Balkans since 1991. Moreover, the drive for US global hegemony has now metastasized into strategic offensives, including threatening military deployments, trade wars and economic sanctions, against nuclear-armed Russia and China.

Whilst Afghanistan no doubt was at the center of the discussions that Khan, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, the head of the country’s notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, held with Trump and senior officials in his administration, the US war drive against Iran—Pakistan’s western neighbor—was no doubt also a factor in the decision to invite Pakistan’s prime minister to Washington for the first time in five years.

Last month, US warplanes were just ten minutes away from unleashing bombs on Iran, when Trump called them back for fear that US forces were not sufficiently ready for a military conflict with Iran that would rapidly engulf the entire Middle East and potentially draw in other great powers.

Bowing to the US sanctions against Iran, which are themselves tantamount to war, Pakistan has once again put on ice plans for a pipeline to import Iranian natural gas. But the Pentagon and CIA will also be pressing Pakistan, which enjoys close ties to the virulently anti-Iranian Saudi monarchy, to use its territory as a staging ground for intrigues, if not military operations, against Iran.

US imperialism’s Afghan War debacle

Trump’s claim that the US has not really waged war in Afghanistan is absurd. Over the course of the past 18 years, the US and its NATO allies have deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to Afghanistan, tanks and warplanes, unleashed horrific violence and committed countless atrocities. This includes, under the Trump administration, the dropping on Afghanistan in 2017 of the most powerful conventional or nonnuclear bomb ever deployed.

The war, according to conservative estimates, has resulted in 175,000 deaths. If indirect deaths are included, the figure is probably closer to one million. Millions more have been driven from their homes. To this toll, the deaths of nearly 2,300 US military personnel and 1,100 other foreign troops need to be added.

Yet today the Taliban controls large swathes of the country, more than at any time since the US invasion in the fall of 2001.

If the Taliban, despite their reactionary Islamist ideology, have been able to sustain their insurgency in the face of US firepower, it is because the war is widely recognized to be a neocolonial invasion, aimed at transforming Afghanistan into a US-NATO dependency and outpost in Central Asia; and the Kabul government to be a quisling regime, thoroughly corrupt and comprised of war profiteers, tribal leaders, and other sections of the traditional Afghan elite.

The Afghan debacle—Washington’s failure to subjugate Afghanistan after 18 years of war and the expenditure of more than a trillion dollars—has produced major divisions within the US political and military-strategic establishments.

Trump is seeking to prod the Taliban into a political settlement that will allow the Pentagon to redeploy its resources to pursue aggression elsewhere, whether against Iran, Venezuela, or American imperialism’s more substantial rivals.

However, much of America’s ruling elite, especially in the military-security apparatus, argues that any settlement must ensure a continued military presence in Afghanistan. This is, first and foremost, because of its strategic significance: Afghanistan lies at the heart of energy-rich Central Asia, borders both Iran and China and is proximate to Russia.

The unraveling of US-Pakistan relations

Washington has long been demanding that Pakistan “do more” to place military and political pressure on the Taliban, so as to secure a settlement of the war on terms favorable to Washington.

Pakistan’s military-security apparatus played a key role in the CIA’s sponsoring of the Mujahideen guerilla insurgency in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as part of the US drive against the Soviet Union, and subsequently it supported the rise to power of its Taliban offshoot.

After Washington abandoned its own attempts to reach a deal with the Taliban regime and seized on the 9/11 events to establish a US foothold in Central Asia, Pakistan provided Washington with pivotal logistical support and subsequently waged a brutal counterinsurgency war against Taliban-aligned forces in its own Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

But the Pakistani military, drawing on the CIA playbook, was loathe to cut off all ties to the Taliban, so as to ensure that Islamabad had a say in any political settlement to end the war.

Washington’s downgrading of its relations with Islamabad, and its promotion of India as its principal South Asian ally, with the aim of transforming it into a US frontline state against China, caused Islamabad to become even more anxious about securing its interests in Afghanistan, and to expand its longstanding military-security partnership with Beijing. This latter development—which is exemplified by the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor—has enormously aggravated tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

Over the past decade, and particularly since 2011, there has been an unravelling of US-Pakistani ties.

Khan, like his predecessor Nawaz Sharif, had long been pressing for an invitation to Washington, in an attempt to reset relations with the US. For both economic and geopolitical reasons, Islamabad is desperately hoping that it can find a way, as it did in the past, of balancing between China and the US.

Last month, the US-dominated IMF agreed to provide Pakistan with emergency loans. Islamabad has also been rattled by the support Washington has extended to the “surgical” military strikes New Delhi mounted in September 2016 and February of this year, bringing South Asia’s rival nuclear-armed powers to the brink of war.

Whether Khan’s US trip will in fact arrest the deterioration in US-Pakistani ties remains to be seen.

Trump resisted Khan’s entreaties for the immediate restoration of Afghan War Coalition payments and other aid, arrogantly declaring that relations between the two countries are better than “when we were paying that money.” He then suggested if Islamabad bows to Washington’s diktats that could change, adding, “But all of that can come back, depending on what we work out.”

Trump did please Khan by saying that he “would love to be” a “mediator” or the “arbitrator” of the Indian-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. For decades, Pakistan has sought to involve outside powers, especially Washington, in resolving its differences with New Delhi.

Trump’s remarks, which included the claim that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked for the US to help broker a solution to the Kashmir dispute, immediately set off a political firestorm in India, with New Delhi angrily denying that Modi had ever made such a suggestion.

India’s ruling elite is also perturbed that thus far it has been excluded from any role in the negotiations with the Taliban and discussions about a so-called political settlement of the Afghan war. But like Khan, Modi was entirely silent about Trump’s threats to annihilate ten million Afghans, presumably through the use of nuclear weapons.

In a deal that demonstrates that the Democratic Party offers no genuine opposition to the Trump administration, the congressional Democratic leadership has reached an agreement with the White House on a two-year, bipartisan plan to boost military spending to record levels and guarantee to Wall Street that there will be no limit on federal borrowing that would cause instability in the financial system: here.