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Rumsfeld pushes for permanent US bases in Afghanistan
Having laid down the law to the newly-installed Iraqi president and prime minister on Monday, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday to do the same to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In both cases, Rumsfeld’s diktats make a mockery of the Bush administration’s claims to be bringing peace, independence and democracy to the region.
In Baghdad, Rumsfeld insisted that the new regime could not purge the ex-Baathist generals, intelligence officials and police that the outgoing US puppet—Ayad Allawi—has carefully installed over previous months. Having hailed the fall of the dictator Hussein as a great triumph of democracy, Washington is now rebuilding his hated security apparatus to carry out the same dirty work—repressing a hostile population.
In Kabul, the discussion focussed on the establishment of long-term US bases in the country. While American officials have repeatedly denied any ulterior motives for the US intervention in Afghanistan and declared that the US military presence was temporary, the Pentagon’s ambitions for military bases immediately adjacent to the strategic resource-rich regions of Central Asia and the Middle East have been transparent.
Rumsfeld’s visit confirmed that the plans are being put into action. It was left to Karzai to make the running. At a joint press conference, the Afghan president declared he wanted “a sustained economic and political relationship” with the US and “most importantly of all, a strategic security relationship”. While Karzai and Rumsfeld were both coy about the prospect of permanent US bases on Afghan soil, there is no doubt that a sustained strategic relationship will mean just that.
It is also obvious that the idea did not originate in Kabul, but in Washington. US Republican Senator John McCain blurted out the Bush administration’s intentions in late February during a visit to Afghanistan. He called for a “long-term strategic partnership... that must endure for many, many years”. When asked by reporters what such a partnership would mean, McCain specifically referred to the need for “joint military permanent bases”.
Responding to McCain’s comments, Karzai’s spokesman Jawed Ludin, declared that while Kabul was eager for close strategic ties with the US, no agreement could be reached on a permanent US military presence without the approval of parliament. Parliamentary elections, which have been repeatedly delayed, are now not scheduled until September. Since then, however, Karzai has changed his tune.
It is not difficult to see why. Karzai is completely dependent on the US politically, economically, militarily and even for his own personal security. The Afghan budget handed down on April 4 sums up the relationship. Out of a total budget of $4.75 billion, some 93 percent is international aid, more than three quarters of which will go to projects directly managed by the donors. In other words, the government has no more control over the Afghan budget than it does over the US and other foreign troops that dominate the country.