"Our legacy is we held the ground here. There is no way, no way the Afghan security forces could've held Kandahar City and its immediate surroundings had we not been here," said Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, commander of Canadian Forces overseas, in Kandahar on Tuesday, June 15, while supervising the preparations of 2,800 Canadian Forces personnel for departure from Afghanistan.
Bravely spoken, but what his words mean, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources, is that after the Canadian combat troops' exit, there will be nothing to stop the Taliban from strolling back into Kandahar. Preparations for the Canadian unit's departure are already in progress, effectively pulling them out of combat duties. It is a fairly complicated logistical operation that will spread over several months, because it involves moving hundreds of military vehicles and thousands of sea containers.
North of Kandahar, in the Oruzgan province, another NATO force is getting ready to pull out of Afghanistan. This is the Dutch Task Group, which has set a date in August for its exit.
In London, the newly-elected British Prime Minister David Cameron is clearly thinking of a departure date and breaking away from the unwanted war involvement he inherited from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
On June 15, he assured the British Parliament, "Our forces would not remain there a minute longer than necessary." Warning there would be more British deaths in Afghanistan this summer (the number rose to 300 on June 15), he also pointed out that the threat to Britain of an Al Qaeda attack from the region had receded.
During his first visit to Afghanistan last week, Cameron was quoted as debunking the argument that British military participation in the war is vital because it prevents Al Qaeda from attacking Britain.
There is no connection between the war in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda's ability to strike at targets in the West, he stressed.
The Kandahar operation is off
This was the first time a British statesman had challenged the premise underlying America's October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in response to Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks in America, a premise which brought NATO nations into the "war on global terror" and kept it fighting there for close to nine years.
Only two days earlier, President Obama's close personal aide David Axelrod said: "This mission is about Al Qaeda, about putting pressure on Al Qaeda on both sides of the border, about not letting Afghanistan become a safe harbor, a safe haven, for Al Qaeda again."
But he was unheeded in London, where the new British Defense Secretary Liam Fox told MPs: "British troops will start leaving Afghanistan by early next year."
This means that by the time the American withdrawal draws near in the summer of 2011, most of the 10,000 British troops will be gone from Afghanistan.
The Americans too are having second thoughts about their Afghanistan mission:
Monday, June 14, Jackson Diehl wrote in the Washington Post, "In Kandahar, the US command may be suffering from a failure of nerve," the first time the courage of US troops has been questioned in the course of a war outside America. He was challenging a comment by the US commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who explained the postponement of the offensive on Kandahar City until September at the earliest by its lack of support from the Kandahar population and local leaders.
Karzai sacks pro-US ministers
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources have not found a single American or allied officer in southern Afghanistan who believes an operation in September or any time later is realistic. Taliban has therefore won the day in Kandahar without a bullet fired.
For the first time since its overthrow in 2001, the Taliban sees a strategic structure taking shape for its return to power in Kabul. The inability of the US-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai's loyal troops to purge southern Afghanistan of Taliban control or even weaken it has sealed the fate of the war and predetermined the shape of government in post-war Kabul.
It accounts for Washington's non-response to Afghan President Karzai's first move after his White House talks with President Barack Obama, which was to sack the two most pro-American members in his cabinet: Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence director Amrullah Saleh.
There has been no comment from Washington either to the flood of reports in Washington, New York, London, Kabul and Islamabad that Karzai is striking out for his own deal with the Taliban and Pakistan. The sacked intelligence director is quoted as disclosing that Karzai is talking secretly with the Taliban outside US and NATO purview after losing faith in their ability to prevail in the Afghanistan conflict.
On June 13, London's Sunday Times published a study conducted by the London School of Economics whose lethal findings are encapsulated in the title: Obama and his war policy in Afghanistan: Pakistani puppet masters guide the Taliban killers.
Islamabad's deadly deceits
It is a devastating catalogue of deceptions practiced by the Pakistani military intelligence (Inter-Services Intelligence) agency on the United States, its intelligence service and its generals in Afghanistan. While promising them to help fight the Taliban, the ISI is aiding the insurgents in planning their operations, selecting targets, furnishing their arms and explosives and providing the families of suicide bombers with payouts.
At least half of the 15 members of the Taliban's ruling council, the Quetta Shura (based in Pakistan's Baluchi capital) are senior serving ISI officers, says the LSE report.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources, President Obama's administration is short of a figure capable of arresting the American military slide in Afghanistan of the caliber of General David Petraeus, who came up with the "surge" strategy in Iraq in early 2007 to save America from almost certain defeat.
It will be recalled that even there, it was touch-and-go. Only at the last moment did the general manage to persuade President George W. Bush that the Iraqi Sunni tribes fighting al Qaeda were worth backing to the hilt.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, there are no such tribes to turn to, because they have all been subverted by Pakistani intelligence and are now solidly behind Taliban.
Tuesday, June 15, President Obama was cheered at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, when he said in ringing tones, "We will ultimately defeat Al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates in Afghanistan."
His speech was good for morale, but no one in Washington knew how this objective was to be achieved.