By Pepe Escobar
As clinically on target as a pat-down in a major United States airport, the Pentagon got a fabulous box of chocolates - and then some - from its 27 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies at last weekend's Lisbon summit.
The chocolates come in a full spectrum of flavors.
One: NATO's new "Strategic Concept", complete with European-wide cyber-warfare subordinated to a "meet the old boss, same as the old boss" pattern - the Pentagon's new Cyber Command, euphemistically defined as "centralized cyber protection".
Two: The promise of the whole of Europe - in theory - enveloped by a missile defense dome ("missile defense will become an integral part of our overall defense posture").
Three: US tactical nuclear weapons indefinitely stationed in five bases scattered across European soil.
Four: 20 NATO "partners" still shelling out troops for the Afghan war for, well, forever. (At least the Lisbon-summit declaration did not beat around the bush: "Transition will be conditions-based, not calendar-driven, and will not equate to withdrawal of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] troops.")
NATO has also acquired what seems to be a new missile-defense "partner" all across Eurasia - from the Baltic to the Pacific Ocean: Russia. But contrary to the Western corporate-media narrative, Russia has only agreed to a study of "possible" missile threats and to engage in a vague "dialogue" before a possible joint decision by defense ministers from NATO countries in June 2011.
The Pentagon/NATO Star Wars remake has been relentlessly spun as defense against a highly hypothetical full-scale ballistic missile attack by either Iran or North Korea. Even assuming this is not a Marvel Comics stunt, such a system would rely on Airborne Warning and Control Systems, which even a moderately skilled hacker could jam. And all this assumes that the respective leaderships of "axis of evil" members Iran and North Korea are in the business of committing seppuku - ritual suicide.
So, essentially, the "dome" is a public-relations myth. But if this Star Wars remake is interpreted as a sort of large-scale improvised explosive device conceived to "contain" strategic competitor China in a not-so-distant future, then the script gets much juicier.
A prodigy of intelligence
NATO pledged to hand over security in Afghanistan to Afghans by the end of 2014. But, just in case, it also pledged to keep occupying it indefinitely. Even 2014 (anybody remember 2011?) is an "aspirational" goal, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. As to how many US/NATO troops will be getting a piece of the action from 2015 onwards, that's a classic example of one of former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's "known unknowns".
As far as a "known known" goes, nothing beats the Fake Mullah Dude gambit.
A diplomat told the New York Times that Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the alleged number two to invisible Taliban leader Mullah Omar involved in discussions with the Karzai government, is not the real mullah: he is a fake. General David Petraeus had to run to the rescue - if not for cover - saying that the Pentagon suspected something was off. NATO was involved in the discussions - which have been going on for a few months now. The fake mullah did not fail to bag a lot of cash in the process. And obviously Mullah Omar's gang in Quetta must be laughing their turbans off.
Once again, NATO's fabled multilingual skills don't mean that you can dust up your Polish when you need to think in Pashto. File this one as another spectacular triumph of Pentagon/NATO intelligence.
NATO's self-described "mission" since 2001 has been to fight against "international terrorism". Even low-level Central Intelligence Agency operatives know there are no "al-Qaeda" in Afghanistan, apart from 20 or 30 invisible jihadi trainers. So this war is not about al-Qaeda.
On the other hand, Pashtuns comprise 42% of Afghanistan's population.
NATO is attacking anyone from the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar faction to the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, and all the disgruntled tribal guerrilla factions in between. The Pentagon/NATO "strategy" has been essentially to take out mid-level Taliban or guerrilla commanders. Problem is, most are Pashtun tribal leaders. Inevitably their tribes rebel en masse, be they Taliban-affiliated or not, and vow to kill the invaders. The bottom line: Afghanistan is nothing but a Western war against Pashtuns.
In yet one more spectacular PR failure, Pentagon/NATO even forgot to inform the Pashtuns about it. A report by a International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) think tank has just showed that 92% of Pashtuns in Helmand and Kandahar provinces know absolutely nothing about 9/11. The report noted that the "relationship gap" between Afghans and the "international community" was "dramatic". File this one as understatement of the decade.
So a bunch of angry Pashtuns are in fact the ultimate threat to NATO and its global, non-stop expansionist drive from the Balkans to the former Soviet Union - instilling supreme fear in NATO's 36 divisions, 120 brigades, 11,000 tanks, 23,000 artillery pieces and 4,500 fighter jets (and that's only what's stationed in Europe).
If NATO is scared to death of Pashtuns, imagine when it turns its attention to the nomadic Tuareg - the indigenous population of most of central Sahara and the Sahel, with impressive numbers in the north of both Niger and Mali. In the current, concerted Western campaign to define them as pawns of "evil" al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), NATO should be warned that the Tuareg can be every bit the bad asses that the Pashtuns are. God help the white man's burden.
NATO did make a deal with Moscow to send logistical support to Afghanistan through Russia - and not Pakistan. That does put Islamabad on the spot. Next time Washington won't even ask permission to ramp up the drone war. In fact, this game is already on.
The operative mood now is not only bomb the tribal areas (especially after the Haqqani network scattered northwards, from North Waziristan to Kurram); it is also bomb Quetta, Balochistan's capital - where Taliban leader Mullah Omar may be hiding (and laughing his turban off).
Pakistan's Ministry of Interior duly denies everything - even as the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence "increase their cooperation". So one should expect major upcoming "collateral damage" in and around Quetta; and the Balochistan separatist movements will be having a ball. The bottom line: real men go to Quetta.
The war boutique
Whatever the drama quotient involved, one may be certain that NATO's nuclear/cyber-warfare/missile defense embrace will be striving to include the whole white world. As the Lisbon summit declaration proclaimed: "The promotion of Euro-Atlantic security is best assured through a wide network of partner relationships with countries and organizations around the globe." Translation: Europe, apart from posing as an oversized boutique seducing the Asian consuming hordes, now exists primarily as a forward operating base for war around the globe.
In fact, the US, NATO and the European Union are now on the way to becoming essentially the same entity - as in the president of the EU's European Council, faceless Belgian bureaucrat Herman Van Rompuy, telling NATO leaders in Lisbon: "The ability of our two organizations to shape our future security environment would be enormous if they worked together. It is time to break down the remaining walls between them." Pashtuns of the world unite; if you keep rocking, these walls will definitely crumble.