Saturday, May 10, 2008

Learning From Afghan Policy Failure

The following Pakistani perspective on Bush Administration policy toward Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan in a recent editorial in the blunt-talking Pakistani newspaper, The Frontier Post, addresses the long-term implications of fundamental foreign policy choices made by Washington after 9/11 and being implemented to this day across the Islamic world. This editorial gets to the heart of why the irresistable military force of a superpower seems, despite smashing so much and killing so many, to be accomplishing so little in the confrontation with Islam.

Bunk talk of desperation

Indisputably, the American occupiers are in despair as abysmally, if not more, in Afghanistan as are they in Iraq. Yet, if one were to listen to their bunk talk of desperation, they would have it believed that their occupied Afghanistan is still in the throes of the insurgency because the Taliban and the al-Qaeda have regrouped in our tribal region. But when was it that Afghanistan was at peace since they invaded it, ousted the Taliban and demolished their al-Qaeda allies some seven years ago? Visibly, at peace it never has been, in trouble it perpetually has been; for which the Bush administration and its international coalition allies in Afghanistan are squarely to blame. They all have contemptibly betrayed the Afghan people and served only a clutch of their proxies in the occupied state. The UN had undertaken to disarm the warlords who had staged a comeback after the invasion and to demobilise their lethally-armed militias. It has left the job undone forgetfully, leaving these warlords to keep their fiefdoms under their thumb with their private armies all intact. The Germans took upon them the task of raising, training and equipping a powerful police force. They have long forgotten if they had ever made any such commitment. The Italians had promised a massive help to Kabul to build a viable judicial system in the country. Apart from building a few court rooms, they have nothing else to show for this assistance. The British had assumed the responsibility to rid the country of poppy cultivation and drugs trafficking. Instead, Afghanistan on their watch has become the world’s biggest poppy grower and drugs supplier. And that huge corps of NGOs in the country, which has uniquely formed up into a trade union to be the first-ever of its kind in the world, has gobbled up the bulk of the donor money but has not any respectable showing on the ground to proffer for its performance. For their own part, the Americans have no ground whatsoever to flaunt even a slight posture of one-upmanship and have every cause to be ashamed of their Afghanistan adventure, gone so awry as has it been for their lackadaisicalness, perfidy and even cowardice. They had all the military prowess, which if combined with imaginative and creative political initiatives, could have pacified the war-ravaged and civil strife-torn country. But that was not to be. In the first place, for fear of accumulating body bags of their own they did not put enough boots on the ground to corral the fleeing Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants, and latterly to tame and discipline the resurgent warlords. Instead, they resorted to blind aerial bombings, killing innocent civilians by droves, which earned them enemies than friends, particularly among the country’s Pakhtun majority community that bore all the brunt of their deadly air actions. As the Taliban were predominantly Pakhtuns, the American commanders singled out the Pakhtun-populated areas for their brutal military campaign. Worse, instead of securing the border with Pakistan to plug off the flight of the Taliban and al-Qaeda rumps into the Pakistani territory, the Americans left it unsecured on the Afghanistan side, no lesser for keeping their military assets preserved for their intended aggression on a sovereign Iraq on the basis of lewd lies as part of their grand geopolitical design for the Middle East. And if at all our tribal region has become the haven for the Taliban or al-Qaeda, as they claim, who else is to blame if they not themselves. For its part, Pakistan kept deployed at any time no less than 80,000 troops to plug the border on its side. And even as not even fractionally as well equipped and well served as were their American counterparts, these soldiers gave a good account of themselves despite operating in the most inhospitable terrain and in very dire conditions. Hundreds of them have died in action, appallingly without an acknowledgement of the sacrifices of their precious lives from the American commanders who for the most part have kept their own troops ensconced in fortified bases to murder and maim more civilians than the militants with their savage artillery barrages and with bombardments of their helicopter gunships and fighter planes. Still worse, with their military incursions in our tribal areas, they have murdered our innocent compatriots in scores, horrifically including children and women, leaving a populace angry as much with them as with our own state. And if anti-American sentiment is sweeping this tribal region of ours stormily, it is also being rocked with anger against the Islamabad establishment, making a military campaign increasingly infeasible there, in spite of all the blackmail, bullying and arm-twisting of the American commanders and their political bosses. Indeed, the time has come for the Americans to forget all about a legacy of President Bush to be remembered by his compatriots and to concede defeat of their war in Afghanistan. They must let President Hamid Karzai to seek out political resolutions to his country’s troubles and let also the new Pakistan leadership to pacify our restive tribal and adjoining settled areas politically. For many a time has President Karzai extended his hand of peace to the Taliban, including their top brass, but had to pull it back every time under the pressure of the Americans and their allies. And now that after the British, who struck a peace deal with the Taliban in Musa Qila, the Kandhar-based Canadian force is venturing out for similar deals at the local levels, the American lords must sit back and allow President Karzai a free hand. Nor should they create any obstructions in the way of the Pakistani leadership to pacify the restive tribal region with political means. For, our tribal people are never amenable to force or coercion but are always very forthcoming to peaceful settlements. If they think that a military campaign will succeed in Afghanistan or in our tribal region, they are just deluding themselves. It will never. This tells history.

No comments: