Monday, August 2, 2010

The Leak: A Sinking Feeling

The Leak: A Sinking Feeling
Saeed Naqvi
Dated: 31.07.2010

Of all the arguments for the US to continue in Afghanistan, despite an embarrassing catalogue of reverses, one most often advanced even by such distinguished strategic thinkers as Henry Kissinger is that American withdrawal, without “completing the job”, would be a shot in the arm for “Jihadism” worldwide.

I am inclined to an exactly opposite view. So long as the Americans remain injected in any Muslim situation against the will of the local population, “Jihadism” will grow and grow exponentially. Authoritarian Muslim rulers, beholden to the US, find their streets turning against them. This is a simple manifestation of anti Americanism fueled by US policies/actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine.

Moreover, what entails “completing the job” in Afghanistan? Militarily defeat the Taleban? Not on the cards. Consolidate Hamid Karzai as the central authority in Kabul whose writ will run across the length and breadth of the land? Such a central authority has historically never existed.

To train sufficiently large Afghan army and the police to control the land? US experience over the past decade is replete with instances of trained hands turning upon the trainers. So this line too does not yield hope.

Saturate every cluster of suspects with excessive droning? Jihadism will multiply in direct proportion to the number of innocent Afghans killed.

Sub contracting Afghanistan to Pakistan’s care? Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Pushtoons, Hazaras, Panjsheris will all get involved, directly or indirectly, in the mother of all civil wars.

Talk to the Talebans but leave out the Al Qaeda? Over the past 30 years, Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks have amalgamated with a large section of the local population which has in large measure defected from Sufism and soft Sunnism to hard Salafism? How does one separate the indigenous bloodline from the imported one?

In other words, there is nothing that can be distilled from the Almighty mess that is Afghanistan which is even akin to “completing the job”.

Public opinion in the US will not stand for this debilitating status quo. Will another, bigger war stoke the sort of nationalism when a nation composes its differences because “our men are at the front?”

Anything short of this melodrama, is a straightforward conference on Afghanistan with participants from neighbouring countries, P5 and Germany, Shanghai group to consider Afghanistan’s neutrality.

“Woh Afsana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin,
Usey ek khoobsoorat mor dekar chorna achcha!”
(The story which does not have a logical conclusion,
Should be given a creative twist and ended!)

In an article written in September 2009 Hamid Ansari (since elevated as India’s Vice President) and Chinmaya Gharekhan, former Permanent Representative to the UN, advanced the case for Afghan neutrality modeled on the Laos example attempted in 1962.

Earlier in an article written for the Washington Post in February 2009, Henry Kissinger cited Belgian neutrality in the 19th century. He wrote: “formal neutrality was sometimes negotiated to impose a standstill on interventions in and from strategically located countries”. Belgian neutrality was not challenged for a hundred years.

“Is it possible to devise a modern equivalent?” Kissinger asks.

Since it became clear years ago that both the US and NATO were bogged down in Afghanistan, a body of literature has emerged seeking a non military way out of the mess. Calls for an international conference have been made by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the UN, EU, Germany, UK, among numerous others.

It reflects on the callousness of the World Order we live in that the US Congress did not even pause to consider the implications of the WikiLeaks disclosures on the sorry state of affairs in Afghanistan before signing $58 billion additional funding for Barack Obama’s Afghan war.

Did you notice that the WikiLeaks story dominated the networks the first day? Since day two of the disclosure, the news blackout is remarkably effective. But institutions, media houses, individuals and, or course, the Taleban are in possession of all the details, processed or unprocessed, of six years of a mismanaged war. Consequences of the disclosures must surely fellow.

There will be a hundred aspects of the war that will now come under scrutiny, including such facets as would earlier have been dismissed as conspiracy theories.

Are the Americans and history’s greatest war machine, NATO, in vain pursuit of a man attached to a dialysis machine? Are they in this war to eliminate elements plotting a 9/11 type visitation half way around the globe? Are they in the region to keep a close watch on the world’s only nuclear arsenal in Muslim hands? Caspian hydro carbons, Central Asia, resurgent Russia, Iran, China and why, even an India whose political directions are not always predictable? Are all these in the American ken and have they, therefore, dug in for a long haul. “We are here for a long haul” I was told by senior US officials in Islamabad. “Just training the Frontier Corps will take over a decade.”

The disclosures make such long term projects untenable.

Take this instance: “US Special Forces dropped 2,000 pound bombs on a compound where a “high value individual” was hiding. Locals, however, reported that 300 civilians had died.” This is just one of hundred of such instances.

How will the Americans ever have accurate intelligence in a Muslim country where they are hated across the board. Yes, there is always mercenary intelligence. But mercenary intelligence will pocket the money and willfully mislead those shelling out the cash – in billions of dollars so far.

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