The Reasoned Review

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘karzai

How Not to End the War in Afghanistan

leave a comment »

A rather disappointing article in The New York Review of Books by British Labour politician David Miliband this week entitled “How to End the War in Afghanistan” prominently displays all the hang-ups our ‘coalition forces’ suffer when contemplating that quagmire of a war. It would be interesting to discuss this article because it contains within it the genealogy of orientalist Western thought toward that unfortunate desert; from British gamesmanship during the 19th century to hedge against Russia to the 21st century Anglo-American occupation of the same desert, ostensibly to hedge against Iran and China. Astoundingly, it seems we have learned nothing of imperialism, of cultural imposition and brute coercion in the intervening centuries. Then, as now, we marched in and expected the Afghans to listen to us because, after all, it was in their best interest to do so. Then, as now, we expressed our bewilderment that they could not grasp so easy a concept. And then (as now) we wrung our hands and lamented that we wish there were another way, but we must, unfortunately, continue our occupation until we achieve a “stable” “friendly” “democracy” in that far-off, warlord-plagued desert.

For an article with such a direct title, Mr Milibrand chooses a roundabout method of answering his implied question. After all, “How to End the War in Afghanistan” could be summed up in about a paragraph: NATO-led coalition forces should immediately cease all combat operations, issue an apology to the Afghan people for using them as pawns in macabre game of geopolitical chess, withdraw all troops and war material, and extend some manner of reparations for the thirty years of horrific destruction the US and Britain collectively wrought upon their land.

From the first sentence of his article, we can see Mr. Milibrand rejects that method of “ending the war”. He repeats, with no sense of irony, the prevailing narrative which brought us into the war in the first place, a narrative which has been shown to be false, and which goes directly against the stated aim of Milibrand’s article (‘ending the war’). In his opening paragraph below, I have bolded the most dubious claims:

In the 1990s that country’s Taliban government provided a safe haven and support for al-Qaeda. In return Osama bin Laden provided the Taliban with money and fighters. Afghanistan became the incubator for the September 11 attacks. The international intervention in response to those attacks had widespread support around the world. But we never meant for our militaries to be there forever. Eight years later, with al-Qaeda pushed into Pakistan, it is not enough to explain to people why the war started. We need to set out how it will be ended—how to preserve what has been achieved and protect South Asia from a contagion that would affect us all.

Now, it is clear that one would not begin an article with such fantastic mendacity if one were serious about “ending the war”. As Milibrand well knows, 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan; the US provided far more dollars to the Taliban than Osama Bin Laden (and continues to do so); the 2001 invasion saw massive, worldwide protests that were the largest yet seen (but were surpassed two years later against the Iraq War); and the so-called “contagion” that would “affect us all” has neither been defined nor genuinely demonstrated.

And so on. The article continues to detail the pernicious “insurgent” problem that threatens the “stability” of Hamid Karzai’s US-imposed dictatorship, the opium which continues to be a “major problem” for Afghanistan (even though the premier opium kingpin in Afghanistan is on the CIA’s payroll), and the problems of “corruption” (even though the US-supported Karzai regime is widely considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world.)

The mendacity displayed here is astonishing, but it is the natural result of the inherent contradictions in Mr Miliband’s position. On one hand, like all politicians seeking election, he wants this unpopular war to “end”. On the other hand, like all geopolitical power players, he wants a US-friendly regime in Afghanistan, one which will act precisely as we wish it to act and will acquiesce to the permanent stationing of US troops, should China, Pakistan or Iran begin to act uppity. Now, obviously, imposing an illegitimate, unelected government like that of Mr Karzai would tend to make a few of his citizens upset, and just as obviously, the US would have to use force, perhaps indefinite force, to defend its client. Hence the contradiction. “Ending the War” implies letting go of our client state in Afghanistan, something which Mr Miliband and our US policy planners are evidently unwilling to do.

Hence the vague threats of “contagion”, the constant apology for the Karzai dictatorship (He has, after all, “promised to tackle corruption”), the rancid bellicosity toward “extremists” (“They must be beaten back”, says Miliband, which sounds pretty “extreme” to me), etc.

The most astounding line in the whole essay comes when Mr Miliband says: “The idea of anyone reaching out to political engagement with those who would directly or indirectly attack our troops is difficult.” The lack of self-awareness in such a pronouncement is almost too much to be believed. Let us imagine that Britain had been invaded by Germany in 1940, as was then thought to be a serious possibility. The British had been preparing for guerrilla warfare to repel the Nazis, but, under Milibrand’s logic, any British resistance would have been illegitimate! After all, the German general could say, “The idea of reaching out to those who would attack our troops is difficult.” How dare those British attack good German soldiers? And likewise, how dare those dastardly Afghans attack our stalwart American forces, who only invaded their country and installed a corrupt and unpopular dictator in order to bring them Peace™ and Democracy™ !

So, in the end, despite a confused list of policy suggestions that happen not to make a lick of sense (how the hell does he expect to “eradicate corruption” while supporting stolen elections and massive payments to drug kingpins?!), Mr Miliband’s essay argues cogently in favor of the Afghan war. If there is one thing we are meant to take away from this essay, it is that these desert wogs simply have no idea how to govern themselves and need constant oversight from their best friends in the United States and Britain. Doing so, of course, requires a long-term military presence (something which Mr Miliband curiously appears to support). He ought to have titled it “How not to End the War in Afghanistan”.

Advertisements

Written by pavanvan

April 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Investigative Journalists Are Better Spies Than CIA

leave a comment »

From The Washington Post:

KABUL — On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.

First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper’s magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.

The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.

Hilarious.

Written by pavanvan

February 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Talkin’ Taliban

leave a comment »

Kai Eide is the UN “special representative” in Afghanistan, and his former student, Peter Galbraith, has repeatedly accused him of corrupt influence within the Karzai administration, including allegations of vote rigging in last year’s elections (which were widely seen as a fraud). Galbraith was later fired for his accusations.

Now the Times reports Mr. Eide has engaged in high-level talks with Taliban leaders.

Kai Eide, the United Nations’ special representative in Afghanistan, met with a group of Taliban leaders in the days leading to this week’s international conference in London, where President Hamid Karzai invited the Taliban to enter peace talks.

It’s unclear at this point what sort of game Mr. Eide is playing, especially since no details of the meeting (where/when it was held, who represented the Taliban, what was said, etc) are available. But I think it’s pretty clear that the UN – and by extension, the US – are rapidly shifting their strategy from “we don’t negotiate with Terrorists” to “Hey guys, let’s talk about this”.

The plan seems simple enough. To use the overwrought war-as-football metaphor, the US would seem to have “moved the goalposts”. It now appears that we are resigned to some portion of Afghanistan being ruled by the Taliban – perhaps even most of Afghanistan – but at the same time we are unwilling to let go of Hamid Karzai. If I could divine the strategy of our oh-so-wise policy planners, I would think they envision some form of power-sharing arrangement wherein the Karzai government controls Kabul and the heroin-producing regions of Afghanistan and the Taliban take the outlying desert. That way the US can extricate itself with some “credibility” left intact while leaving in place its “stooge” for whatever future plans they have for Afghanistan (permanent military bases, of course, but perhaps a natural-gas pipeline as well).

Eide’s role in all of this is still a bit mysterious. It is clear, from numerous previous statements, that Mr. Eide is very close to the Karzai regime and is willing to invest quite a lot to see it saved. That he fired his subordinate for leaking the Afghan election fraud is further evidence of this. It seems likely Mr. Eide is using his role as a UN envoy to prop up the Karzai regime and shield it from international criticism.

It’s still unclear whether the Taliban will be willing to negotiate a power-sharing agreement. This must be a very difficult decision for them. On one hand, the Americans are on the run and lack the resources to prosecute their effort for more than another year. Just holding out for a few more months can get them a better deal – and if (as our planners fear) the Taliban have the resources to resist indefinitely, control of Afghanistan is almost assured to them. On the other hand, if the Taliban find themselves running low on resources, morale or income, the smart thing to do would be to negotiate now. They might not get a better deal later.

But given the string of audacious attacks on Kabul, I think it safe to say the Taliban’s operations proceed unhindered. So I expect they will reject the offer of negotiation and press on.

The Karzai regime is immensely unpopular, and the only thing between him and an angry mob are American soldiers. Unless he can secure some sort of deal with the Taliban, it looks as though his days are numbered.

Written by pavanvan

January 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Happy New Year, Afghanistan!

leave a comment »

How could we forget our friends across the Arabian Sea: those poor impoverished Afghans on whom we are doing our darnedest to bestow our patented, copyrighted gifts of “freedom” and democracy”! Do they not deserve some New Year’s fireworks? Well, worry not! The US government is happy to oblige.

From the LA Times:

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan – An Afghan provincial governor said Monday that an apparent U.S. airstrike killed 10 Afghan civilians, and President Hamid Karzai — who has harshly criticized such incidents — ordered an immediate investigation.

If the reports are borne out, it would be the most serious instance of Western forces mistakenly killing Afghan civilians in months.

Oh, what a fanciful drama now playing out in the Karzai cabinet, what a precise farce! The US openly supported Karzai during his 2009 electoral fraud, largely so that he could continue supporting the US presence in his country. But, of course, Mr. Karzai has his electorate to worry about, even though he regards them with utter contempt. Thus the public condemnations of US “aggression”, the constant criticisms of such “incidents”, but no real action of which to speak.

It seems clear that the US has entered a secret agreement with Karzai, just as they have with the Pakistani government. The deal is simple: the United States gets to pummel Pakistani villages with drone attacks, while its government (head by Zardari) makes pious noises “condemning” the attacks. Meanwhile, however, the two governments work together (behind the scenes) to make those attacks possible. If true, this would certainly explain the US government’s consistent support for a corrupt heroin dealer known as Hamid Karzai.

Written by pavanvan

January 2, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Karzai Cabinet

leave a comment »

The AP has the scoop on Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s new cabinet, and – surprise! – it’s packed with US favorites in departments relating to War and Reconstruction.

This whole Afghan adventure is a massive money laundering scheme. Capital goes from the taxpayer to Afghanistan in the form of “aid”. Then Afghanistan spends that money on US contractors. So it’s a direct loop through Afghanistan, from public coffers to private. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Written by pavanvan

December 19, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Policy, War

Tagged with , ,

UN Opera

leave a comment »

The Times gives us a juicy piece in today’s issue about an American UN official named Peter Galbraith who plotted *gasp* to depose the fraudulent Hamid Karzai and install a more “western-friendly” leader in Afghanistan.  The journalists at the Times treat this matter with the delicacy of threading a needle, for though it is clear Hamid Karzai’s victory was illegitimate, they want to make it clear that ousting a president is very, very bad (unless, of course, the US government does it).

Shortly after making this suggestion, Mr. Galbraith mysteriously left the country and was subsequently fired:

Mr. Galbraith abruptly left the country in early September and was fired weeks later. Mr. Galbraith has said that he believes that he was forced out because he was feuding with his boss, the Norwegian Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Kabul, over how to respond to what he termed wholesale fraud in the Afghan presidential election. He accused Mr. Eide of concealing the degree of fraud benefiting Mr. Karzai.

Galbraith was one of the few voices crying “fraud” after the August elections. He was soon vindicated, after almost one-third of Karzai’s votes turned out to be fakes in a UN audit this October. Galbraith then set upon outlining his plan to remove Karzai, which first took form in a letter to his boss, Eide. After reading the letter, Eide remarked that the plan was:

“unconstitutional, it represented interference of the worst sort, and if pursued it would provoke not only a strong international reaction” but also civil insurrection. It was during this conversation, Mr. Eide said, that Mr. Galbraith proposed taking a leave to the United States, and Mr. Eide accepted.

The whole election was “unconstitutional”, of course, and there can be no worse sort of “interference” than an armed invasion by a global superpower, but the question merits consideration: since Karzai is an illegitimate president, having won no elections, would the US be justified in forcibly replacing him? I have the feeling two wrongs do not make a right.

But the story gets even more complicated. Galbraith has repeatedly accused his boss of having corrupt ties to the Karzai government, and while I don’t think he specifically mentioned it, I’m sure the accusation is that Eide is somehow profiting from the vast heroin fortune that runs through the Karzai family.

The Times only mentions that Eide will be “in Afghanistan until the end of his term”, and says nothing else on the matter. But the policy blogs have been buzzing about Galbraith’s recent accusation (circa only three days ago) that the real reason his boss isn’t running for a second term is that Eide, in fact, was fired, for his corrupt contacts with the Karzai government.

It is interesting that The Times neglects to mention this accusation, and equally interesting that it places most of it’s article’s focus on Galbraith. Though it has not refrained from criticizing the August election (proclaiming it “deeply flawed” though not yet an outright fraud), The Times has displayed itself as a fundamentally pro-Karzai paper. Then it should be clear why they would focus on a failed coup idea (which led to its progenitor’s dismissal) and not to a benefactor of Karzai’s corruption (which also led to a dismissal.)

Meanwhile, this sorry little episode exemplifies, if anything, the staid dysfunction under which the UN operates, the pettery personal politics, and at times, outright corruption.

Written by pavanvan

December 17, 2009 at 10:45 am

Posted in War

Tagged with , , , , , , , ,

Still Crazy After All These Years

leave a comment »

The Obama gave his much-anticipated military escalation speech yesterday, and while our mainstream pundits were busy falling over themselves to provide “strategic analysis” as to whom he pandered to when, they paid very little attention to what he actually said.

For those who are interested then, a brief dissection of Obama’s remarks last night. He begins:

We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station.

As opposed to the way the US took the lives of innocent men, women and children with regard to their faith/race/station? Specifically, we “took the lives” of oh, 100,000 Iraqis and who knows how many Afghans, the majority of whom are poor and Muslim. So let it not be said that the US murders indiscriminately! We tend to prefer the poor, the Arab, and the Muslim.

A cheap shot with which to begin this discussion, but it sets the tone for the rest of Obama’s speech. He follows that gem with:

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy — and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden — we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed.

Such mendacity appalls. As The Smoking Gun revealed in October 2001, the Taliban did agree to “turn over” bin Laden – that is, they agreed to extradite him to a third country (Pakistan), where we would later pick him up. The deal never went through because the US refused to show the Taliban the evidence it had gathered against bin Laden, asking them, in effect, to “trust us.”

In their words:

Taliban Ambassador Zaeef said, ‘We are not ready to hand over Osama bin Laden without evidence’.

One wonders what the outcome would be if, say, Saudi Arabia demanded we turn over one of our wealthiest citizens while refusing to give us any evidence of his culpability. I imagine we would say “No.”

Not to mention, of course, that under NATO law the Afghan war is illegal, as Afghanistan didn’t attack anybody.

Later, Obama gushes over how we’ve come a long way, baby:

Since then, we’ve made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we’ve stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda worldwide. In Pakistan, that nation’s army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and — although it was marred by fraud — that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and constitution.

Wait… What? The election was “marred by fraud”, yet is still “consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and constitution”? Surely you jest, Mr. President! And the Afghan election deserves a stronger verb than “marred”, I think. Fully one-third of Karzai’s votes were fakes, according to the CS Monitor, and the United States blatantly pressured Karzai’s rival to drop out of the race, essentially making it a one-candidate ballot. Is that what Obama means by “consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and constitution”?

Apropos his decision to escalate the war by 35,000 extra soldiers, Obama remarks:

So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.

Sure. Except that none of the 9/11 hijackers were from Afghanistan (15 of them were from Saudi Arabia – you know, our best friend in the Middle East – and two were from the United Arab Emirates, our other best friend).

So anyway, according to Obama:

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

That’s a nice bit of alliteration: but what does it mean? “Disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” – is Al Qaeda some sort of nefarious robot or something? Actually, according to Marc Sageman (whose recent book, Leaderless Jihad, caused quite  a stir last year), “Al Qaeda” and “The Taliban” don’t even exist, as such. Instead of cohesive, top-down organizations, these catch-all terms refer instead to what Sageman calls “bunches of guys”, decentralized pockets with no general leadership and wide, disparate goals. If Sageman is correct our entire “counter-terrorism” paradigm is wrong, and our efforts to “kill or capture Al-Qaeda leaders” have almost no effect on “their” ability to operate. And 35,000 soldiers can do nothing about that.

And now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility — what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.

With evidence that our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have precipitated a seven-fold increase in worldwide terrorism, one wonders exactly what Obama is talking about.

The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction.

His speech sent the right message? Well what kind of message did his massive electoral fraud send? Shouldn’t we listen to that one?

The Obama ends (finally!) with:

America — we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes. (Applause.)

*Sigh* Well, what more can one say?

Written by pavanvan

December 2, 2009 at 2:46 pm