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AfPak: some background « Previous | |Next »
June 18, 2011

The failure of the NATO occupation of Afghanistan has revived the Taliban as well as the trade in heroin and has destabilised north-western Pakistan. The US has intensified its drone attacks in Waziristan and is talking to the Taliban.

I have taken the following excerpts about the AFPak war from Tariq Ali's 2009 Diary in the London Review of Books about the war against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Pakistani areas of the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan; a war Pakistan has been pressured to fight by the US.

Ali says that this is now Obama’s war, as he campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war, if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. He adds re the badlands of the Pakistan-Afghan frontier:

In May this year, Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul, published an assessment of the crisis in the region in the Huffington Post....not only did Fuller say that Obama was ‘pressing down the same path of failure in Pakistan marked out by George Bush’ and that military force would not win the day, he also explained to readers of the Huffington Post that the Taliban are all ethnic Pashtuns, that the Pashtuns ‘are among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalised and xenophobic peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader’ and ‘in the end probably more Pashtun than they are Islamist’. ‘It is a fantasy,’ he said, ‘to think of ever sealing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.’

Ali adds that the longer the war continues, the greater the possibility of serious cracks within the Pakistani army. Not at the level of the high command, but among majors and captains, as well as among the soldiers they command, who are far from happy with the tasks assigned to them.

Most of today’s jihadi groups, who the Western media see as bearded fanatics on the verge of taking over the country, are the mongrel offspring of Pakistani and Western intelligence outfits, born in the 1980s when General Zia was in power and waging the West’s war against the godless Russians, who were then occupying Afghanistan. That is when state patronage of Islamist groups began. It continued with support for the Taliban after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan up until 9/11. Ali says of this period:

The Bhutto government, made nervous by the increasing activity of Afghan jihadis in Pakistan, now decided to train and arm the children of Afghan refugees who had fled across the border in the 1980s, and use them, bulked out by Pakistani ‘volunteers’, to take the country. It was the most successful operation in the history of the Pakistan army. The Taliban took Kabul (murdering Najibullah) and ended the disorder by imposing a clerical dictatorship: women in burqas, rapists executed, poppy fields destroyed etc. Gradually, Mullah Omar’s government gained autonomy from its patrons in Islamabad and even engaged in friendly negotiations with US oil companies. But its Wahhabi connections proved fatal. The rest we know.

America’s local point-man Musharraf helped dismantle the Taliban government in Afghanistan-- the $10 billion in US money Pakistan has received since 9/11 for signing up to the ‘war on terror’. In the West's imaginary it is a jihadi finger finding Pakistan's nuclear trigger that is the big fear, even though the jihadis are not popular in most of Pakistan.

Pakistan is racked by social and economic inequality that denies schools for the children, medicines and clinics in the villages, clean water and electricity in the homes for the people. What guarantees Pakistan survival today is its nuclear capacity and Washington.

The current Zardari Government in Islamabad still wants to control Afghanistan. Some elements in Pakistani military intelligence feel that they will be able to take Afghanistan back once Operation Enduring Freedom has come to an end. More likely is that a stable settlement will have to include a regional guarantee of Afghan stability and the formation of a national government after NATO's withdrawal.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:07 PM | | Comments (1)


Tariq Ali makes a good point here:

Even if Washington accepted a cleaned-up version of the Taliban, the other countries involved would not, and a new set of civil conflicts could only lead to disintegration. Were this to happen, the Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line might opt to create their own state. It sounds far-fetched today, but what if the confederation of tribes that is Afghanistan were to split up into statelets, each under the protection of a larger power?

It is not what we hear out of Canberra is it?