Af-Pak Escalation Not The Change We Need

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

THE COMPLEXITY OF THE REGION affords great cover for ongoing
misrepresentation by the administration, representatives,
think tanks, and the media. All spin, “simplify” and
generally distort the war on terror/al-Queda as currently
conducted mainly in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Unresolved
colonial borders that divide the Pashtun peoples are part
of the legacy of previous British occupation. Divide and
conquer colonial policies, historic trade routes and other
factors have produced a region composed of Pashtuns,
Uzbeks, Tajiks, and many more, speaking a mix of languages
(Dari, an Iranian tongue is 2nd to Pashto, though
bi and tri lingualism are not uncommon) that overlap and
coincide in a kaleidoscopic tapestry. A large part of the
problem with the variety of groups lumped together as
Taliban is arguably rooted in the disenfranchisement of
mainly Pashtuns on both sides of the border, the Durand
line drawn by the U. K., apparently with a 100 year expiration
Occasionally something clear and frank is blurted out.
Chomsky in a recent address at United Nations General
Assembly Thematic Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect
(R2P) cites then Secretary-General Jaap Scheffer,
informing a NATO meeting in June 2007 that “NATO
troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas
that is directed for the West,” and more generally have to
protect sea routes used by tankers and other “crucial infrastructure”
of the energy system. Tariq Ali in a monograph
titled Mirage of a Good War (also a chapter in his latest
book) writes, regarding another talk by Scheffer, “That
Washington is not seeking permanent bases in this fraught
and inhospitable terrain simply for the sake of ‘democratization
and good governance.’ Scheffer at the Brookings
Institution in February this year commented that “a permanent
NATO presence in a country that borders the ex-
Soviet republics, China, Iran, and Pakistan was too good
to miss.”
Chomsky’s New Military Humanism, Lessons from
Kosovo, is a book length study of the way humanitarianism
is used to justify armed intervention when real-politick
is the real motive. Much of the discourse regarding Af-
Pak is a further illustration of this tactic.
Junior partner to the US imperial project, Scheffer, has
been replaced by a Dane, Rasmussen, who might stick to
the more ‘legitimizing’ rationales of the US/NATO project.
He has repeated the Scheffer line about preventing the
region from becoming “grand central station for terrorism.”
The global war on terror frame has never been popular
with the European publics and many in the leadership,
not that they want any bahnhof for al-Queda to be unsurveilled
and unchecked.
The Obama administration on the record disdains the
Global War on Terror (GWOT) frame, preferring Overseas
Contingency Operation (OCO) as its euphemism for
covert and overt actions abroad. Recently counter-terrorism
Chief, John Brennan, a top CIA aide to George Tenet
during most of the Bush administration, has announced a
“global war on al-Queda” as its war. However, the rhetorical
drumbeat of the al-Queda role continues and, worse,
the conflation of it with all the various Taliban and other
groups in the region has escalated.
Liberal Democratic support for the war in Afghanistan,
though eroding of late, has reprised the Bush administration’s
invocation of women’s rights as a justification for the
US actions on the ground. Afghan women’s organizations,
such as Revolutionary Association of the Women of
Afghanistan (RAWA) and Afghan Women’s Mission (AWM)
provide an antidote to this ruse. Sonali Kolhatkar, codirector
of AWM, and Mariam Rawi, of RAWA, have cowritten
a critique of the assertion that “the Feminist Majority
Foundation has lent its good name—and the good
name of feminism in general—to advocate for further
troop escalation and war.” This important argument is
available on AWM’s website, where one can also view the
Women of Afghanistan section of Rethink Afghanistan
from Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films.
Despite the complexities and agonies of this area, citizens
of the US need to confront the reality of our role in the
region. The legacy of past years of real-politick need to be
acknowledged; Bin Laden and Hekmatyar were our CIA’s
assets, for instance. The latter was known for throwing acid
in women’s faces whilst he was receiving more of our
“covert” funds than any other of our Mujahidin. Non-military
strategies, as outlined by Rubin, Rashid, and beyond,
need to be tried and persistence in the effort must prevail.
As the best and brightest were reviewing the southwest
Asian situation after the election, a Rand report further deemphasized
the utility of military escalation. The centrist
Council on Foreign Relations published Barnett Rubin and
Ahmed Rashid’s article from Great Game to Grand Bargain
which begins, “The Great Game is no fun anymore.” and is
synopsized thusly, “The crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan
is beyond the point where more troops will help. U.S.
strategy must be to seek a compromise with insurgents
while addressing regional rivalries and insecurities.”
Apparently these counsels were to no real effect. Despite
Gen. McCrystal protestations to the contrary, his emphasis
and specialty is military, overt or covert, rather than a clear
and hold or hearts and minds strategy.
Rubin, of NYU, who is widely assessed as one of the
most informed Afghanistan scholars, and Rashid, a Pakistani
journalist who knows where the bodies are buried
and is the author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos (no
peacenik, he was calling for ouster of the Taliban by outside
powers prior to 9/11) advocate a grand bargain between
regional actors that would deal with their many concerns.
This would probably begin with India and Pakistan as the
most likely belligerents, but would necessarily include concerns
of China, Iran and Russia, as well as the former Soviet
central Asian states. Internally, they and others support a
strategy that would split various tribal elements, including
those who currently throw their lot in with Taliban forces,
from any al-Queda and more extreme Taliban factions.
Steady assured funding for development efforts is advocated;
this would go a long way to supplanting the alienation
from the corrupt ineffectual central government.
Whilst this perhaps sounds utopian, compare this strategy
to the military course with its attendant civilian casualties
and other intrinsic problems. Jonathan Hafetz of the
ACLU asserts that the military’s incarceration practices are
second to “collateral damage” in provoking opposition to
continued US-Nato presence.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.