Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Taliban: 'Cut us a deal and we'll ditch al-Qaeda'

After reading this article, Taliban: 'Cut us a deal and we'll ditch al-Qaeda', I began to wonder whether this might have something to do with some new, as yet unannounced US thinking regarding an exit-strategy from Afghanistan. And then I thought, hang on a minute! There are wider implications to pulling out of Afghanistan, not least the lack of any meaningful achievement - and they don't need me to tell them that it can't be done any time soon - and certainly not in the same slapdash manner as it was invaded initially.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what with the war now entering its ninth year, what we now see is a "should I stay or should I go now?" situation: alas this is one of the dangers of blindly rushing to war, only one month after 9/11, without considering any meaningful or realistically achievable goals, or exist strategies, or in fact even the circumstances under which you may exit: all of which Bush jnr. is guilty and which, like so much of the man's spastic activity whilst in office, Obama now has the baleful duty and inherited responsibility of clearing up.

Goethe said: "Distrust those in whom the desire to punish is strong..."

It is, then, inescapable, that there was, certainly on the part of the Bush administration, an all encompassing desire in the US simply for revenge on the perpetrators of 9/11, with precious little, if any, thought going into anything  like either a measured or appropriate response to the attack. And so, like an inebriate hell-bent on finding a fight, Bush duly obliged.

So what to do now? Where are we at in terms of results? The US has still not caught or killed OBL, or Mullah Omar (al-Q's spiritual leader), nor any of the top ten lieutenants of that organisation. Even the US must be asking itself if this has been time and money well spent? Although certainly Bush never seemed to worry as he drove up military budgets and spending - placing an intolerably massive debt burden on each US tax payer in the process.

Even if the US does decide to cut its loses and a deal with Terry Taliban, all it will be doing is getting them off NATO's back [but only in the Afghan theatre], and back onto the backs of the Afghan people; OBL and the al-Q boys will just up-sticks and move further into their sanctuary of the largely ungoverned Waziristan border region, and their stated main prize - Pakistan. It will drop Afghanistan like an uncalled raffle ticket.

So exiting is one thing: but paying to exist (over and above the NATO lives already expended there) is another thing completely; as it sends a whole host of mixed, and damaging, messages.

The Taliban will see any payment deal as clear vindication that their 'Jihad' had worked and that waging it was right ("it must have been, otherwise why would the infidel pay us to leave them alone before running home with their tails between their legs...?")

And, once NATO has gone, at least in its combat role, it will then leave the Taliban to dispense their own brand of Stone Age nihilism upon a people who (like most Moslems) are a fatalistic bunch ('Inshallah') and who, no matter what the strictures placed upon them, or the extremes the Taliban go to as their overlords, will simply grit their teeth and bear it.

Why? Because at least the Taliban in Afghanistan are largely Afghan, and not foreigners - and that's important, as Afghans have never taken kindly to foreign invaders, regardless of the flag under which they've entered the country (The British Empire, The USSR, NATO...)

And, whereas the US (via the CIA) funded the former Afghan Northern Alliance resistance, first to the Soviets, and then the Taliban (lead in both cases by its then leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who, significantly, was assassinated just two days before 9/11, by al-Qaeda assassins posing as Saudi journalists), Afghanistan no longer has an effective or organised resistance movement to the Taliban - and certainly not one with a Charlie Wilson's War, money-&-weapons CIA sugar-daddy.

If ever there was a textbook illustration of "act in haste: repent at leisure", then Bush's sojourn into Afghanistan is it. Hundreds of NATO troops have now been killed there, as have a larger number of Afghanis - and for what? If no military objectives were ever agreed, or articulated prior to invading Afghanistan, then you can't really expect commanders on the ground to make them up as they go, which is now where we're at. 'Surges' and Mission Creep are great debating points, but they are no substitute for original, solid, pre-invasion military strategy when thinking of sending men into harm's way to do a politician's bidding - and the names on the list of Bush cabinet members who failed in this respect are legion.

NATO will leave Afghanistan at some stage, it has to (and the Taliban know this, and yet they have the luxury of time of their hands to let it happen), and just as nature reclaims an untended garden, so the Taliban will reclaim Afghanistan. And where it can't control, it will cut deals with whichever despotic warlords are in regional power (e.g. General Dostum and his successors).

Unchecked by NATO, the poppy crop yield will increase - and its sale will then fund weapons and other nasty Taliban habits - meanwhile, the knock-on-effect is that heroin will become more readily available on the streets of the West (with the attendant coterie of vice and misery which comes with it - people trafficking, forced prostitution, child labour, Mafia activity etc.) - and that's before Afghanistan (no longer policed by NATO) becomes an open training camp for any two-bit Islamic extremist group wishing to extend their 'Global Jihad'. This in turn leaves open the possibility of more terrorist attacks à la Madrid, London, & New York.

So whilst hindsight's a wonderful thing, unfortunately for the wider world, this is what you get when a US president who is so cataclysmically stupid that even his shadow demanded a divorce is voted into power; not helped by his complete lack of any decent or sage counsel after 9/11 happened; certainly in terms of the US making a mete response to the attack; and a situation which has now left us with two messes with which to deal - Iraq & Afghanistan.

So the US will send the 45,000 extra troops asked for by General McCrystal; but then again, when have you ever known a general who said they couldn't win a war without more troops? That's the kind of sameness we can all understand and get behind, right?

The main problem here is that there is no clear reason - other than US revenge for 9/11 - for NATO to be in Afghanistan; we've entered a whole new world of 'Mission Creep', and we're trying to develop strategy on-the-hoof - an approach which has never won a war (cf. Viet Nam). In invading Afghanistan,  a country in which no invading nation has ever won a sustained campaign, all we've done is stirreed-up a hornets' nest and given its people a reason to unite against a common foe: NATO and The West.

And we will leave, and the Taliban will stay - only this time, we won't be there to offer any alternatives or balance to the extremists punting their distorted  version Islam. Nor will we be able to prevent any training camps which will in all probability flourish in our absence.

Where both he and the patient needed precision, Bush tried to operate on the cancer with all the accuracy of a blind man with a blunderbuss: and the rest of us will, sadly, reap the results of that particular failed experiment for some time to come.



  1. Great piece, Bren!


    Tom Degan

  2. Cosmic Navel Lint5 December 2009 at 17:58

    Cheers Tom, likewise - your blog's a great read!


Feel free to comment on this post

Related Posts with Thumbnails