pxl
bismellah


pixl

Home
Articles
AfghanPedia

Contact Us


Why is America Failing in Afghanistan?

- DR. Abdul-Qayum Mohmand

Analysis of “CIA World Factbook” (1981-2012): Dimensions of anti-Pashtun Conspirac

Afghan Fury at Planned Pakistan Pact
What Happens When the U.S. Leaves Afghanistan?
Trying to leave Afghanistan proves to be as troublesome as being there: A Closer Look
Afghanistan: “It’s Just Damage Limitation Now”
Zero Dark Thirty Review-Analysis; Eleven Instances of Disinformation
Why is America Failing in Afghanistan?
 
 
 
US forces in Afghanistan nearly destroyed vital airfield
We Are Those Two Afghan Children, Killed by NATO While Tending Their Cattle
Former Islamist Warlord Vies for Afghan Presidency
Pakistan releases top Afghan Taliban prisoner in effort to boost peace process
Losing the War in Afghanistan
Obama’s troop increase for Afghan war was misdirected
Afghan security vacuum feared along "gateway to Kabul"
Objections to U.S. Troops Intensify in Afghanistan
The Great Afghan corruption scam
War zone killing: Vets feel 'alone' in their guilt
Was Osama for Real? And Was He Killed in 2001?
Afghanistan withdrawal: The risks of retreat
The Real Reason the US Invaded Afghanistan
The Definition of a Quagmire
Huge Uncertainty' in Afghanistan
Controversial ID Cards Expose Ethnic Divisions In Afghanistan
Afghanistan: The Final Curtain Call for NATO?
Afghanistan After 9/11: A Mission Unaccomplished
Why Should Taliban and Other Insurgents Refrain from Negotiation With the US & NATO? By: Dr Mohammed Daud Miraki, MA, MA, Ph

Exclusive: Karzai family looks to extend boss rule in Afghanistan.

Intrigue in Karzai Family as an Afghan Era Closes
For Afghans, Two Outrages, Two Different Reactions
Double blow to west’s Afghan strategy
Does the Taliban need a diplomatic voice?
Afghanistan: Lessons in War and Peace-building for US
Afghan women opposed by former allies
Q+A - Haqqani: From White House guest to staunch U.S. enemy
Haqqanis: Growth of a militant network -BBC
Afghanistan shelves plans for ambassador accused of fraud
Afghan nominated as ambassador to Britain was accused in US of fraud
U.S. deal with Taliban breaks down
The Loneliness of the Afghan President: Karzai on His Own

NATO's Third Alternative in Afghanistan

On the Road: Interview with Commander Abdul Haq:- The Tragedy of Abdul Haq
When the Lion Roared: How Abdul Haq Almost Saved Afghanistan
AFGHAN WARRIOR: THE LIFE & DEATH OF ABDUL HAQ
Pakistan’s ISI: Undermining Afghan self-determination since 1948
Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan, Military Occupation, Corruption and the Rights of the Afghan People
M. Siddieq Noorzoy
Why Isn’t the UN Investigating and Prosecuting the U.S. and NATO for War Crimes Committed in Afghanistan?
Corruption and Warlordism:
Abdul Basir Stanikzai
In Afghanistan, U.S. contracts aren’t crystal balls, but they come close
The great Afghan carve-up
Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy
Terry Jones Actually Burns a Qur’an and No One Notices
Q+A-Are Afghan forces ready to take over security?
Guantánamo Bay files rewrite the story of Osama bin Laden's Tora Bora escape
Winning Afghan hearts, minds with explosives
Afghanistan’s Mercenaries
KABUL’S HORIZONS
Who is winning Afghanistan war? U.S. officials increasingly disagree
Afghanistan: The Trouble With The Transition
From the Archives: In Quest of a ‘Greater Tajikistan’
The 1980s mujahideen, the Taliban and the shifting idea of jihad
Afghanistan's Karzai complains about interference
Karzai, US ambassador at odds over private security

Karzai Tells Washington Post U.S. Should Reduce Afghan Operation Intensity

Excerpts from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's interview with The Washington Post
What the Afghans Want
New US approach to Afghanistan insurgency: Vindication for Pakistan?
Putting Some Fight Into Our Friends
Afghans 'abused at secret prison
Why We Won’t Leave Afghanistan or Iraq
Indo-Pakistan proxy war heats up in Afghanistan
Canada’s elite commandos and the invasion of Afghanistan
U.S. retreat from Afghan valley marks recognition of blunder
Five myths about the war in Afghanistan
Marine who resigned over ‘conscience’ speaks at MU
The Afghan media may have grown since Taliban rule ended, but not so press freedoms
Mystery holes and angry ants: another Afghan day
Kabul Bank's Sherkhan Farnood feeds crony capitalism in Afghanistan
Marjah War
Operation Moshtarak: Which way the war in Afghanistan?
Q&A: Why Marjah, why now?
In Jalalabad, hope is fading
Seeking reconciliation, US units meet remote Afghanistan tribes
Once Again, Get the Hell Out! "Ending the War in Afghanistan"
Blackwater Kept a Prostitute on the Payroll in Afghanistan; Fraudulently Billed American Tax Payers
Wild West Motif Lightens US Mood at Afghan Bas
In southern Afghanistan, even the small gains get noticed
 Afghanistan war: US tries to undercut Taliban at tribal level
 Soviet lessons from Afghanistan
Are actions of 'super-tribe' an Afghan tipping point
Taliban: Terrorist or not? Not always easy to say
Q&A: Who else could help in Afghanistan?
Vietnam Replay on Afghan 'Defectors'
Washington's Refusal to Talk about Drone Strikes in Pakistan Meets Growing Opposition
Afghanistan summit: Why is the US backing talks with the Taliban?
Taliban's leadership council runs Afghan war from Pakistan
Why buy the Taliban?
2 Afghanistan conferences: No solutions
An Alternative to Endless War - Negotiating an Afghan Agreement?
Do the Taliban represent the Pashtuns?
Afghanistan asks ex-presidential contender to tackle corruption

Tehran Sets Conditions For Attending London Conference On Afghanista

Pakistan says reaches out to Afghan Taliban
Taking It to the Taliban
The Afghan Taliban's top leaders
How significant is Mullah Baradar's arrest?
Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander
What's the Quetta Shura Taliban and why does it matter?
What's behind latest Taliban attack on Kabul? See Images of the Attack By WSJ

Pakistan Version of Islam and Taliban ?????
Lahore fashion week takes on Talibanization in Pakistan

Loyalties of Those Killed in Afghan Raid Remain Unclear

After Attack, Afghans Question Motives or See Conspiracies
Gates: Taliban part of Afghan ‘political fabric’

IG: Afghan power-plant project ill-conceived, mismanaged

Taliban intensifies Afghan PR campaign

Taliban Overhaul Their Image in Bid to Win Allies
Karzai plans to woo Taliban with 'land, work and pensions'
Peace scheme mooted for Taliban
Bombs and baksheesh
But By All Means, Continue the Happy Talk on the Afghanistan War
Karzai Closing in on Taliban Reconciliation Plan
Last Exit Kabul
How To Get Out Without Forsaking Afghanistan's Stability
Afghan Recovery Report: Taleban Buying Guns From Former Warlords

'Jesus Guns': Two More Countries Rethink Using Weapons with Secret Bible References

Gun bible quotes 'inappropriate'
Text of Joint declaration of Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan trilateral meeting
Garmsir Protest Shows Taleban Reach
Rugged North Waziristan harbors US enemies
The Arrogance of Empire, Detailed ( The Untold Story of Afghanistan )
Appointment of Afghan counter narcotics chief dismays British officials
In Afghanistan attack, CIA fell victim to series of miscalculations about informant
Rebuilding Afghanistan: Will government take hold in this post-Taliban town?
Rare bird discovered in Afghan mountains
Blackwater, now called Xe, in running for work in Afghanistan despite legal woes
How Soviet troops stormed Kabul palace
Afghan children 'die in fighting'
Afghanistan war: Russian vets look back on their experience
U.N. Officials Say American Offered Plan to Replace Karzai 
Learning From the Soviets
U.S. faults Afghan corruption body's independence
Intensify fight against corruption, says Afghan meeting
Afghan ministers cleared of charges
Drone aircraft in a stepped-up war in Afghanistan and Pakistan
U.S. Air Force Confirms 'Beast of Kandahar' Secret Stealth Drone Plane
Kissinger's fantasy is Obama's realit
Taliban shadow officials offer concrete alternative
Talking with the Taliban
20. Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart
'Yes, there was torture and people were certainly beaten': Afghan warden
Why we should leave Afghanistan
US pours millions into anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan
Pakistan to US: Don't surge in Afghanistan, talk to Taliban
A Plan C for Afghanistan
Finding decent cabinet is Karzai's big challenge
A way to get around Karzai in Afghanistan
Corruption fight boosted by 'Afghan FBI'
US demands Afghan 'bribery court'
Afghanistan plans court for corrupt ministers
The man leading Afghanistan's anti-corruption fight
Win hearts and minds in Afghanistan to win the war
Gates blocks abuse photos release
New U.S. Afghan prison unveiled, rights groups wary
War in Afghanistan: Not in our name
How the US Funds the Taliban
Afghan gov't says UN representative out of line
Cabinet of Warlords
Afghanistan and the lessons of history
Clinton says Karzai ‘must do better’
Recognizing the Limits of American Power in Afghanistan
After Afghanistan election, governors seek distance from 'illegal' Karzai
Karzai was hellbent on victory. Afghans will pay the price
Matthew Hoh: Please refute what I'm saying, we are stuck in the Afghan civil war
As US looks for exit in Afghanistan, China digs in
America's Top Diplomat Tells 'Nightline': 'Not Every Taliban Is al Qaeda'
Obama Can’t Make Russian Mistake in Afghanistan
10 Steps to Victory in Afghanistan
Will Obama change Afghan strategy?
Does the U.S. still have a vital interest in Afghanistan?
Pashtuns and Pakistani
The Afghan '80s are back
Pashtun peace prophet goes global
Afghan Road Builder's Dream Thwarted by Violence
A white elephant in Kabul
The Afghan Runoff: Will It Be a No-Show Election?

Ashraf Ghani- Afghanistan's Disputed Election Complicates U.S. Strategy

On Assignment: Into the Maw at Marja

Patrick Witty & Tyler Hicks
The New York Times


Afghanistan Cross Road CNN


The last frontier


Bruce Richardson
 

Articles

CIA: Buying peace in Afghanistan?

With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan
CIA Ghost Money: Karzai Confirms U.S. Gives Funds To Afghan National Security Team
What the CIA’s cash has bought for Afghanistan

Khalilzad: A Satan Whispering in the Hearts of Men
The Afghan trust deficitt
Will We Learn Anything from Afghanistan? Part 1
Getting Out of Afghanistan: Part 2
William R. Polk
General’s Defense on Afghan Scandal Ducks Key Evidence
Afghans want Taliban peace talks
Bombing Weddings in Afghanistan: It Couldn't Happen Here, It Does Happen There
Hekmatyar's never-ending Afghan war
Covert American Aid to the Afghan Resistance; A Top-Secret U.S. Foreign Policy Plot to Induce and Effect Soviet Military Intervention
Afghan brain drain fears as Karzai urges education reforms

US considers launching joint US-Afghan raids in Pakistan to hunt down militant groups

Real security in Afghanistan depends on people's basic needs being met
Intractable Afghan Graft Hampering U.S. Strategy
Former Taliban Officials Say U.S. Talks Started
Taliban ready for talks with US, not Karzai government
Emboldened Taliban Try to Sell Softer Image
Leaked NATO Report Shows Pakistan Support For Taliban
Insight: Few options for Afghan, U.S. leaders after Kandahar massacre
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Daoud Sultanzoy, Tolo Television
NATO’s measured exit plan in Afghanistan faces new obstacles
BFP Exclusive: Karzai Clan Attorney Threatens US Journalist, Uses Intimidation Tactics
Afghanistan Chronicles
Arduous path to Afghan 'end-game'
Fear in the classrooms: is the Taliban poisoning Afghanistan's schoolgirls?
A comment on the recent events of student poisoning in Afghanistan
Rape Case, in Public, Cites Abuse by Armed Groups in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Peace Talks Hit Brick Wall
THE ANATOMY OF US’S DEFEAT IN AFGHANISTAN
VOICES OF EMPIRE: FROM CIA’s CULTURAL GREAT GAME TO GLOBAL GREAT GAME TODAY
WHITE PAPER FOR THE PERMANENT PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN
King Karzai
A Federal System of Government is Not Suitable for Afghanistan
CHINA AMO DARYA OIL DEAL
Analysis: Where Afghan humanitarianism ends and development begins
U.S. Envoy: Kabulbank Was 'Vast Looting Scheme'
Speaking with the enemy: how US commanders fight the Taliban during the day and dine with them at night
Afghanistan: Operation Enduring Musery
How to Win Peace in Afghanistan
For Karzai, Stumbles On Road To Election
Cruel human toll of fight to win Afghan peace
Criticism of Afghan War Is on the Rise in Britain
Troops 'fighting for UK's future'
Operation in Taliban hotbed a test for revamped U.S. strategy
Covering Crucial Afghanistan Operation
Afghans still skeptical about Obama
US Defence Department struggling with public release of report on bombing in Afghanistan
Afghanistan on the Edge
Q+A: Who are the Pakistani Taliban insurgents?
Afghanistan Past & Present
Bombs for Pashtoons and Dollars for Punjab
Help! I'm being outgunned on K Street!
ANGELS CHASING DEMONS: “Jesus Killed Mohammad”!
U.S. tested 2 Afghan scenarios in war game
America's Top Diplomat Tells 'Nightline': 'Not Every Taliban Is al Qaeda'
Obama hearing range of views on Afghanistan
What Do Afghans Want? Withdrawal - But Not Too Fast - and A Negotiated Peace
Will Obama change Afghan strategy?
What Do Afghans Want? Withdrawal - But Not Too Fast - and A Negotiated Peace
Afghans tricked into U.S. trip, detained
In the Afghan War, Aim for the Middle
Obama pulled two ways in Afghanistan
Obama Can’t Make Russian Mistake in Afghanistan
10 Steps to Victory in Afghanistan
Gates: Mistake to set time line for Afghan withdrawal
Afghans question what democracy has done for them
High stakes in Afghan vote recount
Two Perspectives On Resolving The Afghan Postelection Crisis
Does the U.S. still have a vital interest in Afghanistan?
Pashtuns and Pakistanis
The Afghan '80s are back
How to Lose in Afghanistan
US in Afghanistan proposes revamped strategy
US 'needs fresh Afghan strategy'
US looks to Vietnam for Afghan tips
Lessons from Vietnam on Afghanistan
Afghan Pres. Skips Country's 1st TV Debate
A proud moment for Afghanistan
Rival to Karzai Gains Strength in Afghan Presidential Election
Afghan presidential candidate withdraws in Karzai's favor
America and international law
Hamid Karzai pulls out of historic TV debate just hours before broadcast
Karzai says no to first Afghanpresidential debate
Afghan election: Can Karzai's rivals close the gap?
Karzai opponents hope to beat him in second round
Afghanistan's Election Challenges
For Karzai, Stumbles On Road To Election
Pentagon Seeks to Overhaul Prisons in Afghanistan
Cruel human toll of fight to win Afghan peace
Karzai’s gimmick
Well-known traffickers set free ahead of election
US president sets Afghan target
U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died
Why the Pentagon Axed Its Afghanistan Warlord
Earn our trust or go, Afghans tell GIs
The Irresistible Illusion
Running Out Of Options, Afghans Pay For an Exit
We've lost sight of our goal in Afghanistan
$2,000 for a dead Afghan Child, $100,000 for Any American Who Died Killing it
The strategy is sound – but success is not assured
Operation in Taliban hotbed a test for revamped U.S. strategy
Covering Crucial Afghanistan Operation
Pentagon Seeks to Overhaul Prisons in Afghanistan
Echoes of Vietnam
A Response To General Dostum
Obama orders probe of killings in Afghanistan
Obama admin: No grounds to probe Afghan war crimes
US president sets Afghan target
U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died
Afghanistan's Election Challenges
The Irresistible Illusion
Earn our trust or go, Afghans tell GIs
Running Out Of Options, Afghans Pay For an Exit

We've lost sight of our goal in Afghanistan

The strategy is sound – but success is not assured
Stakes High in Afghanistan Ahead of August Elections
$2,000 for a dead Afghan Child, $100,000 for Any American Who Died Killing it
Ex-detainees allege Bagram abuse
Petraeus Is a Failure -- Why Do We Pretend He's Been a Success?
Fierce Battles and High Casualties on the Frontlines of Afghanistan
End the Illegal, Immoral and Wasted War in Afghanistan, says BNP Defence Spokesman
Outside View: Four revolutions
Pakistan's Plans for New Fight Stir Concern
France: liberty, equality, and fraternity – but no burqas
 

 

 

 

 

Echoes of Vietnam

Even the Coalition commanders in Afghanistan wonder if they can win the war
Will history repeat itself in Afghanistan?

British military intervention in Afghanistan has a chequered history, making it easy to conclude that British forces will fail again


 

Pashtuns and Pakistanis

Pashtuns and Pakistanis

Source: THE WEEKLY STANDARD By: Reuel Marc Gerecht
A not-so-great game, but one America can't give up.

The war in Afghanistan obviously isn't going well. Depressing critiques from all quarters underscore Afghanistan's appalling poverty, warlordism, religious conservatism, corruption, poppy fields, and retrograde matrix of ethnicity and tribe. Many of those who wanted to cut and run from Iraq have become similarly anxious about what, at least until November 2008, they saw as a better war. The stay-and-fight crowd is still the more powerful in Washington, but armed tenacity is an unnatural position for many pro-war liberals and some post-Cold War conservatives. Their support of President Barack Obama's war could wane. The prospect of a long conflict in a Muslim country could be daunting.

To see that this war is worth fighting is not to deny that Afghanistan could become even more demanding than George W. Bush's "war of choice." Topography alone could make the conflict more wearing: Some of the most violent areas of Afghanistan have some of the world's most formidable terrain. Iraq is a nation of well-paved roads; Afghanistan is a rough, rolling sea of rocks and dirt. Like the Bush administration on Iraq, the Obama administration has yet to be frank about what an American commitment to the war in Central Asia will cost. No Larry Lindsey has yet arisen in the Obama White House and spoken truth to power. We could soon have 100,000 soldiers deployed, and we could have them there for years. Comparisons between the United States in Vietnam and in Afghanistan are for the most part surreal (the North Vietnamese and Vietcong had the Soviet Union behind them), but the image of helicopters flying over jungles will soon be matched--if the Obama administration is serious about fighting--by a horizon of helicopters flying over Afghanistan's parched mountains, verdant river valleys, and stacked-rock towns and villages.

We plan on massively augmenting the size of the Afghan army and police since we want them eventually to replace us. Perhaps 300,000 armed locals may be required. Afghanistan has no history of raising, let alone sustaining, such organized national forces. The cost of training and providing logistical support to Afghan units can't be fully calculated yet, but it is clear that Afghanistan cannot pay for what it desperately needs. It cannot do so even if Kabul legalizes the production and export of opium, a policy that the United States and many Europeans would oppose.

And it's most unlikely that Obama will be able to guilt-trip the Europeans into spending more. It will be a diplomatic miracle if the administration can just keep them contributing what they do now. Obama, who regularly chastised the Bush administration for its supposedly unrivaled capacity to alienate our allies, could well oversee the de facto dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. European leaders have clearly shown that Obama's election didn't make them any more willing to put their troops into combat.

Left-wing economists will soon be tabulating mind-boggling sums for the conflict, with all its remotely possible collateral costs. Senator Obama found such arithmetic for Iraq appealing; it may prove uncomfortable for him to make arguments for Afghanistan that sound, to borrow from Mother Jones's David Corn, "slightly reminiscent of what the Bush-Cheney gang tried to pull off when they were pushing the case for invading Iraq." And some of the president's arguments on Afghanistan will be less compelling. Politically, Iraq is an enormously influential country in the Middle East (its post-Saddam impact on Iran may already have been substantial); Afghanistan remains a cultural and intellectual backwater, even for Pakistanis who can't resist trying to draw their northern neighbor into a great game with India.

But there are many compelling reasons to keep fighting in Afghanistan. Most important among them is that an American withdrawal would return Afghanistan to civil war and reinforce frightful trends in Pakistan. In an Afghan civil conflict pitting the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Shiite Hazaras against the Pashtuns, the United States would have to choose the anti-Pashtun, anti-Pakistani side to protect against the possibility that the Taliban, a Pashtun-based movement, would again gain the upper hand. Remember Western insouciance about Afghanistan between 1994 and 1996, as the Taliban gradually gained ground? This time around, Washington would be obliged to intervene. It could not simply assume, as many suggest, that Pashtun jealousies, tribal differences, and powerful competing warlords would be enough to thwart a neo-Taliban advance. But successfully intervening in Pashtun politics from "over the horizon," with American troops no longer significantly deployed in Afghanistan, would be impossible. The Taliban currently have the offensive advantage throughout most of the Pashtun regions with U.S. forces active in the country; imagine U.S. forces gone.

Choosing sides would immediately thrust us into conflict with Islamabad, which remains a staunch and, at times, nefarious defender of Afghan Pashtun interests. Such a collision between Washington and Islamabad would be awful, fortifying Islamic militancy within Pakistan and placing al Qaeda and its allies, more clearly than ever before, on the same side as the Pakistani military establishment, which is only now getting serious about countering the radical Islamic threat at home.

The terrorist ramifications of this for us and for India could be enormous. Britain's domestic intelligence service, MI5, is working around the clock to monitor and thwart terrorist plots emanating from Muslim militants on the subcontinent. Great Britain does not receive the credit it deserves for doing the heavy lifting in building a security barrier against subcontinent Muslim radicals and their militant brethren resident in Europe. Even more than the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, MI5 is America's frontline defense against mass-casualty terrorism.

Pakistan, not the Arab Middle East, is where extreme Islamic militancy probably has the most growth potential. And Britain's intelligence officers are quick to confess that they could not do their work without cooperation on the Pakistani side, which today, even after Islamic militants have lethally targeted members of Islamabad's intelligence and security services, remains complicated and problematic. Pakistan has been loath to sever long-standing ties to the Afghan and Pakistani Pashtun militant groups with which it has dealt for years. This is particularly true for those who come under the Taliban umbrella. Mullah Omar, the Taliban's divinely anointed founding father, is more or less an honored guest of Islamabad, holding court in Pakistan's western province of Baluchistan. Imagine scenarios where the Pakistanis receive requests for help from the British and the Americans, even as Western powers are aiding Afghanistan's bitterly anti-Pakistani non-Pashtun minorities against pro-Taliban Pashtuns.

We should never underestimate the potential for Pakistani recidivism. Even the most secular, pro-Western Pakistanis viewed the American invasion of Afghanistan with trepidation, if not hostility. Afghanistan was their backyard: A broad Pakistani consensus backed Islamabad's support of the Taliban. Even Pakistanis who serve Johnnie Walker Black at parties can like the idea of Muslim holy warriors in Afghanistan abetting the anti-Hindu jihadists of Kashmir. The Muslim identity is really all that Pakistan has as national glue. During the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-89), Afghanistan became a revered place for devout Pakistanis, some of whom crossed the border to fight with their coreligionists. For the secularized civilian and military elite, Afghanistan became an escape valve--someplace for religious Pakistanis to focus their attention. This attention was reciprocated north of the border.

Representing between 40 percent and 45 percent of the Afghan population and convinced of their right to political preeminence, Pashtuns have never lost their ties to their ethnic kin across the artificial, British-imposed border with Pakistan. The Soviet-Afghan war and the rise of religious militancy in the Pashtun community--which predates the Soviet invasion--further cemented ties and gave the Pashtun identity a sharper ideological edge. The long-standing cooperation among the Pashtun Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI, where Pakistani Pashtuns have served influentially), and the Pashtuns of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, North-West Frontier Province, and Baluchistan is natural.

Also strengthening cross-border bonds has been the deepening sense of religious identity throughout Pakistani society. The rule of General Zia ul-Haq (1977-88) in particular accelerated the careers and sentiments of Islamists within Islamabad's armed forces. The cheek-by-jowl association of diehard fundamentalists and whisky-loving English-educated wits within the Pakistani officer corps was an astonishing and delicate balancing act; it was made possible only by the secular-fundamentalist agreement about Afghanistan (support the Taliban) and Kashmir (support the jihadists). September 11 and the American invasion shredded this harmony.

Since Pakistan's creation in 1947, Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been building political, economic, and cultural muscle, but they have not developed a widespread ethnic-nationalist movement, as have the poorer and less powerful Baluch, who have serious separatist tendencies in Pakistan and no love for their Shiite Persianizing masters across the border in Iran, who oppress the Sunni Baluch and their age-old desire to have nothing to do with Tehran. As the French scholar Olivier Roy has pointed out, the Pashtuns' collective sense of themselves has usually been expressed within radical Islamic movements, the Taliban being the most famous and successful of these religious-cum-nationalist awakenings.

What is poorly understood in the West is the way radical religious callings have been a means for young male Pashtuns to escape from tradition-bound tribal society by appealing to a higher cause. This transnational, supra-tribal--and in that sense antitraditional--religious brew made the pre-9/11 Taliban and has, in part, made the neo-Taliban now battling American and allied forces. (It also gave birth to Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the two most vicious and long-lived of al Qaeda's Pashtun allies.) Roy, who has been the most percipient diagnostician of Afghanistan for a generation, doesn't believe that any policy designed in Washington and Kabul that plays traditional "good tribal elders" against the "bad Taliban" can work since it pits a decaying old order against a modern Islamist ideology.

Islamism and Afghanistan's deeply rooted tribal structure have often felicitously cohabited. (The same was true of Afghanistan's brutal strain of communism, which sometimes spared the lives of enemies from the right tribes.) But tension has been growing. Modern Islamism, which poured into Afghanistan from Pakistan and the Arab world in the 1980s, appeals to the historic, global mission of Islam and takes a dim view of local affections and social hierarchies that circumscribe the religious calling. The Afghans who grew up in the Pakistani refugee camps during the Soviet-Afghan war, and their philosophical descendants, aren't known for respecting the traditions of a lost world. Many of their elders were slaughtered by Afghan Communists or the Soviets. These men are modern in that their religious fundamentalism is stripped of the cultural and social complexities of age-old traditions and tribes. The enormous Saudi missionary influence on the practice of Islam among the Pashtuns has fortified this "purist" streak, nearly obliterating the more easygoing Hanafi and Sufi practices that softened Afghan village and especially urban culture.

Mullah Omar was ready for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's global holy war because he'd drunk deeply of fundamentalism, with its frenetic emphasis on extirpating insufficiently devout Muslims from the community. This aggressiveness--the desire to weed the Afghan garden of its imperfections--retains considerable appeal among devout young Afghans who feel their society, or their tribe, is rife with injustices. American and British intellectuals and soldiers may still be in love with the tribes of the Islamic Middle East and Central Asia (T.E. Lawrence is ever with us). But among the natives, tribal solidarity and respect for elders aren't nearly as powerful as they once were.

It's an excellent bet that if the Americans withdrew from Afghanistan, even the most secular Pakistanis, who finally recognize the threat that radical Islam poses to them, would be strongly tempted to try to make a deal with the Pakistani Taliban--a vastly worse deal than any they've made so far. The upper crust from the Punjab and the Sindh, who make up the bulk of Pakistan's civilian and military elite, normally find the folks in the northwest of their country and in Baluchistan to be almost beyond the pale of civilization. Giving Afghanistan back to them--a workshop for the rude and crude devout--would likely be enormously appealing. "Let's stop fighting each other," would be the opening line. "The Americans are dialing back the clock to pre-9/11. So can we." Most Pakistanis would no doubt be thrilled to have al Qaeda's headquarters return to Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden, who has long loved Afghanistan, might well oblige them.

It is the American presence in Afghanistan that keeps the Pakistani ruling class "honest." Islamabad appears to be slowly and bloodily winning the battle against its own militants, who want to push the country toward a religious civil war. The American army in Afghanistan is allowing the all-critical Afghan Pashtun community time to recover from the Taliban--giving it the chance to develop a competitive ideology that comprises Afghan nationalism, Pashtunism, and serious religion.

Although there has been more ethnic cleansing in Afghanistan than has been reported in the mainstream press (mostly Pashtuns migrating, voluntarily or under duress, from predominantly Tajik and Uzbek areas), interethnic antipathy hasn't metastasized as it did in Iraq. Badly mauled, the idea of Afghan fraternity still exists. The widespread savagery that we saw between Iraqi Sunni and Shiite Arabs seems unlikely to happen in Afghanistan.

Some critics of Westerners in Afghanistan argue that U.S. and NATO forces, by their tactics if not their mere presence, are breathing life into the neo-Taliban, who would remain deeply unpopular among the Pashtuns if it were not for outsiders' mistakes. Although we can quickly concede that Western mistakes make the Taliban look better, Westerners in Afghanistan have actually generated much less village-level antipathy among the Pashtuns than might have been expected given the Pashtuns' reputation for xenophobia. We might yet see a Pashtun-only "national liberation" jihad develop in Afghanistan, but we are far from this now.

Even now, "our" Pashtuns probably represent a big majority of their brethren. If the Americans were to leave, however, it's highly unlikely these friendly Pashtuns could long hold the high ground against a resurgent neo-Taliban movement. The Taliban possess the most effective Pashtun fighting force. Many, perhaps most, Pashtuns dislike the Taliban's aggressively inflexible religion (it's Pashtun village faith on speed), but the Taliban do have an ideology, tested repeatedly on the battlefield. It isn't just money and intimidation that bring them recruits.

Today's multiheaded Taliban movement is learning what Mullah Omar discovered after 1994: You can marry an unpleasant, vaguely foreign ideology to local concerns, customs, and warlords if you find the right mix of money, intimidation, Pashtun revanchism, the universal popular fear of disorder, and God. The neo-Taliban have successfully laid claim to Islam as a war-cry; other Afghan Pashtuns have not yet figured out how to harness the faith to their cause. And the Pakistanis will throw their weight, as they did in the 1990s, behind those Afghan Pashtuns who are the most militarily effective and have the strongest cross-border ties. The neo-Taliban could conceivably cut a deal with militants over the border to stop the Pakistani fratricide. No other Afghan Pashtuns would have such leverage.

The odds are, nevertheless, against the Taliban and their allies on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Unless Obama withdraws U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Pakistani Army will be forced to keep fighting its own insurgents. Things were never going to get better in Pakistan before they got worse. The savagery of the Taliban in places like the Swat Valley has brought home what Islamic militants are capable of, as have their lethal attacks on Pakistani officials. We are beginning to see a great debate within Pakistan about jihad and Islamic ethics. Discussions of Pakistan's activities in Afghanistan and Kashmir are not yet what we might want, but Pakistan's chattering classes are serious (much more than those in most Arab lands). If they keep fighting their own demons, they may wind up asking themselves why their country's premier intelligence service has been implicated in so many ugly, bloody activities abroad.

Corrupt, mean-spirited, feudal in practice, and fragile, Pakistan's democracy has been far better at airing the country's dirty linen than was its military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. As the Pakistani military slowly makes headway against the radicals, civilian officials and officers have started sounding religiously more confident, going toe-to-toe with the radicals for the hearts and minds of Muslims. Government-supported anti-Taliban media campaigns in the contested northwest of the country have actually sounded sensible--something that cannot always be said for the American bankrolled and overseen efforts on Pakistani radio. U.S. officials should not try to veto Islamabad's hard-edged, very Muslim use of the Koran and the Prophet against radicals, preferring that the message echo Washington's favorite anodyne line that "Islam is a religion of peace." Political correctness hasn't yet come to the Swat Valley.

But the battle against the Taliban inside Afghanistan will be even harder since the creed opposing the Taliban for now is so traditional and the Afghan Pashtun personalities who can refute the militants are, with some exceptions, less than compelling. Traditional mores can compete with modern ones if the latter shock: The slowly growing revulsion throughout the Arab Middle East for al Qaeda is in great part a recoiling of devout Muslims from the violent excesses committed by holy warriors who once had broad support. But this process isn't necessarily quick. The grosser the atrocities, the faster the flip. In 2004, Sunni Arab opinion outside Iraq was inclined to describe Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda jihadists who butchered Shiites as anti-American "martyrs"; by 2007, after tens of thousands of Shiites had been killed, and the Shiites were brutally and successfully fighting back, a moral queasiness took hold among non-Iraqi Arab Sunnis, and Iraq's Arab Sunnis raged against al Qaeda.

At present, neo-Taliban violence against civilians is escalating in Afghanistan. Given the Taliban's nasty record under such dark figures as the suicide-bomber-loving Jalaluddin Haqqani, the anti-Taliban Pashtuns should be able to ally militarily with the Americans and win the hearts-and-minds tug-of-war with their countrymen. By the same token, however, if the neo-Taliban refrain from atrocities and ramp up the jihadist call laced with Pashtun pride, the battle could be far more difficult for the United States.

The allure of democracy for Afghans shouldn't be belittled, as has now become commonplace among Americans, both conservative and liberal. Afghanistan is a backward land, with entrenched sentiments and habits that are certainly deleterious to functioning representative government. The fraud charges in the recent presidential election don't help the cause of Hamid Karzai and other Pashtuns who are trying to develop, however fecklessly, an alternative creed for Pashtuns to believe in. But the Afghans have lived through hell. Their tolerance for ineffectual and corrupt government under the umbrella of the United States is probably still far from exhausted. The Obama administration and the Pashtuns are going to have to do better than they've done so far. But the bar for success is low--much lower in Afghanistan than it was in Iraq.

This is the biggest reason why Afghans can be quite straightforward about their desire to see foreigners stay in their country. They generally do not possess a prickly religio-nationalist consciousness that makes it extremely difficult to cooperate openly with Westerners. (Pashtuns are pussycats compared with Iraqis.) When trained and armed, Afghans are not scared or embarrassed to fight alongside foreigners. As battlefield allies, they are braver and more effective than many of the Europeans who've nominally joined us.

The Afghan Muslim identity has been battered and radicalized since the early 1970s. But Afghanistan is definitely one of those places--Iran is another--where many have actually become less enamored of religious militancy. Experience matters. Nonstop war for 30 years has made the Afghan people--especially their elites--more inclined toward rapacious corruption. They are certainly less fraternally disposed toward each other than they once were. But war has also taught many of them to back away from incendiary religious politics. The great Tajik Afghan military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud was a diehard Islamic ideologue in his youth. By the time he died in middle age, assassinated by bin Laden's men, he could wryly and mournfully reflect on his earlier passion. Such wisdom is not uncommon in Afghanistan, even among Pashtuns who are illiterate.

If we lose the devout Afghan Pashtuns and start seeing large swaths of Pashtun society siding openly with the Taliban against us, while savage intercommunal hostilities break out among Afghanistan's peoples, then we will have to debate withdrawing from Central Asia. But we haven't seen that. And unless we withdraw--or persist in a counterproductive military strategy (which, thanks to the failures and successes in Iraq, we won't)--the Pashtuns as a people probably won't rally against us. Things will remain far from perfect in Afghanistan--doing well in the Greater Middle East means that your successes just edge out your defeats. But we are cognizant of our problems. And if we look into Pakistan, we can see what is at stake.

That alone should propel General Stanley McChrystal to recommend the deployment of all the troops and resources he needs to turn the tide in Afghanistan. He and General David Petraeus, the overall commander of U.S. forces in the region, surely know that they have the president over a barrel. If Obama refuses to deploy all they request and Afghanistan continues to go south, then he will have lost the "necessary war" that defined his campaign and his presidency.

If that happens, one fact will be paramount: The Pashtuns will have laid low both East and West. Their brothers in arms who still truly believe in a global jihad against the United States will view our departure as their victory and a mandate from heaven. Jihadists everywhere will be thrilled and emboldened.

And in that case, we will all have to pray that MI5 is up to the challenge.

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

 

The articles and letters are the opinion of the writers and are not representing the view of Sabawoon Online.
Copyright © 1996 - 2017 Sabawoon. All rights reserved.