“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan

Withdrawal And Then What?

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The politics of a withdrawal from Afghanistan are firmly on the British political agenda, the recent comments by Gordon Brown’s office indicates that, even Nick Clegg is hedging his bets.

Combined with the removal of the United Nation’s western officials, the situation in Afghanistan is looking bleak, despite the urgency of the McChrystal’s request for extra troops the White House is dithering.

There is a distinct possibility that NATO forces and aid agencies could withdraw completely from Afghanistan within the next few years, or before, and despite what some “anti-imperialists” suggest such a course of action would not be a victory, as ultimately the Afghans will suffer a terrible fate.

I think it worthwhile pondering the possible outcomes of a precipitous withdraw of NATO troops.

These preliminary points should not need stating, however, I think they provide a wider context from which we can draw some conclusions.

  • Firstly, the Taliban is engaged in a war of conquest, it wants to control Afghanistan at all costs, the whole country as it did years ago.
  • Secondly, it will use any means to achieve that end, it would gladly kill thousands, if not tens of thousands, or more, that’s what the Taliban will do.
  • Thirdly, the years of neglect and misgovernment have taken their toll and finally, that the joint NATO and Afghan forces are having a real difficulty subduing the Taliban.

All of these points are fairly obvious, but they point to wider problems, should NATO forces leave abruptly then the remaining Afghan forces would have serious difficulties overcoming the Taliban.

Again, if the combined resources of both Afghan and NATO forces can’t readily defeat the Taliban, at the moment, then the Afghan forces on their own probably would not be able to do it. What follows from that is very important, because as far as I can see there are two conceivable outcomes of a hasty withdrawal of NATO forces:

1. Civil war in Afghanistan.

2. A Taliban victory and conquest of the country.

Should a civil war occur in Afghanistan then potentially hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians could be slaughtered, as neither side would pull any punches and use all and any available methods to subdue the other side.

Either with, or without, a civil war a Taliban victory is highly probable.

In victory they will show no mercy, in the past they have deliberately attacked other ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, etc. I am not sure that we need to dwell on what type of society that the Taliban would reconstitute, but 13th century medievalism would be their starting place. Women in Afghanistan would be repressed and made the chattel of men. Girls education would be banned. Most modern innovations, even chess and music, would be made illegal

Under the Taliban the cult of the gun and the bullet made the dominant ideology, all that and much more. Aid agencies would be banned, as they were before, from the country as foreign “interlopers”, the Afghan economy would atrophy and millions of potential refugee’s seek shelter in neighbouring states. Starvation will return to Afghanistan.

Once that has occurred Western states will find any number of reasons not to intervene, as blood drips down the streets and alleyways of villages in Afghanistan.

That is certainly probable, in light of a Taliban victory, and in the West we will hear such nauseating variants on the “they are savages, let them fight it out” theme or “we shouldn’t split a drop of British blood for those Afghans” etc

In such an eventuality, a typically Western mix of isolationism, xenophobia and realpolitik would be used to justify inaction and passivity in the face of a Taliban victory.

All of that, is certainly a possibility, and more probable than many in the West would readily admit. A Taliban victory and the consequences for the ordinary Afghans does not bear thinking about, the result will be untold amounts of bloodshed and parsimonious hand-wringing in the West.

Written by modernityblog

06/11/2009 at 16:00

Politics, police and military in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Not quite that grandiose title, but I was pondering those two countries and with the news that is filtering out a couple of things seem clear to me.

In Pakistan there is the question of dual power, not between the people and the military, rather than military and the Islamists. The Islamists chose to attack military installations not civilian ones, as that is where power ultimately resides in Pakistan, with the military.

The audacious nature of the attacks was meant to cower the Pakistani military and leave the road open for the Islamists to take full power. Their attacks were meant to show their strength and instil fear into the Pakistani military, which they hoped would eventually capitulate and allow the takeover of the Pakistani state by the Islamists. I feel that they have underestimated the desire for self-preservation in the Pakistani military as they move into the South Waziristan heartlands. Whatever happens it will be a bloody and murderous campaign.

Listening to the news coming out of America I couldn’t understand why the Obama regime was seemingly dithering over Afghanistan and McChrystal’s request for 40,000 troops, but it’s apparent the politics of the Presidential election is part of the reason. Hamid Karzai doesn’t want to hold a run-off and the Americans are using the issue of reinforcements as pressure on him, after considerable election fraud. Whatever happens any government in Kabul it must have a degree of legitimacy and the extent of fraud perpetrated in the recent presidential election makes it hard for the Americans and others to garner support for a continued presence in Afghanistan. Karzai for his part is reluctant to 1) admit that there was election fraud 2) fight it off in a two way contest, lest he loses.

Not sure which way it will go, but there is more going on than we hear.

On a related topic, a kidnapped American journalist, David Rohde, tells of his time in the hands of the Taliban.

Written by modernityblog

19/10/2009 at 15:21

The “Anti-Imperialism” Of Bus Bombings.

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Reuters reports:

“KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – A roadside bomb struck a passenger bus outside Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, killing 12 civilians including women and children, a provincial official said.

Homemade bombs have become by far the deadliest weapon used by insurgents fighting Western and Afghan government forces, and civilians are frequently killed in the blasts.

“Twelve people, among them women and children, have been killed and 15 more civilians were wounded,” provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi said of the blast.

It happened on a highway where a similar blast killed three civilians a day earlier, he added.

Ayoubi blamed the insurgent Taliban for planting the devices.

Reuters could not immediately reach the Taliban for comment, but the militants usually distance themselves from blasts when civilians are the victims.

Ousted from power in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the resurgent Taliban largely rely on roadside bombs and suicide attacks in their campaign against the foreign and Afghan forces.

More than 1,500 civilians have been killed by violence in Afghanistan so far this year, the United Nations said last week.

It said 68 percent of the civilian killings were a result of militant attacks, while 23 percent were caused by Afghan and foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military.”

Written by modernityblog

29/09/2009 at 14:53

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Good Analogy.

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Over at Dave Osler’s socialists, “anti-imperialists”, believers in the ‘armed struggle’ and others are arguing over the Taliban and Afghanistan.

It is not a pretty discussion (if it can be called that, with all of the name calling and deliberate bad faith), but one poster, Michael, made a very good analogy:

Imagine if the US was controlled by religious extremists – and Dubya’s government doesn’t really count – a government whose treatment of its citizens, and in particular women, was brutal. Then someone invades them and installs a creaky government whose democratic principles are creaky as well. Are you going to back the wingnut KKK resistance or the dodgy foreign-backed government?

Me? Wouldn’t wholeheartedly support either. Although in the cold sobering light of day I might say the creaky not-quite-perfect foreign sponsored government would be a better platform for the growth of better human rights, better democracy, a better more inclusive education system and all-round improvement for society.

Update 1: We often tend to forget the previous situation in Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled it, and their crimes they perpetrated, just as a reminder:

Amnesty’s 1999 report on Afghanistan: The human rights of minorities.

HRW’s 2001 report on the massacres of Hazaras in Afghanistan.

HRW’s 1998 report Afghanistan: The Massacre in Mazar-I Sharif.

HRW’s 2001 report on the use of child soldiers by Taliban in Afghanistan.

Update 2: Here’s Amnesty’s report on Afghanistan: Women in Afghanistan: Pawns in men’s power struggles.

Update 3:
Another Amnesty report on the Taliban’s deliberate killing of civilians, Afghanistan: summary execution of civilians in Yakaolang.

Update 4: More on the Taliban massacre at Mazar-i Sharif in 1998. HRW’s put it at 2000. The Hazara Nation blog has a more detailed account.

Written by modernityblog

08/09/2009 at 22:02

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Taliban Chop Off Fingers.

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The Taliban have shown their barbaric side, again, as CNN reports:

“KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — Making good on a threat of election day violence, the Taliban sliced off the index fingers of at least two people in Kandahar province, according to a vote monitoring group.

After they cast their ballots, the fingers of Afghan voters are stained with ink to prevent them from voting multiple times. The fingers of the two women in Kandahar, a stronghold of the Taliban, were cut off because they voted, said Nader Naderi of the Free and Fair Election Foundation.”

Written by modernityblog

22/08/2009 at 13:31

Taliban Abuse Children.

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Although in the West there are some who might well want to paint the Taliban (or the so called neo-Taliban) as somehow moderate, as if they have toned down their excesses of public hanging, or attacks on schoolgirls and the burning down of schools, we only have to wait before that facade is exposed.

More recently, the Taliban carried out a bombing in the center of Herat killing 12 people, injuring another 20.

In concert with that, the Taliban has been abusing children, by recruiting them as child soldiers. Readers will remember that the UN outlawed this disgusting practice about 7 years ago, read more:

“On Sunday, authorities in Swat’s main town of Mingora presented several teenagers alleged to have been forcibly recruited by the Taliban. Seven boys, their lower faces covered to prevent them being recognized, were shown to reporters.

One, a 16-year-old Shaukat Ali, said the militants abducted him while he was playing cricket. He said they told him they wanted him to be “a warrior” and offered to pay his family for his services.

Bashir Ahmad Bilour, senior minister of North West Frontier Province where Swat is located, said that dozens of children had been rescued by security forces and ranged in age from 6 to 15.

He claimed they were being trained as suicide bombers.

“They are prepared mentally. They say that Islam is everything for them. They say they are doing it for Islam. They say they have to carry suicide attacks for the sake of Islam,” Bilour told private Geo TV. “They are brainwashed to such an extreme that they are ready to kill their parents who they call infidels.”

He said 15 of the children were undergoing rehabilitation at an army school in the northwestern town of Mardan.”

This is not the first time, in 2007 UNICEF condemned Taliban’s use of child soldiers. has more, their 2008 report on Afghanistan.

Written by modernityblog

04/08/2009 at 02:30