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AFGHANISTAN: WITHOUT GUILT OR SHAME February 5, 2014

Posted by wmmbb in CENTRAL ASIA, Modern History.
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. . . the Uberpower clings to denial of defeat, stumbles from crisis to crisis, with the injection of violence and hatred as the surefire antidote. Never mind the human or financial costs of the great strategic game. No lessons learned, let’s move on.

Let’s now pivot to China, or is that the Pacific? At least the underling nations, know their place, still click their heels and salute smartly. So, all the spectacle and murder was not for nothing. (The insubordination of the Dutch in leaving early seems to have passed without notice.)

Hubris in its original meaning might have some relevance. The point of Empire is to enjoy the humiliation of the conquered (not the home population. This is a modern development.) Those wretched Afghanis will not play that game. This may well be because not only have they had generational and historical experience, but as in the past they have mostly created successful resistance to invaders, as seems to be the case this time around. Of course, we should not compare the esteemed leaders of Western Civilization, and their military helpmates, or vica versa, to “adolescent boys”.

For a more informed view of events as they are unfolding, no better can be done than referencing The New York Times. Furthermore, it is savvy, within the official jurisdiction of what is acceptable, a very good report, if the internal contradiction is not noticed. It is perfectly acceptable for the Americans and others to engage with the Taliban in Qatar, but not for the President to do so in Afghanistan. Azam Ahmed and Matthew Rosenberg write:

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.

The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.

The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai’s government or its successor after coming elections.

Frustrated by Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement, which would clear the way for American troops to stay on for training and counterterrorism work after the end of the year, President Obama has summoned his top commanders to the White House on Tuesday to consider the future of the American mission in Afghanistan.

Western and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the peace contacts, said that the outreach was apparently initiated by the Taliban in November, a time of deepening mistrust between Mr. Karzai and his allies. Mr. Karzai seemed to jump at what he believed was a chance to achieve what the Americans were unwilling or unable to do, and reach a deal to end the conflict — a belief that few in his camp shared.

The article overlooks the obvious. Now it does not make any sense to assassinate President Karzai, who was elected in one of the most bogus elections ever. The war is at a different stage, but Karzai’s reported behavior reminds me of Diem.  The failure here is a military failure, but equally a political failure. Mr Karzai did not turn out to be the puppet he was intended to be. Possibly since he  sees the jig is up.

Much of this situation is very predictable, and probably as it is unfortunate, means more suffering for the Afghan people. An observation in the report needed more emphasis that heretofore it has been given:

Both Mr. Karzai and American officials hear the clock ticking. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces and preparing to leave Afghanistan this year, and the campaigning for the Afghan national election in April has begun. An orderly transition of power in an Afghanistan that can contain the insurgency on its own would be the culmination of everything that the United States has tried to achieve in the country.

“We’ve been through numerous cycles of ups and downs in our relations with President Karzai over the years,” Ambassador James B. Cunningham said during a briefing with reporters last week. “What makes it a little different this time is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple of months.”

Mr. Karzai has been increasingly concerned with his legacy, officials say. When discussing the impasse with the Americans, he has repeatedly alluded to his country’s troubled history as a lesson in dealing with foreign powers. He recently likened the security agreement to the Treaty of Gandamak, a one-sided 1879 agreement that ceded frontier lands to the British administration in India and gave it tacit control over Afghan foreign policy. He has publicly assailed American policies as the behavior of a “colonial power,” though diplomats and military officials say he has been more cordial in private.

Mr. Karzai reacted angrily to a negative portrayal of him in a recent memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and he is still bitter over the 2009 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots were disqualified and, as he sees it, the Americans forced him into an unnecessary runoff against his closest opponent.

In some respects, Mr. Karzai’s outbursts have been an effort to speak to Afghans who want him to take a hard line against the Americans, including many ethnic Pashtuns, who make up nearly all of the Taliban. With the American-led coalition on its way out and American influence waning, Mr. Karzai is more concerned with bridging the chasms of Afghan domestic politics than with his foreign allies’ interests.

“Operation Junkyard” is quite the bazaar, except nobody, other than the military weapons contractors, make money. The spectacle will leave its physical legacy as disfigurement to human beings and the landscape.

At least for some, Afghanistan was the perfect war, which probably goes someway to explaining why it lasted for these past twelve years.

There is cause for apprehension for the people of Afghanistan given the likely success of the Taliban, or the Pashtun Resistance. ( I cannot find a commentary that referred to Homer’s Odyssey suggesting that dehumanized ways of war is very different from the way of peace.) Wars have not resolved the imposition of nation states on tribal societies. It is not clear that elections to replace the existing government will be successfully held, even by the standard of the last election.

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