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MURDER IN KABUL September 22, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in CENTRAL ASIA, Terrorism Issues.
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Other than to attract the usual boilerplate posing questions as to what Australia is doing in Afghanistan, it is more insightful to ask what the US is doing.

What is the current strategy? The bottom has fallen out of the government in a box with the recent attacks within Kabul. War it seems is not very economical, not least for the people of Afghanistan.

Civil Wars do not end with the cessation of the military activities. The American Civil War beginning in the 1860’s, followed by reconstruction and Jim Crow and lasting to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. There are resonances in the racist opposition to Obama and the tea party.

So why should Afghanistan be any different? The circumstances are different. The intervention in Afghanistan, as in Libya, was an attempt to fabricate and impose a political reality, accurately described as imperialism, whatever the reality of the training camps for terrorism. Such creation is easier frame in the propaganda media (not an exaggeration, but an observation that stands scrutiny) than to shape in the lived lives of the people who live within the geographic boundaries of the artificial, imperial-created nation state.

History did not begin yesterday. The latest Afghan Civil War has been going since 1978, although the underlying conflicts are deeper, such as that between the collision between modernism and traditional values. And there are of course ethnic and linguistic relationships that transcend the notional national boundaries, involving as a consequences the surrounding countries, in particular Pakistan and Iran. According to Wikipedia the phases are:

Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) – Soviet involvement
Afghan Civil War (1989–1992) – Government collapse
Afghan Civil War (1992–1996) – Anarchy
Afghan Civil War (1996–2001) – Taliban period
War in Afghanistan (2001–present) – ISAF/NATO involvement

Those who murdered the former President of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, (an open question as to how meaningful such a title might be) will qualify as terrorists because bomb was hidden in turban, rather than missiles in high flying pilotless drones.

Both sides of the brutality that some describe in the sanitized manner as war are refining their techniques. The continuing commentary as to who is winning merely spurs the participants on, in activities that would seem to be as senseless as they are inhuman.

Catherine James in Kabul provides  summary of events for Crikey. The assassination, she accurately perhaps is  ‘the death knell for peace” however unlikely a church bell would be rung slowly in Kabul for the death of anyone, even if they were Christian. Furthermore the distinction between Taliban and war lords gets lost in translation,  except that Taliban represent in a general sense the  continuing struggle between the Pashtuns against the Tariqs and the foreign invaders. So whether Burhanuddin Rabbani, was  “appointed to appease” the Taliban is a matter of interpretation, rather than as it should be a question.
She is right, Anand Gopal has a deeper analysis and therefore description of events:

Because of a suicide attacker with a bomb in his turban, Afghanistan’s dim prospects for peace just got dimmer. The assassination of strongman and key historical and present Afghan political figure Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the commission meant to negotiate with the Taliban, the High Peace Council (HPC), signals the massive challenges ahead in efforts to end the war.

For many in the Afghan government, Rabbani’s appointment to head the HPC was seen as a way to involve the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and in particular, Rabbani’s Jamiat-e-Islami party, in the peace process. Jamiat, which has long been hostile to the Taliban, is an important force in northern Afghanistan, particularly among ethnic Tajiks. But many in the Taliban and in Pakistan met the appointment with derision. As the country’s president in the mid-nineties, Rabbani presided over a brutal civil war that killed thousands and helped spawn the rise of the Taliban movement. In the late 90s, Jamiat was one of the Taliban’s main foes in the latter’s drive to conquer the north. Pakistan, meanwhile, has always viewed the India- and Iran-friendly Rabbani with hostility.

. . . From the Taliban and Pakistani side, Rabbani and other Northern Alliance figures appear to be seen as impediments to a deal. “These people don’t represent Afghanistan,” a Taliban official in Quetta told me earlier this summer. “We can’t ever have peace with them around.” In fact, the spate of assassinations in northern Afghanistan in recent months-Kunduz governor Muhammad Omar, Kunduz Police Chief Abdul Rahman Sayedkheli, head of police for Northern Afghanistan Daoud Daoud, and others-could be seen as the steady elimination of elements standing in the way of a deal favorable to the Taliban.

But it could all backfire. Remaining Northern Alliance figures will likely close ranks and conclude that any sort of rapprochement with the Taliban is impossible. Some, like strongman Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, have reportedly looked to cultivate ties with India as a counterweight to what they see as an assassination drive spurred by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Ex-Alliance commanders, aided by U.S. programs to create local militias, will likely accelerate their drive to rearm, possibly setting the stage for a future civil war.

For now, the immense divides that plague Afghanistan will be on full display. Among some communities, Rabbani will be hailed as a hero, a wizened Islamic scholar and hero of the war against the Russians. In others, he will be remembered for scores of human rights abuses and widespread devastation during the last civil war. Either way, a peace deal in Afghanistan remains as unlikely as ever.

Juan Cole provides further commentary and historical context:

Burhan al-Din Rabbani’s assassination late Tuesday was a further signal that things are going very badly in Afghanistan. Rabbani is a former president of Afghanistan (1992-1996) who, however, was impossible to work with and was therefore sidelined after the overthrow of the Taliban (whom he fought) in 2001. He was recently brought back by President Hamid Karzai, however, to head a peace commission trying to reach out for talks to the Taliban and other insurgent forces fighting the Karzai government. Rabbani, because of his Muslim fundamentalist credentials, was plausible for the job, though the Northern Alliance he represented had resisted any peace with the Taliban. Radicals opposed to the negotiations therefore wanted him eliminated.

Last week, Rabbani was in Iran for a conference aimed at interpreting the Arab Spring as an Islamic awakening, which was addressed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. While there, Rabbani reaffirmed the close ties of Kabul with Tehran (a position often taken by Tajik Sunnis and Hazara Shiites, but most often rejected by Pashtun Sunni hard liners such as the Taliban, who are closer to Pakistan).

Rabbani opposed the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan and blamed it for the country’s turmoil.

. . .Rabbani was iconic of the turn of Afghanistan toward Muslim politics from the 1960s forward. From a Dari Persian-speaking (i.e. Tajik) background, Rabbani became the leader of the Jami’at-i Islami, the Afghanistan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. He studied in Egypt and translated Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian radical who inspired al-Qaeda, into Persian. Rabbani’s group fought the Communist government of Afghanistan 1978-1992, as part of the Mujahidin, whom Ronald Reagan termed “freedom fighters” and the equivalent of America’s founding fathers.

At the end of this period the Mujahidin took Kabul and Rabbani became president of a factious state that deteriorated into warlord rule. Rabbani worked out a deal with his rival Gulbadin Hikmatyar (a vicious far-right fundamentalist) whereby the latter would be vice president. The two fell out, however, and the forces of the president and those of the vice president fought each other so fiercely in Kabul in 1995 that they destroyed much of their own capital and killed some 17,000 people. It was one of modern Afghanistan’s major low points, and it paved the way for the Taliban to come to power, since Afghans were sick of the faction-fighting of the warlords.

I suppose it does not matter too much whether the polemics engaged in blog are not cognizant of the details, and journalists who provide what looks like competent commentary from the ground do no have the historical context to work with. The question is then, do the policy makers? In this case it would appear to be the US Military-Industrial complex with the CIA, according to Gareth Porter now a black ops role controlling drone warfare, shading perhaps their intelligence gathering and analytical role.

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