Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting up to speed on Afghanistan

Tom Englehart is pessimistic about U.S. prospects in Afghanistan under our incoming regime:

... after January 20th, expect Obama to take possession of George Bush's disastrous Afghan War; and unless he is far more skilled than Alexander the Great, British empire builders, and the Russians, his war, too, will continue to rage without ever becoming a raging success.

Anita Inder Singh, a Swede who is currently a professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution in New Delhi, provides some data points that illuminate why Obama's hope of rescuing the Afghan debacle with European assistance is a pipe dream. Not only are European citizens unwilling to see their soldiers killed in the Hindu Kush, but their governments absolutely aren't going to pay to rebuild the place.

One of the deeper causes of the problems facing Karzai and NATO is that both the military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan have been among the most inadequately funded peace-building operations in the world since 1945.

In effect, there are 1.2 NATO soldiers for every thousand Afghans, or four soldiers per thousand if the 85,000-strong Afghan security forces and all NATO personnel -- totaling 143,000 - are taken into account. In contrast, there are 20 NATO soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants in Kosovo, and nineteen per thousand in Bosnia. Underfunding has also left most Afghan soldiers and policemen poorly trained and ill-equipped to take on the Taliban. ...

NATO countries have not given enough for reconstruction. Foreign aid to Afghanistan has been a mere $57 per capita per year. This is "peanuts" in comparison to aid to Kosovo and Bosnia, which received annually $526 and $679 per capita respectively.

In reality, Afghanistan was never something Europe saw any need to throw down about. It is unlikely that Obama's popularity with European citizens will be enough to persuade their governments to risk getting in deep and reaping the unpopularity that will eventually fall on those who support this failed venture.

Meanwhile, its pretty clear that the Taliban are on their way back to power. See for example journalist Nir Rosen's dramatic account of traveling with the insurgents under the noses of NATO forces. Rosen describes the Taliban as being less extremely puritanical than when they last held power, even willing to put up with popular practices, such as educating some girls, which they outlawed last time around.

This devastating news clip from Al-Jezeera suggests Rosen was deceived. H/t Juan Cole.

Yet, disgusting as the Taliban's acts are, the Obama administration will almost certainly be forced to negotiate with them if Afghanistan is reach any kind of stability. There is no alternative. The U.S. right wing will go bonkers with rage when this inevitably result of George Bush's failures becomes apparent in the conflict that Democrats have tried to claim as the "right war."
Insofar as any peace movement has survived the election campaign and the economic crisis, getting up to speed on Afghanistan is essential. This is another failed imperial adventure. Perhaps at one time it might have been something like a justifiable short term intervention, but as of now, the U.S. has managed to render both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan worse off than before we began blundering around in their countryside, bombing and killing their people.

At the very least, we -- the peace movement -- owe Afghans an informed witness to their plight and agitation for reconstruction assistance.


Naj said...

Getting up to speed with Afghanistan requires a profound understanding of the Afghan psych. The Afghan psych is not necessarily fully represented by the will of the Kabul residents.

For the neo-coloizers, aka "freedome fighters" of this century it is essential to understand that if democracy is what they preach, then democracy is not necessarily what looks like in their western countries.

I am Iranian, and as you may know Iran'd been housing the largest refugee population of the world; i.e. over two million Afghans--even during the years that Iran was fighting with Iraq.

Afghan labour in Iran has been as essential as the illegal mexican labour has been to California. My father has been employing many Afghans for all sorts of jobs; those with education made it up to office work; those without stayed in field work. Their anecdotes to my dad, in the past few years since Freedome invasion, has invariably been that life under Taliban was "safer" was "better".

A phenomenon like Taliban arises from a "need" in a war torn country like Afghanistan; in a country that is the heart of opium drug cartels, a country plagued by half a century of FIGHTING off the colonizers.

In any case, I don't think TAliban can be uprooted from Afghanistan unless there is enough Afghan Will to stand up to Taliban's ideological premise. And Hamid Karzai, a hand picked figure with corrupt associations is not the man to do it.

Darlene said...

Obama promised early in his campaign that one of the first things he would do if elected was to close Guantanamo. I believe he will do so, but if he doesn't we must hold his feet to the fire.

The problems this creates are numerous. Where to incarcerate those who are probably terrorists. Who will hold the trials. And where to release those with little, or no, evidence against them where they won't be tortured. Bush really made a terrible mess to straighten out. (Of course this is just one of many.)

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