The Afghans held an election, but no one believes it was honest or fair. No one is likely to think whatever "government" comes of it, if any, amounts to more than a corrupt cabal either.
The latest U.S. General who is supposed to sort this out is on the verge of sharing his assessment with the President. The usual pre-release leaks tell us that the situation is bad, but more of something (lives and treasure usually) will somehow make it better. Meanwhile for the first time since 2001, polls suggest that a slim majority of people in this country don't think this war is worth the costs. The usual prattlers say the President would be "brave" to defy the people, the people who chose him in part because he knew there were such things as "wrong wars." And nobody can tell anybody what the goal of the dying might be or how we could measure that goal's achievement.
Into this mess, the International Crisis Group -- a sort of talk and research shop for wiser globalizing "statesmen" usually from less powerful countries -- has pointed out another, not yet recognized, reality that further complicates the Afghanistan situation. It turns out that when you carry campaigns of death and destruction to the far regions of a dispersed countryside, people start moving around to get out of harm's way. How obvious ...
So, as we have seen in Iraq, war in Afghanistan is leading to refugee flows that further complicate life in a country that has been fought over continually for 30 years.
Yes -- we have here the familiar recipe for the exploitation, speculation, graft and warlordism that follow in the wake of outside cash flowing in and people being wrenched from stable communities.
In Iraq, these destabilizing conditions played out as ethnic cleansing carried out on Islamic sectarian lines, Sunnis and Shi'as striving for territorial power. In Afghanistan, Derrick Crowe at Return Good for Evil has published two maps that show how the war is cutting up Afghanistan on "tribal" or linguistic lines. Here's the map showing the language groups (via the CIA.)
And here are the areas of conflict and of peace and quiet on the date of the recent election, according to the BBC.
Distressingly similar, aren't they? The Pashtuns (shades of green in the first map) are the largest population group. Afghan President Karzai is a Pashtun, though not from the most important branch. So are most of the Taliban. Note which areas on the election map are red and pink conflict zones, areas where the Taliban rule far more than the "government".
The forces the U.S. used to overthrow the Taliban in 2001 come from smaller ethno-linguistic groups, mostly shown in browns and oranges on the first map. Note where the peaceful gray areas are. Those maps look awfully similar.
Now more and more people uprooted by high tech combat and guerrilla resistance are floating around this smashed country, grasping whatever safety and security they can find. Around them ethnic groups are grabbing whatever power they can get in this chaotic mess. Has the United States imposed itself in the middle of another violent internal civil power struggle? Has this occupation also unleashed ethnic cleansing, this time on linguistic and tribal lines? We shouldn't be surprised if the answer is yes.
And meanwhile, what was the U.S. goal in the Afghan war, again?