Monday, November 15, 2010

Afghanistan end game?

Frequently peace activists in the United States are reticent about the question: what will happen if/when the U.S. departs the latest unfortunate country we've invaded? We're too busy pointing out that 1) going into wherever was wrong in the first place and none of our business; and 2) the United States will not stay forever, the contentious issue is when our troops will be pulled back because of some combination of opposition from home, heavy costs, or sheer imperial fatigue. Those are both truths and, especially the second one is something that we must remind our own confused population of. Evading this fact is way too easy here in the heart of empire.

But when it comes to Afghanistan, an Afghan-American might well have real insight into the "what happens after" question. San Francisco author Tamim Ansary has some suggestions:

To my mind, a confrontation between Afghans and Afghans is coming. America and NATO can on postpone it but not prevent it. There are many things Americans can do in Afghanistan -- garrison troops anywhere, re-supply them, bomb any building or village.

But there are things America can’t do in Afghanistan. Govern the country, for example. That’s a truism, hardly worth mentioning. ...

But here’s the thing: someone can govern Afghanistan. Not NATO, not America, but someone -- some Afghan. If all foreign forces leave, a battle will break out among the country’s many factions and forces, and out of this turmoil someone will emerge.

Whoever it is, this someone will not be a nice guy. He will be the meanest, toughest pit-bull in the yard. But he will also be an astute politician, a cunning diplomat, and a brilliant strategist -- because ruthless, tough, and mean won’t be enough. All the contenders will have that. The winner will have to be all that plus -- something more. ...

Go read the whole thing, now! And yes, he does care about the prospects for Afghan women.

Ansary is the author of West of Kabul, East of New York and Destiny Disrupted:A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.
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In the last few days, the military establishment appears to have been laying down the law to President Obama that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2014. It's always worth remembering, their ironclad control of events is an illusion. Much may happen to change that which we cannot envision completely today, especially in a war zone which seems to defy understanding by anyone except perhaps Afghans.

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