Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Nir

Nir Rosen again, this time talking with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. He deftly outlines the quagmire that Afghanistan has become and gives a lucid explanation of how civil war might erupt in the future. Hear the audio here. Excerpts:

Democracy Now
Oct 15

Investigative journalist Nir Rosen has just returned from Afghanistan, where he embedded with the Taliban and traveled far from capital city of Kabul, “Afghanistan’s version of the Green Zone.” He doesn’t think the US-led NATO occupation is winning in Afghanistan. His latest article for Rolling Stone magazine is “How We Lost the War We Won: A Journey into Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan.” ...

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “how we lost the war we won”?

NIR ROSEN: Well, it wasn’t my title. But this was obviously a battle that was very quickly over initially in November 2001. I mean, the Taliban were quickly dispatched. But they weren’t exactly hunted and destroyed, nor was their senior leadership. They fled to Pakistan and eventually reestablished themselves. It’s just shocking that this could have actually been a fairly easy country to deal with. The destruction, the misery, the despair was so utter that you didn’t have the same initial hostility to foreign forces that you might have seen in Iraq. With a little bit more of attention with—if they hadn’t focused on the war in Iraq, if they had focused more reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, if they had not allowed the warlords to take over from an early period, then perhaps Afghanistan could have been a relative success...

And an increase in troops in Afghanistan will only be more counterproductive. You’re going to kill more civilians. You’re going to have more engagements with the so-called enemy. You’re going to call in more air support. More civilians will be killed as a result of that.

And it’s unfortunate that—Obama, of course, one of his major platforms is to withdraw from Iraq. That’s the bad war; he needs the good war. So Afghanistan now is the good war. He needs to prove, as a Democrat, that he too can kill brown people. I think that’s what it comes down to, that we’re not weak; we can kill foreigners, too. All you’ll do, if you increase the troops in Afghanistan, is alienate more of the population...

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think needs to happen in Afghanistan?

NIR ROSEN: I think that international troops should withdraw, or certainly change their approach in terms of pursuing the Taliban. I think negotiations with the Taliban are the only hope of any kind of peaceful solution.

And what I saw when I was with Taliban commanders is that they are far more pragmatic than they were in the ’90s. Their attitudes towards women’s education—haven’t exactly become feminists, but they accept that women should be able to work and go to school. They accept that they should be able—that they should negotiate with the Afghan army and security forces when the foreigners leave. Many of them weren’t calling for Mullah Omar to come back. They disapproved of suicide bombings, a lot of the guys I was with. These guys were watching TV, even Indian soap operas, which the Taliban would have been very upset about in the past.

AMY GOODMAN: Nir, you’re saying something most people aren’t, that there’s less violence in Iraq, not because of the surge, but because of ethnic cleansing. Do you see the same thing happening in Afghanistan?

NIR ROSEN: Well, it’s a very different situation. Iraq was a civil war. And Afghanistan can be pushed toward civil war. The Taliban is becoming more and more, in some ways, a representative of Pashtun nationalism. And if they proceed with the elections, which they’re trying to have in Afghanistan, I think you may see the country going in that direction of civil war, because you just cannot have election registration or actual elections taking place in Pashtun areas. People who go to register will be killed. People who go to vote will be killed, meaning Pashtuns won’t be able to vote, just as Sunnis couldn’t vote in Iraq. And that caused a civil war eventually, Sunni alienation in Iraq. If the Pashtun, as a much larger group in Afghanistan, aren’t able to feel enfranchised, they too—I think you’ll see some kind of clash between Tajiks and Pashtuns. (link)

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