Editor of rabble.ca (and co-chair of Stopwar.ca) Derrick O'Keefe interviews Tariq Ali:
Derrick O'Keefe: Obama's 'diplomatic surge' will certainly feature a major effort to get NATO countries like Canada to boost their troop presence in Afghanistan. What are the prospects for this charm offensive? Will Afghanistan increasingly become even more of a strictly U.S. war?
Tariq Ali: It will. Most European countries are extremely nervous. The British Ambassador to Kabul has stated that the war cannot be won. A German General who returned from Afghanistan repeated the same thing. The Spanish are reportedly on the verge of withdrawal.Sending 20,000 more U.S. troops will make things worse, not better. My impression is that Obama's advisers are split on this question. All are however agreed that the aim is no longer nation-building (always a joke) but getting a pro or at least not an anti-Western regime without Karzai set up as soon as possible. This might not be as easy as they think.DO: Newsweek recently ran a cover story, 'Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam'. Could Pakistan become his Cambodia, and what does the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as his envoy to Pakistan forebode on that front?
TA: Holbrooke is little more than a messenger boy. He will do whatever the White House wants. But he should have picked up something on his latest travels including a few facts. A large majority in Pakistan want an exit strategy from Afghanistan. I have argued recently in my new book and in TomDispatch that such a strategy is crucial. However it should not entail handing over Afghanistan to the Pakistani military as happened last time after the Russians were defeated.
We need a regional solution that involves Iran, Russia, China and India as well as, of course, Pakistan. If this does not happen the Afghan war will become uncontrollable leading to further havoc in that country and Pakistan. Already the chaos in the region has emboldened religious extremists in the Frontier province and religious warlords have reduced Swat to a fiefdom. Here it must be said that the decision of the Pakistan state to abandon its legitimate monopoly of violence and permit armed gangs to burn down schools and assault women is astonishing. A state that is incapable of protecting its citizens against violence either local or external is doomed to collapse. In fact, as is obvious, the events in Swat could not have occurred had the governments of the country not colluded with some of these groups, using them to pressure Washington in different ways.
DO: [Some] pro-war commentators in Canada have tarred the anti-war movement as being 'supporters' of the Taliban. [Former NDP activist Tarek Fatah] has spread this accusation against you personally...
TA: My views have not changed at all... I have, just recently, written of the previous Taliban regime in Afghanistan as a 'malignant social order' and for that reason insisted on a national coalition government in that country following the NATO withdrawal. Given the massive increase in support for the new version of the Taliban that is the result of the war and occupation, any government has to include their representatives...
The fact that many former Afghan communists supported the NATO occupation is unlikely to help the secular cause. Nor is the deal done by the secular Awami National Party provincial government in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with hard-line extremists, agreeing to the IMARGRAH: A five-point agreement for the enforcement of Shariat in Malakand Division which has been finalized in the successful talks held between the NWFP government and Maulana Sufi Muhammad. They were wrong to do so just as they were wrong in supporting first the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and more recently the NATO occupation... (link)
- March 2008: "The Taliban is growing and creating new alliances not because its sectarian religious practices have become popular, but because it is the only available umbrella for national liberation," says Tariq Ali. He adds: "There is no way for NATO to win this war."
- September 2008: "... mullahs who had initially supported Karzai's allies are now railing against the foreigners and the government in Kabul. For the first time, calls for jihad against the occupation are even being heard in the non-Pashtun northeast border provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan...
- June 2008: "the majority of [Afghans], after offering a small window of opportunity to the occupiers, realised it was a mistake and became increasingly hostile.