Friday, October 12, 2007

Gwynne Dyer on Afghanistan: "Now the war is lost"

The always thoughtful Gwynne Dyer, a military officer-cum military historian-cum insightful world affairs commentator, weighs in on the war in Afghanistan:

This week is the sixth anniversary of the start of United States air strikes against al-Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. It was a very clever politico-military operation, and by December 2001 all of Afghanistan was under the control of the US and its local allies for a total cost of 12 American dead. Then, for no good reason, it fell apart, and now the war is lost. ...

Washington had the wit to make Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from a clan that never had much to do with the Taliban, its puppet president in Kabul, but it didn't carry through. It froze out all the prominent Pashtun political and religious leaders who had had dealings with the Taliban which was, of course, almost all of them.

The Taliban had been the government of Afghanistan for almost five years, and were at the time the political vehicle of the Pashtun ascendancy in the country. If you were a traditional Pashtun leader, how could you not have had dealings with them? ...

[The US] would not talk to Pashtun leaders who had been linked to the Taliban. Six years after the invasion that wasn't, the Pashtuns are still largely frozen out.

That is why the Taliban are coming back. ...

The Taliban are still the main political vehicle of the Pashtuns, because there has been no time to build another. It doesn't mean that all Pashtuns are fanatics or terrorists. Indeed, not all the Taliban are fanatics (though many of them are), and hardly any of them nurse the desire to carry out terrorist acts in other countries.
Dyer's predictions about what will happen after a pull-out of foreign troops are bold and intriguing:
The current fighting in the south, the Pashtun heartland... will continue until the Western countries pull out. ... Then, after the foreigners are gone, the Afghans will make the traditional inter-ethnic deals and something like peace will return.

Will Karzai still be the president after that? Yes, if he can convince the Pashtuns that he is open to such a deal once the foreigners leave.

Will the Taliban come back to power? No, only to a share of power, and only to the extent that they can still command the loyalty of the Pashtuns once it is no longer a question of resistance to foreigners.

Will Osama bin Laden return and recreate a "nest of terrorists" in Afghanistan. Very unlikely. The Afghans paid too high a price for their hospitality the first time round. (link)

No comments: