Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hear ye hear ye

An exceptional article:

Afghanistan: Not a Good War
By Conn Hallinan

... Barack Obama is making the distinction between the 'bad war' in Iraq and the 'good war' in Afghanistan a centerpiece of his run for the presidency. He proposes ending the war in Iraq and redeploying U.S. military forces in order 'to finish the job in Afghanistan.'

Virtually no one in the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) calls for negotiating with the Taliban. Even the New York Times editorializes that those who want to talk 'have deluded themselves.'

But the Taliban government did not attack the United States. Our old ally, Osama bin Laden, did. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same organization (if one can really call al-Qaeda an 'organization'), and no one seems to be listening to the Afghans. We should be.

What Afghans Say
A recent poll of Afghan sentiment found that, while the majority dislikes the Taliban, 74% want negotiations and 54% would support a coalition government that included the Taliban.

This poll reflects a deeply divided country where most people are sitting on the fence and waiting for the final outcome of the war. Forty percent think the current government of Hamid Karzai, allied with the United States and NATO, will prevail, 19% say the Taliban, and 40% say it is 'too early to say.'

There is also strong ambivalence about the presence of foreign troops. Only 14% want them out now, but 52% want them out within three to five years. In short, the Afghans don't want a war to the finish.

They also have a far more nuanced view of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. While the majority oppose both groups -13% support the Taliban and 19% al-Qaeda - only 29% see the former organization as 'a united political force.'

But that view doesn't fit the West's story line of the enemy as a tightly disciplined band of fanatics.

Whither the Taliban
In fact, the Taliban appears to be evolving from a creation of the U.S., Saudi Arabian, and Pakistani intelligence agencies during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union, to a polyglot collection of dedicated Islamists to nationalists. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the Agence France Presse early this year, 'We're fighting to free our country. We are not a threat to the world.' Those are words that should give Obama, The New York Times, and NATO pause.

The initial invasion in 2001 was easy because the Taliban had alienated itself from the vast majority of Afghans. But the weight of occupation, and the rising number of civilian deaths, is shifting the resistance toward a war of national liberation... (link)
Readers are encouraged to read the whole piece.

But note, however, that Hallinan's synopsis of Afghan opinion is out of date. As we saw here recently, there is emerging evidence that the Afghan public has turned against our occupation. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as many commentators - Afghan and otherwise - have predicted that this day would come.

So, too, has history shown that insurgencies fueled by foreign military occupation have a common trajectory. This sees the dominant powers at first refusing to negotiate with resistance forces ("terrorists," in official vocabulary) then in the end negotiating the withdrawal of foreign occupying armies in an explicit effort to remove the ultimate cause of terrorist attacks (i.e. the foreign occupation).

Also we have seen that numerous journalists have noted the declining support for the occupation among the Afghan public. And we can add to that the assessment of former Afghan prime minister (and warlord) Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai:
Bringing stability to the war-wracked country was impossible as long as foreign troops remained in Afghanistan, [Ahmadzai] claimed, insisting international military presence was no longer welcomed by the citizens, who might rise against American forces... (link)

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