The NATO in Afghanistan: Withdrawal in Disgrace or a Bloody Stay?

March 14th 2010 | كتبها

The NATO in Afghanistan: Withdrawal in Disgrace or a Bloody Stay?


Ibrahim Alloush


The Star, Monday, November 2, 2009


One can’t custom-design liberation movements just as one pleases.  This is because liberation movements are born out of the tangible circumstances of the culture and society experiencing an occupation, not out of our subjective cultural biases or political sensitivities.   They are products of time and place. 

Hence, a French resistance movement in the early 1940’s was bound to look differently from a Serbian resistance movement, which could not look the same as a resistance movement against a British occupation in Africa or Asia during the same period.  Likewise, one can only marvel with amusement at the totally uncompromising tone in Patrick Henry’s famous speech “Give me Liberty or Give me Death”, heralding the American War of Independence against the British occupation.  More significantly, it is hard not to notice the frequency with which the word “God” was incited in that short speech (… the plank in your eye?).  For America was still drenched in the Puritan tradition in those times! 

Religious overtones aside, it would be more enlightening to view the situation in Afghanistan for what it is without the mystification of the crusading rhetoric that the Obama Administration is clumsily carrying over from Bush’s.  For one thing, if the occupation of Afghanistan is retribution for 9/11, please take note that the liberation effort today is not being led by Al Qaeda, but by the local home-grown Taliban, even if the two groups happen to share the same fundamentalist ideology. 

Moreover, rampant corruption, drug trading, and lawlessness have been some of the factors contributing to the growing popularity of Taliban amongst Afghanis, including some of those who do not necessarily embrace Taliban’s excessively stern interpretation of Islam. 

The Taliban have come to represent for many Afghanis not only a liberation effort against an occupation and its puppet regime, but a hope for law and order in a sea of chaos.  For example, several internet sites quoted the New York Times of October 28, 2009 on the involvement of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the brother of Hamid Karzai, the president of the puppet regime, in drug trading and associated lawlessness, much to the chagrin of NATO commanders in Afghanistan.   The political corruption of Hamid Karzai, as evidenced by the heavy rigging of elections, has become a matter of certified record for the United Nations.  Drug trading has reportedly increased from 185 metric tons in 2001 under the Taliban to 6000 metric tons in 2009 after eight years of foreign occupation.  Outside Kabul and some of the cities NATO controls directly, centrifugal forces are pulling the country apart towards an ethnic and lawless implosion. 

Of course all this comes on top of NATO air strikes reaping the lives of dozens of Afghani civilians regularly, thus contributing to the alienation of NATO and its puppet regime and feeding the popular support base of the Taliban.  As far as this goes, one can just as easily attribute the insurgency (not terrorism!) in Afghanistan to the alienation of the Pashtun majority, that is, to ethnic factors rather than to religious ones, if the omnipresent element of foreign occupation is to be stubbornly discarded.

Furthermore, it would be naïve not to question the ulterior motives of a U.S. superpower on the wane seeking to establish a (permanent?) military and security foothold on the crossroads between Central Asian states, the Xinjiang province of China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan… Certainly those neighboring regional and superpowers cannot afford to view the proposed American troop buildup in Afghanistan blithely.  This is because Afghanistan is geo-strategically crucial to the formation of the Eurasian Superpower bloc currently developing under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  It is also an indispensable pressure point in the web of oil and gas pipelines to be extended across continents as part of the economic infra-structure of the countervailing force of Eurasia, which helps spell the end of the uni-polar system the U.S. government has been trying to salvage.

Pakistan has been feeling alienated because Karzai is viewed as pro-Indian.  Iran, after assisting the U.S. in overthrowing Taliban, feels excluded and holds the U.S. responsible for losing control of Afghani affairs leading to the re-birth of the anti-Iranian Taliban, which effectively controls large swaths of the South and the Southeast of the country.  Turkey and Germany, two of the important participants in the NATO occupation force, are following an “ostrich strategy” of avoiding military engagement with the Taliban because they are both unhappy with the U.S. government strategy in Afghanistan.  Even Britain has come to demand that Taliban be dialogued, not exterminated, and that a graceful exit strategy for NATO be considered. 

But in the end, there is no graceful exit strategy out of Afghanistan.  The U.S. will need much more than 100,000 troops to control that theater of operations.  And as the U.S. sinks deeper and deeper into this bloody swamp it will find that every town and population center will have to be occupied if it is to be secured.  This is especially significant when NATO allies are reluctant to commit. 

Taliban on the other hand is biding its time and avoiding direct classic engagements in the strategic sense.  It’s fighting a guerilla war.  So all it has to do is bleed the enemy slowly to erode its resources and political support locally and in the home countries of the participants in ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force).   On the other hand, the Taliban seems to have a solid grip on its own support base especially since the movement does not seem mired in factional in-fighting or internal power struggles which may allow NATO to infiltrate its ranks politically, where the movement could not be defeated militarily.

In short, one does not have to subscribe to the fundamentalist ideology of Taliban or Al Qaeda to be able to identify the increasingly successful guerilla war being waged there as a basic 101 national liberation campaign against a vicious foreign occupation.  This should be good news for anti-imperialists everywhere.



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