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Afghanistan: Race to the finish

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    NATO pays Taleban for security, a Canadian is appointed governor of Kandahar. When will the madness cease, asks Eric Walberg Afghanistan: Race to the finish
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2009
      NATO pays Taleban for security, a Canadian is appointed governor of
      Kandahar. When will the madness cease, asks Eric Walberg

      Afghanistan: Race to the finish
      Eric Walberg
      Al-Ahram Weekly

      The war in Afghanistan is spreading its tentacles around the world.
      The terrorist attacks in Mumbai are now being explained as a plot by
      Lashkar-e-Taiba to divert the Pakistani military away from the Afghan
      border areas, a replay of the attack on the Indian parliament in
      December 2001. Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: The Story of the
      Afghan Warlords, says, "Nobody could touch the Taliban, Al-Qaeda,
      Afghans and others for the next four years." Recent explosives found
      in a Paris department store were part of a planned attack by the
      Afghan Revolutionary Front to protest French troops in Afghanistan.

      Hundreds of supply vehicles headed for Afghanistan were recently
      torched, and the NATO supply depot in Peshawar ransacked, forcing
      Pakistani authorities to close the vital Khyber Pass. The main supply
      routes are no longer secure and Pakistani truck drivers are refusing
      to transport military supplies. Nato and US officials insist this has
      had no effect on military operations in Afghanistan despite the fact
      that attacks happen daily.

      In a truly bizarre development NATO is now paying the Taleban to
      guarantee the security of these supply routes. "We estimate that
      approximately 25 per cent of the money we pay for security to get the
      fuel in goes into the pockets of the Taleban," said one fuel
      importer. Another boss whose company is subcontracted to supply to
      Western military bases said that as much as a quarter of the value of
      a lorry's cargo was paid to Taleban commanders. "The Taleban come and
      move with the convoy. They sit in the front vehicle of the convoy to
      ensure security."

      Raising the prospect of an even wider threat to the convoys, Jamaat-e-
      Islami staged a rally last week in Peshawar, turning out thousands to
      condemn NATO missile strikes on Pakistan. The marchers demanded that
      Pakistan end the NATO convoys, and vowed to cut the supply lines

      2008 saw British deaths there surpass 100, soon followed by Canadian
      deaths, and US deaths now surpass their total in that other criminal
      enterprise – Iraq – with the US poised to double troop numbers,
      despite the fact that popular opinion polls in all the occupying
      countries regularly show 60 per cent of citizens want their troops
      home immediately, apparently unfazed by talk of bring democracy and
      freedom to the grateful locals. A report by the independent US-based
      Pakistan Policy Working Group claims that at least some of these
      deaths are at the hands of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, as
      it is "no longer certain the coalition forces will prevail in
      Afghanistan and is using militants groups in an attempt to expand its
      own influence."

      But as Stalin told Churchill, while the death of one man is a
      tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic. More disturbing than
      any of these statistics are the words of Russell Higgins of Nova
      Scotia, Canada, whose nephew Tom died there recently and who was
      preparing to say goodbye to his son Peter, headed for the killing
      fields. "I don't figure our boys should be over there to start with.
      You can't win a war against people that don't mind dying. My son is
      getting ready to go over. What can be said? You can only do what you
      can do."

      As president-elect Barack Obama prepares to double troops levels, US
      President George W Bush made a parting visit to Kabul, and cautioned
      that the war would be a long one. Already Defence Secretary Gates is
      calling on Canada to extend its commitment of troops beyond 2011,
      despite the agreement to withdraw them by then. No freedom and
      democracy for citizens of the West or Afghanistan, it seems.

      Predictions are now that the violence will subside as the US builds
      up its military presence. Apparently the unremitting violence of NATO
      troops against Afghans is not counted. To counter the "violence" of
      the insurgents – which might be better called partisan warfare
      against an illegal occupation – Canadian forces have turned to their
      Israeli allies for help, buying their deadly unmanned drones which
      are so effective at murdering Palestinians. This is hardly news that
      will convince Afghans of the occupiers' good intentions – Israel
      effectively attacking and killing them along with their Palestinian
      brothers. How long will it be before the Mumbai tragedy is repeated
      in the heart of peaceful Ottawa? How can anyone possibly think that
      Israel will find peace by spreading its criminal activity farther and
      farther afield?

      Perhaps even more bizarre than paying the Taleban while killing them
      with Israeli bombs, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just appointed
      Canadian Tooryalai Wesa governor of Kandahar. He is a close friend of
      Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai who just happens to be chairman of
      the Kanadahar provincial council. The last governor lasted only four
      months, but Tooryalai promises to bring order and prosperity. It's as
      if Kanadahar has become Canada's 11th province, bristling with 2,500
      Canadian troops, and now even governed by a Canadian.

      There is a sense of foreboding about the planned push by Obama, with
      no enthusiasm or hope for success apparent among anyone involved. In
      an unprecedented breach of protocol, General Hans-Christoph Ammon,
      head of the German army's elite special commando unit, branded his
      own country's efforts a "miserable failure", singling out its poor
      record in training the Afghan police and allocating development aid.
      The ruling coalition of Christian and Social Democrats face elections
      next year, with the anti-war Die Linke party making huge gains.

      The occupiers and Karzai try to convince Taleban to switch sides, but
      just the opposite is happening. After fighting the Taleban for the
      past seven years, many working for the Afghan security forces are
      joing them. Afghan policeman Sulieman Ameri, now a Taleban commander,
      used to patrol the border with Iran. Ameri told Al-Jazeera he and his
      16 men joined the Taleban because of anti-Muslim behaviour by
      international soldiers. "I have seen everything with my own eyes, I
      have seen prostitution, I have seen them drinking alcohol. We are
      Muslim and therefore jihad is our obligation," Ameri said in the
      mountains south of Herat. "Our soil is occupied by Americans and I
      want them to leave this country. That is my only goal," he added.

      "When Russia came it was only one country, today we have 24 foreign
      infidel countries on our soil. All our men and women should come and
      join the jihad," Fida Mohammad, a new Taliban recruit, told Al-
      Jazeera. Abdul Rahim, another new recruit, said he received training
      from Blackwater for 45 days. "I can use the training to save my life
      in these mountains and I can also use it to fight them," he said.
      NATO spokesman Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette dismissed such
      talk: "The Taliban and other insurgents are conducting a propaganda
      campaign against us."

      Kai Eide, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in
      Afghanistan, recently told the UN Security Council that Taliban
      attacks – at an all-time high – would probably grow in the coming
      weeks instead of easing, as they have in previous winters. "We should
      be prepared for a situation where the insurgency will not experience
      the same winter lull, the same reduction in hostilities we have
      experienced in past winters," he said. Eide added that attacks
      against humanitarian workers had also increased.

      NATO's response to its failure to build a reliable Afghan army and
      police is to set up local militias. The plan is causing deep unease
      among many Afghans, who fear that Pashtun-dominated militias could
      get out of control, terrorise locals and turn against the
      government. "There will be fighting between Pashtuns and non-
      Pashtuns," said Salih Mohammad Registani, a member of the Afghan
      Parliament and an ethnic Tajik. Registani recalled the Arbaki, a
      Pashtun-dominated militia in the early 20th century. "A civil war
      will start very soon," he said.

      As Afghanistan prepares for its own election cycle – presidential
      elections are scheduled for 2009, with parliamentary elections to
      follow in 2010 – it is likely that the resentment fueled by the
      presence of troops from the 24 infidel countries and the treatment of
      Afghans as second-class citizens by the foreign NGOs and military
      will become a rallying point for politicians. There have been growing
      indications of this even from Karzai's administration, notably his
      agreement to sign the anti-cluster bomb treaty earlier this month
      despite US disapproval.

      The Taleban are not to be treated lightly. They were feared, but
      respected too, when they ruled. With no help from anyone, they
      disarmed the entire nation and proceeded to wipe out opium production
      before the US invaded (after which rape became endemic, warlords
      amassed arms and opium production soared to record levels). There was
      virtually no crime, as "we all had nightmares of them cutting off
      your hand if you stole," Afghan Canadian Abdul told Al-Ahram Weekly
      after returning from this year's Hajj.

      "We hated the Russians but we knew they didn't want to be there. The
      Afghan communists took power in 1978 and then the US flooded the
      country with weapons to fight them. I remember this well. The last
      communist leader, (Mohammad) Najibullah, was actually a good leader,
      but the US insisted on backing Bin Laden and the other terrorists
      against him. The US could solve the whole problem in a week if they
      wanted to. There is no Bin Laden now. Even though I don't like them,
      the Taleban should be allowed to take power. They would be better
      than what my family in Kabul are living through now," said Abdul.

      The current US occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq, the refusal
      to allow the Somali Taleban – the Islamic Courts and the Shabab – to
      come to power there, and the unremitting vilification of Syria and
      Iran can only be explained as the US trying to force the Muslim world
      into submission. It is no coincidence that these holdouts are the
      focus of US hostility.

      This is all eerily familiar. In the 20th century, the communists were
      the enemy. The Cold War was the vehicle for keeping alive the enemy
      myth so necessary to holding together the imperial order. Communism
      was supposedly destroyed, with no positive effect for anyone, it
      turns out. But conventional wisdom still celebrates the "victory over
      Communism" at the same time as it exhorts us to hold firm against the
      new enemy, recalcitrant Islam, as embodied in Afghanistan's
      resistance fighters.

      One can, of course, understand why few in the West want the orthodox
      view of the Cold War overturned, or want to see the withdrawal of
      US/NATO forces from the Middle East. If that were to happen, the
      whole edifice of postwar politics would begin to crumble. People
      would realise the heavy burden of postwar rearmament was for naught.
      Israel would quickly have to make peace with the Palestinians, ending
      their criminal occupation. People everywhere would wake up to the
      reality that the war against Communism – and now Islam – actually
      imperiled rather than saved us, and they would see the real enemy. Is
      there time? Can the Afghan resistance prevail against the mightiest
      death machine in world history? The war in Afghanistan is now a race
      to the finish – for us all.

      Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at



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