Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

Fight the extremists, not the Talibans.

August 15, 2009

 

Let us imagine the following. Due to some serious terrorist actions, foreign troops are forced to invade the US. Which then would lead to the least  casualties among invaders as well as US civilians: Attacking the “moral majority” or attacking the extremists groups?

 

If the invaders  limit themselves to attacks on extremists or interfering , in addition, with the court system.

 

Bringing in foreign aid workers and businessmen of the same nationality as the major invading forces or limiting the presence of foreign civilians to the minimum as much as possible.

 

Please keep this scenario in mind while we discuss the following questions.

 

First – why is the West in Afghanistan at all?  What are Western war aims? Or to put it differently, in what way does Western presence in Afghanistan make sense?

 

Second-What is the situation in Afghanistan?

 

Third- What is the nature of the Western Presence in Afghanistan?

 

Fourth-What makes the Western Presence unnecessarily disruptive in Afghanistan, supporting the extremists and causing avoidable damage to civilians and to the Western forces.

 

Fifth – How should the Western Forces react to the different factors in Afghanistan?

 

 

  

A.     Why is the West in Afghanistan at all? What are the Western war aims? Or to put it differently: is there any way that the Western presence in Afghanistan makes sense?

 

The drug trade, denial of women’s rights, the establishment of the Muslim laws  called the sharia, oppression of citizens. All these occur, more or less, in countries without any Western military presence and often allied with the West.

 

How is Afghanistan different?

 

a.      It has a government which does not control its own territory or even its own bureacracy (the closest comparison is former South Vietnam)

b.      The risk of an extremist takeover (not a Taliban-they are already there) is great.

c.       In addition the government itself is in danger of being taken over by drug dealers and turning into a narco state.

 

The West is there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a global danger by being a safe shelter for global terrorists. But the ones paying the price for global security are the Afghan people.

 

Therefore the only Western war aim that makes  any sense is to prevent the extremists from gaining control of Afghan territory.

 

B. What is the situation in Afghanistan?

 

Think of a series of dials. A big one for Afghanistan as a whole. Smaller ones for each province.  At the far left of each dial are the extremists (10%), next we have the very conservative and devout rural and small town population(40%),  then rightward we have the ones just trying to make a living and and getting along with the power that be, tolerating Western benefits  with (health care  and  women’s schools) and Western habits (rock, Western movies, Western dress) in various degrees the more you move rightward(30%). Then you have the Western modernizers who fully accept Western ideals (10%). Finally you have the drug dealers, war lords and gangsters at the far right (10%).Don’t get caught in the percentages – they are approximate and change as the needle moves. The needle is the current situation in Afghanistan based on what people think, how they act, and how the local leadership changes.

 

This means that it is not only  possible but necessary to negotiate with local Taliban leaders.  Depending on the position of the needle ,  the treaties will hold or not. However if they are broken  then it is back to the negotiating table again. Outrage will not solve anything but perseverance will give a breathing spell for ordinary Afghans to get on with their lives and  join to improve their society. It is this civil action that is the hope of Afghanistan.

 

 

        C.  What is the nature of the Western presence in Afghanistan?

 

The Western presence is that of foreign invaders with an alien culture whom the Afghan people did not ask  to intervene. The extremists are nearly all Afghans, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. That is the great advantage that they have.

On the other hand the extremists are fanatics who push the envelope till it pops.

The  great advantage of the Western forces is that the extremists run their territories so badly that even Western invaders are tolerated. Until the West in turn screws up so badly that the needle swings back again.  It  is important to note that the West is now engaged in a ground war in Asia, something which one Western general after another has warned against from General Eisenhower on down.

 

   D.      What makes the Western presence unnecessarily disruptive in           Afghanistan and and plays into the hands of the extremists?

 

i.                    Carpetbaggers.

 

These can be put under the following headings. Businessmen trying to exploit the weakness and corruption of the Afghan government to make money.

“Idealists?” claiming to help but in reality trying to impose their private agenda on the Afghans using the Western military presence and Afghan economic weakness.

 

What is the price in wayside bombs and bullets in the dark that justifies the presence of these?

 

I propose that nationals from the major contingents serving in Afghanistan (with the exception of journalists) be barred. Martyred Afghanistan is not to be a playground for economic and ideological hustlers. As for the citizens from smaller countries, their presence ought to be discouraged unless the Afghan government insists on their presence. Even their    help costs too much in paving the way for local extremists.

 

ii.                  Atrocities

 

On the face of it there is a military necessity for air attacks and artillery fire where civilians and their livelihod are at risk.  And there are no risks to the ones ordering it– charge it to the taxpayer. The risks are borne by the men in the field who are the targets of those avenging their martyred dead.

 

I propose the following, either separately or in combination for a trial period of six months:

 

a.  Air attacks and artillery fire as usual but a reduction of one pay grade for the officer ordering it.

 

b.  An board of inquiry for every such event, evaluating the necessity, the effect and eventual errors.

 

As it is now, bombing the wrong village or for inadequate reasons is written off as a mishap and these mishaps keep happening because there is no interest in correcting them.

 

                     If after 6 months (or earlier if there is a sharp casualty rise due to these restrictions)  there  is no increase in military casualties traced to these restrictions then they should remain.

 

       E.   How to minimize Western distruption of life in Afghanistan?

 

                a. Compensation for loss of life and property   

 

 

Any loss of life or property (read livelihood and shelter) due to Western military action should be compensated in a way that puts the money into the hands of the sufferers and not parcelled out through a corrupt bureaucracy.

That extremists use the civilian population as shields is totally irrelevant. They are Afghans, the Westerners are invaders and the extremists would not use the civilians as shields if the Westerners weren’t attacking them. (OK this means that the extremists are literally getting away with murder, but that is not the point.)The point is the reaction of the victims and their neighbors (see section B )

 

  b.  Establish an agricultural support program.

 

            It is important that this does not interfere with normal market procedures. That   is a matter for the Afghans. The program should be confined to compensating for floods and storms on the one hand and providing affordable (not genetic modified)  seeds for the nexts season’s planting, on the other. Unfamiliar crops for which there is a local demand could also be financed this way.  It is important that this should not go through the Afghan bureaucracy.  A benchmark should be set up for when the program should be phased out, otherwise it will always be “needed”.

 

c.  A pension plan for seniors who survived the Sovjet invasion

 

                    For many years the Afghans fought the Soviets. Their resistance was one of the major reasons for the fall of the Sovjet empire. Most of the survivors have died of privations or from the subsequent unrest.

 

   I suggest: That the West pays a modest monthly pension to Afghan senior citizens in those districts that have a functioning girl’s school and women’s medical clinic. That the payment gets into the hands of the poverty stricken population and not sticking to somebody’s palm. 

 

To sum up: Resist the extremists, negotiate with the local Talibans time and time again, limit  the carpetbaggers, cooperate with the government at arm’s length, and prepare a sensible exit strategy for Afghanistan.