Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…

Let us consider the recent words of Jacob Appelbaum:

All governments are on a continuum of tyranny. In the US, we don’t have censorship but we do have collaborating news organisations.

In the immediate wake of Wikileaks Afghanistan classified document disclosure, Time Magazine, acting as Obama’s press secretary, publishes a story on it’s cover depicting a woman disfigured by the Taliban with the tagline: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.” Of course, the immediate question that comes to mind is that this is what still happened despite the decade long US occupation, an occupation that now constitutes the longest war in US history. From my previous post below, there is video visualization of the Wikileaks’ disclosure of the field reports of IED attacks. Note the increasing frequency over time. Note that most of the victims are either civilians or “friendlies.” It would be just as easy to show the victims of these attacks, or the civilian victims from the attacks of the US “death squads,” with a caption: “This is what happens if we stay.”

While the Taliban has always been a creature of the Pakistani government, the US, after initial invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban, could have possibly staved off a return of the Taliban by implementing a legal opium production scheme. Instead the US would turn this into a Narco War by bringing in the DEA black helicopters and waging war against the Afghan farmers. This is how the Taliban got their feet back in door. As a regime, they had prohibited the production of opium, but as an insurgency, they offered protection services against the US Narco warriors. The US has since backed off the policy of eradication, but, nonetheless, when this occupation became a Drug war, the game was up. I won’t even go into the futility of any “counter-insurgency” strategy that has to deal with an insurgency that has external State support and has cross-border sanctuary. This is the lesson of Vietnam.

If Time really was interested in doing hard-hitting investigative journalism, it could have tied Afghanistan in to the broader misery and suffering the US Narco wars have caused worldwide, wars that are now spilling over into our own borders with the US-Mexican Drug War. Better yet, Time could have done a hard hitting piece on the role the West has played in fomenting Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Northern Africa since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following WW I.

Afghanistan is often portrayed as a universally backward country with a 13th-century mentality. Afghanistan does have a diverse ethnic and tribal population, which has made a “central government” difficult to rule. However, this article in Foreign Policy by a western academic who grew up in Afghanistan strikingly shows how “westernized” Afghanistan was in the 1950s-1960s. Of course, this was not representative of Afghanistan as a whole, as much of the country certainly didn’t resemble Kabul. And it’s not an endorsement, on my part, in pointing this out, of the government at the time. The purpose here is to counter the widespread ignorance regarding as a society stuck in the 13th century.

But what happened to Afghanistan? I tell you what happened. Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew the Afghan monarchy central government and installed a communist central government. One of his designs was for the Pashtuns to have their own state: Pukhtunistan. Now the Pashtuns were sunni islam but not the Wahhabi strain that one associates with the Taliban today. This was imported from Saudi Arabia courtesy of the United States. In the cold war chessboard, the US actively supported and radicalized Wahhabism in the sunni islam of the Pashtuns to counter and bait the Soviet Union into an invasion and occupation.

To quote Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

Of course, the Wahhabi strain of sunni Islam is universal Jihad and all the social repressive practices one associates with fundamentalist Islam. But universal Jihad was convenient for the US at the time for countering the Soviet Union in the cold war games. However, after the Soviet Withdrawal, the Pakistanis found a Pashtun Wahhabi sunni Islam rule in Afghanistan particularly convenient from a strategic standpoint. Afghanistan governed by a “universal Jihad” provided a population of jihadists motivated to carry out asymmetrical warfare against India in the Pakistan-India (not so) cold war. And a Wahhabist universalism among the Pashtuns keeps a separatist Pukhtunistan from gaining any traction among the Pashtuns. For various reasons, this development would be viewed by the Pakistanis as particularly detrimental to their deemed national interests. This is why Pakistan supports the Taliban and will continue to support the Taliban.

The blowback, however, for the Pakistanis is that the US occupation of Afghanistan has created serious problems for Pakistan in terms of it’s own Pashtun population. Pakistan is never going to be threatened by a government takeover by Wahhabist Pashtuns, but the Pashtun population in Pakistan is significant enough that the US WOT extended in Pakistan has created a much more repressive State and in some areas, a much more fundamentalist type of rule.


IED Attacks from Wikileaks Afghanistan War Logs

IED Attacks as documented in the Wikileaks War logs overlaid on a NATO map of the area.

The green explosions are ones in which there are no injuries, the yellow ones are injuries only, and red ones are fatal IEDs. On the death and injury tallies, the left column is friendlies (including both allied forces and civilians), and the right column is so-called “enemies”.