Friday, April 30, 2010

Four more years in Afghanistan?

The Guardian notes this assertion from NATO senior ambassador Mark Sedwill, who also points out the criticality of the upcoming (and certainly well-advertised) military operation in Kandahar (where, you'll recall, the Taliban have promised to "break the Americans' teeth). 

Sedwill also makes the important distinction that three-quarters of the insurgents were "allied with the Taliban rather than fighting for it," implying that the large majority were not ideologically motivated.   Important point; most of the Taliban want a society underpinned by Islamic values, but the true extremists among them are only a fraction of their total numbers, and are but one piece in what for most Westerners is a bewildering mosaic of factions and interests - all of them evidently united in one cause, which is to push the outsiders out of their homeland.

And by homeland, I don't mean "Afghanistan" necessarily.  So much of what I've read over the last months suggests that most "Afghans" hardly identify themselves as such, at least as a first choice.  Ethnic, tribal, clan, village identities have always been much more important in most traditional societies.  Most Americans have never come to grips with that.  They don't do nuance very well, and would as soon eschew it when (for their purposes = let's keep it simple, huh) a big-box label like "Afghan," or "Taliban," is out there.

Which finally brings me back to another point in The Guardian's account (and I've seen it elsewhere): that the "insurgents" will be brought into a reconciliation/reintegration process if they accept the existing Afghan constitution.  But let's not forget - that constitution was imposed by a US jerry-rigged process shortly after US forces ousted the Taliban in 2002, and it imposed a very centrist, top-heavy political scheme on a "country" where central power had always been loosely held and often operated in deference to long-entrenched local interests of clan/tribe/etc.  The whole idea was to enable the US to set up its "man" (Hamid Karzai) as a legitimizing facade for trying to govern Afghanistan in a manner that would give top priority to US interests.

Many of the "Taliban" aren't buying that, and the vast majority of "Afghans" see Karzai's government as corrupt and completely ineffective - indeed, more of a threat to them (via corrupt officials and police) than are the Taliban.  Yet, the US remains glued to Karzai as its guy.

How can this end well?

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