Afghanistan: never again

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Afghan Mujahideen pose on top of a downed Soviet helicopter from the USSR's failed invasion/occupation.

by I. M. Mohsin

The subject of the article is part of a quote from the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov. Attending a seminar in Singapore on regional security, he confided that his government was rendering useful help to the ISAF and the US in Afghanistan, including intelligence input. During the question-answer session with the delegates in the Shangri-La Dialogue, it was insinuated if such help could include committing Russian forces to join other allies against the Taliban. The Russian Deputy PM promptly retorted: “Never again a Russian soldier would enter Afghanistan.”

I think you understand why. It’s like asking the US whether they would send troops in Vietnam. Emphasising his point he followed it up by stating: “It is something like that. It is totally impossible.” In between he also conceded that he could not disclose the scope and pace of cooperation between his country and the US on Afghanistan to the media. However, he had had serious discussions with his counterparts at this forum like the others.

Considering the quagmire effect which the US is experiencing in Afghanistan, such conferences or dialogues are regular exercises all over the world wherein politicians and intellectuals from the ISAF generally project their mental prowess with analysis relying on media coverage and a reference to history. More often than not, most of them have not even a nodding acquaintance with Afghanistan and FATA, and their culture. Thus, while such exercises are scholastically and for projection purposes in the media, they yield precious little information about the ground realities and the sufferings of the people either due to atrocious use of force, ‘collateral damage’ or ‘friendly fire’. Like all foreign forces, the US often takes a long time to concede that it has committed an atrocity.

Perhaps, accepting responsibility for a miscalculation or overreaction to an assumed threat induces such self-defence mechanism. No wonder arguments are always found to confound any crisis which may have been crime in some other situation wherein no US personnel is involved. In nine years, no US trooper has been held accountable. Hence, war communications are utilised to whittle down what would be a war crime for killing innocent civilians, per se. The only ones who paid for their sin were the Germans whose costly mistake in Kunduz made the then Defence Minister to resign.

Despite all the media hype and help from the former enemy, Russia, which finds a way to avenge the loss of the Soviet Empire from the principal enemy – the Pashtuns, a US policy-shift appears to be on in Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton had recently claimed that the US was fully braced for interacting with a multipolar world. The way Hamid Karzai went ahead with his peace jirga, despite the US silence, indicates that he had acquiesced to his mentors in Washington DC. It touted the old charm offensive propagated by the Afghan President for quite some time by way of befriending the “alienated brothers.”
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Operation al-Fath ongoing : US troops suffer deadliest losses in Marjah

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Mujahideen homemade bombings ripped through two American armored and one mine clearing tank, destroying the tanks and killing all the American soldiers in the tank in Marjah town of Helmand, on Saturday.

Likewise, 8 American took losses of life and injuries in an IED blast followed by Mujahideen attack elsewhere in Marjah on the same day. In another incident elsewhere in Marjah, Mujahideen in an ambush attack, killed two foreign soldier and wounded another two on Saturday. Meantime, one soldier of ANA got killed and two wounded in and ambush attack by Mujahideen in Marjah.

Also Saturday, one US-led coalition soldier was killed and two more terribly hurt in Marjah. (Taliban website)

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Afghanistan: the nasty north

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by I M Mohsin:

So far the main headache for the foreign forces has been the ‘insurgency’ in the Pashtun areas of the south. Hence, a COIN strategy was devised by the General Staff and adopted only after its approval by the President. This resulted in a surge of forces. as against all kinds of advice and suggestions ranging from Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to Mikhail Gorbachev. If history of the country was any guide this would be tantamount to putting your good money with bad money, which seldom works in the field of economics.

However, for some reason known to the US, a military operation was launched in Marjah, a small town in Helm-and Province, with a force of 15,000 troops, mostly US but some Afghan too. As usual the media went abuzz projecting the Operation Moshtarik, which is the biggest joint venture between the foreign troops and their Afghan counterparts during the Afghan war.

As it always happens in a war between a very powerful force and a ragtag entity, but one with a commitment to a cause, howsoever debatable, the Taliban launched daring attacks against their enemy for about two months. But later they reduced their attention to the operation in Marjah. The foreign troops started telling the media that they had scored a great victory against their enemy, which may have sold in the US. Soon the Taliban went on upping the ante in other provinces and they also made sure that Marjah would not look like an abandoned cause. The result is that even now it stays a bad bet for the US forces which feel, somewhat, comfortable by the liberal distribution of goodwill money among the local people.

The northern Afghanistan, unlike in the south, had sided with the US coalition since 9/11. As the Taliban were an authoritarian regime, they wanted to bring everything under their control ignoring even ethnic divisions which have always played a role in the Afghan history. Moreover, the Afghan culture of autonomy could not tolerate micro-management from Kabul. That is why the institution of warlords prevailed more often than not, as it does most ferociously under Karzai.

A school of thought believes that in defying the Taliban, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Tajik Commander and the ‘Lion of Panjshir’ against the Soviet onslaught of 80’s, was planning to seek the creation of greater Tajikistan with alleged Russian help, perhaps out of disgust with his fellow Afghans.

Once he was killed in early September 2001 in a bombing-incident planned by the Taliban, the other leaders still holding out in the north had no option but to join the invading forces. A lot of evidence is now emerging about the role of the powerful US oil lobby in the attacks on Afghanistan following 9/11.

As Enron and UNOCAL had invested billions in ventures whose success depended on the passage of a pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and onwards through India, the Taliban trying a tough bargain angered the ‘lobby’. As George Bush and many of the neocon stalwarts were obliged to support the lobby due to their inherent commonality of interest, the American policy got reduced to “you are either with us or against us.”

What happened is recent history. According to one estimate, the US used the aerial bombing atrociously although their enemy had no air force, which cost America $2 billion initially. The Taliban, despite being only a ragtag militia, kept up the honourable Afghan tradition and fought valiantly. However, seeing no openings they retreated to the mountains, which again was like history repeating itself in the new century.

The north remained fully involved with the US and the concerned warlords took their pound of flesh from the US, which needed their help to keep their acolyte in Kabul going. In addition to getting all kinds of benefits from the status quo, they started trading in heroin by growing large tracts of opium. This was more than a goldmine, as it met the demand in the US and Russia for the drugs. As was natural, the Pashtuns in the south, who have far bigger cultivable area, followed suit to benefit from the bounty offered by drug trade; more so, after the threat of a famine appeared on the horizon in 2004/5 to stave off starvation.

Seeing a breakthrough becoming available, the Taliban started offering security to the local cultivators so that their business flourished to everybody’s benefit, as the chances of any other kind of employment had become virtually non-existent under Karzai’s set up. Soon the drug traders felt obliged to pay a part of their earnings to the Taliban for their services and support to the southern drug enterprise. Helped by such shared interest, the Taliban re-emerged on the scene to challenge the foreign forces.

Apparently, their appeal also increased due to the incidents involving civilians, who were treated as ‘’collateral damage” by the foreign troops, which provoked even more anger among the Afghans. No wonder, the Taliban started getting stronger and also swelled in the south.

As the promised reconstruction failed to take off, a reaction started against the US forces even in the north. This was aggravated by the most unfortunate incidents of the killing of civilians out of fear or miscalculations. Kunduz experienced the most harrowing of such incidents when an oil tanker trying to cross a small river got stuck in the mud and the area was deliberately bombed by the US and NATO forces. This ended up with the killing of 150 people and wounding of twice that number. Two more similar incidents turned the tide in the north. The Taliban cashed in on such resentment and now the north is becoming a real sore point like the south.

Lately, a commander of the NATO forces advocated that an operation, like the one projected for Kandahar in June, should also be held in the north. This is seen as a must to stem the tide of attacks which is going up. If that is so, the supply line for foreign troops, which was considered safe, would also be blocked like the one in the south. Moreover, the Kyrgyzstan crisis could create more bottlenecks in the airlift of troops. The US must do some hard thinking or follow Karzai’s approach despite the outbursts of Hillary Clinton, which were also matched by similar expressions from her guest from Kabul. Only the USA’s advantage of asymmetrical power may not work. It’s Afghanistan!

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Pak – Afghan Friendship

New song by Rahim shah with his great voice for Pakistan Afghanistan friendship!
He rocks !!!

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Afghanistan: the Helmand huff

“It is better to be torn by a loin than to be loved by a jackal.” : Pashto proverb

Helmand has been a graveyard of foreign forces. Kipling advised in 1898, “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle an’ blow out your brains An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier..” The British Defense Secretary Ainsworh has warned of the expected casualties! Helmand hardcore heeds its horrid history!

by I. M. Mohsin

The foreign forces appear to be pursuing confusing tactics to tame the enemy. Till about two months back, Karzai was a “cheat” and US and its allies had to find an aggressive way-out of the Afghan quagmire. Though the US manpower losses are nominal, the history of the area proves that far more pernicious prospects lie in store than in the case of Vietnam, with all its awful baggage. As the new strategy recommended by the General staff was adopted by the Administration, there was huffing and puffing in the government circles in US etc. The Afghans heard, with mixed feelings, of new reinforcements to the US troops. Other countries have their problems in adding to their military stre-ngth. Predictably the Taliban threatened more attacks on the occupation forces, while the status quo milieu welcomed it. Pakistan questioned this development for two reasons. First, that it would lead to more bloo-dshed on both sides; the Afghan civilians, who have been subjected to indiscriminate bo-mbings would be affected more, like their brothers on the Pakistani border. Second, that as the Taliban experience disproportionate bombing etc, they will tend to seek refuge in the mountainous hideouts on our side.

The AfPak border is a much worse delineation as compared with the Mexican border, which also has a poor history. At many points there is no formal boundary; a wall, pillar or check post. Till now Pakistan has no surveillance equipment worthy of mention despite having been a partner of the US’ “war on ter-ror” launched by George W. The NATO forces deployed on the other side of border should be much better equipped in principle but they also appear to have no clear policy. As tradition rules the roost, the people on either side have enjo-yed the right of passage for routine purposes, and even the British Empire put up with this anomaly handled by their ‘political administration’. Besides, the border did not matter at all when the US and Pakistan were helping these brave people to force out the Soviet forces.

Millions of our Afghan brothers were accommodated in and around Peshawar, Kohat, etc to facilitate their regular contribution to the then, profusely praised/projected by the CIA, ‘jihad’. Read more of this post

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