by Zia Sarhadi (World, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 6, Rajab, 1427)
While ignoring Palestine and Lebanon reeling under the barbaric onslaught of the zionists, the UN Security Council still found the time to talk about Afghanistan. Tom Koenigs, the UN envoy for Afghanistan, warned on July 27 that the Taliban were rediscovering their strength and that the fighting in Afghanistan now had to be called an insurgency, rather than just “isolated acts of terrorism”. This was further reinforced by a statement read out by Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, French ambassador and president of the Security Council for July: "The Security Council expressed concern about the security situation in Afghanistan against a backdrop of increasing activity by the Taliban and other groups." The same day, a helicopter crashed (or was shot down) in the mountains of Paktia province, killing all 16 people on board, including two Dutch soldiers. Paktia is a stronghold of the Taliban where the government’s writ does not run and foreign troops do not venture.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon may be physically separated from each other but they form a single front in the West’s war on Islam and Muslims. Both in Afghanistan and Iraqthe Americans and their Western allies are there for entirely selfish reasons, notwithstanding their moral pronouncements about getting rid of unsavoury characters and promising everyone milk and honey. If that were the case how do they explain the presence of a large number of unsavoury characters in President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet and the Afghan parliament? At least 60 percent of Afghan parliamentarians are warlords or drug-barons (or both). The US-Western occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have to do with the West’s greed for oil and desire to besiege Islamic Iran because it refuses to submit to US demands. In neither place, however, is it close to achieving its objectives. Whenever the resistance intensifies in Afghanistan, both Karzai and his American masters lob rhetorical volleys at Pakistan for not doing enough to control "cross-border infiltration" of the Taliban. There is also a flurry of diplomatic and military activity by senior American officials who descend on Islamabad to lecture General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to “do more”.
Pakistan has deployed 70,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan and has even launched attacks against its own people, especially in the volatile North West Frontier Province.Waziristan, both North and South, is up in flames, as is Baluchistan. Hundreds of Pakistani troops and thousands of tribesmen (by no means all men) have been killed in fighting since 2004, all in a futile attempt to appease the US. Pakistan’s traditional fight was and remains with India; there is no let up on that front, but because of Musharraf’s ill-conceived policies he has opened a front on the Western borders as well. Most Pakistani commentators are apprehensive that long after the Americans are gone, abandoning Afghanistan to its tortuous fate,Pakistan will be stuck with cleaning up the mess inside its own borders.
Already the ill effects of a poorly formulated policy are visible. The Pakistan army has become so unpopular that it is a prisoner in its own country. Musharraf and his close aides take extraordinary security measures whenever they venture out anywhere. An entire city is shut down when Musharraf comes visiting, without any regard to the disruption in life of ordinary people. This has increased resentment against him and his military regime immensely. He is banking on the fact that if he makes himself indispensable to the Americans, they will allow him to remain in power. Such thinking is flawed; there is no shortage of mercenaries among the ruling elites in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, for instance, has shown great enthusiasm to beAmerica’s darling and do whatever they ask for, provided she is allowed to rule.
Whatever the nature of Pakistani politics, it is the situation in Afghanistan that is not going according to America’s plan. Karzai is a virtual prisoner in the presidential palace, and no matter how often American officials visit him or praise his non-existent statesmanship or courage, he has been forced to compromise with the dubious characters that now occupy prominent positions in his government, including the cabinet. The casual callousness of the Americans, who bomb villagers indiscriminately, as has happened in recent weeks when they launched Operation Mountain Thrust, especially in the South, has put Karzai on the defensive.
While aware that he is powerless, he said at the end of June that the Americans had to be “more careful” in bombing civilians, after a particularly bloody episode in which scores of villagers were murdered by American bombs. Earlier, on May 29, there was a riot in Kabul after an American military vehicle collided with a taxi and ran over a number of pedestrians. In the ensuing mayhem, thousands of demonstrators spontaneously gathered to shout “Death to America”; 20 Afghans were shot dead and scores injured by American troops and the Afghan police. Aware of the deteriorating situation, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice dropped by in Kabul for five hours on June 28 to stiffen Karzai’s spine. It was pathetic to see the Afghan president being humiliated by this woman.
While egged on by the US to stand up to the Taliban, Karzai has realised that he has to be sensitive to the sentiments of his own people to have even a remote chance of survival. The Afghan Parliament is set to consider a proposal put forward by the ministry of religious affairs to resurrect the much-maligned Taliban-era Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Karzai knows that going against the wishes of his deeply conservative people is going to make his life much more difficult. Already the Afghans are condemning him for not only allowing foreigners into the country but also permitting the spread of corruption, such as stores selling alcohol and pornographic videos. These are deeply offensive to the Afghan people.
If alcohol and pornographic videos are upsetting ordinary Afghans in Kabul, the deployment of NATO troops, whose strength is to reach 16,000 in August, is offending Afghans in the rest of the country. Most Afghans have experienced nothing but death and destruction at the hands of the pirangoy, as they call all Westerners (the term was originally used for the British in the nineteenth century). This explains the increasing effectiveness of the Taliban, who now are believed to have mobilised about 12,000 men. American and Western arrogance is driving more Afghans into the Taliban.
The Afghans may yet prove, sooner rather than later, that no foreigner ventures into their country but at his extreme peril.