MBZ is performing a U-turn that could reshape the Middle East

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15 September 2021 10:57 UTC

David Hearst

David Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He says Middle East Eye is funded by “individual private donors” but he won’t name them. He said that his organisation is not funded by Qatar – or any other state or group – and is here to stay. He appears as a commentator on the Middle East for Al Jazeera English and Alaraby TV, TRT, Masr Al-Aan TV.

For years, Emirati foreign policy has been a disaster. Now, on the anniversary of the fundamentally flawed Abraham Accords, a rethink is underway

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is pictured in Berlin in June 2019 (Reuters)

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has triggered an earthquake that has travelled across the Gulf. The tectonic plates that defined who did what to whom in the region are shifting. 

Alliances that only a year ago seemed to be set in concrete are cracking. The vacuum created by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has been felt just as keenly in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv as it has in Kabul.

The clearest sign of swaying buildings and buckling tarmac are the pledges and significant amounts of money being promised by the de facto leader of the UAE to Turkey, states that are vigorous competitors for regional influence.

It is pragmatism, not a fundamental change of heart, that is causing the latest handbrake turn in Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy

And Turkey has not been the only sign of the apparent U-turn in UAE policy. Shortly after his recent meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s brother and security chief, flew to mend fences with Qatar.

Only a year ago, the UAE was urging Saudi Arabia not to lift the blockade of Qatar. This latest visit is a recognition that the blockade was a spectacular failure. Qatar has emerged as US President Joe Biden’s strongest partner in the Gulf, and the one on whom he depended for evacuating Afghans and communicating with the Taliban.

How different from the start of the blockade, when Qatar was painted as a refuge for terrorists and Islamists, and former US President Donald Trump tweeted his approval of the Saudi action. 

Billions promised

Erdogan is keeping the transcript of his recent telephone conversation with MBZ close to his chest. Only a trusted few know what the crown prince promised. According to my sources, MBZ offered Erdogan more than $10bn in investments.

Unlike the military side of the government of Sudan, or indeed President Kais Saied in Tunisia, Erdogan is not being made to wait long for the money to arrive. The Dubai-based courier Aramex is reportedly in talks to buy the Turkish delivery company MNG Kargo.

There is much secrecy in Ankara, but one thing is clear: the momentum for this reset is coming from Abu Dhabi. Erdogan is wary, and the foreign policy establishment in Turkey is sceptical. Both have good reason for caution.

UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Ankara on 18 August 2021 (Turkish Presidency)
UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Ankara on 18 August 2021 (Turkish Presidency)

This was the state that, according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, spent $3bn attempting (and very nearly succeeding) to topple Erdogan on 15 July 2016. Cavusoglu did not name the UAE, but it was clear who he was referencing when he mentioned “a Muslim country”.

The same state funds neoconservative Washington think tanks that regularly debunk Erdogan and his ability to sustain the lira. It competes for influence with Turkey in Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Horn of Africa, Egypt and Tunisia. It was the brains behind, and one of the funders of, the counter-revolution that toppled former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – and it has tried repeatedly to rearrange the furniture in Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen. Emirati planes at one point provided air cover for renegade general Khalifa Haftar’s ill-fated attempt to recapture Tripoli.The UAE’s military interventions have led to disaster – not stabilityRead More »

It has also created armies of “electronic flies” to condition public opinion through social media. The UAE’s interventions far beyond the Gulf have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East. 

Turkey has long been on the receiving end of this. So why would a leopard on a mission to hunt down political Islam and render it extinct, change its spots? It is not a question that can be convincingly answered.

Nor is this the first attempt at a kiss and make up: the UAE made a similar overture to Ankara when it thought Hillary Clinton would become US president. When Trump won, this was instantly dropped. It is pragmatism, not a fundamental change of heart, that is causing the latest handbrake turn in Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy. The sceptics in Ankara are right to be cautious. 

Nevertheless, it could still be happening. The flood of signals coming out of Abu Dhabi towards Erdogan and Turkey mostly take place in private forums, and the message is consistent, even if you don’t believe it.

‘Strategic reassessment’

According to people with knowledge of these conversations, top UAE officials claim to be conducting a “strategic reassessment” of foreign policy.

It starts with Biden. The UAE noted two features of its changed relationship with Washington since his administration came to power: the first was a consistent message from the new US administration to “de-escalate” tensions in the Middle East. The second was the unpredictability of US foreign policy. 

The new policy, then, is apparently to spread influence through economic cooperation, rather than military intervention and political competition

This was surely already apparent under Trump, when he refused to bomb Tehran after Iran and its Iraqi proxies sent armed drones to cripple two Saudi oil facilities, temporarily halving crude production. If ever Saudi Arabia and the UAE felt unprotected by the US military umbrella, it was then.

Coupled with this, they claim, is a hard-headed assessment of what the UAE has actually achieved. Its interventions have indeed beaten the Muslim Brotherhood back as a political force in EgyptTunisiaYemenSyria, and partly in Libya. But the cost of the UAE’s secular jihad is enormous.

Three of these countries are in smoking ruins, and the other two, Egypt and Tunisia, are nearly bankrupt. What has MBZ gained for the billions of dollars he has invested in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi?

The new policy, then, is apparently to spread influence through economic cooperation, rather than military intervention and political competition.

Saudi-UAE rift

They don’t say it, but when questioned, there is clearly also coolness with Riyadh. One emissary claimed that the UAE delayed its pullout from Yemen for a year to allow Saudi Arabia to end the war with the Houthis, but it is clear that Yemen is a sore point between the two military allies.

Saudi Arabia recently announced a series of moves to weaken Abu Dhabi, the latest being the pullout of Al Arabiya and parent media company MBC from Dubai. It has clamped down on tax-free goods from an Emirati free trade zone, as well as insisting that foreign multinationals base their headquarters in Riyadh rather than Dubai. There is a lot more sibling rivalry to the brotherly relations between the two Gulf countries these days.

MBZ meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2018 (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)
MBZ meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2018 (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)

Publicly, the UAE’s licensed political analysts are hinting at a different set of regional priorities. Political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abudulla tweeted that the main message from Washington was that the US would not defend the Gulf. “And the Arab Gulf states are at a crossroads; how should they adapt to the post-America Gulf stage?”

Spot the notable absences from this list: Saudi Arabia and Egypt, its closest allies in 2013.

Abraham Accords lose value

Abu Dhabi is not the only signatory of the Abraham Accords which is reassessing the value of a pro-US bloc in the Gulf. One year on from the signing in Washington, the Abraham Accords are losing their shine. A year ago, they seemed to have so much going for them. It was a marriage of brains and brawn, the military might and technological superiority of Israel with the dollars of the Gulf.UAE-Israel deal: Abraham accord or Israeli colonialism?Read More »

It was a way of bypassing the Palestinian conflict, without the need for messy, time-wasting things like negotiations, elections or popular mandates. The accords were a solution imposed from above – a fait accompli, which the Arab masses would have to live with.

But like the megacities of Saudi Arabia, the accords were built on shifting sands. 

They had two fundamental flaws. Firstly, they depended on individual leaders – not states – meeting at first in secret as their drivers. This means that when two key players were removed from the picture – Trump and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the project itself lost sponsorship and momentum. 

The other problem was that they were all about the relationship between regional states and the US. They did not address the fundamental problems of relations between the key regional actors themselves. 

The UAE’s motive for moving closer to Israel was to cement its relationship with Washington. Recognition of Israel was always a means to an end, not the end in itself. 

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 (AFP)
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 (AFP)

For Israel, on the other hand, the Abraham Accords were all about cementing its own security by increasing its regional influence. It fundamentally misread Arab intentions by conceiving of normalisation as a military and diplomatic safety net for its own continued existence.

Zvi Barel, writing in Haaretz, observed: “The kaleidoscopic shifting of international relations will require Israel to examine its place in the newly-forming alignment. The idea that there’s a pro-U.S. bloc that provides Israel with a military and diplomatic safety net and acts alongside it as an informal coalition against Iran, is beginning to fall apart.”

Regional realignment

The US not only supplied the carrots and sticks necessary to coerce states such as Sudan to join the accords, by removing it from its list of terrorist states. It was the very reason for the accords themselves.

The Emiratis, being quick off the mark, have seen the future shape of the post-oil world. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has yet to reconcile himself to the US military absence. Maybe he will now that Biden has just withdrawn his Patriot missiles from the kingdom and lifted the bar imposed by two of his predecessors to confidential documents on allegations of Saudi government links to two of the 9/11 hijackers

It has taken eight long years for the penny to drop. But if indeed it has, this realisation presents a genuine opportunity to reshape a post-American Middle East

Unlike MBZ, MBS harbours personal grudges. He cannot forgive Erdogan for the role he played in keeping the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the agenda in Washington. In so doing, Erdogan permanently damaged MBS’s international reputation, making a repeat trip to London and the US impossible for the future Saudi king.

MBS’s psychology – for all its modernist patina of posing as a reformer – is still rooted in his Bedouin past. Being the future king, he considers and treats his people as his property. He is their lord and master. Deals with other states are made by him alone. He decides whether his kingdom will recognise Israel or whether, as is now the case, he could turn to Israel to provide him with missile defence systems.

Although all of these moves are brittle and by nature reversible, given that they are triggered by events outside the region and not within it, there could be light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel of permanent intervention. If regional actors themselves can establish a working relationship with each other – and no more than that is required – stability will not depend on a small group of despots. How will US disengagement shape the Middle East?Read More »

Relations between regional powers are more likely to represent state interests, rather than the personal ones of their leaders. That in itself would be progress, if indeed any of this comes to fruition. 

MBZ’s decision to reassess his foreign policy has to be genuine and not a temporary swerve. He is right to reassess his foreign policy. It has been a disaster, a complete waste of his money. It has weakened once strong states, such as Egypt, and caused massive refugee flows. 

It has taken eight long years for the penny to drop. But if indeed it has, this realisation presents a genuine opportunity to reshape a post-American Middle East.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.David HearstDavid Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was The Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

الفشل الذريع للإسلام الأطلسي


الجمعة 10 أيلول 2021

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موفق محادين

ما من تجربة أصابها الفشل الذريع كلما اقتربت من فكرة الدولة والاقتصاد والحداثة والمجتمع المدني، مثل تجربة الإسلام الأطلسي، والأدق التوظيف السياسي لهذا الإسلام.

اعتقد البعض أن الإسلام الأطلسي، البريطاني- الأميركي، في طريقه للسيطرة على الوطن العربي، محمولاً بقرارات أميركية وبـ”حنفيات” مالية وإعلامية من الغاز المسال، حيث يتحول هذا الإسلام إلى حصان طروادة بحقبة جديدة من الاحتلال العثماني. 

وبنى البعض أوهامه على أحلام مريضة بسقوط سوريا واستمرار الحدث العابر في تاريخ مصر ثم عبر تونس والمغرب وقبلهما السودان والعشرية السوداء في الجزائر. 

تأسيس هذا النمط من الإسلام السياسي لم يكن بعيداً منذ لحظته الأولى عن أصابع الاستخبارات البريطانية ثم الأميركية.

بيد أن هذه الأوهام سرعان ما تبخرت وراحت أحجار الدومينو الإسلاموية الأطلسية تتداعى الواحد تلو الآخر: سوريا، ثم مصر، ثم السودان، فتونس، وأخيراً السقوط المدوّي لهذا التيار في الانتخابات البرلمانية والبلدية المغربية. وقريباً من الوطن العربي؛ تتجه مؤشرات الانتخابات البلدية في تركيا وسقوط حزب إردوغان في المدن الكبرى إلى أن تركيا العثمانية قاب قوسين أو أدنى من غروبها وغروب مشروع اليهودي الأميركي برنارد لويس الذي نظّر مبكراً للانبعاث العثماني في تركيا. 

والأدعى إلى السخرية هنا أن تبدو طالبان التي تجسد ثلاثية المفكر المغربي، الجابري، القبيلة- العقيدة- الغنيمة كرمق أخير لإسلام أطلسي أنفقت عليه مئات المليارات. 

ولنا أن نقول، ما من تجربة أصابها الفشل الذريع كلما اقتربت من فكرة الدولة والاقتصاد والحداثة والمجتمع المدني، مثل تجربة الإسلام الأطلسي، والأدق التوظيف السياسي لهذا الإسلام. 

والأخطر هنا هو أن تأسيس هذا النمط من الإسلام السياسي لم يكن بعيداً منذ لحظته الأولى، حتى اليوم، عن أصابع الاستخبارات البريطانية ثم الأميركية، بل إن أول من دافع عن الدولة العثمانية في بداية انحطاطها ومنع سقوطها على أيدي الجيوش المصرية في القرن التاسع عشر، الثنائي اليهودي الذي كان يتحكم في بريطانيا: رئيس الوزراء دزرائيلي، ورجل المال روتشيلد. 

وقد تم توظيف هذا النمط من هذا الإسلام بحسب كل مرحلة، فمن الوهابية النجدية والقطرية وعلاقتها بقلم الاستخبارات البريطانية كما يعترف بيركهارت، إلى توظيف هذا الإسلام ضد حركات التحرر الوطني العربية وغير العربية، إلى استراتيجية تطويق روسيا السوفياتية ثم البوتينية والصين كحزام أخضر إسلاموي تحت سيطرة مطابخ الاستخبارات الأطلسية وأقلامها. 

ومن الوثائق والمراجع حول ذلك: 

–  مذكرات بيركهارت.

–  مارك كورتيس، التاريخ السري لتحالف بريطانيا مع الأصوليين. 

–  ستيفن هات، لعبة بعمر الإمبراطورية. 

–  روبرت درايفوس، لعبة الشيطان. 

–  مذكرات جيمس وولي، مدير الاستخبارات الأميركية الأسبق. 

–  ثروت الخرباوي، سر المعبد. 

–  ايان جونسون، مسجد في ميونخ

–  شاريل بينارد، الإسلام الديموقراطي. 

–  نوح فيلدمان، تدهور الدولة الإسلامية ونهوضها. 

–  بيرنارد لويس، لغة السياسة في الإسلام. 

–  عبد العظيم حماد، الوحي الأميركي. 

–  لوي شتراوس، أعلام الفلسفة السياسية. 

أما في التطبيق، فمن ذلك: 

1- في تونس والمغرب، فضلاً عن الفشل الاقتصادي الاجتماعي، فإن الأخطر هو التغطية على التطبيع مع العدو الصهيوني؛ ففي عهد الحكومة الإسلامية في المغرب، تم التوقيع على العديد من الاتفاقات مع العدو الصهيوني، وفي تونس رفض نواب حركة النهضة التصويت على تجريم التطبيع. 

2- في مصر، فضلاً عن محاولة الإسلاميين المذكورين وضع اليد على مصر وخصخصة ما تبقى من مؤسسات الدولة لنهبها بـ”تراب المصاري”، كما حدث في السودان، واصل حكم مرسي السابق سياسات التطبيع مع العدو وتبادل معه البرقيات بمناسبات مختلفة، وقمعت شرطته أكبر تظاهرة حاولت اقتحام سفارة العدو في القاهرة. 

3- في السودان، وبعد الانقلاب العسكري الدموي للإخوان (تصفية عشرات الضباط)، دخل الإسلام السياسي أسوأ أيامه، من كل النواحي الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والسياسية، وصار من أكثر الدول فساداً ومديونية، رغم خيرات السودان الكثيرة، وذلك فضلاً عن الصراعات الداخلية بين الأجنحة الإسلامية نفسها (الترابي- البشير) وأخيراً المجموعة الحالية التي دشّنت عهدها بالتطبيع مع العدو الصهيوني. 

ولعل الوجه الأخطر في تجربة السودان الإسلاموية تمزق الدولة نفسها بين ولايات انفصالية، مثل دارفور، والموافقة على سلخ الجنوب كمحمية إسرائيلية. 

4- في سوريا والعراق، وإضافة إلى استراتيجية تدمير الدول باسم مواجهة الأنظمة، قدم الإسلامويون للعدو الصهيوني والامبريالية واليهودية العالمية أخطر ذريعة لاتهام العرب والمسلمين بالتخلف والإرهاب الدموي المسلح، وإعادة إنتاج المعزوفة الاستشراقية العنصرية الصهيونية (إعادة الاستعمار لـ تمدين المتوحشين). 

5- ويشار كذلك إلى دور الميليشيات الإسلاموية في دعم عميل الاستخبارات الأميركية في إندونيسيا، سوهارتو، الذي يصنّف من أكثر الرؤساء فساداً ودموية في العالم، والذي نظّم مع الميليشيات الإجرامية المذكورة مذابح تقشعر لها الأبدان بحق الأرياف والطبقة العاملة والمثقفين، راح ضحيتها مليون شخص، كثالثة كبريات المذابح في القرن العشرين، بعد المذبحة التركية ضد الأرمن، والمذابح الأميركية النووية ضد المدن اليابانية. 

6- أما تركيا التي يسوّقها الإسلاميون كنموذج للتنمية، فهي ليست دولة إسلامية بل توظف الإسلام خارجها وفي المحيط العربي والآسيوي لغايات طورانية وأجندة أطلسية. فإضافة إلى وجود أكبر سفارة للعدو الصهيوني فيها، ومستوى واسع من التنسيق العسكري والأمني معه، ووجود كبرى القواعد العسكرية الأميركية مثل إنجرليك، وعضويتها في حلف الأطلسي، الذراع العسكرية الأمنية للإمبريالية العالمية، فإن اقتصادها اقتصاد رأسمالي في كل تفاصيله وليس اقتصاداً إسلامياً، ويقوم على ما يعرف بالتقسيم العالمي للبلدان المتوسطة التطور التي تحل بعد الدول الصناعية الكبرى في سياق استيعاب خطوط الإنتاج والصناعات التي تتخلى عنها البلدان الكبرى تحت تأثير الثورة المتواصلة للتكنولوجيا، مثلها في ذلك مثل البرازيل والمكسيك والهند وجنوب أفريقيا والنمور الآسيوية. 

وليس بعيداً عن ذلك، “الموديل” الاجتماعي لهذه الدول، وعلى رأسها تركيا، وهو “موديل” غير إسلامي إطلاقاً، بالنظر إلى ترخيص البغاء والمشروبات الكحولية، بل إن تركيا تعد مع كولومبيا وآذربيجان وجنوب أفريقيا من بلدان المافيا العالمية، وكذلك من أكبر مستوردي الويسكي في العالم، ومن أكبر مستهلكي المخدرات وطرقها (ممراً ومقراً). 

7- ويشار هنا إلى أن البيئة الاقتصادية عموماً لرجال الأعمال المسلمين ليست بعيدة عن بيئة (يوسف ندا) خصم جمال عبد الناصر والمتورّط في محاولة اغتياله وصاحب الاستثمارات الكبيرة في جزر غسل العملة والتهرب من الضرائب، مثل جزر المارشال، العذراء البريطانية، ومناطق مثل بنما، وفي وسع المهتمين أكثر العودة إلى كتاب ستيفن هات (لعبة بعمر الإمبراطورية) حول بنك BCCI وعلاقته بغاسلي العملة الإسلاميين، وكتاب كورتيس السابق الذكر، وخاصة حول بنك الائتمان وعلاقته بغسل العملة، وكذلك العودة إلى فيلم “التسلل” حول بنك الاعتماد ودور إسكوبار وناشطين إسلاميين. 

9/9 and 9/11, 20 years later

September 09, 2021

9/9 and 9/11, 20 years later

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

It’s impossible not to start with the latest tremor in a series of stunning geopolitical earthquakes.

Exactly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent onset of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the Taliban will hold a ceremony in Kabul to celebrate their victory in that misguided Forever War.

Four key exponents of Eurasia integration – China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan – as well as Turkey and Qatar, will be officially represented, witnessing the official return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. As blowbacks go, this one is nothing short of intergalactic.

Massoud leaving Bazarak in the Panjshir after our interview in August 2001, roughly three weeks before his assassination. Photo: Pepe Escobar

The plot thickens when we have Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid firmly stressing “there is no proof” Osama bin Laden was involved in 9/11. So “there was no justification for war, it was an excuse for war,” he claimed.

Only a few days after 9/11, Osama bin Laden, never publicity-shy, released a statement to Al Jazeera: “I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons (…) I have been living in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders’ rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations.”

On September 28, Osama bin Laden was interviewed by the Urdu newspaper Karachi Ummat. I remember it well, as I was commuting non-stop between Islamabad and Peshawar, and my colleague Saleem Shahzad, in Karachi, called it to my attention.

Saudi-born alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden in a video taken ‘recently’ at a secret site in Afghanistan. This was aired by Al Jazeera on October 7, 2001, the day the US launched retaliatory bombing of terrorist camps, airbases and air defense installations in the first stage of its campaign against the Taliban regime for sheltering bin Laden. Photo: AFP / Al Jazeera screen grab

This is an approximate translation by the CIA-linked Foreign Broadcast Information Service: “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. Neither I had any knowledge of these attacks nor I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people.

“I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed. The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the US system, but are dissenting against it.

“Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country or ideology could survive. Then there are intelligence agencies in the US, which require billions of dollars worth of funds from the Congress and the government every year (…) They need an enemy.”

This was the last time Osama bin Laden went public, substantially, about his alleged role in 9/11. Afterward, he vanished, and seemingly forever by early December 2001 in Tora Bora: I was there, and revisited the full context years later.

And yet, like an Islamic James Bond, Osama kept performing the miracle of dying another day, over and over again, starting in – where else – Tora Bora in mid-December, as reported by the Pakistani Observer and then Fox News.

So 9/11 remained a riddle inside an enigma. And what about 9/9, which might have been the prologue to 9/11?

Arriving in the Panjshir valley in one of Massoud’s Soviet helicopters in August 2001. Photo: Pepe Escobar  

A green light from a blind sheikh

“The commander has been shot.”

The terse email, on 9/9, offered no details. Contacting the Panjshir was impossible – sat-phone reception is spotty. Only the next day it was possible to establish Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary Lion of the Panjshir, had been assassinated – by two al-Qaeda jihadis posing as a camera crew.

In our Asia Times interview with Massoud, by August 20, he had told me he was fighting a triad: al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistani ISI. After the interview, he left in a Land Cruiser and then went by helicopter to Kwaja-Bahauddin, where he would finish the details of a counter-offensive against the Taliban.

This was his second-to-last interview before the assassination and arguably the last images – shot by photographer Jason Florio and with my mini-DV camera – of Massoud alive.

One year after the assassination, I was back in the Panjshir for an on-site investigation, relying only on local sources and confirmation on some details from Peshawar. The investigation is featured in the first part of my Asia Times e-book Forever Wars.

The conclusion was that the green light for the fake camera crew to meet Massoud came via a letter sponsored by CIA crypto-asset warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf – as a “gift” to al-Qaeda.

In December 2020, inestimable Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott, author among others of the seminal The Road to 9/11 (2007), and Aaron Good, editor at CovertAction magazine, published a remarkable investigation about the killing of Massoud, following a different trail and relying mostly on American sources.

They established that arguably more than Sayyaf, the mastermind of the killing was notorious Egyptian blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, then serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for his involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Among other nuggets, Dale Scott and Good also confirmed what former Pakistani foreign minister Niaz Naik had told Pakistani media already in 2001: the Americans had everything in place to attack Afghanistan way before 9/11.

In Naik’s words: “We asked them [the American delegates], when do you think you will attack Afghanistan? … And they said, before the snow falls in Kabul. That means September, October, something like that.”

As many of us established over the years after 9/11, everything was about the US imposing itself as the undisputed ruler of the New Great Game in Central Asia. Peter Dale Scott now notes, “the two US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were both grounded in pretexts that were doubtful to begin with and more discredited as years go by.

“Underlying both wars was America’s perceived need to control the fossil fuel economic system that was the underpinning for the US petrodollar.”

Deceased Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar in a file photo. Photo: Wikimedia

Massoud versus Mullah Omar

Mullah Omar did welcome Jihad Inc to Afghanistan in the late 1990s: not only the al-Qaeda Arabs but also Uzbeks, Chechens, Indonesians, Yemenis – some of them I met in Massoud’s riverside prison in the Panjshir in August 2001.

The Taliban at the time did provide them with bases – and some encouraging rhetoric – but deeply ethnocentric as they were, never manifested any interest in global jihad, in the mold of the “Declaration of Jihad” issued by Osama in 1996.

The official Taliban position was that jihad was their guests’ business, and that had nothing to do with the Taliban and Afghanistan. There were virtually no Afghans in Jihad Inc. Very few Afghans speak Arabic. They were not seduced by the spin on martyrdom and a paradise full of virgins: they preferred to be a ghazi – a living victor in a jihad.

Mullah Omar could not possibly send Osama bin Laden packing because of Pashtunwali – the Pashtun code of honor – where the notion of hospitality is sacred. When 9/11 happened, Mullah Omar once again refused American threats as well as Pakistani pleas. He then called a tribal jirga of 300 top mullahs to ratify his position.

Their verdict was quite nuanced: he had to protect his guest, of course, but a guest should not cause him problems. Thus Osama would have to leave, voluntarily.

The Taliban also pursued a parallel track, asking the Americans for evidence of Osama’s culpability. None was provided. The decision to bomb and invade had already been taken.

That would have never been possible with Massoud alive. A classic intellectual warrior, he was a certified Afghan nationalist and pop hero – because of his spectacular military feats in the anti-USSR jihad and his non-stop fight against the Taliban.

Jihadis captured by Massoud’s forces in a riverside prison in the Panjshir in August 2001. Photo: Pepe Escobar

When the PDPA socialist government in Afghanistan collapsed three years after the end of the jihad, in 1992, Massoud could easily have become a prime minister or an absolute ruler in the old Turco-Persian style.

But then he made a terrible mistake: afraid of an ethnic conflagration, he let the mujahideen gang based in Peshawar have too much power, and that led to the civil war of 1992-1995 – complete with the merciless bombing of Kabul by virtually every faction – that paved the way for the emergence of the “law and order” Taliban.

So in the end he was a much more effective military commander than politician. An example is what happened in 1996, when the Taliban made their move to conquer Kabul, attacking from eastern Afghanistan.

Massoud was caught completely unprepared, but he still managed to retreat to the Panjshir without a major battle and without losing his troops – quite a feat – while severely smashing the Taliban that went after him.

He established a line of defense in the Shomali plain north of Kabul. That was the frontline I visited a few weeks before 9/11, on the way to Bagram, which was a – virtually empty and degraded – Northern Alliance airbase at the time.

All of the above is a sorry contrast to the role of Masoud Jr, who’s in theory the leader of the “resistance” against Taliban 2.0 in the Panjshir, now completely smashed.

Masoud Jr has zero experience either as a military commander or politician, and although praised in Paris by President Macron or publishing an op-ed in Western mainstream media, made the terrible mistake of being led by CIA asset Amrullah Saleh, who as the former head of the National Directory of Security (NDS), supervised the de facto Afghan death squads.

Masoud Jr could have easily carved a role for himself in a Taliban 2.0 government. But he blew it, refusing serious negotiations with a delegation of 40 Islamic clerics sent to the Panjshir, and demanding at least 30% of posts in the government.

In the end, Saleh fled by helicopter – he may be now in Tashkent – and Masoud Jr as it stands is holed up somewhere in the northern Panjshir.

In this file photo taken on September 11, 2001, a hijacked commercial aircraft approaches the twin towers of the World Trade Center shortly before crashing into the landmark skyscraper in New York. Photo: AFP / Seth McAllister

The 9/11 propaganda machine is about to reach fever pitch this Saturday – now profiting from the narrative twist of the “terrorist” Taliban back in power, something perfect to snuff out the utter humiliation of the Empire of Chaos.

The Deep State is going no holds barred to protect the official narrative – which exhibits more holes than the dark side of the moon.

This is a geopolitical Ouroboros for the ages. 9/11 used to be the foundation myth of the 21st century – but not anymore. It has been displaced by blowback: the imperial debacle allowing for the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to the exact position it was 20 years ago.

We may now know that the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. We may now know that Osama bin Laden, in an Afghan cave, may not have been the master perpetrator of 9/11. We may now know that the assassination of Massoud was a prelude to 9/11, but in a twisted way: to facilitate a pre-planned invasion of Afghanistan.

And yet, like with the assassination of JFK, we may never know the full contours of the whole riddle inside an enigma. As Fitzgerald immortalized, “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” probing like mad this philosophical and existential Ground Zero, never ceasing from asking the ultimate question: Cui Bono?


Ed Note:  Pepe Escobar started a new Twitter Stream:  https://twitter.com/RealPepeEscobar

 

Why the Taliban still can’t form a government

September 03, 2021

Why the Taliban still can’t form a government

Internal Taliban divisions come to the fore as squabbling hinders the formation of Afghanistan’s new Islamic Emirate

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

It looked like everything was set for the Taliban to announce the new government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan after this Friday’s afternoon prayers. But then internal dissent prevailed.

That was compounded by the adverse optics of a ragtag “resistance” in the Panjshir Valley that is still not subdued. The “resistance” is de facto led by a CIA asset, former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

The Taliban maintain they have captured several districts and at least four checkpoints at the Panjshir, controlling 20% of its territory. Still, there’s no endgame in sight.

Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, a Kandahar religious scholar, is expected to be the new power of the Islamic Emirate when it’s finally formed. Mullah Baradar will likely preside just below him as a presidential figure along with a 12-member governing council known as a “shura.”

If that’s the case, there would be certain similarities between the institutional role of Akhundzada and Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran, even though the theocratic frameworks, Sunni and Shiite, are completely different.

Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada posing for a photograph at an undisclosed location in 2016. Photo: Afghan Taliban via AFP

Mullah Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban with Mullah Omar in 1994 and imprisoned in Guantanamo then Pakistan, has served as the Taliban’s top diplomat as the head of its political office in Doha.

He has also been a key interlocutor in the protracted negotiations with the now-extinct Kabul government and the expanded troika of Russia, China, the US and Pakistan.

To call the negotiations to form a new Afghan government fractious would be a spectacular understatement. They have been managed, in practice, by former president Hamid Karzai and ex-head of the Reconciliation Council Abdullah Abdullah: a Pashtun and a Tajik who have vast international experience.

Both Karzai and Abdullah are shoo-ins to be part of the 12-member shura.

As the negotiations seemed to advance, a frontal clash developed between the Taliban political office in Doha and the Haqqani network regarding the distribution of key government posts.

Add to it the role of Mullah Yakoob, son of Mullah Omar, and the head of the powerful Taliban military commission overseeing a massive network of field commanders, among which he’s extremely well-respected.

Recently Yakoob had let it leak that those “living in luxury in Doha” cannot dictate terms to those involved in fighting on the ground. As if this was not contentious enough, Yakoob also has serious problems with the Haqqanis – who are now in charge of a key post: security of Kabul via the so far ultra-diplomatic Khalil Haqqani.

Mullah Yakoob in a file photo. Photo: AFP

Apart from the fact that the Taliban amount to a complex collection of tribal and regional warlords, the dissent illustrates the abyss between what could roughly be explained as more Afghan nationalist-centered and more Pakistani-centered factions.

In the latter case, the key protagonists are the Haqqanis, who operate very close to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

It’s a Sisyphean task, to say the least, to create political legitimacy even in an Afghanistan that is bound to be ruled by Afghans who rid the nation of a foreign occupation.

Since 2002, both with Karzai and then Ashraf Ghani, the regime in power for most Afghans was regarded as an imposition by foreign occupiers validated by dodgy elections.

In Afghanistan, everything is about tribe, kin and clan. The Pashtuns are a vast tribe with myriad subtribes that all adhere to the common pashtunwali, a code of conduct that blends self-respect, independence, justice, hospitality, love, forgiveness, revenge and tolerance.

They will be in power again, as during Taliban 1.0 from 1996 to 2001. The Dari-speaking Tajiks, on the other hand, are non-tribal and form the majority of urban residents of Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

Assuming it will peacefully solve its internal Pashtun squabbles, a Taliban-led government will necessarily need to conquer Tajik hearts and minds among the nation’s traders, bureaucrats and educated clergy.

Dari, derived from Persian, has long been the language of government administration, high culture and foreign relations in Afghanistan. Now it will all be switched to Pashto again. This is the schism the new government will have to bridge.

Taliban fighters stand guard in a vehicle along the roadside in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war. Photo: AFP

There are already surprises on the horizon. The extremely well-connected Russian ambassador in Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, revealed that he is discussing the Panjshir stalemate with the Taliban.

Zhirnov noted that the Taliban considered some of the demands of the Panjshiris as “excessive” – as in they wanted too many seats in the government and autonomy for some non-Pashtun provinces, Panjshir included.

It’s not far-fetched to consider the widely-trusted Zhirnov could become a mediator not only between Pashtuns and Panjshiris but even between opposed Pashtun factions.

The delightful historical irony will not be lost on those who remember the 1980s jihad of the unified mujahideen against the USSR.

Baghdad summit | Mideastream

Iraq hosted a regional summit on Saturday supposedly aimed at easing tensions in the Middle East while emphasizing the Arab country’s new role as a mediator. Heads of state attending included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Kabul Is Not Saigon : Afghanistan: Drug Trade and Belt and Road

AUGUST 31, 2021

By Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

All flags are on half-mast in the US of A. The cause are the 13 American soldiers killed in this huge suicide bombing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, on Thursday, 26 August.

As it stands, at least 150 people – Afghans, including at least 30 Taliban – plus 13 American military – were killed and at least 1,300 injured, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombing via Amaq Media, the official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency. The perpetrators, the message says, were members of the ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

As reported by RT, US military leaders knew “hours in advance” that a “mass casualty event” was planned at Kabul airport. However, accounts from the troops in harm’s way suggest that nothing was done to protect them or the airport. See this https://www.rt.com/usa/533462-pentagon-knew-kabul-suicide-bombing/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email .

Rt further reports, “The bombing provoked the US into launching two drone strikes, one targeting an alleged “planner” and “facilitator” with the group responsible, and another supposedly wiping out “multiple” would-be suicide bombers but reportedly annihilating a family and children alongside them.

Why was nothing done to prevent this bloody, atrocious attack? – In fact, the Pentagon announced just yesterday that another massive attack was likely, meaning they have information that another mass-killing may take place?

In the meantime, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that the last three US military transport planes have departed the Hamid Karzai Airport just ahead of the August 31, 2021, deadline, officially ending the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The war is over. America’s last troops have just left Kabul airport,” RT’s Murad Gazdiev tweeted from Kabul, adding that the war lasted “19 years, 10 months and 25 days.

What he didn’t say is that the monetary cost of the war was at least 3 trillion dollars, that about 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. More than 71,000 of those killed have been civilians. These figures include (through April 2021) 2,448 American service members; 3,846 U.S. contractors, and some 66,000 Afghan national military and police. See this https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan .
—-
Twenty years of war – and only ten days to defeat the US military.

Really? – Is this really the end of the US involvement in Afghanistan? Too many strange events and occurrences are pointing in a different direction.

Let’s have a closer look. The Islamic State – ISIS claims responsibility. As we know by now and since quite a while, ISIS is a creation of the CIA. The sophistication of the attack, the Pentagon non-interference, despite their prior knowledge, might, just might – indicate that this attack may have been a well-coordinated “false flag”?

Who benefits? Cui Bono?

On August 19, 2021, the Washington Post, referring to President Trump’s Peace Agreement with Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, reports – “As President Donald Trump’s administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020, he optimistically proclaimed that “we think we’ll be successful in the end.” His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, asserted that the administration was “seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.”


“Eighteen months later, President Joe Biden is pointing to the agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, as he tries to deflect blame for the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan in a blitz. He says it bound him to withdraw U.S. troops, setting the stage for the chaos engulfing the country.”

“But Biden can go only so far in claiming the agreement boxed him in. It had an escape clause: The U.S. could have withdrawn from the accord if Afghan peace talks failed. They did, but Biden chose to stay in it, although he delayed the complete pullout from May to September.”
See full story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/was-biden-handcuffed-by-trumps-taliban-deal-in-doha/2021/08/19/a7ee1a50-00a2-11ec-87e0-7e07bd9ce270_story.html

So, again who benefits from such an atrociously deadly attack, like the one of 26 August at Kabul Airport?

President Biden, though unjustified, can and does blame President Trump for the chaos he left behind by negotiating this “irresponsible” Peace Deal. Why “irresponsible”?  Wasn’t it time after 20 years without apparent “success” – whatever that means, or may have meant at some point in time – to end this senseless bloodshed and destruction of a sovereign Afghan society – let alone the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, most of them civilians?

It seems that Mr. Trump may have done the right thing. Peace over war should always win, on the ground as well as in the minds of people, and foremost of politicians. However, there are several reasons, why Peace is not welcome. And chaos and destruction and death as demonstrated by the 26 August suicide attack, and who knows, maybe more to follow, might justify sending back US troops?

There are several other irons in the fire about which hardly anybody talks and the bought anti-Trump and pro-Biden mainstream media are silent.

The Heroin Trade

There is a multi-multi-billion, perhaps up to a trillion-dollar heroin trade at stake, for the US and for the US and European pharma-industry – the huge and deadly opioid-market.

As reported by Michel Chossudovsky on 21 August 2021, One of the key strategic objectives of the 2001 war on Afghanistan was to restore the opium trade following the Taliban government’s successful 2000-2001 drug eradication program which led to a 94% collapse in opium production. This program was supported by the United Nations. (For details, see below)
In the course of the last 19 years following the US-NATO October 2001 invasion, there has been a surge in Afghan opium production. In turn the number of heroin addicts in the US has increased dramatically. Is there a relationship?

There were 189,000 heroin users in the US in 2001, before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan.

By 2016 that number went up to 4,500,000 (2.5 million heroin addicts and 2 million casual users).

In 2020, at the height of the covid crisis, deaths from opioids and drug addiction increased threefold.
It’s Big Money for Big Pharma.”
See the full report https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-spoils-of-war-afghanistan-s-multibillion-dollar-heroin-trade/91

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

Both, China and Russia have already indicated that they would help the new Taliban regime to gain stability – and to develop towards a newly independent, sovereign state. Afghanistan’s border with China, only about 70 km wide, but it forms a crucial connection to China’s western most Province, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is a vital pivot for China’s Belt and Road, or “One Belt One Road” – OBOR – also called the New Silk Road.

While transit routes already go through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean, an OBOR rail and road transit through Afghanistan would connect China directly with Iran, facilitating among other trade, hydrocarbon transport from Iran to China. OBOR would also be an effective development instrument for war destroyed Afghanistan – a reconstruction and economic development scheme for Afghanistan could bring Afghanistan back to a respected nation state – even through the Taliban.

Furthermore, Afghanistan might be prepared for becoming an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), one of the world’s most significant political, economic and strategic defense organization. In addition to China and Russia and the Central Asian former Soviet Republics, India and Pakistan are already full members, while Iran, Malaysia and Mongolia are, so far, in observer and associate status.

SCO covers almost half of the world population and controls some 30% of the world’s GDP. Afghanistan would be in a solid and guiding association as an SCO member. Afghanistan’s socioeconomic development and improvement of war-damaged people’s standard of living, could benefit enormously.

Washington however dislikes OBOR with a passion. They see it as Chinese expansionism and competition. It is actually neither. China has in her thousands of years of history never had expansionist trends, or ambitions, and always respected other countries’ sovereignty. OBOR, an ingenious idea of President Xi Jinping, is patterned according to the ancient Silk Road, a trading route of 2100 years ago connecting Asia with Europe and the Middle East.

OBOR is an instrument to help develop and connect the world, while respecting each nation state’s independence and sovereignty.
——

The hugely profitable Heroin Trade and the further development of China’s OBOR – and particularly bringing Afghanistan under the wings of the east through association with the SCO – would spoil America’s multi-multibillion heroin trade, as well as another Middle East country would orient itself to the east – and away from the fangs of the ever weakening and crumbling Anglo-US empire.

Hence, commanding US-created ISIS to sow chaos and death in Afghanistan, blaming the Taliban, might be a good reason for Biden to bring back US troops – to fight a new kind war – fighting for the continuing highly profitable heroin trade and, simultaneously, fighting against OBOR. On top of it all, it would suit the Biden’s and his globalist agenda’s image – and standing in a totally misinformed world.


Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He is also a a non-resident Sr. Fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University, Beijing.

المهمة المستحيلة (2) أفغانستان

الأحد 22 آب 2021

 سعادة مصطفى أرشيد*

لا تزال المهمة الأفغانية المستحيلة تراوح في دائرة انعدام اليقين، حول مصير البلد الذي مثلت ثقافة الحرب والصراع مكوّنه النفسي ـ السياسي الأول من فجر تاريخه، ولا يزال من غير المعروف إذا كانت التحوّلات الأفغانية سوف تذهب باتجاه حداثي، أيّ أن تصبح إعادة بناء البلد على غرار الدولة العصرية الحديثة أم باتجاه أفغاني خاص مع الحفاظ على البلد وأمنه وشعبه وثرواته واعتبارها أولوية، أم باتجاه ارتباطات مع هذا المحور أو ذاك، دولياً وإقليمياً؟

من المؤكد أنّ السياسة الصينية تؤمن بالمثل القائل: السعيد من اتعظ بغيره، والشقي من اتعظ بنفسه، إذ أن الصين لن تجرّب حظها وتذهب بطريق إنجلترا وشركة الهند الشرقية في أربعينات القرن التاسع عشر، ولن تكرّر الخطأ السوفياتي عام 1979، ولن تتورّط كما تورّطت الولايات المتحدة عام 2002، وإنما ستعتمد على قوتها الناعمة، وعلى قدراتها التفاوضية في كسب أرباح الحرب التي لم ولن تخوضها، في الحصول على مواد أفغانستان الخام ـ الثمينة والقريبة مكانياً، وبأسعار تفضيلية، وسوف تجعل من بضائعها عماد السوق الأفغاني، المتعطش للبضائع والفقير مالياً والذي سيجد في بضائع الصين زهيدة الثمن ومستحيلة المنافسة، ما يشبع جوعه الاستهلاكي، لذلك لن تجد حاجة للتورّط في حروب هذا البلد فهي ستكون داخله دون مغامرات غيرها وحروبهم، الذي لا يزال لديه ما يكفيه من حروب مرشحة للاشتعال بين مكوّناته الداخلية.

حركة طالبان قاتلت طويلاً بالنار والدم، لكنها في النهاية انتصرت في هذه الحرب العالمية الطويلة دون قتال، ولم تضطر إلى استعمال النار والبارود في معركتها الأخيرة الحاسمة، إذ اكتفت بسلاح بالغ الخفة، ألا وهو الهاتف النقال، الذي كان كافياً لجعل الرئيس أشرف غني (آخر طبعة أميركية) يسارع إلى حمل كلّ ثمين خفيف، ويغادر البلاد دون إعلام من حوله من مستشارين ووزراء وقادة، وليلحق به هؤلاء، أو من تمكن. فيما تركوا جماعتهم من الصغار الذين أصبحوا من لزوم ما لا يلزم، وصاروا يتعلقون ويسحقون تحت عجلات الطائرات المغادرة، فيما يتولى الثائرون والغاضبون والرعاع التعامل بقسوة مع من بقي منهم. حركة طالبان، التي انطلقت من مدارس بيشاور الأفغانية، كحركة شباب يملؤهم الحماس ويشعلهم الإيمان قبل عقود، قد اختلفت اليوم بحكم الزمن وتراكم التجربة والنضج، أدخل بعض من قادتها ومنظروها إلى مدارس الحياة الجميلة والعصرية لسنوات في العاصمة القطرية ـ الدوحة، وعرفوا جنة الدنيا في فنادقها ومطاعمها ونواديها الرياضية (spa)، وخاضوا في نقاشات فكرية غنية وممتعة ولا بدّ، مع مفكرين وإعلاميين وأكاديميين من توجهات ومدارس مختلفة، وأدخل بعض آخر من قادتها ومناضليها قسراً إلى مدارس معتمة، بالغة القسوة، في غوانتانامو، فتعرّفوا على الصورة المناقضة تماماً، وعاينوا بين تلك الجدران والقضبان من عذابات الجحيم الأرضي، فيما بقي آخرون في الجبال والصحارى، وأصبح يفصل بينهم وبين رفقائهم على الأرض لا المسافة والجغرافية فحسب، وإنما خندق عميق من اختلاف التجربة، ففي حين عرف بعض منهم جنة الدنيا وذاقوا بعض فاكهتها في قطر، وعرف قسم آخر جحيم الدنيا وزقومها وسعيرها في غوانتانامو، لم ينل رفقاؤهم على الأرض مثل ذلك الحظ، ولا تلك القسوة، من أولئك الذين يعيشون في جليد الجبال وكهوفها، وقيظ الصحارى وشمسها، ويقتاتون من خبز الشعير ويتلقون السلاح وبعض القوت من إيران، إذ انه حصتهم ستكون في جنة الآخرة التي تدوم ولا تزول.

قد يكون جذر التفكير مشتركاً، ولكن ظروف الزمان والمكان لها دور في افتراق مذاهب العمل والتطبيق، فهذه الحركة الطلابية (طالبان)، قد فعلت بها التجارب أفاعيلها وأخذت مكانها في عقول قادتها، ومن هذه النقطة سوف تفترق طرائق العمل بين طالبان وطالبان، فقد أصبح لكلّ منهم جدليته، بعضهم سيعتمد على بناء أفغاني جديد، تخاطبه القوة الناعمة الجديدة، ومنظمات غير حكومية ستسارع لإيجاد دور لها، وعلى الوعود للشعب بحياة رغيدة وكماليات استهلاكية وافرة، واقتصاد سوق، ووسائل اتصال وتكنولوجيا عصرية، ولكن بعضاً آخر، لا يزال يحمل بإيمان ويتوارث ثقافة آلاف السنين ـ الثقافة الأفغانية، حيث يولد الطفل ليكون مقاتلاً، ويرى في القتال أسلوب حياة، وفي الجهاد فرض عين، وأنّ الله سوف يعطيهم ما يرضونه، وأنّ الآخرة خير لهم من الأولى.

خلاصة القول، إنّ حرباً قد انتهت في تلك البلاد، لتبدأ حرب أخرى، شيء يشابه العراق في مرحلة سيّئ السمعة بريمر ومن تلاه، سيكون في أفغانستان من ينفخ في نار الفتنة ويمارس فساداً في السياسة وفي الاقتصاد، والأهمّ أنّ الحزب المنتصر أيضاً سيكون عليه دفع ثمن السلطة وأعبائها، وثمن اختلاف وتباين الرؤى، ربما بما يؤثر على وحدته وتماسكه، ويعرّضه لحرب داخلية مع ذاته إضافة إلى حربه مع المكوّنات الأفغانية الأخرى.

الحرب الخارجية ـ العالمية انتهت في تلك البلاد، ولكن حروباً مقبلة على الطريق لن تجعل من أفغانستان بلداً مطمئناً في القريب، وها هو أحمد شاه مسعود الابن، قد أخذ يحشد ويعبّئ في وادي بنشير، معقل والده الشهير أثناء الحرب الأفغانية ـ السوفيتية، وهو ليس بقائد سهل وإنما لديه تجربته وخبرته وسلاحه ومصادر الدعم التي ورث بعض منها عن والده الراحل، وأستذكر هنا مقولة الجنرال حميد غول رئيس الاستخبارات العسكرية الباكستانية الأسبق: إنّ الشعب الأفغاني وخاصة البشتون لا يعيشون سلاماً داخلياً إلا في حالة الحرب الخارجية التي توحّدهم، ولكنهم فور انتهائها يعودون إلى قتالهم الداخلي.

تذكر الحالة الأفغانية الطالبانية، بملحمة الشاعر الإيطالي دانتي (الكوميديا الإلهية) إذ يتقاسم قادتها مراحل الملحمة الثلاث، منهم من كان نصيبه في الجحيم ومنهم من كانت له الجنة وأكثرهم من عاش في المطهر.

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*سياسي فلسطيني مقيم في الكفير ـ جنين ـ فلسطين المحتلة

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan back with a bang

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August 16, 2021

Source

The US ‘loss’ of Afghanistan is a repositioning and the new mission is not a ‘war on terror,’ but Russia and China

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first published at Asia Times

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Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. Photo: AFP /

Wakil Kohsar

Wait until the war is over
And we’re both a little older
The unknown soldier
Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet’s head
And it’s all over
For the unknown soldier

The Doors, “The Unknown Soldier”

In the end, the Saigon moment happened faster than any Western intel “expert” expected. This is one for the annals: four frantic days that wrapped up the most astonishing guerrilla blitzkrieg of recent times. Afghan-style: lots of persuasion, lots of tribal deals, zero columns of tanks, minimal loss of blood.

August 12 set the scene, with the nearly simultaneous capture of Ghazni, Kandahar and Herat. On August 13, the Taliban were only 50 kilometers from Kabul. August 14 started with the siege of Maidan Shahr, the gateway to Kabul.

Ismail Khan, the legendary elder Lion of Herat, struck a self-preservation deal and was sent by the Taliban as a top-flight messenger to Kabul: President Ashraf Ghani should step out, or else.

Still on Saturday, the Taliban took Jalalabad – and isolated Kabul from the east, all the way to the Afgan-Pakistan border in Torkham, gateway to the Khyber Pass. By Saturday night, Marshal Dostum was fleeing with a bunch of military to Uzbekistan via the Friendship Bridge in Termez; only a few were allowed in. The Taliban duly took over Dostum’s Tony Montana-style palace.

By early morning on August 15, all that was left for the Kabul administration was the Panjshir valley – high in the mountains, a naturally protected fortress – and scattered Hazaras: there’s nothing there in those beautiful central lands, except Bamiyan.

Exactly 20 years ago, I was in Bazarak getting ready to interview the Lion of the Panjshir, commander Masoud, who was preparing a counter-offensive against … the Taliban. History repeating, with a twist. This time I was sent visual proof that the Taliban – following the classic guerrilla sleeping cell playbook – were already in the Panjshir.

And then mid-morning on Sunday brought the stunning visual re-enactment of the Saigon moment, for all the world to see: a Chinook helicopter hovering over the roof of the American embassy in Kabul.

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A US military helicopter flying above the US embassy in Kabul on August 15, 2021. Photo: AFP / Wakil Kohsar

‘The war is over’

Still on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem proclaimed: “The war is over in Afghanistan,” adding that the shape of the new government would soon be announced.

Facts on the ground are way more convoluted. Feverish negotiations have been going on since Sunday afternoon. The Taliban were ready to announce the official proclamation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in its 2.0 version (1.0 was from 1996 to 2001). The official announcement would be made inside the presidential palace.

Yet what’s left of Team Ghani was refusing to transfer power to a coordinating council that will de facto set up the transition. What the Taliban want is a seamless transition: they are now the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Case closed.

By Monday, a sign of compromise came from Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen. The new government will include non-Taliban officials. He was referring to an upcoming “transition administration,” most probably co-directed by Taliban political leader Mullah Baradar and Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former minister of internal affairs who was also, in the past, an employee of Voice of America.

In the end, there was no Battle for Kabul. Thousands of Taliban were already inside Kabul – once again the classic sleeper-cell playbook. The bulk of their forces remained in the outskirts. An official Taliban proclamation ordered them not to enter the city, which should be captured without a fight, to prevent civilian casualties.

The Taliban did advance from the west, but “advancing,” in context, meant connecting to the sleeper cells in Kabul, which by then were fully active. Tactically, Kabul was encircled in an “anaconda” move, as defined by a Taliban commander: squeezed from north, south and west and, with the capture of Jalalabad, cut off from the east.

At some point last week, high-level intel must have whispered to the Taliban command that the Americans would be coming to “evacuate.” It could have been Pakistan intelligence, even Turkish intelligence, with Erdogan playing his characteristic NATO double game.

The American rescue cavalry not only came late, but was caught in a bind as they could not possibly bomb their own assets inside Kabul. The horrible timing was compounded when the Bagram military base – the NATO Valhalla in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years – was finally captured by the Taliban.

That led the US and NATO to literally beg the Taliban to let them evacuate everything in sight from Kabul – by air, in haste, at the Taliban’s mercy. A geopolitical development that evokes suspension of disbelief.

Ghani versus Baradar

Ghani’s hasty escape is the stuff of “a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing” – without the Shakespearean pathos. The heart of the whole matter was a last-minute meeting on Sunday morning between former President Hamid Karzai and Ghani’s perennial rival Abdullah Abdullah.

They discussed in detail who they were going to send to negotiate with the Taliban – who by then not only were fully prepared for a possible battle for Kabul, but had announced their immovable red line weeks ago – they want the end of the current NATO government.

Ghani finally saw the writing on the wall and disappeared from the presidential palace without even addressing the potential negotiators. With his wife, chief of staff and national security adviser, he escaped to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. A few hours later, the Taliban entered the presidential palace, the stunning images duly captured.

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A screengrab from a video showing Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund, front, center, with his fellow insurgents, in Kabul on August 15. Born in 1968, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, also called Mullah Baradar Akhund, is the co-founder of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was the deputy of Mullah Mohammed Omar. Photo: AFP / Taliban / EyePress News

Commenting on Ghani’s escape, Abdullah Abdullah did not mince his words: “God will hold him accountable.” Ghani, an anthropologist with a doctorate from Columbia, is one of those classic cases of Global South exiles to the West who “forget” everything that matters about their original lands.

Ghani is a Pashtun who acted like an arrogant New Yorker. Or worse, an entitled Pashtun, as he was often demonizing the Taliban, who are overwhelmingly Pashtun, not to mention Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, including their tribal elders.

It’s as if Ghani and his Westernized team had never learned from a top source such as the late, great Norwegian social anthropologist Fredrik Barth (check out a sample of his Pashtun studies here).

Geopolitically, what matters now is how the Taliban have written a whole new script, showing the lands of Islam, as well as the Global South, how to defeat the self-referential, seemingly invincible US/NATO empire.

The Taliban did it with Islamic faith, infinite patience and force of will fueling roughly 78,000 fighters – 60,000 of them active – many with minimal military training, no backing of any state – unlike Vietnam, which had China and the USSR – no hundreds of billions of dollars from NATO, no trained army, no air force and no state-of-the-art technology.

They relied only on Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades and Toyota pick-ups – before they captured American hardware these past few days, including drones and helicopters.

Taliban leader Mullah Baradar has been extremely cautious. On Monday he said: “It is too early to say how we will take over governance.” First of all, the Taliban wants “to see foreign forces leave before restructuring begins.”

Abdul Ghani Baradar is a very interesting character. He was born and raised in Kandahar. That’s where the Taliban started in 1994, seizing the city almost without a fight and then, equipped with tanks, heavy weapons and a lot of cash to bribe local commanders, capturing Kabul nearly 25 years ago, on September 27, 1996.

Earlier, Mullah Baradar fought in the 1980s jihad against the USSR, and maybe – not confirmed – side-by-side with Mullah Omar, with whom he co-founded the Taliban.

After the American bombing and occupation post-9/11, Mullah Baradar and a small group of Taliban sent a proposal to then-President Hamid Karzai on a potential deal that would allow the Taliban to recognize the new regime. Karzai, under Washington pressure, rejected it.

Baradar was actually arrested in Pakistan in 2010 – and kept in custody. Believe it or not, American intervention led to his freedom in 2018. He then relocated to Qatar. And that’s where he was appointed head of the Taliban’s political office and oversaw the signing last year of the American withdrawal deal.

Beware of a peasant guerrilla army

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Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada posing for a photograph at an undisclosed location in 2016. Photo: AFP / Afghan Taliban

The collapse of the Afghan National Army (ANA) was inevitable. They were “educated” the American military way: massive technology, massive airpower, next to zero local ground intel.

The Taliban is all about deals with tribal elders and extended family connections – and a peasant guerrilla approach, parallel to the communists in Vietnam. They were biding their time for years, just building connections – and those sleeper cells.

Afghan troops who had not received a salary for months were paid not to fight them. And the fact they did not attack American troops since February 2020 earned them a lot of extra respect: a matter of honor, essential in the Pashtunwali code.

It’s impossible to understand the Taliban – and most of all, the Pashtun universe – without understanding Pashtunwali. As well as the concepts of honor, hospitality and inevitable revenge for any wrongdoing, the concept of freedom implies no Pashtun is inclined to be ordered by a central state authority – in this case, Kabul. And no way will they ever surrender their guns.

In a nutshell, that’s the “secret” of the lightning-fast blitzkrieg with minimal loss of blood, inbuilt in the overarching geopolitical earthquake. After Vietnam, this is the second Global South protagonist showing the whole world how an empire can be defeated by a peasant guerrilla army.

And all that accomplished with a budget that may not exceed $1.5 billion a year – coming from local taxes, profits from opium exports (no internal distribution allowed) and real estate speculation. In vast swaths of Afghanistan, the Taliban were already, de facto, running local security, local courts and even food distribution.

Taliban 2021 is an entirely different animal compared with Taliban 2001. Not only are they battle-hardened, they had plenty of time to perfect their diplomatic skills, which were recently more than visible in Doha and in high-level visits to Tehran, Moscow and Tianjin.

They know very well that any connection with al-Qaeda remnants, ISIS/Daesh, ISIS-Khorasan and ETIM is counter-productive – as their Shanghai Cooperation Organization interlocutors made very clear.

Internal unity, anyway, will be extremely hard to achieve. The Afghan tribal maze is a jigsaw puzzle, nearly impossible to crack. What the Taliban may realistically achieve is a loose confederation of tribes and ethnic groups under a Taliban emir, coupled with very careful management of social relations.

Initial impressions point to increased maturity. The Taliban are granting amnesty to employees of the NATO occupation and won’t interfere with businesses activities. There will be no revenge campaign. Kabul is back in business. There is allegedly no mass hysteria in the capital: that’s been the exclusive domain of Anglo-American mainstream media. The Russian and Chinese embassies remain open for business.

Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin special representative for Afghanistan, has confirmed that the situation in Kabul, surprisingly, is “absolutely calm” – even as he reiterated: “We are not in a rush as far as recognition [of the Taliban] is concerned. We will wait and watch how the regime will behave.”

The New Axis of Evil

Tony Blinken may blabber that “we were in Afghanistan for one overriding purpose – to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11.”

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: AFP / Patrick SemanskyEvery serious analyst knows that the “overriding” geopolitical purpose of the bombing and occupation of Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago was to establish an essential Empire of Bases foothold in the strategic intersection of Central and South Asia, subsequently coupled with occupying Iraq in Southwest Asia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Every serious analyst knows that the “overriding” geopolitical purpose of the bombing and occupation of Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago was to establish an essential Empire of Bases foothold in the strategic intersection of Central and South Asia, subsequently coupled with occupying Iraq in Southwest Asia.

Now the “loss” of Afghanistan should be interpreted as a repositioning. It fits the new geopolitical configuration, where the Pentagon’s top mission is not the “war on terror” anymore, but to simultaneously try to isolate Russia and harass China by all means on the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

Occupying smaller nations has ceased to be a priority. The Empire of Chaos can always foment chaos – and supervise assorted bombing raids – from its CENTCOM base in Qatar.

Iran is about to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member – another game-changer. Even before resetting the Islamic Emirate, the Taliban have carefully cultivated good relations with key Eurasia players – Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian ‘stans. The ‘stans are under full Russian protection. Beijing is already planning hefty rare earth business with the Taliban.

On the Atlanticist front, the spectacle of non-stop self-recrimination will consume the Beltway for ages. Two decades, $2 trillion, a forever war debacle of chaos, death and destruction, a still shattered Afghanistan, an exit literally in the dead of night – for what? The only “winners” have been the Lords of the Weapons Racket.

Yet every American plotline needs a fall guy. NATO has just been cosmically humiliated in the graveyard of empires by a bunch of goat herders – and not by close encounters with Mr Khinzal. What’s left? Propaganda.

So meet the new fall guy: the New Axis of Evil. The axis is Taliban-Pakistan-China. The New Great Game in Eurasia has just been reloaded.

طالبان اليوم ليست داعش ولا القاعدة ولكن…!


أغسطس 14 2021

 محمد صادق الحسيني

طالبان جمع طالب باللغة المحلية، وهي إشارة الى جماعة من الطلبة الأفغان الذين درسوا او تدرّبوا في مدارس مولوي جلال الدين حقاني صاحب «شبكة حقاني» العسكرية القتالية السلفية الباكستانية في منطقة وزيرستان المحاذية لأفغانستان..!

والمعروف انّ حركة طالبان السلفية الجهادية قد تشكلت في العام ١٩٩٤ في شرق أفغانستان على يد الملا محمد عمر الشهير.

في حقبة الملا عمر برز الجانب المتشدّد المعروف لطالبان وكلّ من عداه من المؤسسين ظلّ مغموراً بمن فيهم واحداً من أهمّ مساعديه وقادة التأسيس الحركي الملا عبد الغني برادر…!

وقد اشتهر في أروقة الديبلوماسيين والسياسيين للدول المحيطة بأفغانستان يومها بأن هذه الحركة الأفغانية المتشددة، قد تمّت رعايتها بشكل ملحوظ وبارز من قبل الاستخبارات العسكرية الباكستانية.

كما عرف ولا يزال معروفاً بأنّ باكستان ظلت على علاقة وثيقة بالحركة، وانها لطالما استخدمتها كورقة قوية في علاقاتها الإقليمية ومفاوضاتها حول مستقبل أفغانستان والمنطقة.

ثمة واقعة مهمة حصلت قبل نحو ١٠ سنوات لا بدّ من ذكرها هنا لعلها شكلت محطة مهمة وعلامة فارقة فيما جرى وربما لا يزال يجري في أفغانستان.

في العام ٢٠١٠ وفي عملية مشتركة للمخابرات الأميركية والباكستانية يتمّ القبض على أحد أهمّ الرموز الطالبانية التي كانت تطاردها واشنطن بعد موت ملا عمر الا وهو ملا عبد الغني برادر الزميل الحميم لبن لادن.

وبعد اختفاء تامّ للرجل لمدة ٨ سنوات أسيراً لدى الأميركيين، وبعد مفاوضات شاقة أجرتها الحركة وبوساطة قطرية ملحة، يتمّ إطلاق سراحه في العام ٢٠١٨…!

وبسرعة يتقدم الملا عبد الغني برادر، ليصبح مديراً للمكتب السياسي للحركة وممثلها في الدوحة، ومن ثم يصبح كما هو الآن الرجل الأول للحركة بلا منازع، وهو الذي قاد كل المفاوضات الأخيرة مع الأميركيين، وعقد كلّ الاتفاقيات العلنية والسرية معهم، وهو الذي يشرف حالياً على كلّ التطورات الأمنية والعسكرية والسياسية لحركة طالبان، وهو الذي يفترض أنه دخل كابول فاتحاً…

لا احد من المتابعين الجديين يعتقد ان طالبان ستسلم مقاليد البلاد بولاياتها الـ ٣٤ للأميركيين ومخططاتهم المستجدة بسهولة فهم قاتلوا طوال العقدين الماضيين من اجل اهداف حركتهم وقدموا آلاف الشهداء في هذا الطريق…!

والاغلب انهم سيلعبون على التناقضات الاميركية وتوظيفها لفرض امارتهم الاسلامية كامر واقع بدون قرقعة سلاح…!

في هذه الأثناء وكما تقول مصادر أفغانية متابعة فإنّ الأميركيين من جهتهم، عملوا ما استطاعوا الى ذلك سبيلاً خلال العقدين الماضيين – وعلى طريقة إعداد الخطة «ب» والخطة «ج» لكلّ مخطط – في القضاء او الامحاء او الازاحة لكل الرموز الطالبانية المتشددة، لتظهر «طالبان» جديدة، ديمقراطية، تعددية، تقدمية معتدلة، عاقلة، مسالمة، تتربّع عرش كابول لتكون واجهة أفغانية (پشتونية) كاملة الدسم، مطعّمة ببعض من الوان الطيف الافغاني من الطاجيك الى الاوزبك الى الهزارة الى الدرانيين او النورستانيين وذلك عندما تحين لحظة الانسحاب التي لا بدّ منها، وها هو زمانها قد حان…!

وهذا يعني في ما يعني انّ العقدين الماضيين كانا كفيلين في بلورة نسخة جديدة من طالبان غير نسخة طالبان الأولى الملتصقة بذهن الناس بملا عمر وبن لادن…!

طالبان الجديدة هي طالبان السنية الحنفية السلفية القوية، لكنها غير الوهابية التكفيرية، طالبان المنفتحة على العالم الخارجي بكل تلاوينه ولكن:

 طالبان التي ستشكل كما يتمنى الأميركيون بالطبع جداراً يشبه سور الصين العظيم بوجه كلّ من بكين وموسكو وطهران…!

جدار يمنع التحام الثنائي الصيني الروسي العملاق، مع القطب الإيراني الصاعد والواعد…!

لم يكن ذلك ممكناً بدون تحوّل حقيقي في طالبان نفسها، ورجل المرحلة لم يكن سوى ملا عبد الغني برادر، ومساعديه الذين يملأون الشاشات اليوم ويقودون المفاوضات والحوارات في كل من طهران وموسكو وبكين بالإضافة الى الدوحة…!

موقع أفغانستان الجيوبوليتيكي والجيواستراتيجي بمثابة نقطة تقاطع التاريخ والجغرافيا بين الحضارات والمدنيات الشرقية وحتى الغربية منها، كفيل بنظر الاميركيين اذا ما ظلّ قلقاً وغير مستقراً على ان يكون كفيلاً بزعزعة مشروع «حزام واحد طريق واحد» الصيني وجعله يتعثر، وطريق الحرير الحديدي الشرقي مقطوع عند النقطة الافغانية، وان يشاغب قدر الإمكان على منتدى او منظمة شانغهاي للتعاون وهي المنظمة الأمنية السياسية الاقتصادية التي تضم نحو عشر دول أهمّها الصين وروسيا والهند والتي يفترض ان تصبح إيران رئيسي الدولة الجديدة كاملة العضوية فيها في ١٧ من آب المقبل…

 واذا ما استحضرنا المشهد التلمودي والهوليودي الأميركي الى واجهة الأحداث الجارية حالياً في أفغانستان ومحيطها، فإنّ ثمة من يجزم في أفغانستان وفي محيطها من الباحثين، بأنّ الأميركي الذي طالما ناور بداعش والقاعدة واستعملهما بطريقة تدوير النفايات، فإنه سرعان ما سيلجأ الى خلط الأوراق قريباً، لتنطلق دورات عنف متعددة تشعل كل آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز انطلاقاً من أفغانستان لتصل الى داخل روسيا والصين من خلال تحريك الأقليات العرقية المجنّدة بالآلاف تحت الرعاية الاستخبارية الأميركية..!

وهذا هدف أميركي معلن ومعروف، وتتمّ الدعاية له على طول الخط، تحت عنوان مخادع وهو الدفاع عن حقوق الإنسان وحرية المعتقد ومحاربة الديكتاتوريات والأنظمة الشمولية!

طبعاً يحصل هذا في إطار المخطط الأميركي الذي يحاول دوماً ان يحوّل هزيمته المرة الى نصر مزيف…!

انها معركة عالمية جديدة أميركا بحاجة ماسّة لها، في خطتها لوقف الصعود الصيني المتسارع في كلّ شيء، والقوة العسكرية الروسية المتفوّقة على أميركا بالأسلحة التقليدية وغير التقليدية، وما تسمّيه بالنفوذ الإيراني المتعاظم والذي بدأ يشكل تهديداً وجودياً لقاعدتها المتقدمة في المنطقة التي اسمها «إسرائيل»…!

الإيرانيون والروس والصينيون يدركون تماماً دلالات ما حصل ويحصل في أفغانستان من هزيمة منكرة للأميركيين، ومن خبث في نسخهم الجديدة في المواجهة، ولكنهم يعرفون أيضا لا سيما الايرانيين، كيف تخاض معارك الحروب الناعمة وهم الأبرع في لعبة الشطرنج…!

ووادي پنج شير وقاسم سليماني مع احمد شاه مسعود… يشهد لهم…

وفيلق فاطميون يشهد لهم، وأمور اخرى تبقى قيد المفاجآت ستكشف مدى سطحية وسذاجة الأميركي، وكيف ان اليانكي الكاوبوي سيلدغ من نفس الجحر مرتين…!

كلّ هذه التحليلات متحركة بانتظار موقف طالبان الحقيقي الذي ننتظره بفارغ الصبر من «إسرائيل» وسيدها الأميركي!

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

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Thieves Storm Qatari Emir’s Palace near Cannes

August 14 2021

Thieves storm the palace of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, near the French resort of Cannes, and a local source explains that “valuable pieces” were stolen.

Local source: No violence was used in the theft

Thieves broke into the palace of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, near the French resort of Cannes, and seized watches and other valuables, according to a source close to the scene. 

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad was not present when four people stormed his house in Mouan-Sartou, but several of his family members were, RTL radio reported. 

It added that the robbery was carried out without violence, as the thieves did not threaten the residents of the palace, who surrendered upon spotting a weapon.

Moreover, several law enforcement agencies in the cities of Grasse, Nice, and Marseille have opened an investigation into the incident. 

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

August 13, 2021

See the source image
Vietnam Civilians try to board a US helicopter at the US Embassy in Saigon, 1975

August 12, 2021 will go down as the day the Taliban avenged America’s invasion and struck the blow that brought down its man in Kabul

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

by Pepe Escobar,  posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

August 12, 2021. History will register it as the day the Taliban, nearly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent toppling of their 1996-2001 reign by American bombing, struck the decisive blow against the central government in Kabul.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban all but captured three crucial hubs: Ghazni and Kandahar in the center, and Herat in the west. They had already captured most of the north. As it stands, the Taliban control 14 (italics mine) provincial capitals and counting.

First thing in the morning, they took Ghazni, which is situated around 140 kilometers from Kabul. The repaved highway is in good condition. Not only are the Taliban moving closer and closer to Kabul: for all practical purposes they now control the nation’s top artery, Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar via Ghazni.

That in itself is a strategic game-changer. It will allow the Taliban to encircle and besiege Kabul simultaneously from north and south, in a pincer movement.

Kandahar fell by nightfall after the Taliban managed to breach the security belt around the city, attacking from several directions.

In Ghazni, provincial governor Daoud Laghmani cut a deal, fled and then was arrested. In Kandahar, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada – who belongs to the powerful Popolzai tribe – left with only a few bodyguards.

He opted to engage in an elaborate deal, convincing the Taliban to allow the remaining military to retreat to Kandahar airport and be evacuated by helicopter. All their equipment, heavy weapons and ammunition should be transferred to the Taliban.

Afghan Special Forces represented the cream of the crop in Kandahar. Yet they were only protecting a few select locations. Now their next mission may be to protect Kabul. The final deal between the governor and the Taliban should be struck soon. Kandahar has indeed fallen.

In Herat, the Taliban attacked from the east while notorious former warlord Ismail Khan, leading his militia, put up a tremendous fight from the west. The Taliban progressively conquered the police HQ, “liberated” prison inmates and laid siege to the governor’s office.

Game over: Herat has also fallen with the Taliban now controlling the whole of Western Afghanistan, all the way to the borders with Iran.

Tet Offensive, remixed

Military analysts will have a ball deconstructing this Taliban equivalent to the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Satellite intel may have been instrumental: it’s as if the whole battlefield progress had been coordinated from above.

Yet there are some quite prosaic reasons for the success of the onslaught apart from strategic acumen: corruption in the Afghan National Army (ANA); total disconnect between Kabul and battlefield commanders; lack of American air support; the deep political divide in Kabul itself.

In parallel, the Taliban had been secretly reaching out for months, through tribal connections and family ties, offering a deal: don’t fight us and you will be spared.

Add to it a deep sense of betrayal by the West felt by those connected with the Kabul government, mixed with fear of Taliban revenge against collaborationists.

A very sad subplot, from now on, concerns civilian helplessness – felt by those who consider themselves trapped in cities that are now controlled by the Taliban. Those that made it before the onslaught are the new Afghan IDPs, such as the ones who set up a refugee camp in the Sara-e-Shamali park in Kabul.

A new generation of IDPs in Afghanistan. Image: Supplied

Rumors were swirling in Kabul that Washington had suggested to President Ashraf Ghani to resign, clearing the way for a ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional government.

On the record, what’s established is that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin promised Ghani to “remain invested” in Afghan security.

Reports indicate the Pentagon plans to redeploy 3,000 troops and Marines to Afghanistan and another 4,000 to the region to evacuate the US Embassy and US citizens in Kabul.

The alleged offer to Ghani actually originated in Doha – and came from Ghani’s people, as I confirmed with diplomatic sources.

The Kabul delegation, led by Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of something called the High Council for National Reconciliation, via Qatar mediation, offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal as long as they stop the onslaught. There’s been no mention of Ghani resigning, which is the Taliban’s number one condition for any negotiation.

The extended troika in Doha is working overtime. The US lines up immovable object Zalmay Khalilzad, widely mocked in the 2000s as “Bush’s Afghan.” The Pakistanis have special envoy Muhammad Sadiq and ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Khan.

The Russians have the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov. And the Chinese have a new Afghan envoy, Xiao Yong.

Russia-China-Pakistan are negotiating with a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) frame of mind: all three are permanent members. They emphasize a transition government, power-sharing, and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political force.

Diplomats are already hinting that if the Taliban topple Ghani in Kabul, by whatever means, they will be recognized by Beijing as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan – something that will set up yet another incendiary geopolitical front in the confrontation against Washington.

As it stands, Beijing is just encouraging the Taliban to strike a peace agreement with Kabul.

The Pashtunistan riddle

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has minced no words as he stepped into the fray. He confirmed the Taliban leadership told him there’s no negotiation with Ghani in power – even as he tried to persuade them to reach for a peace deal.

Khan accused Washington of regarding Pakistan as “useful” only when it comes to pressing Islamabad to use its influence over the Taliban to broker a deal – without considering the “mess” the Americans left behind.

Khan once again said he “made it very clear” there will be no US military bases in Pakistan.

This is a very good analysis of how hard it is for Khan and Islamabad to explain Pakistan’s complex involvement with Afghanistan to the West and also the Global South.

The key issues are quite clear:

1. Pakistan wants a power-sharing deal and is doing what it can in Doha, along the extended troika, to reach it.

2. A Taliban takeover will lead to a new influx of refugees and may encourage jihadis of the al-Qaeda, TTP and ISIS-Khorasan kind to destabilize Pakistan.

3. It was the US that legitimized the Taliban by striking an agreement with them during the Donald Trump administration.

4. And because of the messy withdrawal, the Americans reduced their leverage – and Pakistan’s – over the Taliban.

The problem is Islamabad simply does not manage to get these messages across.

And then there are some bewildering decisions. Take the AfPak border between Chaman (in Pakistan’s Balochistan) and Spin Boldak (in Afghanistan).

The Pakistanis closed their side of the border. Every day tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly Pashtun and Baloch, from both sides cross back and forth alongside a mega-convoy of trucks transporting merchandise from the port of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan. To shut down such a vital commercial border is an unsustainable proposition.

All of the above leads to arguably the ultimate problem: what to do about Pashtunistan?

The absolute heart of the matter when it comes to Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and Afghan interference in the Pakistani tribal areas is the completely artificial, British Empire-designed Durand Line. 

Islamabad’s definitive nightmare is another partition. Pashtuns are the largest tribe in the world and they live on both sides of the (artificial) border. Islamabad simply cannot admit a nationalist entity ruling Afghanistan because that will eventually foment a Pashtun insurrection in Pakistan.

And that explains why Islamabad prefers the Taliban compared to an Afghan nationalist government. Ideologically, conservative Pakistan is not that dissimilar from the Taliban positioning. And in foreign policy terms, the Taliban in power perfectly fit the unmovable “strategic depth” doctrine that opposes Pakistan to India.

In contrast, Afghanistan’s position is clear-cut. The Durand Line divides Pashtuns on both sides of an artificial border. So any nationalist government in Kabul will never abandon its desire for a larger, united Pashtunistan.

As the Taliban are de facto a collection of warlord militias, Islamabad has learned by experience how to deal with them. Virtually every warlord – and militia – in Afghanistan is Islamic.

Even the current Kabul arrangement is based on Islamic law and seeks advice from an Ulema council. Very few in the West know that Sharia law is the predominant trend in the current Afghan constitution.

Closing the circle, ultimately all members of the Kabul government, the military, as well as a great deal of civil society come from the same conservative tribal framework that gave birth to the Taliban.

Apart from the military onslaught, the Taliban seem to be winning the domestic PR battle because of a simple equation: they portray Ghani as a NATO and US puppet, the lackey of foreign invaders.

And to make that distinction in the graveyard of empires has always been a winning proposition.

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All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

August 10, 2021

All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

City after city have fallen from government to Taliban control but Afghanistan’s end-game is still unclear

by Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The ever-elusive Afghan “peace” process negotiations re-start this Wednesday in Doha via the extended troika – the US, Russia, China and Pakistan. The contrast with the accumulated facts on the ground could not be starker.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban have subdued no less than six Afghan provincial capitals in only four days. The central administration in Kabul will have a hard time defending its stability in Doha.

It gets worse. Ominously, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has all but buried the Doha process. He’s already betting on civil war – from the weaponization of civilians in the main cities to widespread bribing of regional warlords, with the intent of building a “coalition of the willing” to fight the Taliban.

The capture of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, was a major Taliban coup. Zaranj is the gateway for India’s access to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asia via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

India paid for the construction of the highway linking the port of Chabahar in Iran – the key hub of India’s faltering version of the New Silk Roads – to Zaranj.

At stake here is a vital Iran-Afghanistan border crossing cum Southwest/Central Asia transportation corridor. Yet now the Taliban control trade on the Afghan side. And Tehran has just closed the Iranian side. No one knows what happens next.

The Taliban are meticulously implementing a strategic master plan. There’s no smoking gun, yet – but highly informed outside help – Pakistani ISI intel? – is plausible.

First, they conquer the countryside – a virtually done deal in at least 85% of the territory. Then they control the key border checkpoints, as with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Spin Boldak with Balochistan in Pakistan. Finally, it’s all about encircling and methodically taking provincial capitals – that’s where we are now.

Taliban posing with military garb stolen from Dostum’s palace in Sheberghan. Photo: Supplied

The final act will be the Battle for Kabul. This may plausibly happen as early as September, in a warped “celebration” of the 20 years of 9/11 and the American bombing of 1996-2001 Talibanistan.

That strategic blitzkrieg

What’s going on across the north is even more astonishing than in the southwest.

The Taliban have conquered Sheberghan, a heavily Uzbek-influenced area, and took no time to spread images of fighters in stolen garb posing in front of the now-occupied Dostum Palace. Notoriously vicious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum happens to be the current Afghan vice-president.

The Taliban’s big splash was to enter Kunduz, which is still not completely subdued. Kunduz is very important strategically. With 370,000 people and quite close to the Tajik border, it’s the main hub of northeast Afghanistan.

Kabul government forces have simply fled. All prisoners were released from local jails. Roads are blocked. That’s significant because Kunduz is at the crossroads of two important corridors – to Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. And crucially, it’s also a crossroads of corridors used to export opium and heroin.

The Bundeswehr used to occupy a military base near Kunduz airport, now housing the 217th Afghan Army corps. That’s where the few remaining Afghan government forces have retreated.

The Taliban are now bent on besieging the historically legendary Mazar-i-Sharif, the big northern city, even more important than Kunduz. Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital of Balkh province. The top local warlord, for decades, has been Atta Mohammad Noor, who I met 20 years ago.

He’s now vowing to defend “his” city “until the last drop of my blood.” That, in itself, spells out a major civil war scenario.

The Taliban endgame here is to establish a west-east axis from Sheberghan to Kunduz and the also captured Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, via Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, and parallel to the northern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

If that happens, we’re talking about an irreversible, logistical game-changer, with virtually the whole north escaping from the control of Kabul. No way the Taliban will “negotiate” this win – in Doha or anywhere else.

An extra astonishing fact is that all these areas do not feature a Pashtun majority, unlike Kandahar in the south and Lashkar Gah in the southwest, where the Taliban are still fighting to establish complete control.

The Taliban’s control over almost all international border crossings yielding customs revenue leads to serious questions about what happens next to the drug business.

Will the Taliban again interdict opium production – like the late Mullah Omar did in the early 2000s? A strong possibility is that distribution will not be allowed inside Afghanistan.

After all, export profits can only benefit Taliban weaponization – against future American and NATO “interference.” And Afghan farmers may earn much more with opium poppy cultivation than with other crops.

NATO’s abject failure in Afghanistan is visible in every aspect. In the past, Americans used military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Bundeswehr used the base in Termez, Uzbekistan, for years.

Termez is now used for Russian and Uzbek joint maneuvers. And the Russians left their base in Kyrgzstan to conduct joint maneuvers in Tajikistan. The whole security apparatus in the neighboring Central Asian “stans” is being coordinated by Russia.

China’s main security priority, meanwhile, is to prevent future jihadi incursions in Xinjiang, which involve extremely hard mountain crossings from Afghanistan to Tajikistan and then to a no man’s land in the Wakhan corridor. Beijing’s electronic surveillance is tracking anything that moves in this part of the roof of the world.

This Chinese think tank analysis shows how the moving chessboard is being tracked. The Chinese are perfectly aware of the “military pressure on Kabul” running in parallel to the Taliban diplomatic offensive, but prefer to stress their “posing as an aggressive force ready to take over the regime.”

Chinese realpolitik also recognizes that “the United States and other countries will not easily give up the operation in Afghanistan for many years, and will not be willing to let Afghanistan become the sphere of influence of other countries.”

This leads to characteristic Chinese foreign policy caution, with practically an advice for the Taliban not to “be too big,” and try “to replace the Ghani government in one fell swoop.”

How to prevent a civil war

So is Doha DOA? Extended troika players are doing what they can to salvage it. There are rumors of feverish “consultations” with the members of the Taliban political office based in Qatar and with the Kabul negotiators.

The starter will be a meeting this Tuesday of the US, Russia, Afghanistan’s neighbors and the UN. Yet even before that, the Taliban political office spokesman, Naeem Wardak, has accused Washington of interfering in internal Afghan affairs.

Pakistan is part of the extended troika. Pakistani media is all-out involved in stressing how Islamabad’s leverage over the Taliban “is now limited.” An example is made of how the Taliban shut the key border crossing in Spin Boldak – actually a smuggling haven – demanding Pakistan ease visa restrictions for Afghans.

Now that is a real nest of vipers issue. Most old school Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan’s Balochistan and supervise what goes in and out of the border from a safe distance, in Quetta.

Extra trouble for the extended troika is the absence of Iran and India at the negotiating table. Both have key interests in Afghanistan, especially when it comes to its hopefully new peaceful role as a transit hub for Central-South Asia connectivity.

Moscow from the start wanted Tehran and New Delhi to be part of the extended troika. Impossible. Iran never sits on the same table with the US, and vice-versa. That’s the case now in Vienna, during the JCPOA negotiations, where they “communicate” via the Europeans.

New Delhi for its part refuses to sit on the same table with the Taliban, which it sees as a terrorist Pakistani proxy.

There’s a possibility that Iran and India may be getting their act together, and that would include even a closely connected position on the Afghan drama.

When Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attended President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration last week in Tehran, they insisted on “close cooperation and coordination” also on Afghanistan.

What this would imply in the near future is increased Indian investment in the INSTC and the India-Iran-Afghanistan New Silk Road corridor. Yet that’s not going to happen with the Taliban controlling Zaranj.

Beijing for its part is focused on increasing its connectivity with Iran via what could be described as a Persian-colored corridor incorporating Tajikistan and Afghanistan. That will depend, once again, on the degree of Taliban control.

But Beijing can count on an embarrassment of riches: Plan A, after all, is an extended China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Afghanistan annexed, whoever is in power in Kabul.

What’s clear is that the extended troika will not be shaping the most intricate details of the future of Eurasia integration. That will be up to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, China, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian “stans” and Iran and Afghanistan as current observers and future full-members.

So the time has come for the SCO’s ultimate test: how to pull off a near-impossible power-sharing deal in Kabul and prevent a devastating civil war, complete with imperial B-52 bombing.

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After Egypt, will Erdogan lose Tunisia and then Libya?

ARABI SOURI 

Turkish madman president Erdogan leader of Muslim Brotherhood Turkey Tunisia Egypt Sudan Qatar Syria Lebanon Libya

Erdogan will not easily accept a second loss after the failure of his plan in Egypt, which may push him to maneuver and tactics in Tunisia.

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The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

With the difference between the “Brotherhood” of Egypt and the “Ennahda” of Tunisia, Ankara did not delay in responding to the positions of Tunisian President Kais Saied, and considered it “a coup against democracy and the will of the Tunisian people,” forgetting that these people elected Saied by 73% compared to 12% for the Ennahda candidate in the October 2019 elections.

With the noticeable decline in the tone of the attack, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to calm down with President Saied through the mediation of Qatari Emir Tamim Al Thani, who called the Tunisian President (a day later the Saudi Foreign Minister traveled to Tunisia), everyone knows that Erdogan does not, and will not easily accept a loss again after losing Egypt.

Which may push him to maneuver and tactics (with statements by Ghannouchi, who admitted his party’s mistakes, and his willingness to dialogue with President Saied) after the failure of his plan in Egypt, ideologically, politically, and historically, when Sisi overthrew the “Brotherhood” Mohamed Morsi (in Egypt) on July 3, 2013, and then the military overthrew his ally Omar al-Bashir (in Sudan) in April 2019.

This explains the signs and messages sent by President Erdogan, eight years after the coup, for reconciliation with Sisi, who stipulated for this to stop all kinds of support for the “Brotherhood” and to stop interfering in the affairs of Arab countries, and this means first of all Libya, the neighboring country of both Egypt and Tunisia.

Everyone remembers the reactions of the Tunisian opposition to the secret visit paid by Rashid Ghannouchi to Istanbul on January 10, 2020, and his meeting with President Erdogan (a day before Fayez Al-Sarraj’s visit to Istanbul) without informing the Tunisian Parliament and President of the Republic Kais Saied of his visit in advance. The visit was the beginning of the dispute between Saied and Ghannouchi, who took positions in support of Erdogan’s policies in Libya, in exchange for a different position from President Saied, who is known for his nationalist positions.

The Tunisian opposition parties and forces at the time accused Ghannouchi and the leaders of “Ennahda” of obtaining financial support from Ankara and accused it of leaking information related to national security to foreign countries, and it meant Turkey and Qatar, the two countries that embrace all political Islam movements, support and finance them, civilly and militarily, especially after what It has been called the “Arab Spring”, which makes Tunisia’s developments more important to President Erdogan and his Qatari ally, Prince Tamim, and they coordinate together against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and with them Egypt.

It seems clear that Egypt is very happy with what President Saied has done, this, of course, if it was not in advance in the picture of preparations to get rid of Ennahda and the effects of its rule over Tunisia over the past ten years, even if through weak alliances with other parties that Ennahda exploited to achieve its secret and public goals, including the travel of thousands of Tunisian youths to Turkey and from there to Syria to fight in the ranks of terrorist factions, including “ISIS” and “Al-Nusra” and the like. This is the case of thousands of citizens of other Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, when it was in the same trench with other Arab countries and Turkey to fight against the Syrian state, which is still a target for all regional moves, including Tunisia’s developments and their possible results.

The Gulf regimes rushed to provide billions of dollars in aid to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi after his overthrow of the “Brotherhood” to prevent him from rapprochement with Damascus, especially since Riyadh, Manama, and Abu Dhabi declared the “Brotherhood” a terrorist organization, without this announcement preventing them from continuing coordination and cooperation with Doha. And Ankara to support the armed Brotherhood factions in Syria until June 2017, when these capitals, along with Cairo, severed diplomatic relations with Doha. The response came quickly from President Erdogan, who sent his army to Qatar to protect it from its Gulf sisters, and its tales are no less exciting than the tales of “One Thousand and One Nights.” Despite the Qatari reconciliation with Cairo, and Prince Tamim’s efforts to mediate between Sisi and Erdogan, the dispute between Doha and Abu Dhabi continues, and until Riyadh resolves its final position on this dispute, i.e. personal competition, and before that it was between the “young men” Mohammed bin Salman and Tamim Al Thani and they are all orbiting in the American orbit.

Although it is still too early to talk about the possible results of what President Kais Saied, who is backed by the army and security forces, did and will do, everyone knows that limiting the role of “Ennahda” and removing it from power will be reflected in one way or another on the potential developments in Libya, through the continuation of reconciliation efforts, with or without it. The armed factions, moderate and extremist, are all under the Turkish umbrella, and are closely monitoring the situation in Tunisia because repeating Egypt’s experience there will put these factions in the jaws of the Egyptian-Tunisian alliance, and it will be supported by European countries, the most important of which are France and Greece, and later from other countries that do not hide its annoyance with President Erdogan’s statements and actions of a religious and historical nationalist, ie Ottoman, character.

In this context, everyone knows that the practical successes that President Kais Saied and his political and military team will achieve in the way of quickly addressing Tunisia’s health, economic, financial and social crises which will determine the course of the next stage, and its repercussions on all regional and international accounts.

As was the case after Al-Sisi’s coup in 2013, most Western capitals, led by Washington, made phone calls to President Saied, and assured him, in quite similar terms, “the need to respect the constitution and constitutional institutions, the rule of law, to remain calm, and to avoid any resort to violence, in order to preserve the stability of the country,” without it occurring in the minds of these capitals to direct any criticism of the Gulf regimes, whose countries lack even constitutions, and where democracy has no place of expression, politically, socially and morally. Nor did the aforementioned capitals take any practical positions against President Erdogan, who took advantage of the failed coup on July 15, 2016, to get rid of all his enemies and opponents, and established an “authoritarian regime”, and this quote is of President Biden, before he became president at the end of 2019, also these aforementioned capitals did not make any move when Erdogan, in April 2017, changed the constitution and took control of all state agencies, facilities, and institutions, saying that he “derived his powers from the constitution,” which President Kais Saied said, with significant differences in content, performance, goals, and results.

In the end, the judgment remains for the Tunisian people, in all their categories, because it is they who will decide the fate of their country which seems that it was and still is an arena for hidden and open conflicts, as is the case in Libya, and to a lesser extent in Algeria and Sudan, and it is close to the arenas in which ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and similar groups are active in Mali, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia. and Burkina Faso, for which the imperialist and colonial countries are drawing up a number of plans.

Ankara, in turn, established wide and varied relations with these countries after it opened its embassies in 45 African countries, President Erdogan visited a large number of them, in an attempt to compete with the traditional French, Italian, and other traditional European colonial roles, and he says, “His country did not colonize any of these countries.”

All this comes with accusations by the Turkish opposition to President Erdogan of “pursuing expansionist policies, militarily, politically, economically and intelligence,” not only in Arab and African geography but even in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, “and where the Ottomans set foot,” as President Erdogan himself said. The past ten years have proven that he is serious about this issue, otherwise, the situation in Tunisia, and before that Egypt, would not be among his interests, and because defeat there would mean a retreat in other locations, foremost of which is Libya, and then Syria, from which it was the beginning, and with its loss, Erdogan loses Turkey.

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بعد مصر.. هل يخسر إردوغان تونس ثم ليبيا؟

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لمصدر: الميادين نت

حسني محلي ا

إردوغان لن يتقبّل بسهولة خسارة ثانية بعد فشل مخططه في مصر وهو ما قد يدفعه إلى المناورة والتكتيك في تونس.

مع الفارق بين “إخوان” مصر و”نهضة” تونس، لم تتأخر أنقرة في الردّ على مواقف الرئيس التونسي قيس سعيّد، واعتبرتها “انقلاباً على الديمقراطية وإرادة الشعب التونسي”، ناسية أن هذا الشعب انتخب سعيد بنسبة 73٪ في مقابل 12٪ لمرشح “النهضة” في انتخابات تشرين الأول/أكتوبر 2019. 

الحد من دور “حركة النهضة” وإبعادَها عن السلطة سينعكسان بصورة أو بأخرى على التطورات المحتملة في ليبيا

ومع التراجع الملحوظ في لهجة الهجوم، ومحاولات الرئيس التركي رجب طيب إردوغان التهدئة مع الرئيس سعيد عبر وساطة الأمير القطري تميم آل ثاني، الذي اتّصل بالرئيس التونسي (بعدها بيوم سافر وزير الخارجية السعودي إلى تونس)، فالجميع يعرف أن إردوغان لا، ولن يتقبّل بسهولة خسارة ثانية بعد خسارة مصر. 

وهو ما قد يدفعه إلى المناورة والتكتيك (مع تصريحات الغنوشي الذي اعترف بارتكاب حزبه الأخطاء، واستعداده للحوار مع الرئيس سعيد) بعد فشل مخططه في مصر، عقائدياً وسياسياً وتاريخياً، عندما أطاح السيسي “الإخوَنجيَّ” محمد مرسي في 3 تموز/يوليو 2013، ثم أطاح العسكر حليفَه عمر البشير في نيسان/أبريل 2019. 

ويفسّر ذلك الإشارات والرسائل التي بعثها الرئيس إردوغان بعد ثماني سنوات من الانقلاب، من أجل المصالحة مع السيسي، الذي اشترط من أجل ذلك وقف كل أنواع الدعم لـ”الإخوان”، والكفّ عن التدخل في شؤون الدول العربية، والمقصود بذلك أولاً ليبيا، البلد الجار لكل من مصر وتونس. 

فالجميع يتذكر ردود فعل المعارضة التونسية على الزيارة السرية التي قام بها راشد الغنوشي لإسطنبول في 10 كانون الثاني/يناير 2020، ولقائه الرئيس إردوغان (قبل يوم من زيارة فايز السراج لإسطنبول) ومن دون أن يبلغ إلى البرلمان التونسي ورئيس الجمهورية قيس سعيد بزيارتَه مسبّقاً. وكانت الزيارة بداية الخلاف بين سعيد والغنوشي الذي اتَّخذ مواقف مؤيدة لسياسات إردوغان في ليبيا في مقابل موقف مغاير من الرئيس سعيد المعروف بمواقفه القومية. 

واتهمت أحزاب المعارضة التونسية وقواها آنذاك الغنوشي وقيادات “النهضة” بالحصول على دعم مالي من أنقرة، كما اتهمتها بتسريب معلومات تخصّ الأمن الوطني إلى دول أجنبية، والمقصود بها تركيا وقطر، البلدين اللذين يحتضنان كل حركات الإسلام السياسي ويدعمانها ويموّلانها، مدنياً وعسكرياً، وخصوصاً بعد ما سُمّي “الربيع العربي”، وهو ما يجعل تطورات تونس أكثرَ أهمية بالنسبة إلى الرئيس إردوغان وحليفه القطري الأمير تميم، وينسّقان معاً ضد السعودية والإمارات ومعهما مصر. 

ويبدو واضحاً أن مصر سعيدة جداً بما قام به الرئيس سعيد، هذا بالطبع إن لم تكن مسبقاً في صورة التحضيرات للتخلص من “النهضة” و آثار حكمها لتونس طوال السنوات العشر الماضية، ولو عبر التحالفات الضعيفة مع أحزاب أخرى استغلتها “النهضة” لتحقيق أهدافها السرية والعلنية، بما في ذلك سفر الآلاف من الشبان التونسيين إلى تركيا ومنها إلى سوريا للقتال في صفوف الفصائل الإرهابية، ومنها “داعش” و”النصرة” وأمثالهما. وهو حال الآلاف من مواطني الدول العربية الأخرى، وفي مقدمتها السعودية، عندما كانت في خندق واحد مع سائر الدول العربية وتركيا للقتال ضد الدولة السورية، التي ما زالت هدفاً لكل التحركات الإقليمية، بما فيها تطورات تونس ونتائجها المحتملة. 

لقد استعجلت أنظمة الخليج تقديم مليارات الدولارات من المساعدات إلى الرئيس عبدالفتاح السيسي بعد إطاحته “الإخوان” لمنعه من التقارب مع دمشق، وخصوصاً أن الرياض والمنامة وأبو ظبي أعلنت “الإخوان” تنظيماً إرهابياً، ومن دون أن يمنعها هذا الإعلان من الاستمرار في التنسيق والتعاون مع الدوحة وأنقرة لدعم الفصائل الإخوانية المسلحة في سوريا حتى حزيران/يونيو 2017 عندما قطعت هذه العواصم، ومعها القاهرة، علاقاتها الدبلوماسية بالدوحة. وجاء الرد سريعاً من الرئيس إردوغان، الذي أرسل جيشه إلى قطر لحمايتها من شقيقاتها الخليجية، وحكاياتها ليست أقل إثارة من حكايات “ألف ليلة وليلة”. فعلى الرغم من المصالحة القطرية مع القاهرة، ومساعي الأمير تميم للوساطة بين السيسي وإردوغان، فإن الخلاف بين الدوحة وأبو ظبي ما زال مستمراً، وإلى أن تحسم الرياض موقفها النهائي حيال هذا الخلاف، أي المنافسة الشخصية، وكانت قبلها بين “الشابين” محمد بن سلمان وتميم آل ثاني، وهم جميعاً يدورون في الفلك الأميركي.

ومع أن الوقت ما زال مبكّراً للحديث عن النتائج المحتمَلة لما قام وسيقوم به الرئيس قيس سعيد، المدعوم من الجيش والقوى الأمنية، فالجميع يعرف أن الحد من دور “النهضة” وإبعادَها عن السلطة سينعكسان بصورة أو بأخرى على التطورات المحتملة في ليبيا، عبر استمرار مساعي المصالحة فيها، أو من دون ذلك. فالفصائل المسلحة، المعتدلة منها والمتطرفة، هي جميعاً تحت المظلة التركية، وتراقب الوضع عن كثب في تونس، لأن تكرار تجربة مصر هناك سيضع هذه الفصائل بين فكَّي التحالف المصري – التونسي، وسيكون مدعوماً من دول أوروبية، أهمها فرنسا واليونان، ولاحقاً من دول أخرى لا تُخفي انزعاجها من مقولات الرئيس إردوغان وتصرفاته ذات الطابعَين الديني والقومي التاريخي، أي العثماني.

وفي السياق، يعرف الجميع أن ما سيحقّقه الرئيس قيس سعيد وفريقه السياسي والعسكري من نجاحات عملية في طريق المعالجة السريعة لأزمات تونس الصحية والاقتصادية والمالية والاجتماعية، هو الذي سيحدّد مسار المرحلة المقبلة، وانعكاساتها على مجمل الحسابات الإقليمية والدولية.

فكما كان الوضع عليه بعد انقلاب السيسي عام 2013، أجرت أغلبية العواصم الغربية، وفي مقدمتها واشنطن، اتصالات هاتفية بالرئيس سعيد، وأكدت له، في عبارات متشابهة تماماً، “ضرورة احترام الدستور والمؤسسات الدستورية، وسيادة القانون، والتحلي بالهدوء، وتجنّب أيّ لجوء إلى العنف، حفاظاً على استقرار البلاد”، من دون أن يخطر في بال هذه العواصم أن توجّه أيّ انتقاد إلى أنظمة الخليج، التي تفتقر دولها حتى إلى الدساتير، وليس للديمقراطية فيها أي مكان من الإعراب، سياسياً واجتماعياً وأخلاقياً. كما لم تتخذ العواصم المذكورة أي مواقف عملية ضد الرئيس إردوغان، الذي استغل الانقلاب الفاشل في 15 تموز/يوليو 2016 فتخلص من جميع أعدائه ومعارضيه، وأقام “نظاماً استبدادياً”، والقول للرئيس بايدن، قبل أن يصبح رئيساً نهاية عام 2019. كما لم تحرّك العواصم المذكورة ساكناً عندما قام إردوغان، في نيسان/أبريل 2017، بتغيير الدستور، وسيطر على جميع أجهزة الدولة ومرافقها ومؤسساتها، قائلا إنه “استمدّ صلاحياته من الدستور”، وهو ما قاله الرئيس قيس سعيد، مع فوارق كبيرة في المضمون والأداء والأهداف والنتائج.

يبقى الحكم في النهاية للشعب التونسي، في كل فئاته، لأنه هو الذي سيقرر مصير بلاده. ويبدو أنها كانت وما زالت ساحة للصراعات الخفية والمكشوفة، كما هي الحال في ليبيا، وبنِسَب أقل في الجزائر والسودان، وهي قريبة من الساحات التي تنشط فيها “داعش” و”القاعدة” و”بوكو حرام”، ومجموعات مماثلة في مالي وتشاد والنيجر ونيجيريا والصومال وبوركينا فاسو، التي تضع من أجلها الدول الإمبريالية والاستعمارية عدداً من الخطط. 

أقامت أنقرة بدورها علاقات واسعة ومتنوعة بهذه الدول بعد أن افتتحت سفاراتها في 45 دولة أفريقية، وزار الرئيس إردوغان عدداً كبيراً منها، في محاولة منه لمنافسة الأدوار الفرنسية والإيطالية والأوروبية الاستعمارية التقليدية، وهو يقول “إن بلاده لم تستعمر أياً من هذه الدول”.

يأتي كل ذلك مع اتهامات المعارضة التركية للرئيس إردوغان بـ”انتهاج سياسات توسُّعية، عسكرياً وسياسياً واقتصادياً واستخبارياً”، ليس فقط في الجغرافيا العربية والأفريقية، بل حتى في البلقان والقوقاز وآسيا الوسطى، “وحيث وطئت أقدام العثمانيين”، والقول للرئيس إردوغان نفسه. وأثبت السنوات العشر الماضية أنه جادّ في هذا الموضوع، وإلاّ لَما كان الوضع في تونس، وقبلها مصر، ضمن اهتماماته، ولأن الهزيمة هناك ستعني التراجع في مواقع أخرى، وفي مقدمتها ليبيا، ثم سوريا، التي كانت منها البداية، وبخسارتها يخسر إردوغان تركيا. 

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The Forever Imminent Collapse of the Iranian “Regime”

July 29, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Seyed Mohammad Marandi

As Iran is literally depicted as illegitimate and derogatorily labeled a “regime,” these “experts” can inform their audiences without irony of the rising “menace” of Iran and the growing threat it poses to regional stability.

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Under US occupation Afghanistan has become the beating heart of global opium cultivation and distribution, but for Iran haters, just a whiff of unrest anywhere in the country is often enough for them to get practically stoned. BBC Persian becomes embarrassingly euphoric, while Persian television ‘Iran International’ headquartered in London and with ties to Mohammed bin Salman, and VOA Persian begin to hallucinate completely.

Arabic media narratives usually depend on state policy towards Iran. Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news channel is consistent in its hatred and is often more deranged than ‘Iran International,’ while Aljazeera Arabic and English narratives largely sway in harmony with the state of play in Doha’s dealings with Riyadh, Ankara, and Washington.

Western corporate and state-owned media usually, but by no means always, put more effort into appearing balanced and professional than their state backed Persian language Iran bashing counterparts. However, in all these outlets there is a recurring and repetitive theme that can appear credible and even well documented to the uninitiated or the true believers.

Any objective review exposes a certain consistency in “analyses” that many years ago used to surprise me. Since the 1980s, audiences have been constantly told that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an evil, unstable, unpopular, incompetent and a corrupt “regime” that is on the brink of collapse. In over four decades of research and reporting, it has been regularly implied that the day is not far off when the “regime” will finally fall into the dustbin of history.

Some would argue that these “experts” confuse analysis with aspirations and facts with expectations. For them, it seems the ultimate collapse of revolutionary Iran is natural and inevitable, since its ideological foundations, constitution and political structures are not based upon “superior” or “contemporary” western intellectual traditions. These views are constantly reinforced by a small army of Iranian comprador intellectuals and many angry “scholars” affiliated with western academia, think-tanks and media, who reassuringly repeat the favorite talking points of their western overlords. Liberals and “leftists” at academic institutions may fight over Cuba, Venezuela, and Iraq, but when it comes to Iran there is often a loving consensus.

The latent Orientalism of these western analysts and their native informants as well as the Eurocentric worldview imposed upon western institutions and academia, are solid barriers that prevent most from recognizing the often irresolvable paradoxes resulting from such “expert” analyses. Hence, as the Islamic Republic is literally depicted as illegitimate, incapable of self-governance, and derogatorily labeled a “regime,” these “experts” can inform their audiences without irony of the rising “menace” of Iran and the growing threat it poses to regional stability and even the “international community.”

They feel no need to explain how an incompetent and universally reviled “regime” can possibly be such an enormous threat to the existing and well entrenched regional and international order. Either the US-led Western Empire is vastly overrated, or the Iranian “regime” is not quite the regime it is portrayed to be.

Their failure to acknowledge, let alone explain, this contradiction lies in the fact that most are simply blind to its existence. The Orientalist demonization of Iran makes almost all negative attributes seem reasonable and plausible, even though they are often mutually exclusive.

The seemingly always-in-crisis Iran doesn’t even have the luxury of being competently evil or deceiving. We are told that Iranians hate the “regime,” Iraqis despise Iran (no allusion to General Suleimani’s massive funeral processions in Iraq), Afghans are resentful, Lebanese feel subjugated, Syrians are outraged, and Yemenis abused. Nevertheless, it is largely left unexplained how an unpopular and heavily sanctioned Iran can wield such enormous influence and maintain such powerful allies, while its western and regional antagonists have infinitely more wealth and resources at their disposal.

These so called experts and analysts don’t seem to recognize that while these powerful anti-Iranian narratives may have a significant impact on perceptions towards Iran, they definitely do not inspire confidence regarding the stability or legitimacy of the US Empire. Hence, we will continue to be told that the Iranian “regime” is possibly facing imminent collapse, but the real story may actually be that the centuries old domination of the “Free and Civilized world” is closer to imminent collapse.

Tunisia Stands Against the Muslim Brotherhood

By Steven Sahiounie

Global Research, July 30, 2021

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The only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring in 2011 is going through a process of strategic correction. Tunisian President Kais Saied announced late Sunday he was firing the prime minster, Hichem Mechichi, dismissing the parliament, and assuming executive authority under Article 80 of the constitution.  The speaker of Parliament, Rachid Ghannouchi, declared the actions amounted to a coup.

Saied announced that he was assuming the public prosecutor’s powers and stripping lawmakers of immunity, while assuring Tunisian rights groups on Monday that he remains committed to civil liberties and the democratic process, and that the changes will be temporary.

The crisis stems partly from an economy which never improved, and the COVID pandemic which has hit Tunisia hard.  The main cause of the crisis is a political power struggle between Saied, Mechichi and Ghannouchi which has split the country into two camps: those who want Tunisia to maintain a secular based government, and those who follow Radical Islam as a political ideology.

On Sunday, demonstrators across Tunisia called for the dissolution of Parliament, which gave Saied the green-light to take action based on the will of the people.

Videos posted to social media showed crowds cheering, honking, ululating and waving Tunisian flags after the president’s actions Sunday night.

By Monday afternoon, Saied had fired the defense minister and acting justice minister. On Wednesday, Saied revealed shocking allegations against Ghannouchi’s party, Ennahda, that they accepted money from foreign governments, which amounts to a crime against democracy in Tunisia. Additionally, Saied has identified 480 persons who have defrauded the government of billions of Tunisian dinars.  He has promised to hold all accountable.

Mr. Saied was elected in 2019, and many Tunisians hoped he could turn things around, seeing him as a fresh political outsider. However, since taking the helm he has been locked in a fight with Mechichi and Ghannouchi.

What is Ennahda platform and leadership?

According to western mainstream media, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, Ennahda is a moderate Islamist party.

Likewise, the same media calls the group which holds Idlib, Syria as the ‘moderate rebels’, when in fact they are the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Anger toward Ennahda has mounted over the past year as the pandemic hit the country and its economy and a movement against police brutality gained steam. Angry citizen activists called for the dissolution of parliament, which is controlled by Ennahda’s highly unpopular leader Rachid Ghannouchi, who has been its president for 38 years.

Ghannouchi wrote, “The Islamic government is one in which: 1- supreme legislative authority is for the shari’a, which is the revealed law of Islam, which transcends all laws. Al-Ghannouchi, R. (1998). “Participation in Non-Islamic Government”.

Critics, lawyers and politicians have accused Ennahda of forming a secret organization that has infiltrated security forces and the judiciary. Ennahda was relaunched during the Tunisian revolution in 2011.  The party was accused of being behind the 2013 assassinations of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, two progressive political leaders of the leftist Popular Front electoral alliance.

Ennahda was founded in 1981 by the Islamic cleric, Rached Ghannouchi.  The party is part of the global network of the Muslim Brotherhood. The party’s decline in popularity continued into mid-2016, and has now hit rock-bottom with the present corrective action undertaken by Saied.

The role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2011 Arab Spring

Ghannouchi has remained a steadfast follower and member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Ghannouchi attened a global Muslim Brotherhood conference in Istanbul in April 2016, and has continued to serve Islamist and Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in Europe, as a high-ranking member. Most notable is his involvement with a Dublin-based center ECFR, and the designated terrorist organization, the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

Most worrying is Ghannouchi’s ties to Islamist and violent extremist groups, both in Tunisia and around the world.  Leaders of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia group in Tunisia (AST) attended meetings at Ghannouchi’s home in 2011 at which he allegedly advised them to encourage AST youth to infiltrate Tunisia’s national army and National Guard.

In a leaked video, Ghannouchi also claimed that his Ennahda party had previously met with AST leader Seifallah Ben Hassine. In 2014, Ben Hassine was sanction-designated by the United States and United Nations for his links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and his implication in various terror attacks, including the assassination of Tunisian security forces and political figures, as well as the September 2012 AST attack on the US Embassy in Tunis. Ben Hassine died in a US airstrike in Libya in mid-June 2015.

Many compare Egypt’s histories with Tunisia.  In 2011 Egypt had a popular revolution which saw Mubarak step-down.  The US engineered a vote which put a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Morsi, in power. However, the Egyptian people took to the streets once again, in a corrective change, and the current leader stepped into the leadership role.  Many western analysts bemoaned that the fledgling Egyptian ‘democracy’ was squandered with the ouster of Morsi. The Egyptian people made a political correction: they decided the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Morsi was more brutal than that of the previous authoritarian leader, Mubarak.

Western governments such as the US and UK, and to a lesser extent Germany, are very close to the Muslim Brotherhood in their own land, and wanted to install, at any cost, like regimes across the Middle East.  Places such as: Libya, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia.  The west recognizes that the Muslim Brotherhood works well in coordination with Israel, and does not present a threat to Israel, or the occupation of Palestine.

What country’s currently struggle against Muslim Brotherhood?

Al Jazeera, the Qatar state news channel, said on Monday the security services had shut-down their bureau in Tunis.  Qatar, and their media, are politically aligned with Ennahda.   Qatar and Turkey are both run by Muslim Brotherhood regimes.

Currently in Libya, there is a civil war raging against those who support the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who wish to maintain a secular form of government.  It is not surprising that the US is on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood there, along with Qatar and Turkey, while Russia supports the secular side.

In Syria, the US-NATO war against the Syrian people which began in 2011 and has raged for 10 years, pitted the US backed Muslim Brotherhood terrorists against the only secular government in the Middle East.  The US and the Muslim Brotherhood lost the war, but not before destroying the country, and killing hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians.

What will Biden’s position be on the Tunisian crisis?

The current Tunisian crisis presents a major test for the Biden administration.  If Saied is seen as usurping power, and against democratic principles, we may see Biden square off in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ennahda.  Already we have a warning from the State Department, “Tunisia must not squander its democratic gains,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, said in a phone call Monday with Mr. Saied, while encouraging him “to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights.”

“Tunisia is the last ember of the Arab Spring, now snuffed out,” Said Ferjani, an Ennahda member of Parliament, said in an interview, calling on President Biden to demonstrate his commitment to democracy.

While the US and her allies might be on the Ennahda side, the opposing side is formidable.  Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two biggest powerhouses of the Middle East, join the UAE and Syria in welcoming the Tunisian president’s strategic correction, and the public denouncement of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is an award-winning journalist.

BRI vs New Quad for Afghanistan’s coming boom

BRI vs New Quad for Afghanistan’s coming boom

July 26, 2021

The race is already on to build and extend Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure as rival powers advance competing initiatives

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Over a week ago the excruciatingly slow Doha peace talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban resumed, and then they dragged on for two days observed by envoys from the EU, US and UN.

Nothing happened. They could not even agree on a ceasefire during Eid al-Adha. Worse, there’s no road map for how negotiations might pick up in August. Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada duly released a statement: the Taliban “strenuously favors a political settlement.”

But how? Irreconcilable differences rule. Realpolitik dictates there’s no way the Taliban will embrace Western liberal democracy: They want the restoration of an Islamic emirate.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, for his part, is damaged goods even in Kabul diplomatic circles where he’s derided as too stubborn, not to mention incapable of rising to the occasion. The only possible solution in the short term is seen as an interim government.

Yet there is no leader around with national appeal – no Commander Massoud figure. There are only regional warlords – whose militias protect their own local interests, not distant Kabul.

While facts on the ground spell out balkanization, the Taliban, even on the offensive, know they cannot possibly pull off a military takeover of Afghanistan.

And when the Americans say they will continue to “support Afghan government forces,” that means still bombing, but from over the horizon and now under new Centcom management in Qatar.

Russia, China, Pakistan and the Central Asian “stans” – everyone is trying hard to circumvent the stalemate. Shadow play, as usual, has been in full effect. Take for instance the crucial meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (former Soviet states) – nearly simultaneous with the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Dushanbe and the subsequent Central Asia-South Asia connectivity conference in Tashkent.

The CSTO summit was 100% leak-proof. And yet, previously, they had discussed “possibilities of using the potential of the CSTO member states” to keep the highly volatile Tajik-Afghan border under control.

That’s very serious business. A task force headed by Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov, the chief of the CSTO Joint Staff, is in charge of “joint measures” to police the borders.

Now enter an even more intriguing shadowplay gambit – met with a non-denial denial by both Moscow and Washington.

The Kommersant newspaper revealed that Moscow offered some “hospitality” to the Pentagon at its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (both SCO member states). The objective: keep a joint eye on the fast-evolving Afghan chessboard – and prevent drug mafia cartels, Islamists of the ISIS-Khorasan variety and refugees from crossing the borders of these Central Asian ‘stans.

What the Russians are aiming at – non-denial denial withstanding – is not to let the Americans off the hook for the “mess” (copyright Sergey Lavrov) in Afghanistan while preventing them from reestablishing any offshoot of the Empire of Bases in Central Asia.

They established bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan after 2001, although they had to be abandoned later in 2004 and 2014. What is clear is there’s absolutely no chance the US will re-establish military bases in SCO and CSTO member nations.

Birth of a new Quad

At the Central Asia-South Asia 2021 meeting in Tashkent, right after the SCO meeting in Dushanbe, something quite intriguing happened: the birth of a new Quad (forget that one in the Indo-Pacific).

This is how it was spun by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs: a “historic opportunity to open flourishing international trade routes, [and] the parties intend to cooperate to expand trade, build transit links and strengthen business-to-business ties.”

If that sounds like something straight out of the Belt and Road Initiative, well, here’s the confirmation by the Pakistani Foreign Office:

“Representatives of the United States, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity. The parties consider long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan critical to regional connectivity and agree that peace and regional connectivity are mutually reinforcing.”

The US doing Belt and Road right into China’s alley? A State Department tweet confirmed it. Call it a geopolitical case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Now this is probably the only issue that virtually all players on the Afghanistan chessboard agree: a stable Afghanistan turbo-charging the flow of cargo across a vital hub of Eurasia integration.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen has been very consistent: the Taliban regard China as a “friend” to Afghanistan and are eager to have Beijing investing in reconstruction work “as soon as possible.”

The question is what Washington aims to accomplish with this new Quad – for the moment just on paper. Simple: to throw a monkey wrench into the works of the SCO, led by Russia-China, and the main forum organizing a possible solution for the Afghan drama.

In this sense, the US versus Russia-China competition in the Afghan theater totally fits the Build Back Better World (B3W) gambit, which aims – at least in thesis – to offer an alternative infrastructure plan to Belt and Road and pitch it to nations from the Caribbean and Africa to the Asia-Pacific.

What is not in question is that a stable Afghanistan is essential in terms of establishing full rail-road connectivity from resource-rich Central Asia to the Pakistani ports of Karachi and Gwadar, and beyond to global markets.

For Pakistan, what happens next is a certified geoeconomic win-win – whether via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a flagship Belt and Road project, or via the new, incipient Quad.

China will be funding the highly strategic Peshawar-Kabul motorway. Peshawar is already linked to CPEC. The completion of the motorway will symbolically seal Afghanistan as part of CPEC. 

And then there’s the delightfully named Pakafuz, which refers to the trilateral deal signed in February between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to build a railway – a fundamentally strategic connection between Central and South Asia.

Full connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia also happens to be a key plank of the Russian master strategy, the Greater Eurasia Partnership, which interacts with Belt and Road in multiple ways.

Lavrov spent quite some time in the Central Asia-South Asia summit in Tashkent explaining the integration of the Greater Eurasia Partnership and Belt and Road with the SCO and the Eurasia Economic Union.

Lavrov also referred to the Uzbek proposal “to align the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Europe-West China corridor with new regional projects.” Everything is interlinked, any way you look at it.

Watching the geoeconomic flow

The new Quad is in fact a latecomer in terms of the fast-evolving geopolitical transmutation of the Heartland. The whole process is being driven by China and Russia, which are jointly managing key Central Asian affairs.

Already in early June, a very important China-Pakistan-Afghanistan joint statement stressed how Kabul will be profiting from trade via the CPEC’s port of Gwadar.

And then, there’s Pipelineistan.

On July 16, Islamabad and Moscow signed a mega-deal for a US$3 billion, 1100-kilometer gas pipeline between Port Qasim in Karachi and Lahore, to be finished by the end of 2023.

The pipeline will transport imported LNG from Qatar arriving at Karachi’s LNG terminal. This is the Pakstream Gas Pipeline Project – locally known as the North-South Gas project.

The interminable Pipelineistan war between IPI (India-Pakistan-Iran) and TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) – which I followed in detail for years – seems to have ended with a third-way winner.

As much as the Kabul government, the Taliban seem to be paying very close attention to all the geoeconomics and how Afghanistan is at the heart of an inevitable economic boom.

Perhaps both sides should also be paying close attention to someone like Zoon Ahmed Khan, a very bright Pakistani woman who is a research fellow with the Belt and Road Initiative Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.

Pakistani naval personnel stand guard near a ship carrying containers at the Gwadar port, 700kms west of Karachi, where a trade program between Pakistan and China operates. Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi

Zoon Ahmed Khan notes how “one significant contribution that China makes through the BRI is emphasizing on the fact that developing countries like Pakistan have to find their own development path, rather than follow a Western model of governance.”

She adds, “The best thing Pakistan can learn from the Chinese model is to come up with its own model. China does not wish to impose its journey and experience on other countries, which is quite important.”

She is adamant that Belt and Road “is benefiting a much greater region than Pakistan. Through the initiative, what China tries to do is to present the partner countries with its experience and the things it can offer.”

All of the above definitely applies to Afghanistan – and its convoluted but ultimately inevitable insertion into the ongoing process of Eurasia integration.

Afghan Gov’t Delegation, “Taliban” to Meet in Doha

Today July 25, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Al Mayadeen reporter in Kabul says that the “Taliban” movement may soon accept to engage in the political process.

The “Taliban” may soon accept to engage in the political process

A high-powered Afghan government delegation will soon fly to Qatar’s capital to prepare for political negotiations with the “Taliban”, according to Al Mayadeen reporter.

The “Taliban” may soon accept to engage in the political process with the Afghan government which stresses that any Transition of power should begin with elections, Al Mayadeen reporter added.

Besides, Taliban Spokesman Mohammad Naeem said on Saturday evening that “Washington and Kabul have accepted an agreement that provides for a new Islamic order.” 

In an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen, Naeem stressed that “The Afghan regime must be Islamic, but how will be left to dialogue.”

Naeem addressed the US raids, and considered them “an explicit violation of the agreements concluded with us,” stressing that they “do not change anything and represent support for the Kabul administration.”

The Taliban spokesman asked, “We agreed on a plan in Doha, so how can we proceed if there is no commitment to it?

He noted that “there is no escalation in operations and areas that voluntarily joined the Taliban.” “We have relations and contacts with countries in the world and the region, especially neighboring countries,” he stressed.

Earlier, the Taliban said that the government of Ashraf Ghani bears responsibility for any military transformation in Afghanistan.

The movement considered that the US raids on “the sites of Helmand and Kandahar are a violation of the agreement with Washington,” saying that “It will not pass without consequences.”

Furthermore, Afghanistan’s government has imposed a night-time curfew across almost all of the country’s 34 provinces ” to curb violence and limit the Taliban movement,” the interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Taliban has taken control of large swaths of the country since early last May.

“سيف القدس” وإخراج دمشق من الفخّ الكارثيّ

تموز 9 2021

أحمد الدرزي

المصدر: الميادين نت

لم تكن فلسطين في العقل السوري في أي يوم من الأيام إلا جزءاً من البيئة الجغرافية السورية.

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قد تكون دمشق الرابح الأكبر بعد الفلسطينيين في معركة “سيف القدس” باعتبار أنها كشفت دورها السابق والمستقبلي تجاه فلسطين.

تلقَّفت دمشق نتائج الانتصار الكبير للمواجهة الأخيرة بين “إسرائيل” والمقاومة الفلسطينية، التي توحّدت بمستوويها المدني والعسكري، وبقطاعاتها الثلاثة في غزة والضفة الغربية والأراضي المحتلة العام 1948، بسعادة كبيرة، لظهور نتائج موقفها الداعم للمقاومة الفلسطينية الذي لم ينقطع، رغم كل ما أصابها من بعض حركة “حماس” أثناء قيادة رئيس مكتبها السياسي السابق خالد مشعل، ما دفع الرئيس الأسد إلى استقبال قادة المقاومة بشكل علني، والتركيز على ضرورة إبراز الدور السوري في كلِّ الانتصارات، بما في ذلك الانتصار الأكبر، عملية “سيف القدس”، التي غيرت المعادلات داخل فلسطين، وأظهرت مدى هشاشة الكيان الذي لا جذور له في هذه الأرض، حتى تاريخياً، والَّذي تشبه خرافة قوّته خرافة وجود يهوذا و”إسرائيل” ومعبد سليمان في أرض فلسطين. كما أدركت دمشق بحسها السياسي الخبير بالشؤون الدولية أنَّ هذا الانتصار سينعكس عليها إيجاباً في المدى القريب إقليمياً ودولياً.

لم تكن فلسطين في العقل السوري في أي يوم من الأيام إلا جزءاً من البيئة الجغرافية السورية، التي حدَّدها أغلب الجغرافيين العرب بمصطلح بلاد الشام، ومنهم الإدريسي الأشهر، باعتبارها المناطق التي تمتد من شمال وغرب السويدية، التي تشكل الحد الفاصل بين بلاد الشام وبلاد الأرمن، إلى العريش أو رفح جنوباً. وقد قُسِّمت إدارياً في عهد السيطرة العثمانية في القرن التاسع عشر إلى 3 ولايات، هي دمشق وحلب وبيروت.

ولَم يكن الفلسطينيون يتعاطون مع دمشق إلا باعتبارها مركزهم السياسي والاقتصادي، وهو ما دفعهم إلى الاشتراك في مؤتمر سوريا الأول في دمشق في العام1918 ، بوفدٍ مؤلف من 17 شخصية فلسطينية، على رأسهم ممثل نابلس الباحث والمؤرخ عزة دروزة، الذي اختير نائباً لرئيس المؤتمر وقام بتلاوة بيانه الختامي، الذي عبَّر فيه عن رؤية مشرقية للهلال الخصيب ضمن إطار عربي.

لَم تغب هذه الرؤية عن أغلب الفلسطينيين من الناحية الفعلية، حتى بعد تشكّل المقاومة الفلسطينية بفصائلها المتنوعة، واختيارها دمشق مركزاً وحاميةً لها أثناء احتلال بيروت وإبّان تحريرها من العدو الإسرائيلي، والأهم من ذلك، حركتا “حماس” و”الجهاد” الإسلاميتان، رغم التناقض الأيديولوجي بينهما. وخير من استطاع أن يعبر عن هذا التوجه العام، رغم كل ما شاب المواقف السياسية، هو الشهيد نزار بنات الذي عرّف عن نفسه بأنه سوري فلسطيني.

هذا ما يفسّر دوافع العقل السياسي السوري بالتعاطي مع القضية الفلسطينية، ففضلاً عن كونها قضية حقوقية أخلاقية إنسانية ذات بعد عربي وإنساني، فإنها قضية احتلال لأرض سورية تشكّل بعداً استراتيجياً للتواصل مع مصر وادي النيل وقارة أفريقيا بأكملها، وهي أهم منطقة سوريَّة يقتضي التركيز عليها أكثر من لواء إسكندرون وبقية المناطق المحتلة، كما أنَّها قضية وجودية بسبب طبيعة الكيان التوسعية وأبعاد سياسات الهيمنة والاستعباد التي تشكّل من أجلها ضمن دوائر متعددة، أقربها إليه سوريا ومصر.

ورغم خروج سوريا من معظم الفخاخ التي نصبت لها، وخصوصاً في الفترة الفاصلة بين العامين 2006 و2011، بفضل حرب تموز في جنوب لبنان، التي ساهمت بها بشكل كبير وواسع، واعتبرتها نصراً كبيراً لها، ما دفع الولايات المتحدة إلى نصب فخّ اقتصاديّ، برفع اتهامها المزوّر بقتل رئيس الوزراء اللبناني رفيق الحريري عنها، وتوجيهه إلى “حزب الله”، ودفع دول السّعودية وقطر والإمارات العربية المتحدة وتركيا ومصر إلى الانفتاح على سوريا، ومحاولة تغيير تموضعها الجيوسياسي بين الشرق والغرب بالسياسات الاقتصادية الليبرالية التي يغلب عليها الطّابع الخدمي والنمط الاستهلاكي.

ورغم ما تحقَّق من ذلك، فإنَّ دمشق عندما وُضعت بين خياري الشرق والغرب في مشاريع نقل الغاز القطري إلى تركيا عبر الأراضي السورية، ودعم المقاومة لأجل فلسطين وتسليمها كي يتم ذبحها، فإنها رفضت المساومة، ما تسبّب بتعرّضها لأكبر كارثة في تاريخها، باستخدام نمط الجيل الرابع من الحروب لتدميرها (حروب الوكالة)، والذي أدّى إلى حدوث صدع اجتماعيّ كبير، بفعل النجاح في إثارة الهويات الفرعية لدى طيف واسع لا يُستهان به من السوريين.

تدرك دمشق، أياً كان صاحب القرار فيها، عمق القضية الفلسطينية في وجدان وعقل السوريين الذين اندفعوا للتطوع في حرب 1948، رغم تنوع الهويات الفرعية بأشكالها القومية والدينية والمذهبية والقبلية والعشائرية والمدينية والريفية، وهي تشكّل القاسم المشترك الأكبر القادر على تجاوز هوياتهم الفرعية نحو إبراز هويتهم السورية الجامعة. وقد تجلت خير تجلٍ أثناء حرب تموز، باندفاع كل السوريين لاستقبال اللبنانيين الذين لجأوا إليهم بعد العدوان الإسرائيلي الواسع التدمير للجنوب اللبناني، وهي الآن بأمسِّ الحاجة لرأب الصدع الاجتماعي الكبير والعميق الذي تسبّبت به الحرب الكارثية على سوريا والسوريين.

تأتي أهمية معركة “سيف القدس” الأخيرة التي لا تُقدر قيمة نتائجها الكبرى حتى الآن لسوريا والإقليم، وقد تكون دمشق الرابح الأكبر بعد الفلسطينيين فيها، بأنها كشفت دورها السابق والمستقبلي تجاه فلسطين، واختبرت من جديد مدى قدرة الالتزام بالمواجهة الحقيقية المباشرة مع “إسرائيل” وإيقاظ وجدان أغلب السوريين للعودة إلى سوريّتهم، على الرغم من كوارث الحرب والحصار، وعقوبات “قيصر”، وتغوّل اقتصاد الظلّ وسيطرته على معظم مفاصل الاقتصاد، والانحسار الكبير لدورة الحياة الاقتصادية الطبيعية، وهي الآن تحتاج إلى الخروج من الكارثة بمعالجة 3 مسائل أساسية مترابطة وعاجلة، لا يمكن الفصل في ما بينها، أولها الملف الاقتصادي الذي تتطلَّب معالجته إرادة وإدارة وعقلية جديدة، ورأب الصدع الاجتماعي، واستعادة الدور الإقليمي الحامي لها واللائق بموقعها الجيوسياسي الأخطر.

وقد وفَّر انتصار عملية “سيف القدس” عاملين مهمين للخروج الناجح من الفخ الأخطر، وهما الدور الإقليمي الذي سيعود إليها إلى حد كبير، ودور عامل الرفض لبقاء “إسرائيل” ومقاومتها بإزالة الصدع الاجتماعي.

ويبقى العنصر الأهم والضاغط الذي يتعلَّق بإعادة الدورة الاقتصادية الطبيعية، وفقاً للموارد المتاحة ومساهمة الحلفاء والأصدقاء، وتحجيم اقتصاد الظل إلى الحدود القصوى، وهو ما ينتظره السّوريون بعد السابع عشر من هذا الشهر، كي يتابعوا تحرير ما تبقّى من أراضيهم المحتلّة في الشمال السوري من الاحتلالين التركي والأميركي، فهل تتحقَّق آمالهم بذلك؟

Say hello to the diplo-Taliban

Say hello to the diplo-Taliban

July 09, 2021

Deploying diplomatic skills refined from Doha to Moscow, the Taliban in 2021 has little to do with its 2001 incarnation

by Pepe Escobar with permission, and first posted at Asia Times

A very important meeting took place in Moscow last week, virtually hush-hush. Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, received Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s national security adviser.

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Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (center) and other members of the Taliban arrive to attend an international conference in Moscow on March 18, 2021. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko / AFP

There were no substantial leaks. A bland statement pointed to the obvious: They “focused on the security situation in Afghanistan during the pullout of Western military contingencies and the escalation of the military-political situation in the northern part of the country.”

The real story is way more nuanced. Mohib, representing embattled President Ashraf Ghani, did his best to convince Patrushev that the Kabul administration represents stability. It does not – as the subsequent Taliban advances proved.

Patrushev knew Moscow could not offer any substantial measure of support to the current Kabul arrangement because doing so would burn bridges the Russians would need to cross in the process of engaging the Taliban. Patrushev knows that the continuation of Team Ghani is absolutely unacceptable to the Taliban – whatever the configuration of any future power-sharing agreement.

So Patrushev, according to diplomatic sources, definitely was not impressed.

This week we can all see why. A delegation from the Taliban political office went to Moscow essentially to discuss with the Russians the fast-evolving mini-chessboard in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban had been to Moscow four months earlier, along with the extended troika (Russia, US, China, Pakistan) to debate the new Afghan power equation.

On this trip, they emphatically assured their interlocutors there’s no Taliban interest in invading any territory of their Central Asia neighbors.

It’s not excessive, in view of how cleverly they’ve been playing their hand, to call the Taliban desert foxes. They know well what Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been repeating: Any turbulence coming from Afghanistan will be met with a direct response from the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

In addition to stressing that the US withdrawal – actually, repositioning – represents the failure of its Afghan “mission,” Lavrov touched on the two really key points:

The Taliban is increasing its influence in the northern Afghanistan border areas; and Kabul’s refusal to form a transitional government is “promoting a belligerent solution” to the drama. This implies Lavrov expects much more flexibility from both Kabul and the Taliban in the Sisyphean power-sharing task ahead.

And then, relieving the tension, when asked by a Russian journalist if Moscow will send troops to Afghanistan, Lavrov reverted to Mr Cool: “The answer is obvious.”

Mohammad Suhail Shaheen is the quite articulate spokesman for the Taliban political office. He’s adamant that “taking Afghanistan by military force is not our policy. Our policy is to find a political solution to the Afghan issue, which is continuing in Doha.” Bottom line: “We confirmed our commitment to a political solution here in Moscow once more.”

That’s absolutely correct. The Taliban don’t want a bloodbath. They want to be embraced. As Shaheen has stressed, it would be easy to conquer major cities – but there would be blood. Meanwhile, the Taliban already control virtually the whole border with Tajikistan.

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New face of the Taliban: The insurgents’ spokesman Mohammad Suhail Shaheen speaks to media in Moscow on February 15, 2021.

The 2021 Taliban have little in common with their 2001 pre-war on terror incarnation. The movement has evolved from a largely Ghilzai Pashtun rural guerrilla insurgency to a more inter-ethnic arrangement, incorporating Tajiks, Uzbeks and even Shi’ite Hazaras – a group that was mercilessly persecuted during the 1996-2001 years of Taliban power.

Reliable figures are extremely hard to come by, but 30% of the Taliban today may be non-Pashtuns. One of the top commanders is ethnically Tajik – and that explains the lightning-flash “soft” blitzkrieg in northern Afghanistan across Tajik territory.

I visited a lot of these geologically spectacular places in the early 2000s. The inhabitants, all cousins, speaking Dari, are now turning over their villages and towns to Tajik Taliban as a matter of trust. Very few – if any – Pashtuns from Kandahar or Jalalabad are involved. That illustrates the absolute failure of the central government in Kabul.

Those who do not join the Taliban simply desert – as did the Kabul forces manning the checkpoint close to the bridge over the Pyanj river, off the Pamir highway; they escaped without a fight to Tajik territory, actually riding the Pamir highway. The Taliban hoisted their flag in this crucial intersection without firing a shot.

The Afghan National Army’s chief, General Wali Mohammad Ahmadza, fresh into his role by appointment from Ghani, is keeping a brave face: ANA’s priority is to protect the main cities (so far, so good, because the Taliban are not attacking them); border crossings (that’s not going so well), and highways (mixed results so far).

This interview with Suhail Shaheen is quite enlightening – as he feels compelled to stress that “we don’t have access to media” and laments the “baseless” barrage of “propaganda launched against us,” which implies that Western media should admit the Taliban have changed.

Shaheen points out that “it’s not possible to take 150 districts in just six weeks by fighting,” which connects to the fact that the security forces “do not trust the Kabul administration.” In all districts that have been conquered, he swears, “ the forces came to the Taliban voluntarily.”

A smoke plume rises from houses amid an ongoing fight between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in the western city of Qala-i- Naw, the capital of Badghis province, on July 7. The Taliban launched its first major assault on a provincial capital since the US military began its final drawdown of troops from the country.

Shaheen makes a statement that could have come straight from Ronald Reagan in the mid-1980s: The “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are the real freedom fighters.” That may be the object of endless debate across the lands of Islam.

But one fact is indisputable: The Taliban are sticking by the agreement they signed with the Americans on February 29, 2020. And that implies a total American exit: “If they don’t abide by their commitments, we have a clear right of retaliation.”

Thinking ahead to “when an Islamic government is in place,” Shaheen insists there will be “good relations” with every nation, and embassies and consulates will not be targeted.

The Taliban “goal is clear: to end the occupation.” And that brings us to the tricky gambit of Turkish troops “protecting” Kabul airport. Shaheen is crystal clear. “No NATO forces – that means continuation of occupation,” he proclaims. “When we have an independent Islamic country, then we will sign any agreement with Turkey that is mutually beneficial.”

Shaheen is involved in the ongoing, very complicated negotiations in Doha, so he cannot allow himself to commit the Taliban to any future power-sharing agreement. What he does say, even though “progress is slow” in Doha, is that, contrary to what was previously reported by media in Qatar, the Taliban will not present a formal written proposal to Kabul by the end of the month, The talks will continue.

Going hybrid?

Whatever the “Mission Accomplished” non-denial denials emanating from the White House, a few things are already clear on the Eurasia front.

The Russians, for one thing, are already engaging the Taliban, in detail, and may soon strike their name off their terror list.

The Chinese, for another, are assured that if the Taliban commits Afghanistan to join the Belt and Road Initiative, connecting via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, ISIS-Khorasan will not then be permitted to go on overdrive in Afghanistan bolstered by Uyghur jihadis currently in Idlib.

And nothing is off the table for Washington when it comes to derailing BRI. Crucial silos scattered across the deep state must be already at work replacing a forever war in Afghanistan with hybrid war, Syria-style.

Lavrov is very much aware of Kabul power brokers who would not say “no” to a new hybrid war arrangement. But the Taliban for their part have been very effective – preventing assorted Afghan factions from supporting Team Ghani.

As for the Central Asian “stans,” not a single one of them wants any forever wars or hybrid wars down the road.

Fasten your seat belts: It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

A Saigon moment in the Hindu Kush

A Saigon moment in the Hindu Kush

July 07, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

And it’s all over

For the unknown soldier

It’s all over

For the unknown soldier

The Doors, The Unknown Soldier

Let’s start with some stunning facts on the ground.

The Taliban are on a roll. Earlier this week their P.R. arm was claiming they hold 218 Afghan districts out of 421 – capturing new ones every day. Tens of districts are contested. Entire Afghan provinces are basically lost to the government in Kabul – de facto reduced to administer a few scattered cities under siege.

Afghanistan in Badakhshan province, seen from the Pamir highway in Tajikistan during my November 2019 Central Asian loop. This district, not far from Ishkashim, is now under Taliban control. Photo: Pepe Escobar

Already on July 1st the Taliban announced they controlled 80% of Afghan territory. That’s close to the situation 20 years ago, only a few weeks before 9/11, when Commander Masoud told me in the Panjshir valley , as he prepared a counter-offensive, that the Taliban were 85% dominant.

Their new tactical approach works like a dream. First there’s a direct appeal to soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to surrender. Negotiations are smooth – and deals fulfilled. Soldiers in the low thousands have already joined the Taliban without a single shot fired.

Mapmakers cannot upload updates fast enough. This is fast becoming a textbook case on the collapse of a 21st century central government.

The Taliban are fast advancing in western Vardak, easily capturing ANA bases. That is the prequel for an assault on Maidan Shar, the provincial capital. If they get control of Vardak they will be literally at the gates of Kabul.

After capturing Panjwaj district, the Taliban are also a stone’s throw away from Kandahar, founded by Alexander The Great in 330 B.C. and the city where a certain mullah Omar – with a little help from his Pakistani ISI friends – started the Taliban adventure in 1994, leading to their Kabul power takeover in 1996.

The overwhelming majority of Badakhshan province – Tajik majority, not Pashtun – fell after only 4 days of negotiations, with a few skirmishes thrown in. The Taliban even captured a hilltop outpost very close to Faizabad, Badakhshan’s capital.

I tracked the Tajik-Afghan border in detail when I traveled the Pamir highway in late 2019. The Taliban, following mountain tracks on the Afghan side, could soon reach the legendary, desolate border with Xinjiang in the Wakhan corridor.

The Taliban are also about to make a move on Hairaton, in Balkh province. Hairaton is at the Afghan-Uzbek border, the site of the historically important Friendship Bridge over the Amu Darya, through which the Red Army departed Afghanistan in 1989.

ANA commanders swear the city is now protected from all sides by a five-kilometer security zone. Hairaton has already attracted tens of thousands of refugees. Tashkent does not want them to cross the border.

And it’s not only Central Asia; the Taliban have already advanced to the city limits of Islam Qilla, which borders Iran, in Herat province, and is the key checkpoint in the busy Mashhad to Herat corridor.

The Tajik puzzle

The extremely porous, geologically stunning Tajik-Afghan mountain borders remain the most sensitive case. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, after a serious phone call with Vladimir Putin, ordered the mobilization of 20,000 reservists and sent them to the border. Rahmon also promised humanitarian and financial support to the Kabul government.

The Taliban, for their part, officially declared that the border is safe and they have no intention of invading Tajik territory. Earlier this week even the Kremlin cryptically announced that Moscow does not plan to send troops to Afghanistan.

A cliffhanger is set for the end of July, as the Taliban announced they will submit a written peace proposal to Kabul. A strong possibility is that it may amount to an intimation for Kabul to surrender – and transfer full control of the country.

The Taliban seem to be riding an irresistible momentum – especially when Afghans themselves were stunned to see how the imperial “protector”, after nearly two decades of de facto occupation,

left Bagram air base in the middle of the night , scurrying away like rats.

Compare it to the evaluation of serious analysts such as Lester Grau, explaining the Soviet departure over three decades ago:

When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, they did so in a coordinated, deliberate, professional manner, leaving behind a functioning government, an improved military and an advisory and economic effort insuring the continued viability of the government. The withdrawal was based on a coordinated diplomatic, economic and military plan permitting Soviet forces to withdraw in good order and the Afghan government to survive. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) managed to hold on despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Only then, with the loss of Soviet support and the increased efforts by the Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Pakistan, did the DRA slide toward defeat in April 1992. The Soviet effort to withdraw in good order was well executed and can serve as a model for other disengagements from similar nations.

When it comes to the American empire, Tacitus once again applies: “They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.”

In the wake of the Hegemon, deserts called peace, in varying degrees, include Iraq, Libya, Syria – which happen to, geologically, harbor deserts – as well as the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.

That Afghan heroin rat line

It looks like Think Tank Row in D.C., between Dupont and Thomas Circle alongside Massachussets Avenue, have not really done their homework on pashtunwali – the Pashtun honor code – or the ignominious British empire retreat from Kabul.

Still, it’s too early to tell whether what is being spun as the US “retreat” from Afghanistan reflects the definitive unraveling of the Empire of Chaos. Especially because this is not a “retreat” at all: it’s a repositioning – with added elements of privatization.

At least 650 “U.S. forces” will be protecting the sprawling embassy in Kabul. Add to it possibly 500 Turkish troops – which means NATO – to protect the airport, plus an undeclared number of “contractors” a.k.a mercenaries, and an unspecified number of Special Forces.

Pentagon head Lloyd Austin has come up with the new deal. The militarized embassy is referred to as Forces Afghanistan-Forward. These forces will be “supported” by a new, special Afghan office in Qatar.

The key provision is that the special privilege to bomb Afghanistan whenever the Hegemon feels like it remains intact. The difference is in the chain of command. Instead of Gen. Scott Miller, so far the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, the Bomber-in-Chief will be Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of CENTCOM.

So future bombing will come essentially from the Persian Gulf – what the Pentagon lovingly describes as “over the horizon capability”. Crucially, Pakistan has officially refused to be part of it, although in the case of drone attacks, they will have to overfly Pakistani territory in Balochistan. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan also refused to host American bases.

The Taliban, for their part, are unfazed. Spokesman Suhail Shaheen was adamant that any foreign troops that are not out by the 9/11 deadline will be regarded as – what else – occupiers.

Whether the Taliban will be able to establish dominance is not an issue; it’s just a matter of when. And that leads us to the two really important questions:

1.  Will the CIA be able to maintain what Seymour Hersh initially, and later myself, described as the Afghan heroin rat line that finances their black ops?

2.  And if the CIA cannot continue to supervise opium poppy field production in Afghanistan as well as coordinate the subsequent stages of the heroin business, where will it move to?

Every thinking mind across Central/South Asia knows that the Empire of Chaos, for two long decades, was never interested in defeating the Taliban or fighting for “the freedom of the Afghan people”.

The key motives were to keep a crucial, strategic forward base in the underbelly of “existential threats” China and Russia as well as intractable Iran – all part of the New Great Game; to be conveniently positioned to later exploit Afghanistan’s enormous mineral wealth; and to process opium into heroin to fund CIA ops. Opium was a major factor in the rise of the British empire, and heroin remains one of the world’s top dirty businesses funding shady intel ops.

What China and the SCO want

Now compare all of the above with the Chinese approach.

Unlike Think Tank Row in D.C., Chinese counterparts seem to have done their homework. They understood that the USSR did not invade Afghanistan in 1979 to impose “popular democracy” – the jargon then – but was in fact invited by the quite progressive UN-recognized Kabul government at the time, which essentially wanted roads, electricity, medical care, telecommunications, education.

As these staples of modernity would not be provided by Western institutions, the solution would have to come from Soviet socialism. That would imply a social revolution – a convoluted affair in a deeply pious Islamic nation – and, crucially, the end of feudalism.

“Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s imperial counterpunch worked because it manipulated Afghan feudal lords and their regimentation capacity – bolstered by immense funds (CIA, Saudis, Pakistani intel) – to give the USSR its Vietnam. None of these feudal lords were interested in the abolition of poverty and economic development in Afghanistan.

China is now picking up where the USSR left. Beijing, in close contact with the Taliban since early 2020, essentially wants to extend the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – one of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) flagship projects – to Afghanistan.

The first, crucial step will be the construction of the Kabul-Peshawar motorway – through the Khyber pass and the current border at Torkham. That will mean Afghanistan de facto becoming part of CPEC.

It’s all about regional integration at work. Kabul-Peshawar will be one extra CPEC node that already includes the construction of the ultra-strategic Tashkurgan airport in the Karakoram highway in Xinjiang, only 50 km away from the Pakistani border and also close to Afghanistan, as well as Gwadar harbor in Balochistan.

In early June, a trilateral China-Afghanistan-Pakistan meeting led the Chinese Foreign Ministry to unmistakably bet on the “peaceful recovery of Afghanistan”, with the joint statement welcoming “the early return of the Taliban to the political life of Afghanistan” and a pledge to “expand economic and trade ties”.

So there’s no way a dominant Taliban will refuse the Chinese drive to build infrastructure and energy projects geared towards regional economic integration, as long as they keep the country pacified and not subject to jihadi turbulence of the ISIS-Khorasan variety – capable of spilling over to Xinjiang.

The Chinese game play is clear: the Americans should not be able to exert influence over the new Kabul arrangement. It’s all about the strategic Afghan importance for BRI – and that is intertwined with discussions inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), incidentally founded 20 years ago, and which for years has advocated for an “Asian solution” for the Afghan drama.

The discussions inside the SCO regard the NATO projection of the new Afghanistan as a jihadi paradise controlled by Islamabad as not more than wishful thinking nonsense.

It will be fascinating to watch how China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and even India will fill the vacuum in the post-Forever Wars era in Afghanistan. It’s very important to remember that all these actors, plus the Central Asians, are full SCO members (or observers, in the case of Iran).

Tehran plausibly might interfere with potential imperial plans to bomb Afghanistan from the outside – whatever the motive. On another front, it’s unclear whether Islamabad or Moscow, for instance, would help the Taliban to take Bagram air base. What’s certain is that Russia will take the Taliban off its list of terrorist outfits.

Considering that the empire and NATO – via Turkey – will not be really leaving, a distinct future possibility is a SCO push, allied with the Taliban (Afghanistan is also a SCO observer) to secure the nation in their terms and concentrate on CPEC development projects. But the first step seems to be the hardest: how to form a real, solid, national coalition government in Kabul.

History may rule that Washington wanted Afghanistan to be the USSR’s Vietnam; decades later, it ended up getting its own second Vietnam, repeated as – what else – farce. A remixed Saigon moment is fast approaching. Yet another stage of the New Great Game in Eurasia is at hand.

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