No Peace Allowed in Afghanistan — Astute News

Whatever hopes of returning to normal life regular Afghans have had until recently, these days those are all but dissolving like a morning mist. The so-called Afghan reconciliation summit that was to be held in Qatar has been put on the back burner indefinitely. It was envisioned as a separate event, unrelated to the direct talks between the Taliban […]

via No Peace Allowed in Afghanistan — Astute News

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Afghan Children Disabled By War, Victims Twice Over — Rebel Voice

Child victims of war. There can be fewer more abhorrent statements than that. It is terrible to think of any child suffering or dying. But when that pain and death is avoidable, as it is in the case of armed conflict, then surely serious questions must be asked about the overall morality of our species. […]

via Afghan Children Disabled By War, Victims Twice Over — Rebel Voice

Should Pakistan expect US withdrawal from Afghanistan? — Agha Hussain

Posted originally to CRSS on 12 may 2019. Diligent minds in Pakistan pay adequate attention to the Indo-US strategic partnership across Asia. However, with this partnership as the framework, analysts may find it difficult to explain why the US began peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and negotiations as to when and how the US […]

via Should Pakistan expect US withdrawal from Afghanistan? — Agha Hussain

Terrorism Is What We Say It Is

By Jeremy Salt
Source

Ahwaz terror attack 54fc1

There is no consensus when it comes to defining terrorism. The most acceptable is ‘the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in pursuit of political aims.’ Some definitions insert the word ‘systematic’ so the act is defined as the regular, standard behavior of an individual or a group and not just one aberrant or anomalous action.

Terror is not quite the same as terrorism. Terror is experienced by many people in many ways and at many levels of their lives. There is terror at home in the hands of an abusive husband. There is the terror experienced by sexually abused children. There is terror in the school and the church, from abusive priests and teachers.

There is terror in the streets, from the man holding a knife to your throat as he demands your wallet and there can be terror at the hands of police, there to protect but frequently to abuse and even kill.

A violent father will terrorize his family for years. He will terrorize them regularly, day after day. He will assault his wife and children. He might even kill them. The family will live in a state of fear for years. There will be no end to it any more than there seems to be an end to occupation for the occupied.

This is a digression but it is not unreasonable to compare the fear of an abusive father in the home to the fear of soldiers and settlers amongst a people living under occupation. Violence is always just around the corner in both circumstances.

The home is turned into occupied territory, a place of violence and terror from which there is no escape for the trapped child. The abusive father becomes the soldier, the border police and the settler.

The state and the media tell us who the terrorist is. It is never us. It is always them. The terrorist is the Islamic State in Syria, the terrorist is the gunmen shooting dead 90 young people in the Bataclan theatre in Paris and the terrorist is the man driving a 19-ton truck into a mass of people strolling along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The central problem with this mainstream definition is that it excludes the terrorist actions of a state, except, of course, when the state is part of ‘them’ and not ‘us’ and needs to be set up as a fitting target for attack.

The killers at Bataclan and Nice had their own political motives but so do ‘western’ governments and their regional allies when launching their wars of aggression in the Middle East. Their actions meet their own criteria of terrorism – unlawful violence against civilians with a political aim in mind – and they have killed infinitely more people than the victims of all individual or group terrorist attacks put together.

Their wars would be more accurately described as onslaughts by the most powerful armies in the world on countries scarcely capable of defending themselves. Israel’s war on Lebanon in 1982 was a terrorist war directed against a civilian population, with the political aim in mind of extinguishing the PLO. Its ‘wars’ on Gaza have been terrorist attacks on a civilian population with the aim of destroying support for the Palestinian government elected in 2006.

When the US and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 the entire Iraqi population south of the Kurdish region was terrorized. Across the country, people did not know whether they or someone close to them would live to see the next day. Hundreds of thousands did not.

They were the sacrifice that had to be made so a dictator could be stripped of the weapons of mass destruction he did not have and the architects of the killing of these civilians knew he did not have.

There were no elegies, no regrets, and no remorse. No flags waving over coffins and no sound of the last post. They were pulp, no more than dross, the scourings in the factory of war, a faceless, nameless pile of bodies with a sign stuck on the top reading ‘collateral damage.’

This did not mean that death did not concern the folk back home. Many were horrified and came out into the streets to demonstrate but most were concerned only with the death of their own, the soldiers sent to kill in this senseless war.

The same governments that led the attack on Iraq then took advantage of the ‘Arab spring’ to turn their attention to Libya. This most developed country in Africa was not destroyed by ‘rebels.’ It was destroyed by the air forces of the US, the UK, and France. The ‘rebels’ moved forward only under cover of aerial attack. Without it they could not have gone beyond the municipal boundaries of Benghazi.

These same governments changed gear when it came to Syria, where they knew they could not get any kind of UN Security Council backing for what they intended to do. They claimed to have been engaged in a ‘war on terror’ since 9/11 but now they and their regional allies used the terrorist gangs they had pledged to destroy to destroy Syria. Their takfiris were no more than the equivalent of the contras Ronald Reagan used against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

The criminality in all of this is enormous. The Nuremberg tribunal defined an aggressive war as the supreme international crime. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, the destruction of Libya in 2011 and the slow-motion destruction of Syria from 2011 onwards were aggressive wars and thus supreme international crimes for which no-one who commissioned them has been held accountable in a court of law.

The 2003 attack on Iraq followed ten years of sanctions described by senior UN humanitarian coordinators as genocidal. This was a decade of terror suffered by the Iraqi people, deprived of food, clean water, and energy supplies. Half a million children who would have lived died. The sanctions sickened so many governments they refused to apply them any longer.

With the sanctions regime collapsing, and with it becoming clear that Saddam would survive and Iraq would again take its place as a front line Arab state against Israel, the US decided to attack again and break Iraq up.

The second war on Iraq was launched and sustained under cover of the most reprehensible lies, not one of them being challenged let alone exposed by the corporate media. Up to one million people were killed within a few years and millions more fled their country. Until the attack on Syria, it was the greatest outpouring of refugees in the Middle East since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

The refugees scattered in all directions. Some managed to reach Indonesia, where they took rickety boats across the Timor Sea to Australia. Many drowned when their boats sank.  Others were turned back and some actually made it through the naval cordon. Taking no responsibility for its military role in the destruction of their country, the Australian government then locked them up in ‘detention centers’ or in camps behind razor wire in the middle of the desert.

The vicious, inhumane treatment of such vulnerable people will rank for all time as one of the most despicable episodes in Australian history. What it exposed yet again was the racism deeply embedded in Australian society, directed against one vulnerable group of people after another, the indigenous people from the beginning of white settlement, Chinese miners in the 19th century, ‘boat people’ escaping the Vietnam war in the 1970s and most recently the ‘boat people’ escaping the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The irony could not be lost on anyone, as it was the white settlers themselves who in 1788 were the first ‘boat people,’ massacring the native people and claiming the entire land under the lie of terra nullius. Neither should the similarities with the Zionist occupation of Palestine be lost on anyone.

War turned Libya into a jumping-off point for Libyans and other Africans escaping war or seeking a better life in Europe. Thousands drowned crossing the Mediterranean. The Aegean was another death zone, for Iraqis driven out of their homeland or Kurds escaping theirs.

Then it was Syria’s turn.  If there is any redeeming feature in this latest attempt to destroy an Arab country it is that Syria has survived and in time foreign forces will eventually have to withdraw from the territory they have occupied.  The governments responsible have again violated international law in the most shocking fashion and again no-one has been punished or even held accountable.

These state crimes are the greatest in modern history, far worse in the scale of destruction and the numbers of people killed than the crimes of the national socialists and fascists in the 1930s. One would have to go back to the war on Vietnam for a parallel measure of death and destruction.

Israel was a central element in the wars on Iraq and Syria. It has long been agitating for war on Iran. Its politicians and lobbyists in the US were pushing for ‘regime change’ in the Middle East two decades ago, with the aim of clearing the region of all possible threats to Israeli military domination.

Psycho-historically, Israel also wanted to destroy what was left of the ‘Arab idea’ and what lay at its heart – Palestine. This project began with its establishment.  Israel would decide what the Arab world would be and Israel would tell the world what Arab and Palestinian history had been. Indeed, there would no longer be an ‘Arab world’ in any integrated sense.  As the Yinon planrevealed in the 1980s, it would be broken up into ethno-religious enclaves that Israel could dominate.

Along with the gross crimes committed in Iraq, Libya and Syria there have been the drone missile attacks ordered against Yemen, Somalia and other countries by that paragon of western liberal democracy, Barack Obama.

Now we have his successor dismissing international law with his claim that Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are part of Israel. Thus encouraged, Netanyahu is pledging that after the forthcoming elections he will annex at least parts of the occupied West Bank. ‘A Palestinian state would endanger our existence’ he says. If he does, Trump is likely to follow through with recognition.

What else are these attacks on the governments and people of the Middle East but terror and terrorism as defined – ‘the unlawful use of violence … especially against civilians … in the pursuit of political aims’?

This terrorism is not random but part of the DNA of certain states, no different in essence from the terror of the gunmen who burst into the Bataclan theatre and began shooting down civilians as innocent as the Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and Palestinians killed by tank fire and missile strikes or shot by gunmen along the Gaza fence. Only the uniform separates them from the Bataclan killers.

These two governments, the US and Israel, have turned the canons of international law upside down. Their law is no more than the law of the jungle, the law not of the civilization whose virtues they endlessly spout but of brute force. They have demonstrated by their actions that where their perceptions of national interest are concerned there is no law they will obey and every law they will break.

They are the Leviathan without the social contract. They have taken the world back to Thomas Hobbes’ ‘state of nature,’ in which, for millions of people in the Middle East the life of a man or a woman, adult or child, becomes ‘brutish and short.’

In their eyes, the ‘terrorist’ is not just the Bataclan gunmen but anyone who stands in their way, whether an individual, an organization or a state. The latest addition, put on the list of designated terrorist groups by Donald Trump, is Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which has sent forces to support Syrian and Hizbullah resistance to western-led and Israeli aggression against Syria and Lebanon. In response, Iran’s Supreme Security Council has designated the US government as a terrorist government and CENTCOM, the US central military command, as a terrorist group.

The attack on Syria has been yet another terrible violation of international law, at numerous levels, by the US and its ‘western’ and Middle Eastern regional partners. As usual, the UN Secretary-General refuses to speak out, further whittling away the UN’s credibility as the supposed defender of international order. The response by the Syrian government and its allies to the attack on Syria is not terrorism, but resistance to it.

US and Israeli orchestrated terror in the Middle East has to be put in the right semantical order. Israel was founded through terror and by terror it has been maintained. Its terrorism is not random but normalized and necessary to its existence as a state that has chosen to live outside the law, with the full support of the US.

Israel is not ‘defending’ itself when it attacks Gaza or when its soldiers, police, and settlers kill Palestinians in Jerusalem or on the West Bank. What is it is ‘defending’ is its theft of someone else’s property. It is the Palestinians who are defending their rights, under law, not Israel.

Israeli civilians living illegally on occupied land in east Jerusalem or the West Bank put themselves in harm’s way and are to be held primarily responsible for the consequences to themselves and their families.

The terror experienced by Israeli Jews living close to the Gaza fence is the minutest fraction of the terror routinely inflicted on Palestinians on the other side of the fence. They are being targeted not because they are Jews, as Netanyahu and Zionist lobbyists would have the world believe, but because they are living on land stolen from its owners more than seven decades ago after being ethnically cleansed. It would not matter who they are.  They would still be resisted because of what they have done.

Adherence to international law would redress the situation in Palestine yet the joint US and Israeli response to the violence and terror they have initiated across the Middle East is more violence and more terror. This is their answer. You will do as we say or else, signaling that the ‘special relationship’ between these two unruly, lawbreaking countries is one of the most dangerous in history.

America Has Gone Full Circle in Afghanistan

By Adam Garrie
Source

America’s Special Representative for Afghan affairs,  Zalmay Khalilzad has announced that a preliminary draft agreement between the Afghan Taliban and Washington has been reached. Although it is clear that nothing has been finalised as of yet, this week’s announcement is the most throughout to-date when it comes to understanding America’s position vis-a-vis the Taliban.  Khalilzad said the following:

Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides. Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire. In January talks, we “agreed in principle” on these four elements. We’re now “agreed in draft” on the first two.

When the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counter-terrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire.

My next step is discussions in Washington and consultations with other partners. We will meet again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed”. 

Whilst Khalizad’s statement ping-pongs between clarity and State Department jargon, several things become clear upon reading the text.

First of all, the United States appears more serious about leaving Afghanistan than Syria. This is to say that the US appears to be on the verge of solidifying a timeline for withdrawal that is being agreed upon through cooperation with Afghanistan’s strongest indigenous military force, the Taliban.

Secondly, based on what Khalilzad said has been accomplished when contrasted with what he said has yet to be accomplished, he has (perhaps unintentionally) alluded to the fact that it is now easier for the US and Taliban to agree on a framework for the future than it is for the US and the Kabul regime to do so. This is the case because Khalilzad indicated that of the four goals that must be achieved to finalise a peace deal, the two that have been agreed upon at the highest level thus far, are those which only require cooperation between American officials and Taliban officials. Counter-terrorism assurances and troop withdrawal in this context means that the Taliban will commit themselves to fighting various terror groups (they are already fighting Daesh for example), whilst the Taliban will work with the US to assure an orderly withdrawal of American troops.

The second too principles, “intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire”, require not only the consent and cooperation of the Taliban, but also that of the current Kabul regime, in order to be fulfilled. Therefore, without saying so directly, Khalizad has tacitly admitted that the US is further along in its agreements that only require discussions between American and Taliban officials than it is with discussions that involve American officials, the regime, the Taliban and other smaller factions.

This about face from the US should not surprise Afghanistan’s putative leader Ashraf Ghani. The US is infamous for being a friend one day and an enemy the next, when it comes to international relations. As Ghani remains a figurehead who even with US assistance cannot control a majority of Afghan territory, the US looks as though it is on the verge of dumping its bad investment in favour of working with a reformed Taliban that might actually be able to get things done in the country.

By working with a reformed Taliban rather than a de facto illegitimate, albeit UN recognised Ganhi regime, the US would be able to save both money and save the lives of US troops, whilst still ostensibly retaining the right to exploit some Afghan resources, whilst maintaining the presence of some American mercenaries to guard US economic interests in the country. The fact that this would happen under a government that leans heavily towards the Taliban, does in fact make it clear that both sides are willing to compromise and that for Taliban officials, removing an illegitimate government and removing uniformed US troops is now more important than a blanket extrication of American economic interests from the country. The comparative rapidity with which the US became a key economic partner of Vietnam after the Cold War is a clear model for the kind of US-Afghan relationship that could well be on the horizon. If indeed the US retains economic ties with a Taliban led Afghanistan, it would perhaps be the greatest geo-economic surprise since American Presidents have embraced a Vietnamese government whose founding father is the anti-American fighter Ho Chi Minh. That being said, whilst Afghanistan remains a more difficult place in which to do business than Vietnam was in the late 1970s, the prospect for sustained economic ties looks more and more likely in respect of the US and an Afghanistan led by a new generation of Taliban.

Furthermore, as the kind of peace process that Khalilzad has said is progressing in a positive manner, is that which Pakistan has advocated for over a decade, a proper peace in Afghanistan could help to ease Pakistan-US tensions at a time when the US is leaning heavily towards India, but still seeks to retain what is left of its partnership with Pakistan. In this sense, whilst the US is more comfortable playing zero-sum games in foreign affairs, when it comes to Pakistan, the US won’t be willing to see Islamabad fully exit from the US sphere of influence and as such, by settling Afghanistan’s crisis in a manner consistent with Pakistan’s long held views, this will eliminate at least one point of contention between Washington and Islamabad. As such, the US may well be trying to engage in some sort of balancing act in the region that leans towards India, but one which is not yet willing to see Pakistan fully alienated.

In this sense, the agreement of which Khalilzad has spoken could potentially be a major win-win. China, Russia and Pakistan are now on the same page when it comes to an all parties peace settlement and ceasefire that mandates an orderly withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Even Iran is largely in this camp now that the Taliban have assured Tehran that a new Taliban government will neither be anti-Iranian nor anti-Afghan Shi’a. For Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, it goes without saying that a stable Afghanistan is in their interests.

Finally, while India does not border Afghanistan, New Delhi has for decades sought strong relations with Kabul as part of a wider Indian desire to encircle Pakistan. This has been especially true since the war of 1971 between India and Pakistan. Just as it is increasingly likely that a new Taliban government will work with some US business firms after a formal US troop withdrawal, the same is true of Indian firms. The difference is that without US troops or those from the current regime there to protect Indian assets, India might find that investing in Afghanistan is more effort than it is wroth. In many ways, some in India are already reaching this conclusion.

In this sense, while India’s plans to encircle Pakistan may be on the verge of being thwarted, for all other parties involved, including the US and Taliban, this new reality is increasingly looking like a win-win conclusion to a war that should have never been fought in the first place. Now that American and Taliban officials are shaking hands and making agreements, many will begin to question the wisdom of a war which began in 2001 for the stated purpose of removing the Taliban from power…only to see the US help to re-legitimise the Taliban eight years later.

Afghan Civilians Fear CIA-Backed Death Squads that Can Call In Airstrikes

By Alexander Rubinstein
Source

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN — Elite CIA-backed special forces in Afghanistan are leaving a trail of carnage in the country. As such units do not operate under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, they have been given near-impunity despite standing accused of war crimes.

Last month, the New York Times cited “senior Afghan and international officials” who said that while most strike forces in Afghanistan have been put under the purview of Afghan intelligence since 2012, two of the most “ruthless” units are “still sponsored mainly by the CIA.”

On Friday, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that at least one of these units has the capability of calling in air strikes.

Of the two special forces units that remain primarily influenced by the CIA, the name of only one was revealed: a group called “02” in the Nangarhar Province. The name of the unit in the Khost Province was not revealed. The units are trained and equipped by CIA agents and CIA contractors, and their fighters make three times the salary of a regular Afghan soldier. The unit in Khost is believed to have between 3,000 and 10,000 fighters while 02 is believed to be about 1,000 fighters strong.

A former senior Afghan security official told the Times that the strike forces were guilty of war crimes, while the United Nations has “expressed concern” about “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention, and other abuses.” The unnamed unit in Khost was even singled out by the UN, which said it operates “with an absence of transparency and ongoing impunity.”

Brutality worthy of ISIS

In September, elders from the three Nangarhar districts gathered for a press conference in which they claimed that 100 civilians were killed by 02 in August. Elders are putting the number of civilians slain by 02 in the following two months, September and October, at 260.

One man who spoke at the conference said he and his two brothers were detained for three months as 02 tried to force video confessions of Taliban affiliation from him with threats of driving over him with a tank. He said he was placed in handcuffs and that they used needles to puncture holes in his veins.

In one case investigated by the Times, two brothers were killed as they watered their fields. In another case, a unit pursuing an alleged Taliban member entered the wrong home and killed a dozen civilians. In yet another case, 02 placed two brothers in handcuffs and spit hoods and interrogated them in front of their wives and children. After they were done being questioned, 02 dragged the brothers away and executed them in the corner of a bedroom, and then detonated the building.

According to “several current and former Afghan officials,” Americans help the unit find targets and guide operations. Those detained by such units frequently claim they have been tortured and Afghan officials say that Americans have been present at bases during such abuses. In the Nangarhar province alone, human-rights workers registered 15 complaints of torture by 02, according to the Times.

One medical worker who lives in the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar said he initially mistook 02 for ISIS when they showed up at his village surrounded by orange orchards.

“I ran and got my weapon — I thought it was the caliphate people. I didn’t know it was the government,” Khoshal Khan said. “Then they started firing, and I heard the gate blown up. They were speaking English, also.”

Afghanistan | Nangarhar

First, one man in the village, Mohamed Taher, was shot. According to his 16-year-old grandson, Sekander, one of Taher’s sons was also shot while following orders to come out of the building with his hands up. Then, 02 shot one of the grandsons in the head. And then another one of Taher’s sons.

“The women started crying. They called to be quiet, then they blew up the gates and came in,” Sekandar told the Times.

As his father bled to death in the yard after being shot while following orders, Adel, Taher’s 10-year-old grandson, was forced to take shelter inside. “They said, ‘Don’t come out — if the airstrikes hit you, then don’t complain.’” Adel still has shrapnel wounds on his face from the raid.

A relative of some of the people killed in the raid, Mohibullah, said that he sees little difference between the Islamic State and 02, since they both attack civilians without warning.

More killing power than the Caliphate

But, as it turns out, the 02 group is far better equipped than the Caliphate ever was. That’s because they have something Daesh lacked: air support. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found instances in which 02 raids were quickly followed by airstrikes. One man they spoke to said 16 civilians were killed in an 02 raid on his village, five of whom were family members.

“When my family members heard shots being fired outside, they went out to see what was going on and were hit by an airstrike that killed the five of them. The airstrike also destroyed part of our house,” he said. The outlet claims that 02 called in the strike.

“Numerous residents and relatives” said that one month later 02 killed 13 civilians, including four children, in a raid that included airstrikes. The Interior Ministry claimed that Islamic State fighters were killed, not civilians.

“First, they attacked us with bombs. Then they entered the living room and started to shoot around,” said one witness. “They didn’t care about who they were killing. They killed my uncle and his 9-year-old son. His wife and his other child were injured.” Another man told the outlet he lost seven family members in the raid.

Bombing and death squads a strange approach to nation-building

The CIA’s training, equipping, and support of 02 is reportedly stoking resentment of America’s 18-year occupation of the country, which has little to show in regard to net gains against the Taliban. Near the end of 2018 the Afghan government controlled the smallest amountof territory since a U.S. military watchdog — the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) — started keeping track in 2015. Meanwhile, the U.S. dropped more bombs in 2018 on Afghanistan than during any other year on SIGAR record, which goes back to 2009.

United States Air Forces Central Command Combined Air Operations Center

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

“When the U.S. also takes on the mission of state-building, then the contradictions between the two approaches — stealth, black ops, and non-transparency vs. institution building, rule of law, and accountability — become extraordinarily difficult to resolve, and our standing as a nation suffers,” bemoaned Karl Eikenberry, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan who later became a diplomat to the country.

Already, Afghans are beginning to suspect that the U.S. sought to prolong its occupation of their country as means of securing a position to spy on Russia, China and Iran.

Reading Between The Lines: India Has Sour Grapes Over America’s Afghan Peace Talks

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The clearest indication of how the Indian military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) truly feel about America’s Afghan peace talks with the Taliban can be seen in retired Major-General Harsha Kakar’s recent article on the topic for “The Statesman”, where the otherwise presumably serious former military official shows the sour grapes that his country has over this process by resorting to a chain of emotional arguments to make the implied point that the war must go on at all costs in order to advance India’s strategic interests vis-à-vis Pakistan at the US’ expense.

Intuiting India’s Interpretation

India, which hasn’t shied away from sounding off about all manner of international issues ever since Prime Minister Modi’s election in 2014, has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about its attitude towards America’s Afghan peace talks with the Taliban, leading many observers to intuit that it’s extremely unhappy with this process but is applying the age-old wisdom about how “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” in order to avoid the ignoble distinction of being the only country in the world to condemn the latest steps taken to end this nearly two-decade-long conflict. These suspicions appear to be confirmed after reading retired Major-General Harsha Kakar’s recent article on this topic for “The Statesman”, where the otherwise presumably serious former military official shows the sour grapes that his country has over this process by resorting to a chain of emotional arguments to make the implied point that the war must go on at all costs in order to advance India’s strategic interests vis-à-vis Pakistan at the US’ expense.

Double Standards On Democracy

In his piece about “Who will be responsible for Afghanistan mess?”, Kakar hits the gate running by comparing the US’ possible withdrawal from Afghanistan to its prior one from Vietnam, remarking that “Donald Trump appears desperate to fulfil his campaign promise, ignoring sound advice.” Seeing as how Trump was democratically elected as President of the United States partly on his campaign promise to draw down America’s involvement in costly overseas conflicts, Kakar is implying that the will of the people should be ignored in order to promote the interests of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracy (“deep state”), which is superficially hypocritical for someone from the self-professed “world’s largest democracy” to say but makes sense when one realizes that the Indian “deep state” (of which Kakar is a part) hijacked control of the country after Modi took office. For reasons of “narrative convenience”, Kakar ignores the fact that the withdrawal from Vietnam was extremely popular with average Americans, just like a similar one from Afghanistan would be as well.

Frustration Over “America First”

Another important factor that Kakar ignores is Trump’s signature “America First” foreign policy, as he writes that “It appears the US is presently only concerned about itself, rather than the people of Afghanistan and other states which have a stake in the country.” This should have been self-evident because Trump’s foreign policy is all about prioritizing US interests instead of ‘taking one for the team’ and ‘doing favors’ for its international ‘partners’ who he feels have been exploiting America for far too long by freeloading off of it. India, it can be said, is one such ‘partner’, at least when it comes to Afghanistan, though this will be returned to in the next section of the present article. Continuing along, Kakar’s next series of points touch upon his views on how wounded US and NATO veterans, as well as those who lost their brothers-in-arms in the conflict, might dislike that Trump’s withdrawing without a victory, but the Major-General seems to be out of touch with the rank and file because otherwise he’d know that this war is very unpopular with them.

For the second time in two paragraphs, he then whines about “America First” again by writing that “Trump has made up his mind and would follow his intuitions, the world be damned”, adding that “He did it in Syria and is repeating it here.” Once more, Kakar’s angle of approach to this issue is the same as Trump’s “deep state” foes’ in that he deliberately overlooks just how popular the President’s intention to withdraw from Syria is among average Americans in order to further his own ‘class’’ institutional interests at their expense. The next chain of interconnected points that he tries to make is that the Taliban will go back on its previously stated commitment to peace and inclusive governance as part of a preplanned conspiracy with Pakistan, though not before Islamabad “obtains US largesse, has doors for IMF loans opened and pressure…applied on India to pull out of Afghanistan.” It’s actually these three outcomes of Pakistan’s diplomatic facilitation of the peacemaking process that Kakar – and by extrapolation, the Indian “deep state” that he represents – is most fearful of.

Cutting Off India’s Free Ride In Afghanistan

The Major-General doesn’t really care about the US’ international reputation potentially taking a hit after its ‘second Vietnam’ or what its wounded veterans think about the withdrawal, but his emotional embellishment of these two topics appears to be nothing more than a poorly thought-out attempt to misportray Trump’s peace talks with the Taliban in the worst possible light because of how worried India is about the strategic consequences of their success. New Delhi knows that its interests in Afghanistan are only secured so long as the Pentagon is there to protect them and that the US’ possible withdrawal from the country would remove India’s strategic depth vis-à-vis Pakistan, therefore largely stabilizing the situation in South Asia to what New Delhi’s “deep state” believes would be their ultimate detriment per the “zero-sum” paradigm that guides their decisions. Put another way, despite the War on Afghanistan being a total military failure for the US, India wants Americans to continue dying for them in order to advance their country’s regional interests.

It was written earlier that Trump’s “America First” policy is aimed first and foremost at cutting off the US’ freeloaders, so bearing in mind the aforementioned insight about how India used the US all these years as its “cat’s paw” against Pakistan by strategically profiting off of its people’s sacrifices in blood and treasure, it can be said that the application of “America First” to the War on Afghanistan is a nightmare scenario for New Delhi. Fearing that the withdrawal of American troops will leave Indian investments without protection, Kakar suggests the deployment of historically ineffective UN peacekeeping forces as a desperate last-ditch measure to defeat the same National Liberation Movement that not even the US could crush with over 100,000 troops at the height of the Obama-era surge. Of note, for as much as he hypes up the US’ possible loss of face following any prospective withdrawal from Afghanistan, Kakar doesn’t talk about what a loss of face and money it would be for India if the Taliban seizes its many investments there in the aftermath.

The End Of An Empire, But Which One?

Right near the end, Kakar predicts that “Trump would have demitted office but would remain in history books for being responsible for the death of a nation”, concluding that “It would only prove the adage of ‘Afghanistan being the graveyard of empires’”, but the US might actually save itself from collapse by withdrawing from the war-torn state, reinvesting its money in domestic infrastructure and socio-economic projects instead, and getting out of the quagmire while it still can. On the other hand, the same can’t be said for Modi and his envisaged empire of “Akhand Bharat”, which might both be dealt political death blows ahead of India’s general elections in May if serious concern over the geopolitical consequences of a possibly impending American withdrawal from Afghanistan combines with other issues to convince voters to kick the hyper-jingoist Hindutva ideologues out of office before they lead their country to ruin. It’s little wonder then that India’s “deep state” has sour grapes over the US’ Pakistani-facilitated peacemaking progress in Afghanistan because it could end their dreams of a regional empire once and for all.

 

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