A Meeting with Tariq Ali

Pakistan, Afghanistan and American Power

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–September 26th–Tariq Ali is a Pakistani domiciled in London.  He is the editor of the highly regarded New Left Review.  Ali has a reputation of being one of the most outspoken opponents of modern imperialism, and his most recent book, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power only advances his Left of Center theories.  He was in my city on a book tour the end of last month. 

Both of our presidential candidates make much of our war dead, but “Refuse to come to terms with the one million Iraqi casualties,” plus the 250,000 who have had to flee Mesopotamia!  After all, sixty-five percent of the Iraqi population wishes the foreign troops to leave.

“If you fight your battle on the terrain of your enemy, you will lose,” says Ali.  The American elections are now influencing the direction of the war.  Why has NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) not succeeded in Afghanistan?  “Osama intends to interfere in the American elections…We don’t know whether he is alive or dead, but we shall find out!” 

He continues, “No one has an exit strategy for Afghanistan.”  Actually, Al-Qaeda is a small cluster of combatants.  Afghanistan has nothing of strategic value (oil, metals, minerals, etc.).  Their citizens are disgusted with their government’s corruption as well.  Besides, the health statistics are horrendous there, and the situation is only getting worse.  Brothels have increased five hundred percent to service the foreign troops.  Moreover, there is an occupation mentality at hand.  While in America, the candidates rant on the District of Columbia’s interests, NATO seems ready to plant themselves perpetually in the hinterlands of that dry, mountainous nation.  

There has been a growth in the larger regional powers.  Literally, the United States has fulfilled the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ambitions of becoming a dominant state within its geographical zone.  Yet, without Tehran’s cooperation, North America with Europe could not have successfully attacked Afghanistan (or for that matter Iraq).

Tariq Ali exclaimed, “I love my native Pakistan!”  Further, overall “Pakistan is a moderate country because it is [dominantly] a[n historically] Sufic land.”  In Pakistan, “We desire our children to be educated.”  (Although for over half its modern history it has been ruled by its Military), the worst of those Martial dictators was Zia ul-Haq (who was propped up by the United States to defeat the Soviet Empire.  He Islamized Pakistan, and supplied the Muhajidin resistance from which Al-Qaeda arose, and from whom the Taliban rebelled against to haunt the West).  The problem resides upon the border with Afghanistan. 

The Durand Line is an artificial frontier (set up by the British to keep out the Afghan tribes and the Russians), but it divides a subnationality, the Pushtoons; thus, it is an artificial boundary.  The Pakistani Army’s occupation of the autonomous districts in the North of their country, and NATO’s in Afghanistan’s south discourages Pushtoon Nationalism, too.  The Pushtoon tribal response is “We can’t join in a coalition with foreign troops occupying our ancestral lands.” 

Tariq doubts those fighting will overrun his beloved Islamic Republic and thereby capture Pakistan’s nuclear capability.  If the U.S. or India goes in to destroy their fissile capacity, it will be a disaster! 

Those fighting on Islamabad’s side of the borderlands are mainly Al-Qaeda, and, according to his informants (who differ from your writers) are not Taliban.  Although, because of the high civilian casualties amongst the Pushtoon tribes (because of NATO’s highly imprecise use of air supremacy due to a lack of enough ground capability), the Taliban have won the sympathy of the populations in the Hindu Kush, and the West and their uneasy Pakistani allies are far from winning the “Hearts and Minds” of the Pushtoon citizens within those Mountains!           


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