By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS
Alameda (Calif.)–May 9th–Pakistan has reached near 1.7 million refugees according to one source â€“ a humanitarian disaster â€“ fleeing the Swat Valley with many more civilians caught between the crossfire amid the Taliban and the Pakistani forces.
Talibanization has influenced much of the lower classes in Pakistan itself. They do not threaten the elite of the Islamic Republic as much as terrorizing victims belonging to the working classes. Islamabadâ€™s reconciliation with the Taliban has miserably failed, and, thereby, forcing the Government into a military option for the Swat crisis.
During the Soviet War, Islamist mullahs immigrated into Pakistanâ€™s Northwest Provinces (NWP), and preached a much more austere version of Islam than was traditional to the region.
On Saturday the ninth of May, a Left of Center journalist came here to one of the islands in San Francisco Bay to discuss American policy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He began by stating the historical banality, â€œAfghanistan is the caveat Of Empires[s]!â€ The current War over the Durand Line has sprung out of control. The Taliban initiate 72% of terrorist attacks within the Hindu Kush. The Taliban or â€œStudentsâ€ have successfully attacked supply routes from Pakistan.
War has become unpopular amongst the electorates of Americaâ€™s NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies. In fact the third largest contingent with the third highest casualties in Southern Afghanistan, the Canadians are in the process of withdrawing from the battle zone. The majority of Washingtonâ€™s North Atlantic allies believe that counter-terrorism cannot be defeated with the military alone. Development has to be offered to â€œto win the hearts and mindsâ€ of the population.
The United States is most interested in suppressing the opium trade. Therefore, Western soldiers have begun to infiltrate into the countryside. Airstrikes (which are often inaccurate), have been gaining a groundswell of support for the Taliban. Nineteen thousand pounds of bombs of bombs have already been dropped on Afghanistan â€“ altogether more explosive power than on Hiroshima!
Conn believes Karachi is in an economic freefall. The long-standing Indo-Pakistani nuclear confrontation is worrisome to the point that D.C. is striving for a nuclear non-first strike treaty between the two. (In a conversation with the former nuclear command and control officer of Pakistan, a General Khan stated that the nuclear stability between New Delhi and Islamabad is presently such that one could call his counter-point in New Delhi and would be answered immediately.) Halinan is probably right that any War would lead to a nuclear conflict in which there would immediately be (more then) twelve million deaths, then, many more horribly thereafter.
The Taliban have split into three factions. One group has moved towards de-centralized with a second split who emphasizes their Islamism, and another grouping that accentuates their (Pushtoon) Nationalism.
President Karzai of Afghanistan often is referred to as â€œthe Mayor of Kabulâ€ because he merely has a modest control over his hinterlands although Washington is deeply interested in controlling the interior to open oil and gas pipelines from the Central Asian to bypass Russiaâ€™s delivery of energy to Western Europe, and thus, NATOâ€™s interests besides.
Halinan maintained that this is NATOâ€™s first expedition outside its sphere of influence which is not true, for it campaigned in the Balkans during the last decade of the last century. The Balkan operation was the first exercise outside Western Europe, and impacted Muslim people there greatly, too. Conn, also, claimed that NATO sought a worldwide sway. Your author thinks that the facts do not bear that out at this time (e.g., the impending Canadian withdrawal). Mr. Halinan is right to claim the States â€œâ€¦has hadâ€¦a longâ€¦Central Asian policyâ€¦most of it is about oil.â€ Comparing the Central Asian policy to the invasion of Iraq [which] was about perching on oil reserves,â€ the District of Columbiaâ€™s stratagem here seems to be primarily to keep the regionâ€™s petroleum wealth from Chinese hands.
In Afghanistan itself, 62,000 allied troops with 57,000 Afghanis are fighting over the fate of the fifth poorest nation in the world. Obama has made a distinction between the â€œgoodâ€ and the â€œbadâ€ Taliban. (Your writer considers this to be an illusionary concept), and agrees, though, that NATO with Kabul and their Pakistani allies cannot win this struggle without political reconciliation. (Your reporter pointed out the result in the Swat District when Islamabad tried to reconcile with the Taliban, though. It would have be a tricky and cautious negotiation full of confidence building.)
He seemed to be confused in saying that there are only two cities amongst the Afganistanis that matter â€“ Kabul and Kandahar â€“ ignoring such famous locations as Heart, Ghazni, Bagram and Jalabad exposing an American parochial ignorance. The largest single group in Afghanistan are the Pushtoons.
They are a plurality, but do not make up a majority in and of themselves.
Their neighbor to the west, (Shiite) Iran have always considered the Taliban to be a (radical) Wahabi threat. And probably oppose a Talibani takeover again so close to their frontiers. Further, India would find the Taliban unacceptable because of possible involvement on their side of the LoC (Line of Control) in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, places Afghanistan within their sphere of Influence although there would have to be an understanding with any future Taliban realm that they would not try to destabilize Islamabad.
The tension in the Northwest of Pakistan goes back in time to a Sir Mortimer Durand, Britainâ€™s Foreign Secretary, whom the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is named, but in 1949 the Loya Jirga within Afghanistan declared the boundary null and void, but Islamabad is still holding onto the 1893 agreement made by the British Colonial State and then Emir of Afghanistan. This, in effect, has split the Pushtoon â€œnation,â€ and has soured relations between two Islamic Republics.
The Pusthoons make up about 15% of Pakistan. The highly trained disciplined and armed Pakistani Army hovers around 55,000 while the Taliban (guerrilla) tribal fighting force is in the range of 15,000. Because of the incompetence of the democratically elected Government, Washington fears a military coup from Rawalpindi.
A Taliban victory would impact Kashmir the most. The Taliban leader (in Quetta) Mullah Omar has offered a seven-point peace plan which is not unreasonable, and could be the basis of negotiation according to Conn Halinan (,but what about the Swat District Agreement?). In his opinion a military surge by either NATO or Pakistan might destroy the possibility of a diplomatic solution although it would be a great benefit to Tehran. The United States is only a small part of the regional picture, yet â€œthis War is costing the District of Columbia 173 billion!â€