PRECONCEPTIONS, MISCONEPTIONS AND â€œNO FEEDBACK LOOPâ€ LEADS TO AMERICAN DISASTER IN AFGHANISTAN
By Gordon Duff
I have only recently returned from the region where I toured as a journalist and lecturer. Our group included Jeff Gates, Raja Mugtaba, BG Asif Haroon Raja and BG Ali Raza and me of Veterans Today and Opinion Maker. We met with some people we will not mention and many we can. Prince Ali of Afghanistan had a delegation with us headed by Fayyaz Shah, as advisors. BG Ali Raza was primary coordinator on the ground for Pakistan during the â€œCharley Wilson Warâ€ against the Soviets. No person has spent so much time â€œwhere he isnâ€™t supposed to beâ€ as General Ali Raza. BG Asif Haroon Raja is Pakistanâ€™s best known military analyst and author and an invaluable resource.
I would thank the Director General of the ISPR, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas and Director BG Syed Azmat Ali for their detailed briefing and great courtesy.
Background on the critical border regions was supplied by the former military head, BG Amir Gulistan Janjua. His vast experience in the region was an invaluable aid to our understanding. I would also thank Ahsan Rashid and Col. Javed Mujtaba for their advice, hospitality and analytical skills.
Our primary briefer and advisor for the region and constant correspondent is Admiral I A Sirohey, former Chairman, JCOS of Pakistan. General Aslam Beg, former Army Chief of Staff and General Hamid Gul, former DG ISI, also briefed us extensively on military affairs. These three, along with our companions, BGâ€™s Raja and Ali, are the primary experts on regional military affairs and the Taliban.
We also want to thank Tarik Jan of the ISSI for his kind assistance. I am leaving out two dozen names, some out of kindness. Many political leaders met with us who normally would never see Americans. We were treated with more than courtesy and kindness in some of the most unexpected places.
My close friends and personal advisors, Col. James Hanke, USA SF (ret) former Defense Attache to Israel and Fred Coward, former FBI counter-terrorism expert were a continual help. Their knowledge and extensive contacts in the region were vital.
The question, of course, what did we learn? Does anyone learn anything if weighed down by prejudiced, misconceptions or military and political theories based on flawed analyses or policies? Our job is simply to listen, learn and use our best judgment. Our responsibility is to be honest in our assessments. The findings in this work are entirely my own.
The root of the problems in the region are historical in nature. Unless you go back 200 years or more, something we arenâ€™t doing here, nothing will make sense. The region, Af-Pak, is a creation, primarily of Britainâ€™s, seemingly created out of a design to stimulate instability and conflict to enable â€œthe great gameâ€ Britain is famous for to be played, one side against the other. In 1893, when Afghanistan and India/Pakistan were split by Durand, dividing tribes and even families, continual war was guaranteed. In 1947, when Pakistan was created out of a group of peoples, roughly â€œIslamicâ€ but otherwise unrelated, we were guaranteed even more instability. Pakistan would be a combination of advanced culture, warlike tribes and resentful quasi-independent regions constantly at odds with their powerful neighbor, India.
The alliances that have defined the region, India and the Soviet Union, Pakistan and the United States (and China) and now, India and Israel and the United States(maybe Russia again and part of Afghanistan) and Pakistan and the United States (and China) have led to continual military buildups, including nuclear weapons and other advanced strategic technologies, all within a framework of acrimony and continual terrorism.
India, Israel, the United States, Afghanistan, China and Britain are all accused, on a daily basis, of coordinating terror attacks inside each country of the region, including Iran. Accusations of training and arming terrorist groups, numbered in the dozens, perhaps the hundreds, in each of the countries involved, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, are continually voiced. In the process, everyone denies involvement in the vast drug trade that has reemerged with the American occupation of Afghanistan and the vast network of corruption based primarily on what seems to be an American policy to stimulate waste.
Permanent war, in itself, has become the only business of the region, other than drug trafficking, with endless thousands of â€œcontractorsâ€ from around the world flocking to the region to suck down the American dollars carelessly thrown at every imaginable perceived threat or ill, often with little or no consideration for end result or attempt at accounting.
This has brought American war planners to a number of disastrous conclusions about the area, ones that defy any historical or strategic model. The gutting of the intellectual capabilities of American policy planners during the Bush administration, based on an overlay of an Evangelical Christian model, applied, not only to the Pentagon but intelligence services, State Department and many key decision making environments has left the United States unable to process and respond properly to feedback. Thus, failed policies are replaced by untested experiments and short term fixes, none based on broad or sound analysis.
All advice comes from groups tied financially to the continuation of the war and even the destabilization of Pakistan. One major unseen actor is Israel, whose powerful lobby in Washington is capable of making policy for the region. Israelâ€™s military alliance with India and extensive investment in the regions gas and oil industry is a major driver in, what has become a suicidal American effort. With Israel benefitting from billions in arms contracts with the United States and India along with becoming a defacto â€œsuper powerâ€ of the region by proxy, their â€œspecial interestâ€ and unique ability to use their control of media, their massive influence over the electoral process in the US and their long relationship with the Pentagon, continual regional conflict may be a hidden agenda.
Current American policies in the region, both military and economic, seem to prove this out. All are doomed to eventual failure, seemingly purposely so and all are the result of reliance on advice from sectors profiting from war and destabilization, not only of the region, but of the United States itself. It is a unique possibility that the series of ill conceived wars begun under the Bush administration may eventually bring about the economic collapse of the United States as had happened to the Soviet Union some years before.
America claimed they came into Afghanistan seeking the terrorists who attacked on 9/11. This is blatantly dishonest. Osama bin Laden had been a guest of the Taliban for some time but had been put under severe restrictions by that group. There is no evidence any terrorist organizations were being run by Bin Laden in Afghanistan and current intelligence has proven, despite â€œmediaâ€ coverage to the contrary, that bin Laden had no involvement in 9/11. Broad evidence exists that bin Laden died during the initial US attack in 2001. All intelligence and informed opinion leads to this conclusion causing both embarrassment and consternation when â€œpress drivenâ€ demands for a continued hunt for bin Laden come from the United States.
Less publicly, the United States has long accepted the death of bin Laden yet has spent millions of dollars and hundreds of lives in a dishonest attempt to keep a â€œbrandedâ€ big name terrorist in front of the public.
This has caused a general distrust of the United States among its military allies who, universally, believe that the phony â€œhunt for bin Ladenâ€ is proof, not of a need to resurrect a phony â€œboogiemanâ€ for public consumption but rather to create an artificial â€œiconâ€ to cover massive corruption and a history of failure.
At the outset, Americaâ€™s approach in Afghanistan was flawed. Our dependence on the Northern Alliance, a group of warlords wishing to restore drug production, prohibited by the Taliban, to assist us led to establishing a regime in Kabul that was never accepted by the people of Afghanistan. President Karzai, not only notoriously corrupt and weak but closely allied to India, would make an unlikely leader in a war requiring continual coordination with Pakistan, a country nearly as distrustful of Karzai as his own people.
The decision by the US to support Karzai, even after a rigged election and to build an army and national police force primarily out of tribal minorities from the Northern Alliance who are hated by the majority of Afghanis has led to the need for the current increase in American presence and the stalled military operations in Helmand, the nationâ€™s primary opium producing region since 2001. Current American plans to consider restructuring the massive national police force on regional ethnic lines is encouraging but doomed to failure.
Tribal traditions in Afghanistan are based on a system called Pashtunwali. All judicial and police functions reside within a long established tribal structure, one that functioned well prior to the Soviet occupation and one which could be restored. Replacing this with a â€œnorthern occupationâ€ will only lead to continual warfare.
The economy of Afghanistan is almost entirely non-existent. Warring groups are living off American bribes, payments to allow supplies to pass unharmed to American forces or from taxes on the massive opium harvest. With the destruction of tribal cohesion under the Russian backed government and the mining of Afghanistan, the traditional yearly migrations of the large pastoral population within Afghanistan has stopped. This group, numbering as many as 15 million, are a recruiting ground for â€œgun culture.â€
Replacing normal occupations, farming, husbandry or small industries is a vast number of fighters, many simple bandits and criminals but untold thousands fighting out of a belief they are opposing a foreign occupation. Discerning the difference between the two and restoring a traditional economy to replace warlord-ism, drug production and mercenary activities is the only way of bringing about stability. The cost of these programs, some of which the USAID is working on now, is low in comparison to military action.
However, too little is being done and, for every successful program, ten â€œboondoggleâ€ programs are put in place, building useless projects with massive cost overruns and corruption.
American military planners are currently trying a variety of approaches, including working with the Afghan army, a vast mercenary group, primarlily of the northern tribes that is, on the whole, both unsupportable economically and totally helpless when used in any independent capacity. Afghanistan has a tradition of compulsory military service, a â€œpeopleâ€™s armyâ€ of lowly paid but highly motivated soldiers from every area of the nation. These troops are paid as little as $5 per month but receive food subsidies for their families and extensive training in civilian trades as part of their service.
This successful system has been destroyed by the United States and the Karzai government, replaced with a â€œpaidâ€ professional army untrusted by any group within the country. Pakistan fears that this army will fall under Indian command and threaten their borders and, perhaps, rightly so. The model used is based on Blackwater, a private military contractor, not any national army. The new national army in Afghanistan is quite likely to work for any group capable of paying them. The nation of Afghanistan itself will never have that capability.
American efforts to occupy destabilized regions thru â€œcivil affairsâ€ operations used in Vietnam with some success can only function as they did in Vietnam, as part of a permanent occupation force which will be immediately replaced by an opposing â€œoccupation forceâ€ of domestic fighters, the enemy, when Americans leave. In fact, Taliban units simply melt into the civilian population when confronted by American forces beyond their capability of defeating.
Only the foreign fighters in Afghanistan, those who came to fight and die, continue action against the US forces under unfavorable conditions. Others, trained in â€œirregular warfareâ€ from birth, simply wait out Americaâ€™s resolve, exactly as had happened in Vietnam. Pentagon planners understand this, thus making our current efforts by cynical and deceitful.
America is unaware that most of the Taliban live in Pakistan. The total number of Taliban exceeds 50 million, a number America and Pakistan can never fight successfully nor do they need to. The vast majority of those the US considers enemy combatants can be rehabilitated, but not under programs currently being initiated by the United States. The idea of paying â€œfightersâ€ or members of the â€œgun cultureâ€ to stop resisting is hardly a thoughtful strategy but it is the one the United States has chosen.
There are forces that need to be defeated and that could be defeated by an Afghan army, a traditional force based on compulsory service and fighting for a government with wide support among the tribes, a government Afghanistan currently doesnâ€™t have.
Current military operations are likely to recruit more fighters against the United States and the unpopular Karzai government and, as things are going, eventually lead to a wider conflict in Pakistan and the economic destruction of that nation, a vital US ally. We are well along that road already and are more than well aware of it despite our protestations to the opposite and the total lack of media attention to any â€œreality basedâ€ assessment.
Economic development programs being enacted in Afghanistan are primarily based on supporting a corrupt culture and maintaining â€œcoverâ€ for the massive drug trade that powerful groups among all the players, Afghanistan, Israel, the United States, India and Pakistan, are growing immensely wealthy and powerful on. A restructuring of the economies on both sides of the Durand Line separating Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan along lines suggested by Imran Khan and Jeff Gates and groups supporting Prince Ali Seraj may be the best solution.
Simple â€œgrass rootsâ€ development built on supporting and expanding traditional industries while providing improved delivery of educational and health care services is a start. Only education of men and women can fight the cycle of extremism, broad public education delivered at village level within a social and economic environment supporting a traditional model. These plans exist, are inexpensive and have broad support among nearly all tribal leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only thing stopping their implementation is the current much more profitable and corrupt system that is creating a new ruling oligarchy based on American money and continual chaos.
They have always been there but real solutions have been opposed by those profiting off the war and the environment the war has created. Too many with too much money and power want the wars to continue for too many reasons, including long term geopolitical goals unfavorable to the United States and Pakistan. With a lack of strong leadership within the United States compounded by the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, US foreign policy will continue to be a â€œrunaway train.â€
The first step toward enacting known solutions would be getting real information to decision makers and keeping the American people properly informed. Currently, media in the United States is so heavily skewed toward misinformation and propaganda that political accountability has nearly disappeared. An systematically misinformed populace negates all concepts of democracy and representative government. There can be no accountability and no national policy as long as the mechanisms for disinformation that have taken control of Americaâ€™s news media exist.
Defacto control of Americas media by foreign nations and a cabal of corporations tied to the war economy has ended effective public participation in American policy and decision making and, in the process, ended Congressâ€™s ability to oversee policy. Grassroots movements in Afghanistan, while America remains the â€œprime moverâ€ depend on restoration of similar authority in the United States.