Afghanistan and the Road Runner
I spent yesterday trying to get my head around what’s really happening in Afghanistan. I would strongly discourage other people from trying this. Mainstream coverage of the NATO occupation is full of the type of paradoxical and contradictory messages that are known to cause insanity. In fact the whole thing reminds me of a Road Runner cartoon. I strongly recommend readers watch the following before proceeding (click on Making Progress link to watch).
The most recent scandal relates to President Hamid Karzai paying tens of thousands of dollars to negotiate with an imposter who claimed to represent the Taliban – who turned out to be a Pakistani shopkeeper. (see http://www.pakistankakhudahafiz.com/2010/11/27/karzai-aide-blames-british-for-taliban-impostor/)
The Taliban Seem to Be Winning
It’s no longer a secret that Karzai is very keen on negotiating a peace settlement with the Taliban – and that they refuse to meet with him. They have no reason to. They’re winning. The Taliban control most of Afghanistan outside the central area immediately surrounding Kabul. The US media no longer publishes maps of the areas under Taliban. The most recent one I could find is from 2008:
None of this is surprising, given that the Taliban enjoys strong support of the civilian population in the areas they control (who regard Karzai as a US puppet and a crook and only in the Afghan presidency thanks to massive electoral fraud). See http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/1117/Taliban-placed-IEDs-threaten-lives-and-stability-in-Kandahar-Afghanistan).
Is the US Funding the Taliban?
The Taliban are also extremely well funded. As was pointed out in a 2009 Reuter’s report, less of this funding comes from narcotics trafficking than previously believed. Most of it actually comes (indirectly) from outside development assistance. The Taliban go around to various tribal leaders and demand payment not to blow up bridges and other reconstruction projects. (see http://blogs.reuters.com/global/2009/08/13/who-is-funding-the-afghan-taliban-you-dont-want-to-know/)
In Farah province, for example local officials report that the Taliban are winding up with 40 percent of the money coming in for the National Solidarity Program, one of the country’s most successful community reconstruction projects.
What’s Really Happening in Kandahar
Reporting over the last few months has focused on the US/NATO surge to retake Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar. The Taliban “control” Kandahar (exerting some political control, as well as having a strong military presence). The headlines a few months ago proclaimed that thanks to the 2010 “surge” in US troops, the Taliban had been “defeated militarily”” and driven out of Kandahar.
The US press was vague as to where they were “driven” to. The conventional wisdom is that the Taliban cease to engage US troops because 1) they go underground and fade into the very sympathetic local population (http://opinionasia.com/article/print/837 and http://www.cbsnews.com/2994-501704_162-0.html or 2) they retreat to the tribal areas of Pakistan, where they enjoy strong support from Baloch separatists.
The Pakistani tribal areas are very mountainous and remote and don’t lend well to a conventional military campaign. Our forces there are mainly CIA personnel, and the best we can do is drop bombs on a few Taliban leaders (and hundreds of civilians) from unmanned drones and train Baloch separatists in bomb making and other terrorist activities. It’s an open secret that the Pentagon would like to see energy and resource-rich Balochistan secede from Pakistan as a US-friendly state (which would also include parts of southern Iran. (see http://metaexistence.org/usagenda.htm)
More recent reports on Kandahar are less optimistic. According to Reuter, NATO commander Nick Carter reports they won’t know till June whether the Kandahar campaign has been successful (see http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101028/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_kandahar – the San Francisco Examiner also carried this report but seem to have taken this page down)
Are Americans Being Lied To?
Besides US designs on Balochistan, there are three other crucial elements left out of mainstream coverage.
- First, the CIA created the Taliban in the first place (presumably to defeat the Soviet occupation – but more importantly because the US wants strategic control of the region).
- Second, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have immense importance as energy transit routes for our economic rivals India and China. With dwindling global oil and natural gas resources, competition over Middle East oil and gas has become extremely intense. The Chinese have invested massively in Balochistan, particularly in the water port in Gwadar and its supporting infrastructure. Which Pakistani commentators agree will give China a virtual monopoly on Iranian gas and oil. In fact many Pakistani commentators believe that Pakistan is the true target – that the US would prefer to fight the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Especially if this could facilitate the establishment of Balochistan (which would include the Baloch regions of Iran – fracturing a major US enemy) as a separate state.
- Third, 60% of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan. This is starting to be reflected in mainstream commentary. Moreover an increasing number of mainstream commentators believe we could compete with China much more effectively by putting Americans back to work – by rebuilding America’s severely compromised manufacturing base instead of wasting trillions of dollars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq (that war ain’t over – Obama’s 2011 budget includes $549 billion for Iraq).