Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Hard Questions And Overdue Answers About Afghanistan.

In today's Globe and Mail, historian Jack Granatstein raises a series of necessary questions that Canadians should be asking themselves about how this country might move forward in its commitments to the United Nations, NATO and the people of Afghanistan. His first question: "Can we not replicate the Manley commission to help us prepare the plan for the post-2011 years?"

I think that would be a good idea. In today's National Post, I look back on the reasons why Canada's political parties have been running away from these necessary questions ever since the Manley panel tabled its report in January, 2008.

Elsewhere, the untold story of the Afghan "rape law" is explored in exhausting detail by my colleague at the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, Lauryn Oates. In her investigation for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit - A Closer Look: The Policy and Law-Making Process Behind The Shiite Personal Status Law (pdf here) - Lauryn exposes the story that the news media in the "west" sometimes just got wrong, but mostly just didn't notice. It's a story of the subversion of Afghanistan's parliament by the Iranian-backed mullah Asif Mohseni and his bullies. It's a story about the bravery of Afghans - activists and parliamentarians, women and men, Shia and Sunni - as they fought to overturn the law. It's also a story of the laziness and timidity of the "international community" in coming to the aid of Afghans who rallied to resist the imposition of the law.

While we're on the subject of useless "international community" mandarins, I see that the most senior American bigshot in Afghanistan has finally got the heave-ho: The United Nations secretary-general has fired the top U.S. official serving in the U.N. mission to Afghanistan, following reports of a dispute over how to handle election fraud allegations.

Good riddance to him. Hissy fits aren't allowed. Slow and steady wins the race.

But back to where we left off, with John Manley's findings. Watch this, and then ask yourself where the hell Canadians have been at on the Afghan question over the past 20 months. All that time, wasted:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Terry, how are you?

From the land down under, it has always seemed to me as though Canada is trying to make up in Afghanistan for their absence in Iraq. I was astonished by the absence of Canadian forces during the liberation of Iraq as I am now by the sacrifices Canadians have made in Afghanistan. Australia, which has a lot in common with Canada, including a most valued alliance with the US, took part in both theaters of war, but it was very careful to keep its commitment and forces at 'acceptable' levels. I hope Australia would increase its troop commitment to Afghanistan, not the least to reduce the burden on Canada.

I however think that any further troop increase in Afghanistan, with the current strategy in place, will amount to reinforcing failure.

If you remember we had a little discussion about a possible new strategy at the Drunken Trots blog a while back. My view was/is that Taliban phenomenon can be countered by appealing to Pashtun nationalism. I even advocated the break-up of Afghanistan so as to give the Pashtuns (and others) a national cause to consider and to fight for rather than a jihadist one.

And as a case in point I showed the example of Kurdistan, where nationalist ideology left no room for jihadism. Kurdish secularism is a genuine, grassroots experience despite its religiously conservative society. The national cause instilled a sense of solidarity and respect for one another's beliefs among all Kurds, whether they're Sunni, Shia, Alevi, Yazidi, Christian, or atheist. They all made sacrifices shoulder to shoulder for the national cause. We are even proud of our Kurdish Jews. Although they emigrated to Israel, and were not in the same trecnhes as other Kurds, they never stopped offering moral support for the national cause.

I can understand the antipathy people have for nationalism as an ideology for we know its history too well. But for divided stateless people, nationalism is a valid and just option...until they get their own state, upon which they must accept the limitations and obnligations of a nation-state.

If Pashtuns can be encouraged to consider themselves in Pashtun nationalist terms, the strength of jihadist Taliban will be sapped considerably. Taliban may become extinct not by force of arms but by force of a less ambitious, but more attainable offers of a rival ideology.

Anyway, I was surprised to read today a piece by a professor of international politics making a similar case. Though he does not mention the break up of Afghanistan among its constituent minorities, his suggestion may lead to that in time. There is no reason for Afghanistan to stay a centralised, multi-ethnic state, if dividing it up reduces the threat from there and makes it easier to manage. Here is the link:

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, Terry, I must respectfully disagree with you on Peter Galbraith's sacking.

I lost faith in Hamid Karzai a long time ago. I do not understand why he (and the UN) should refuse a run-off elections between him and Abdullah Abdullah, considering the degree of documented election fraud and his narrow 'victory'.

Peter Galbraith is a talented diplomat and a reliable foreseer of political outcomes. He not only predicted and advocated the break-up Yugoslavia, but claimed that the same would occur in Iraq too. He was also the first person that I know of who said that Sunni Arabs will eventually stop fighting the US forces in Iraq, and will seek their protection instead in order to preserve their community interests.

Galbraith does value human rights and democratic process. Though his reported verbal staush with the Kai Eide does not come across as diplomatic at all, one may forgive him because of the old friendship between the two of them. The Reuters reports that "the pair sailed together and Eide introduced Galbraith to his wife".

Quite frankly, the international community should not disregard the demands of nearly half of Afghan people who put faith into the electoral process. It is bad enough that Taliban poses a challenge to the legitimacy of the current Afghan government. Why would/should the international community alienate one half all Afghan people by extending legitimacy to a candidate who doesn't exactly seem to have earned it. Is it because diplomats like Eide want to see a Pashtun president for Afghanistan? If so, then this is a wrong, a very wrong way to appeal to Pashtun nationalism.

Anyway, happy to contribute to your blog anytime :)

9:16 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

"I however think that any further troop increase in Afghanistan, with the current strategy in place, will amount to reinforcing failure."

That's one thing I believe we do not have to worry about. McChrystal gets it. His new strategy, which is indeed a reflection in many respects of the Canadian approach, is what every intelligent observer has been calling for, and it goes even further than I'd hoped. He understands that this is a liberation struggle, a people's war. Whether the Americans even need more troops, I'm not convinced, but I'm no general.

As for Pashtun nationalism as a brake on Islamism, it already is, and the Pashtuns are for the most part steadfastly and fervently opposed to the Taliban. There is already a very real and deeply felt pan-ethnic Afghan nationalism, and the tribal and linguistic allegiances of the people are dangerous things to arouse. Ain't like Kurdistan in that way.

"I lost faith in Hamid Karzai a long time ago. I do not understand why he (and the UN) should refuse a run-off elections between him and Abdullah Abdullah, considering the degree of documented election fraud and his narrow 'victory'."

Because the documented fraud isn't sufficient to warrant a runoff, yet. The IEC is doing its work, It should be left to do its work. Afghans want democracy. It will take many election cycles before they've got the hang of it again. The process must be allowed to work, and if that means another term for Karzai, with or without a runoff, then that's what it means.

As for alienating the Afghan people, any intervention that is contrary to the strict rule and letter of Afghan law would be properly seen by most Afghans as a betrayal by the "international community."

Slow and steady wins the race.

Xwahafiz for now, comrade.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

By the way, I'm no Afghan scholar, but I'm fairly confident about my preceding comments. You want a real scholar, Christian Bleuer is the guy to consult:

12:05 AM  

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