Friday, April 15, 2011

Reintegrate Or Die.

Last week I was pointing out the deadly implications of the rising Khomeinist influence in Afghanistan: "Why would Karzai behave this way? Start asking that kind of question and nowhere will the discomfort be felt more acutely than in and around the White House. Well, too bad. It's time to start asking these awkward questions, before it's too late. Follow the money." Today, the money gets followed, and here's what is found: Iran's Cash For Karzai Buys Years Of Loyalty.

Apply Occam's razor to the broader conundrum and you will find yourself asking a larger and more worrying question: Why Is The U.S. Helping Iran Sell Natural Gas? This is a question worth asking in the context of another: What's all the rage in the foreign policy establishment these days? Answer: Let's give the boys from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Quetta a fancy embassy of their own . . . in Istanbul!

It would be really nice if just once, the utterly discredited foreign-policy establishment that produces nothing but failed diplo-gibberish of this kind would get around to noticing that its quack remedies have gone well past the point of obscure academic interest. Exit-strategy fetishism isn't even funny anymore. It's doing far more harm than good. Here's just a snapshot of how the toxin spreads:

1. It pushes Karzai and his Popolzai cronies further into the arms of the Khomeinists: if even the Yanks are happy to jettison Afghan democracy, why shouldn't we, and why shouldn't we butter our bread while we're at it? 2. It dissuades Afghanistan's democratic opposition from taking any risks for the cause: why stick your neck out today if the Taliban are going to be invited back to Kabul tomorrow? 3. It encourages corruption: if this isn't going to last, why not get it and cash out while the getting's good? 4. It's fatally corrosive to public trust in western democracies: why should our kids keep dying over there when their killers are being flattered and wooed to come back to their comfy cushions in Kabul? I could go on.

As always, it will take the blood of innocents to prove that all the absurd formulae involved in peace-talks alchemy will not make peace. Its delusions will produce only the same old envoy-shuttling jobbery that inevitably leads to war. In the meantime, it's putting a shiv between the ribs of the vast majority of the Afghan people who actually want peace and security and democracy.

Here's Abdullah Abdullah, who leads the main pro-democracy coalition in Afghanistan: "I have no difficulty with the logic of the proposition that in every war you need to leave the door open for talks. But at the same time, jumping to that conclusion without looking at realities on the ground, it creates circumstances that can lead to sacrificing and compromising the gains of the past few years." That's Abdullah trying as hard as he can to speak diplomatically. But it should give you an idea what he actually thinks about this obscene folly.

It's easy to see where Burhanuddin Rabbani of the (U.S.-funded, if you please) High Peace Council is coming from. He told me as much last year, and it makes a kind of sense, as a grisly calculation in the cynicism of it all. The Obama White House is proving itself content to allow its clients in Pakistan's military-industrial complex to serve as landlord, welfare case officer and daycare supervisor to Talib jihadists. Pakistan's frivolous political class is content to use Afghanistan as the garbage heap where it dumps those same Talib jihadists. Thus, it should be a good thing to see if we can relocate the corporate headquarters of Mullah Omar Ltd. to Turkey. That's the nasty logic in play.

But that tells you less about what Afghanistan's pro-democracy leadership really wants and more about how badly the U.S "strategy" has diminished Afghan expectations generally and betrayed the trust of Afghanistan's brave democrats, specifically. It's exactly the result you would expect to get from treating Afghanistan's democratic non-Pashtun majority like dirt, and treating the democratic anti-Taliban majority among the Pashtuns the same way.

This is not to dismiss frontline efforts to buy and "reintegrate" Taliban fighters. Most are illiterate and lumpen ruffians from the backcountry of the Pashtun belt who don't know who they're fighting against or what they're fighting for, so fair play. The Canadian Forces command is to be congratulated for making the best of the bad situation our soldiers have been saddled with.

In Panjwaii, Canada's Task Force Kandahar has been doing a tremendous job in turning Taliban fighters around. The Australian running the operation, Lt.-Col. Liam Hale, has a sign on his door: “Reintegrate or Die.” One lives in hope that NATO's political leadership will somehow muster a capacity for that kind of moral clarity and certainty of purpose, but unless and until that happens, it will remain an open question whether all the suffering that has gone into the cause of of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic has been in vain.


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