Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sarah Chayes on Afghanistan

This Sarah Chayes article is a must-read.

I'm excerpting a few of the most stunning paragraphs below.

The steadily worsening situation in southern Afghanistan is not the work of some ineffable Al Qaeda nebula. It is the result of the real depredations of the corrupt and predatory government officials whom the United States ushered into power in 2001, supposedly to help fight Al Qaeda, and has assiduously maintained in power since, along with an "insurgency" manufactured whole cloth across the border in Pakistan--a U.S. ally. The evidence of this connection is abundant: Taliban leaders strut openly around Quetta, Pakistan, where they are provided with offices and government-issued weapons authorization cards; Pakistani army officers are detailed to Taliban training camps; and Pakistani border guards constantly wave self-proclaimed Taliban through checkpoints into Afghanistan.

But beleaguered Afghans have a hard time getting U.S. political and military officials to focus on these two factors, which feed on each other. U.S. personnel cling to the fictions that Afghans are responsible for the local officials who rule over them--despite the overwhelming moral and material support the United States has provided these officials--and that the Pakistani government is cooperating in the war on terror. And so the Afghan villagers, frightened, vulnerable, and disillusioned, are obliged to come to terms with the "fairies who come at night."

This state of affairs is so bewildering that Kandaharis have reached an astonishing conclusion: The United States must be in league with the Taliban. They reason that America, with its power and riches, could bring an end to the "insurgency" in a month, if it so chose. They figure that America remains a close and munificent ally of Pakistan, the country that is sponsoring the "insurgency," and so the continuing violence must be a deliberate element of U.S. policy. The point is not whether there is any factual basis for this notion, it's that everyone here believes it. In other words, in a stunning irony, much of this city, the Taliban's former stronghold, is disgusted with the Americans not because of their Western culture, but because of their apparent complicity with Islamist extremists.

Most Americans tend to think of Musharraf as the bulwark against the Islamist tide in Pakistan. Actually, he and the whole Pakistani military apparatus, are part of the problem. The military is a leech on Pakistani society. It is like a city fire department that promotes arson to justify its existence; it has deposed the mayor and the town council, and it zones land to its own convenience - Pakistan still has on its books an old colonial-era law regarding land allotment that was used to encourage recruitment to the British army, and the Pakistani army takes full advantage of that. As kgoan on put it:

You want a real "nightmare" scenario for the Pak Army? Okay, here's one:

Musharraf goes nuts and passes a rule that from now on that forbids any General from owning agricultural land, limits the sale of plots to officers, and prohibits all officers from selling the plots they already own except to sell them back to the Pak Army's Agriculture Division.

*Now* you'll have an instantaneous revolution. Guaranteed.


Rajan P. Parrikar said...

Arun, check out, if you haven't yet, Ayaz Amir's muddleheaded piece in the latest issue of Dawn.

Anonymous said...

She's just publishing. Its probably needed for more AID money from CIA.