Monday, October 01, 2007

More Civil Wars Loom for Afghanistan

While NATO forces are swatting at the Taliban for Hamid Karzai some of his country's other dark forces are looming.

The way this miserable war has been pitched to us here, we have the Taliban on one side and we're with the good guys on the other side. Black and white, white and black. Easy as pie. Sure.

As Rosie Dimanno writes in today's Toronto Star, Afghanistan's other murderous loonies now seem on the verge of making their own power grabs:

The most ravaged district of Kabul is a ghostly testament to the folly of war, waged without pity.

There is nothing left intact, just the detritus of siege: Jagged bits of masonry, husks of buildings, crumbling walls pockmarked with artillery fire.

The Soviets didn't do this. The Taliban didn't do this.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar did this.

Hekmatyar has more blood on his hands, arguably, than even the Taliban, with which he has variously fought against and yoked himself to, depending on strategic ambitions. And he's always been a most ambitious man.

...this is the man – an unyielding terrorist by any definition of the word, the embodiment of treachery – that Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he would welcome in peace talks. Hekmatyar says sure, let's parley – once foreign troops are removed and the new Afghan constitution is dissolved.

Nuts to that, Karzai counters, knowing full well that Hekmatyar covets the presidency and an ultrafundamentalist Afghanistan no different than what the ousted Taliban had imposed. Leery of what comes after NATO forces depart, however, Karzai is welcoming all fugitives into the negotiating tent as pre-emptive gambit.

A worst-case scenario: Rumours that Hekmatyar might join forces with another unhappy warlord, Rashid Dostum. The ethnic Uzbek thug is a founding member of the United National Front, an anti-government alliance established this year that has pulled together senior veterans from the fight against the Soviets.

Though detesting each other, they've been fleeting allies before, Hekmatyar and Dostum, during the change-lobsters-and-dance chaos of the civil war era.

Last year, coalition forces found a cache of arms belonging to Dostum's forces. There is an escalating worry that Dostum, perhaps in co-ordination with Hekmatyar, would unleash heavy artillery on ill-prepared NATO troops in the northern part of Afghanistan, soldier contributions from countries that have kept them out of combat zones.
All these factional groups just won't let Afghanistan be, the fanatically anti-West Hekmatyar most especially. Yet there are elements within NATO, even in the U.S. State Department, urging accommodation with Hekmatyar, such is the yearning for a political resolution to end the insurgency.

In Afghanistan, though, internecine politics always devolves to war. And if new Afghanistan is destined to become once more old Afghanistan, Canadian troops have been wasting their time, their sweat, their blood.

Just what did we expect to come out of this idiotic notion that we could establish orderly, Western secular democracy in this nest of vipers?


Stephen said...

I don't think DiManno mentions this, but it's worth noting that Hekmatyar was once a CIA client and a major recipient of the billions of dollars the US funneled to anti-Soviet mujahedeen forces in Afghanistan via Pakistan. The Saudis helped fund him as well.

Back when they were fighting the Soviets and their client government, the US and its regional allies had few problems with supporting, funding and equipping violent extremists like Hekmatyar, regardless of the crimes they were then committing against their fellow Afghans.

Such inconvenient facts of history are worth remembering whenever Western leaders wax poetic about their deep and abiding concern for the well-being of Afghanistan's people: after all, some of their governments helped to create the 'nest of vipers,' even raising from eggs some of the most vicious of the serpents.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Stephen: You're right about Hekmatyar's past with the CIA. He was driven out by the Taliban in 1996, taking refuge in Tehran. When he became a problem for Karzai the US complained to Iran but then backed off when Iran suggested they'd make him leave. Apparently Washington wasn't too keen on getting this guy back in Afghanistan.

Bear in mind that Hekmatyar was twice Prime Minister of Afghanistan. He's not just some street thug.

Ronald Reagan called Hekmatyar and his colleagues "the moral equivalent of the founding fathers."

The CIA used a Predator drone to try to take the guy out in 2002 but missed and hit a madrassa instead.

Karzai keeps showing himself as utterly weak, indecisive and ineffective. It's hardly any wonder that his loose alliance with warlords like Dostum may be crumbling. When they see guys like Hekmatyar and the Taliban resurgent, what conceivable use do they have for Karzai?

Mike said...

Have you read "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll? Dostum and Hekmatyar are vicious thugs that change sides like most people change underwear. At one time or another both were in the Soviet backed government, the brief government that ruled after the Soviets left, the Taliban and even the Northern Alliance.

Yes, 71 Canadians have died for history to repeat itself in Afghanistan.

What a waste.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey Mike: Haven't read it but I'll put it on my list. You're right though about Dostum and Hekmatyar and a half dozen others including that vicious bastard Gul Agha.

Explain this to me, Mike. Anyone who takes a few hours to learn just basics of the past three centuries of Afghan history knows about these thugs, their deeds and their influence in today's Afghanistan. Each of these guys, individually, and even more so taken collectively, is/are heavily determinant of everything we're notionally trying to accomplish in that shithole. Yet, in policy and practice, we act as though they didn't exist. We send our terrific young kids out trolling for IEDs as though these guys were irrelevant. I don't know how you see it, but to me that's an inexcusable betrayal of our soldiers. We've left our people completely on the defensive, buying ever more blastworthy machines to protect them from ever more powerful explosive devices laid in their paths by the guys who really control "our" territory, the insurgents.

I was raised by a horribly wounded WWII combat vet. I am much too well aware of what modern warfare does to these people long after they're relegated to something to drink to in the local Legion.

My Dad served and so did I. No one has to convince me that there are fights that need to be fought. No one can tell me either what that means for at least some of the survivors and families whose fates are fixed by those actions.

What I know, Mike, is that, unlike your average MP, the lives that are sent into this shredder leave a great, huge, ugly stain that the "heroes" and their families have to keep cleaning up, again and again and again.

Once that reality becomes part of your life you don't waste any money on magnetic ribbon ornaments for your tailgate.

Damn, this makes me mad!