Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wheels Spinning Within Wheels, Why We Can't Prevail in Afghanistan

It wasn't called the "Great Game" for nothing.   Only a couple of centuries ago the main rivals were the British and the Russians.   Today it's America, Pakistan, India, China, Iran and to some extent Russia who are playing for control of Central Asia.  In Afghanistan the influence of each of these players is manifested in some way or another.   Few events occur there that don't have some ripple effect beyond Afghanistan's borders.

Simple-minded dolts like our Furious Leader, Harper, or most of Canada's general staff like to depict our struggle in Afghanistan as a decisive battle against a fundamentalist insurgency as though that will decide the future of Afghanistan.   That's almost comical.

The insurgency/civil war is but one wheel spinning within many other wheels in motion in Central Asia. The India-Pakistan rivalry bears directly on our war in Afghanistan.  Perhaps it shouldn't, but it does.  Then there's the American-Russian rivalry to control the Caspian Basin oil and gas reserves.   China wants to feed its industrial revolution with energy from Iran and all manner of natural resources from Afghanistan and its neighbours.  China also wants to contain Indian ambitions in the region just as India tries to contain China in other ways.

Asia Times columnist, Spengler, explains why so many countries, particularly America, have sat mute as Pakistan delivered aid and support to the Taliban:

"...This raises the question: Who covered up a scandalous arrangement known to everyone with a casual acquaintance of the situation? The answer is the same as in Agatha Christie's 1934 mystery about murder on the Orient Express, that is, everybody: former United States president George W Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, current US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, India, China and Iran. They are all terrified of facing a failed state with nuclear weapons, and prefer a functioning but treacherous one.

...To exit the Afghan quagmire in a less than humiliating fashion, the United States requires Pakistani help to persuade the Taliban not to take immediate advantage of the American departure and evoke Vietnam-era scenes of helicopters on the American Embassy roof. The politicians in Washington know they have lost and have conceded to the Taliban a role in a post-American Afghanistan. They can only hope that once the country plunges into chaos, the public will have moved onto other themes, much as it did after the Bill Clinton administration put Kosovo into the hands of a gang of dubious Albanians in 1998.

 India does not want America to call Pakistan to account. In the worst case, Pakistan might choose to support the Taliban and other terrorist organizations - including Kashmiri irredentists - openly rather than covertly. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of whom the Economist on July 25 wrote "the strength of his coalition depends largely on how weak he is as Prime Minister", does not want to confront Pakistan. If Pakistan's support for anti-Indian terrorism became undeniable, India would have to act, and action is the last thing the Congress party-led coalition in New Delhi wants to consider.

China has no interest in destabilization in Pakistan; on the contrary, Beijing lives in fear that radical Islamists in Pakistan might infect its own restive Uyghurs. And Iran, which shares the fractious Balochis with Pakistan on their common border, lives in terror that a destabilized Pakistan would free the Balochis to make trouble."

So, there you have it, wheels within wheels, and this example merely concerns what to do with Pakistan and why Islamabad's perfidy will continue to be tolerated.   It does, however, illustrate the complexity that attends virtually every issue in this region.   It also reveals how myopic and simplistically misleading Canada's military and political elites have been and why they have bungled this so badly.

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