30 December 2011

U.S. blew chance to support popular uprising against Taliban

Abdul Haq (right), born Humayoun Arasala, 1958-2001
The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan (Pluto Press, 2011), by Lucy Morgan Edwards

This long overdue work shows how poor intelligence by the United States and it subservient U.K. allies coupled with an uncritical willingness to accept the self-serving advice of the Pakistani military blinded the Americans to a strategy that might have toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan without an invasion in 2001.

Instead, the United States pursued what has become its preferred foreign policy intervention—war, which has dragged on for a decade, killed thousands, created enemies out of people who might have otherwise been allies, and generated popular support for the Taliban.

The lost opportunity was represented by Abdul Haq, the Pashtun military commander during the anti-Soviet resistance and a bona fide nationalist with a record of working in alliance with Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic groups, according to Edwards. Before the 9/11 attacks, Haq claimed that local support for the Taliban regime was crumbling and that key sections of the Afghan military, many of which were led by his mujahedeen allies, were prepared to desert the Taliban and support a representative government. After the 9/11 attack, Haq pleaded with U.S. and U.K. leaders not to invade Afghanistan, warning that foreign military intervention would backfire by consolidating support for the Taliban. Two weeks after first U.S. strikes, Haq left Pakistan to launch his ambitious plan, but was soon captured and executed by the Taliban inside Afghanistan on October 26, 2001.

Edwards, a former political advisor to the European Union, NGO worker, election monitor, researcher and UK press correspondent, convincingly argues that the U.S.-led plan allowed the new Afghan state to become dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks who were part of the so-called Northern Alliance, and largely shut out ethnic Pashtuns, who represent about 45 percent of Afghan population. The one exception was Pres. Hamid Karzai,  a Pashtun but one with little popular support, a profile that increased his dependency on western support.

The United States and its allies also welcomed into the government the non-Pashtun warlords, many of whom committed atrocities against other Afghans during the civil war that followed the collapse of the Najibullah government in 1992 and practiced a brand of fundamentalist Islam that rivaled the Taliban’s. Warlord support was rationalized as necessary for security by the United States, which re-armed them. These strategic choices created a corrupt state with little commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights and little legitimacy in the eyes of most Afghans.

Edwards’ work is well-researched and benefits from her seven years in Afghanistan as well as her familiarity with Haq’s family, the Arsalas, the chief clan within the Ahmadzai tribe of the Ghilzai Pashtuns in eastern Afghanistan. Her knowledge makes the deficiencies of the book—many misspellings and grammatical errors and even a statement that Afghanistan has 24 provinces, not the actual 34—all the more inexplicable. Perhaps the errors are limited to the Kindle electronic edition, which occasionally reads like unedited galleys.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:59 AM

    Since 2002 the west has diagnosed the problem as insufficient Pushtun representation and for 9 years has brought in every single Pushtune into the calculas. The only ones left were Gulbuddin and Mullah Omar who are encouraged to join. Will it solve the problem ? No. Talking about the problem is not equal to solution. The solution lies in defeating the Taliban once and for all and letting Afghans have a strong state minus backward looking bearded, filthy Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin who are nothing else but servants of Punjabi establishment.