Part III – Can the New US Strategy Save Afghanistan?

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Context

In Parts I and II, we at Politact analyzed the roles played by US domestic politics, India, Pakistan, the EU, NATO and the global recession in formulating the new US strategy in Afghanistan.

Now we turn to the two basic questions: Can Afghanistan be saved and if so, at what cost?

Analysis

From our study thus far, we have concluded that the matter of American security in Afghanistan is a complex one. Among the most important factors:

  • Yes, Al Qaeda could pull of another direct attack on the US, but ironically, it might actually achieve more by refraining from doing so. The continuing threat of a new attack on the US or Europe helps to carry the war to several new fronts, including Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria. The worst outcome of the war against terror would be civil wars in the Islamic world, mixed in with ethnic and Shiite-Sunni dynamics. The Al Qaeda leaders are well aware all this and hope to establish new fronts. In this scenario, each of the global players and stakeholders will have its own view of the new order emerging from the chaos.
  • US Security in Afghanistan is tied to NATO’s performance. A failure in Afghanistan might convince Europe that the organization is ineffectual and embolden Russia and Iran.
  • A less obvious threat to European and American security are growing ethnic tensions and a resulting backlash against Muslin citizens in Europe and America; examples are recent events in Switzerland, the UK and the United States. This has the potential to antagonize the Muslim citizens and radicalize Muslim youth in these countries, a pattern we have called Terrorism 2.0.

To the question, “Can success in Afghanistan prevent these consequences?” the answer is “No.” Both statements from government officials and media reports have made it clear that the Al Qaeda leadership has been able to move freely between the Af-Pak borders, from Iraq to Afghanistan – in fact wherever it wishes – in the Islamic world. And the heavy-handed application of force by the Western powers has done much to alienate local populations. Not only that, but evidence suggests that the extremist leadership has been able to successfully synchronize its efforts in Iraq, Kashmir, Yemen and Somalia. Worst of all, according to recent news from the Middle East, Al Qaeda appears to be laying the ground work for involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Thus, wining or losing in Afghanistan is moot. Al Qaeda has strengthened its multi-national presence to the point where the threat it poses transcends any one country or region. This in turn means that in addition to the new Middle Eastern destinations, the war against terror has already extended to Pakistan and is all set to reach India.

Ultimately the biggest questions are: what is causing the spread of the virus and what can the local and Western powers do to prevent an epidemic – that is, if it has not already become one? This much is clear: peace cannot be attained in one part of the world at the cost of another. And the Taliban’s tactics will no longer be underhanded; its more aggressive approach can be seen in yesterday’s attack on Kabul.

The emphasis of the new US strategy in Afghanistan is to contain the conflict, but paradoxically, it is helping to create an environment conducive to its escalation. Unfortunately, Afghanistan may prove to be just another transitional front, like Iraq.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan wrote the following explaining the causes of the Revolt of 1857 in the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent:

“The primary causes of rebellion are, I fancy, everywhere the same. It invariably results from the existence of a policy obnoxious to the dispositions, aims, habits, and views, of those by whom the rebellion is brought about. From this it follows that widely-spread disaffection cannot spring from any solitary, or local cause. Universal rebellion must arise from universal grounds for discontent or from streams deriving from many different sources, but finally merging into one wide-spreading, turbulent water.”

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