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Friday, 16 October 2009

NATO's Dance with the Taliban (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Those familiar with the situation on the ground in Afghanistan are aware that only around 17 percent of the money spent in that unfortunate country is in the control of President Hamid Karzai’s "free government of independent Afghanistan."

The remaining 83 percent is, directly or via proxies, disbursed in accordance with instructions given by one or the other NATO country, or NATO’s loyal partner, the United Nations, whose hand-picked staff in Afghanistan keeps in close touch with "their" embassies and military establishments.

Local officials are aware of the way in which tenders and requests for supplies have been manipulated to ensure that they are directed toward countries favored by NATO decision-makers rather than the most cost-effective source.

Bloated salaries and allowances, as well as logistics costs similar to the levels of Halliburton – a U.S.-based provider of products and services to the energy industry – form part of the mosaic of reasons why NATO is so loathed by the people it claims to have liberated.

However, not a single international media outlet focuses on the misdirection of resources by NATO, preferring to focus their ire on the measly proportion of total expenditure under Karzai's control, as do notables like Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama and others are seemingly unaware that it is the personnel under them who are responsible for the misdirection of at least 83 percent of the cash spent in Afghanistan. Despite their impressive contingents, it appears that international media outlets are not yet aware that much of the functions of a sovereign administration are in effect being exercised by NATO powers rather than by the much-reviled moderate Pashtun leader who has earned the ire of his former friends in the Pakistan military for his plain speaking.

The links between former U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration and the Middle Eastern patrons of the Pakistani military were no secret; nor were those between that muscular group and former U.S. President Bill Clinton – as an examination of donors to the former president's favorite charities, those with him at the core, reveal.

While Obama does not seem to have outsourced strategy in South and Central Asia to this lobby, he has clearly abandoned the future in favor of the past. His favorites in Afghanistan are all Clinton-era holdovers such as Peter Galbraith, Richard Holbrook and even the godmother of the Taliban, Robin Raphel, whose activities in support of the militia as former U.S. assistant secretary of state in the 1990s have yet to be investigated.

Rather than such individuals, it would be more honest to openly outsource policy to the Pakistani military, which functions as a think tank and facilitator for each of these individuals, and has been collectively seeking to fulfill the military's mission of replacing Karzai with a Taliban-led coalition that would within years convert Afghanistan into a safe haven for international terrorism. That is what Raphel's friends in the region did to the country in the 1990s.

It is no secret that the NATO chancelleries are in a state of panic over the situation in Afghanistan, nor that they are engaged in a desperate search for "good Taliban" – in other words, those promising a ceasefire in exchange for protection.

This would ensure for Karzai what a London newsweekly that is close to NATO has warned – a Najibullah-style fate. In 1996, the very squads that were hosted in Washington by the Clinton administration castrated and tortured former Afghani President Mohammed Najibullah and hung his blood-soaked body on a traffic light post.

However, as in many other cases involving peoples of a culture alien to the weekly's editors, the magazine is wrong in believing that Karzai can escape such a fate only by cooperating with NATO's designs, for the reverse is true: doing so would only accelerate the collapse of the moderate Pashtun polity in Afghanistan.

It is small wonder that Karzai has finally decided to hit back at his NATO traducers by making the counter-narcotics chief, General K. Khodaidad, go public about the assistance given by NATO elements to drug smugglers. That several NATO elements are involved in the drugs trade is no secret in Afghanistan, although it seems so to the international media and those in NATO capitals.

Perhaps such assistance is part of a policy of seeking to co-opt the Taliban by facilitating riches through the drugs trade. If such a strategy were adopted, it would be suicidal not only for Afghanistan but also to Europe, because rogue elements linked to the Taliban have succeeded in setting up viable networks within key NATO states, ready for activation since the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.

Such a war will be waged in earnest once the Taliban wins the war in Afghanistan by becoming the dominant force in a new government that presumably will meet Obama's standards of integrity and modernism better than the Karzai team.

This columnist had warned against a second round of elections when it was only Karzai who could rally moderate Pashtuns and align them with Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras into a combination that can defeat the terrorist militia helped by the Middle East, cash from the narcotics trade and NATO's numerous policy errors.

Karzai has brought together Mohammad Fahim, Ismail Khan, Rashid Dostum, Karim Khalili and others who are effective on the ground but disliked by NATO for their independent thinking. It would seem that the United States and its allies in Europe interpret "freedom" the way Henry Ford defined customer choice: "Any color so long as it's black."

A "democratic" Afghan is by such a definition an individual who follows the confused and contradictory instructions from NATO commanders under fire from constituencies back home for their failure to subdue a ragtag force. Any Afghan who acts as though he is part of a free country needs to be reviled and cast aside as "corrupt" or "incompetent."

Harking to India, had New Delhi followed the many Kashmir nostrums peddled by the Clinton administration and later, in the post-9/11 phase, by the Bush team, U.S. troops would have been fighting today in Kashmir as well.

Karzai, by not acting on the suicidal course suggested to him by media outlets close to NATO, is keeping alive the possibility of an Afghan response to the Taliban after NATO finally pulls its troops out of the country. His team needs to succeed where NATO has failed. Of course, the reason for this failure is the alliance's inability to acknowledge the need to flush out the Taliban from their nests in Pakistan, notably in and around Quetta and Dera Ismail Khan.

The mistakes made during the Afghan war of the 1980s need to be avoided to avoid the blowback of such policies, which has caused the upsurge in terrorism worldwide. However, recent policy spasms of NATO indicate that a repeat of that tragic history is approaching.

-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University. ©Copyright M.D. Nalapat.)


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