Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mythical inspiration for a new "flood" of Jihadis into Afghanistan

The Guardian [10/2/08] says that General David McKiernan, the top US commander in Afghanistan, “warned yesterday that militant Islamist jihadis were flooding into the country from all corners of the Muslim world to join the Taliban's fight against the Nato alliance, mostly via Pakistan. ‘They are very well trained. They are good at attacks on soft targets. They are Uzbeks, Chechens, Punjabis, Arabic [sic], Europeans,’ he said.”

If this is so, then it appears that Afghanistan is the place where the “jehadis” plan to take a stand against the current “far enemy.” The "jehadis" formerly saw themselves as victors over the Soviet Union in the 1980s, forgetting that many other powers, including the US, were involved in that contest (and if Lawrence Wright is correct the "Arab Afghans" in that war contributed little and were sometimes a nuisance). Now the current "jehadis" must presume that Afghanistan is again the place where another great power can be defeated.

Behind this is the oft-quoted aphorism that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, an observation that now enjoys the authority of myth. Of such myths social affairs are made. It was true enough of the British experience, and the Russian, but not of the Mongols and other Central Asian invaders, nor in fact of the Arabs. But those "graveyard experiences" for the empires were no less devastating for the Afghanistan peoples themselves; after the Second Afghan war, for instance, Afghanistan was a shambles.

The jehadis are as alien to this country as the Americans, but like the Pakistanis and the Iranians they seem unable to internalize it. We grieve for the Afghanistan peoples who have to put up with yet another intrusion of foreign interests, to add yet one more complication to their own already richly complicated society.

The Guardian also says that the US is trying to “improve cooperation with the Pakistani military and intelligence services to halt the flow of jihadis.” This is of course crucial for the success of the western powers -- and in my opinion for the Afghans. Whether it really works is to be seen.

[Click on the title above for a link to the article.]

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