Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ruminations on the emerging situation in South Asia.

I am wondering if we are giving the Afghan military forces enough credit.  A few days ago, April 15, it was the Afghan military alone who fought off the attack in Kabul.  There was criticism of their response but it was in fact a totally Afghan response and they did pretty well, given that the attack was a total surprise and broadly executed.

Now we hear that the Afghans have intercepted a shipping of 10 metric tons of explosives into Afghanistan from Pakistan and apprehended five men who had been preparing to use the explosives inside Kabul.  At least in this case someone seems to have done a good job.

The reality for everyone in the region is that the Americans are dialing down their presence in Afghanistan.  Whether that means actually withdrawing all support from the country is in fact doubtful, but there is no doubt that, at least in appearance, the American involvement in the war is supposed to soon be over.  What that means for the various players in the region is that they have to face up to what that emerging situation will mean to them, and for the Afghan military it means they will have to step up or be overwhelmed.  In that sense they have no choice but to step up.  In fact, most Afghans, we know, have little interest in bringing the Taliban back.  So the reality as it unfolds may force all sides to come to terms with what they have to do.  It appears that the ISI in Pakistan has made no effort to dial back their involvement with the Taliban:  three of the five men who were caught were "Pakistani Taliban".  So, if the Afghans want to keep from being overwhelmed by ISI-supported Taliban they -- not only the military but the country in general who have to support them -- will have to make up their minds to counter that threat.  Afghans of all sorts, even those who like the Taliban, have no use for the Pakistanis.

For the Afghans who have no desire to see the Taliban come back or the Pakistani ISI run the country -- I assume that means almost no one inside Kabul, few north of the Hindu Kush, and only a small number in the south -- they will have to fight or flee.  That a local force fought off the Taliban successfully on the 15th, and in the instance reported today have stepped up to the task inside Kabul, is a good sign.  After all, the Afghans know their own -- the language, the nuances of sentiment, the devices of intrigue (an old game in the country) -- and if they actually make up their minds they will not put up with Pakistani domination.  For many Afghans, especially the ones in charge now (the army is mostly Tajik and Hazara), the Taliban are as much invaders as the Pakistanis, and if the Pakistanis are deemed the real force behind the Taliban the people will resent their presence and make it hard for them to govern; only by the exercise of cruel violence will they be able to govern.  In the long run a despised government will have trouble holding on without earned the opprobrium of their own people as well as the rest of the world.   Will this process be elegant?  No, but it is a familiar process in Central Asian history.  We will all grieve to see the Afghanistan people suffer this process, those of us to have come to love them and admire them, but it looks like it will take place no matter what.

Despite all our presumptions about the ineptness of the Afghans to manage their affairs without us, they have done it for centuries.  It won't be pretty but it is fair that the respective forces in the region will come to an accommodation.  

If we are out of the picture will it be worse?  Probably for a while, yes.  But it is hard to see how, despite all attempts, the Pakistanis will be able to control Afghanistan any more than the Soviets or Americans could.  Indeed, the Pakistanis, who desperately need an accommodation with Afghanistan should know better than to try to control the country.  They should be eager to settle with an accommodation with a Kabul regime that as always will distrust them but be willing to work with them.  Nothing more.

So maybe the future for Afghanistan without American support could be -- well, tolerable -- after all.  This is not to say that there will be no civil war:  That may be inevitable.  The critical element will be the resolve of the Afghan military to deal with the Taliban and the Pakistanis, both of whom they know well.

The great tragedy could be the women of the country.  What will happen to them?  That will depend on the way the Afghans shape  their legal structure.  So far, it seems to have remained little changed despite the other changes in the society.  That system they, and they only, will have to change.  Lets hope and pray for something better.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Kordofan War and its casualties: Anyone paying attention?

Al Jazeera claims to be the only news source on what's going on in Kordofan, which is in south Sudan -- the southern part of the new Sudan, after Southern Sudan was carved out of it.

Sudan has a reputation for indifference to the needs of its population so long as the "Arab" elite in northeast Sudan, led by Bashir, can remain safely in control of the key institutions of government.  After 37 years of war with the south, which it has now given up to become a separate country, and many years of deliberate exploitation of its western province of Darfur, the government still seems unable to be at peace with itself. One wonders if some countries -- some administrations -- cannot remain in power without having an enemy to justify an continued internal mobilization.  Sudan may be such a place.

But it seems that few people are paying attention.  It is fair to doubt that any of this will appear on American TV, and so will go unnoticed, unreported as far as most of the world's audiences are concerned.

Click on the title above for a link to a video on what it's like to live under a regime that regards any form of independent living as a threat to its own existence.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Let Allen West's Own Statement Reveal Who He Is

It's hard to believe that Allen West would want the world to know what he thinks of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he has shamelessly put it out for all to see.  We wonder who votes for this guy.

A question submitted in writing): What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or international Socialists?

West: No, that’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party…
(pause of approximately 27 seconds)
No, they actually don’t hide it. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus

The question is, what kind of people would believe this man?  Who will vote for him?

Another Whistleblower Fired

This is not the first time that we have heard that our government is not kind to whisleblowers, but the new statement by Peter Van Buren [Confessions of an Iraq War Whistleblower: The State Department fired me for telling the truth about US failures in Iraq. Here's why I don'tregret it.] should deeply sadden all of us.  We suppose that we reside in a country that honors its claims of the pursuit of justice.  

Not much to be proud of here.  It reminds me of the response to Fear Up Harsh by Tony Lagouranis:  Most people don't seem to want to know about torture of Iraqis even though, in the case of Lagouranis, he has felt deeply ashamed of his part in it.

And the state department doesn't want people to know about the failures in Iraq -- after all, a lot of blood has been spilled there and a lot of taxpayer's cash.