The “Surge” in Iraq & Afghanistan

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

NATO & the Pashtuns–A Misunderstanding of Tribal Identities

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Richmond, VA–April 9th–Your narrator finds himself in the (U.S.) Civil War-era (1860s) era capital of the Confederacy (i.e., the South) where he listened to the research of a Michael Yalchi on the lack of understanding between NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the operation of tribal identity within the Southern Afghani battle theater.  This article is written with a considerable amount of your essayists own research, too.

Richmond, from which your author is reporting, is a moderate-sized (American) Revolutionary-era city of a little over 200,000, and is, also, the present-day seat of government of the current (U.S.) Commonwealth (State) of Virginia on the Atlantic seaboard a hundred miles below Washington D.C.  (Most of the American Civil War [1860-1865] was fought within this hundred miles between the two fore-mentioned two cities.)  This War fought on U.S. soil is considered the first “modern” martial dispute.

While in the Middle East, this past week (18th-24th) of the actual physical act of writing (April 23rd –26th) this article, the Libyan Civil War continues to fume, and Colonel Khadafy may even overcome his armed opposition as the battleground is raging back and forth between his divisions along with their African mercenaries against the rebels headquartered in this barren environment second city, Benghazi, the latter’s de facto capital.   Succinctly, there is no way to predict the outcome of this clash.

At the same time, British officers have been on the ground secretly for several weeks now whipping the rag-tag insurgent “military” into a credible resistance as the established government in Tripoli has ordered allied tribal leaders into the fray against a strategic dissident-held urban center.

The European Union (EU) intends to go to the Security Council of the U.N. (United Nations) in New York City to obtain the “legal” permission to plant the soldiers on the Maghreb soil there to, supposedly, institute safe-sanctuaries there.  (There was a great failure by the Dutch Army in the 1990s Bosnian War wherein Muslims were massacred by the failure of Amsterdam to enforce their assigned asylum.)  In Libya, what had started as a “no-fly” zone to protect unprotected non-combatants is, unfortunately, becoming a campaign for regime change in that North African nation.  Fortunately, Washington has pledged not to place land troops on another Islamic territory.  Hopefully, they will keep to their promise!

Concurrently, Ba’athist Syria is teetering toward a civil war; while Yemen “ancient” fissure between the North and South is beginning to crack again.  It was announced on the 23rd that Sana’a head of State was willing to step down, but this had become questionable by the 25th.  The Crown Prince of Bahrain has informed the British Royal family (the 24th) that he would not be able to attend Prince William’s wedding in London because of the unrest on his island.  Most of the other States in the Islamic West (of Dar al Islam) are in the midst of upheaval, too.  Some more dramatically and critically than others.  The end results in this overall region will depend upon how the present elites of their individual nation-states will react to their internal populist challenges.

Back to Michael Yalchi:  Iraq, which he only mentions only in passing, is, also, going through disturbance.  Strangely, if the late Bush Administration had refrained from its aggression, Sadam Hussein’s government’s days were limited anyway without so many Western allied lives lost!  Michael Yalchi did mention the success of General Petraeus’ surge in Mesopotamia, but he spent most of his time on its application on the Afghanistani battlefield.

One cannot talk about the Middle East unless one considers Afghanistan.  The U.S. strategic position is that it is on the eastern limits of American calculated policy regarding the Middle East — along with Pakistan (whose civil society is presently up in “arms” over the U.S.A’s drone [unmanned aircraft] attacks mainly in the tribal areas within their nation that may have caused as many as nine hundred non-combatant Pakistani deaths last year).    On the other hand, if you were in the Kremlin’s foreign office, the Hindu Kush Mountains is definitely part of Central Asia.  To the British and (now) New Delhi and Islamabad, it is unequivocally part of South Asia since it is solidly and historically inter-connected  to the nations across the Khyber.

In one sense, although it has an ancient history as a separate country, modern Afghanistan was a creation of the British and Russian Empires during the Nineteenth Century as a buffer zone between the two.  During the last decade of that century, the border was forced upon the tribes in the desert-like mountains (i.e., the Durand Line) to slow down what was known as the “Great Game.”  The British Indian Army had fought three disastrous wars over that world on the other side of their Line in the Nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, and the War from which Moscow had retreated in 1989 was in effect their Third Afghan War.  All (total) six Afghan Wars fought by the two dissimilar Empires ended disastrously for the European powers.  The current War is an American/NATO adventure with the puppet-placed Kabul government as ally.  The enemy, of course, is the Taliban “army” (whose mass Kandahar prison break-out this past week-end [23rd  through  24th]shows a degree of popular support and effective tactical ability).

Some political scientists have described the current dispute not as a War an Afghani War, but as a revolt of a regional sub-nationality, the Pashtuns, for self governance and unification since they are divided by the arbitrary and ill-delineated Durand Line which currently serves as the border between Islamabad and Kabul.  The War on The Afghani side of the boundary is in the South of their countryside while in Pakistan it is being waged mostly within Peshawar’s Provinces by Rawalpindi‘s army.

Since we are discussing the War about Kandahar, the demographics of Afghanistan show forty percent Pashtun (the highest single element within the total population).  Near 11 and one-half percent are of the Durrani tribal group, and almost 14 percent are Ghilzai.  The Tajiks within the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are the second largest ethnic group with a little over 25 percent of the population.  The Hazaras stand at 18 percent while the Uzbeks that are ruled from Kabul are at slightly over 6 percent.  The Turkmen there are at 2.5 percent.  The lowest identifiable ethnic group, is the Qizilbash at 1%.  Other minuscule clusters measure about 7 percent all together.  As can be seen the mountainous nation is a multi-ethnic and, further, multi-lingual, and discord has arisen out of these issues.

Within Pakistan, on the other hand, who are divided by the aforementioned frontier from their Pashtun brothers to the north — they make up about  fifteen and one-half percent of the whole of the latter country’s population.   The Pastuns there — besides the Northwest Provinces — are largely settled in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in Baluchistan on the Iranian periphery, but pockets are scattered all over that nation-state.  Also, the Taliban themselves are mainly Pashtun, and are logically located in Afghanistan’s south and the Northwest Provinces in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush.
Back to Michael Yalchi’s comments:  The American-led coalition is attempting a surge in Afghanistan similar to the successful one in Iraq, but the tribal composition and internal identification within the two states are significantly different.  The Wickileaks of last week (18th-24th) has brought the District of Columbia’s faulty assumptions to light.  In Afghanistan, it is a social misunderstanding by NATO in how the various high tribes and sub-tribes relate amongst themselves that creates a problem for the Europeans and North Americans in their counter-insurgency.

Yalchi asserted that “Afghani (tribal) territorial ‘maps’ inform their society.”  That is, the clans are essentially local, and the division of customs, etc. between groups are determined by the harsh landscape, for they are isolated one from another, and, curiously, the same geographical constraints that make travel problematic throughout the region for Brussels (i.e., NATO‘s) armed forces has created shortcomings in the Western alliance’s rush throughout that craggy topography.

Your correspondent, who happens to be an anti-imperialist personally, desires to end this piece by stating, unlike the British in their Imperial times who would be stationed in the Mountains for thirty years, and often would take a Pashtun woman to wife, etc., and was trained to speak the local language fluently.  (In other words, although alien, he was intimate with the culture.)  The American soldiers are posted in Southern Afghanistan for about a year at a time.  Mostly, they depend upon “fixers,” a journalistic term denoting a person native to the country who leads non-indigenous individuals through the landscape, translates and arranges things with the local inhabitants.

This lack of cultural comprehension is the real reason the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s campaign in Helmet and other Provinces in the South of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is going inadequately for the Western offensive in suppressing the Taliban’s insurgency.

Whereas Michael Yalchi regulates his analysis to the NATO alliance’s lack of accomplishment to a deficiency in grasping the lack of cohesion between the clannish customs who are opposing the Western soldiers in the combat zone in the high country, your commentator would go further to say it is a total cultural insensitivity and disrespect for their Pashtun opponent.

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An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Before Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan Speech of December 2009

Dear President Obama, 

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so. It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You’re fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption). So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea — "Let’s invade Afghanistan! " Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin. 

There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’ s nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don’t believe it, give the British a call. I’d have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev’s number though. It’s + 41 22 789 1662. I’m sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you’re about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line — and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds. Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones. 

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it. Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!" 

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning. We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can’t take it anymore. We can’t take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don’t you understand? 

Don’t be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn’t be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can’t change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge. The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can’t be won over by abandoning the rest of us. 

President Obama, it’s time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don’t need health care, we don’t need jobs, we don’t need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, ’cause we don’t need them, either." What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that’s what they’d do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines. 

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish — the full terror of which we scarcely know. When we elected you we didn’t expect miracles. We didn’t even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn’t even function as a nation and never, ever has. 

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God’s sake, stop. Tonight we still have hope. 

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON’T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother’s son.

We’re counting on you.

Yours,

Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol. com

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