'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Troop Surge Can Only Magnify the Crime Against Afghanistan 

Malalai Joya, in the Guardian:

After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country.

I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week's announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.

Already this year we have seen the impact of an increase in troops occupying Afghanistan: more violence, and more civilian deaths. My people, the poor of Afghanistan who have known only war and the domination of fundamentalism, are today squashed between two enemies: the US/Nato occupation forces on one hand and warlords and the Taliban on the other.

While we want the withdrawal of one enemy, we don't believe it is a matter of choosing between two evils. There is an alternative: the democratic-minded parties and intellectuals are our hope for the future of Afghanistan.

It will not be easy, but if we have a little bit of peace we will be better able to fight our own internal enemies – Afghans know what to do with our destiny. We are not a backward people, and we are capable of fighting for democracy, human and women's rights in Afghanistan. In fact the only way these values will be achieved is if we struggle for them and win them ourselves.

Joya insists that governments in the US and Europe address the people of Afghanistan as people with an independent historical agency, as something other than a primitive people requiring an enlightenment project imposed through violence. To do so would require rejecting the surge, and seeking alternative solutions, such as the ones proposed by Tariq Ali the other day:

Mara: Is there anything positive the US can do about Afghanistan and Pakistan, except the fact that they need to pull out? Can they do anything else?

Tariq: Well, they need to pull out, and they need to pull out sensibly, not like they did the last time, after defeating the Russians. And, as I've argued consistently now, for the last so many years, there needs to be an exit strategy that needs to involve the local regional powers. I think it would be wrong if the United States essentially handed Afghanistan over to the Pakistani military, like they did the last time, when they said "It's your problem. Deal with it." I think the Iranians, the Russians and the Chinese have to be involved. And if the Americans don't involve them, Pakistan should, because it certainly is not capable of handling the situation on its own, economically or politically or militarily. So it needs to do that. And were that to happen, it would be something positive. As to what the United States can do, I mean its record in Pakistan has, so far, been abysmal. So, I think a period of withdrawal from Pakistani politics, once a strategic withdrawal has taken place, if it takes place, would be positive.

Judy: May I follow up on that question? Do you think the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has invited Pakistan and Afghanistan in as Observers, could be engaged to involve local powers in the Afghan recovery? Iran is involved and China and Russia are central players.

Tariq: It is a possibility, because the Chinese involvement is very crucial for economic reasons. We need to construct a social infrastructure in Afghanistan, and only the Chinese could fund it. But in return for that, the Chinese would demand total peace and an end to war. And that you can't have unless the Pakistani and the Iranians and Russians guarantee it. So I think the Shanghai group could play an important role if the United States lets them.

Unfortunately, such a rational inquisitiveness about the prospects for a peaceful resolution based upon the cooperation of the dominant nation states of the region is far beyond the capabilities of US policymakers. Despite symbolic gestures to the contrary, unilateralism remains the order of the day. Maybe, Obama can expound upon the necessity for this approach in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

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