With the recent claim made by General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Afghanistan that “special forces are taking out up to six Taliban targets a day”, the future of the Afghan war might seem to bring favourable results for the 47 nation-strong war coalition whose military personnel are wrestling to defeat the insurgents in an attempt to help the neocons install a fundamentalist (Friedmanic) market economy with its full ferocity.
In an exclusive interview given to the defence editor of The Times, a London-based daily, Deborah Haynes, who happens to be one of the few privileged corporate journalists who have access to the fortified headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, General Petraeus sounded more optimistic than one would normally expect of an army chief embattled for nine years whose enemy remains elusive, fecund and seemingly at one with the terrain.
This has left the general with only one option, namely, ‘targeted killing’ of the insurgents with the help of a wider net of local informers. The general, strangely but fancifully, refers to this as the ‘jackpot’ scored daily by his special forces. To draw a parallel between killing a human being and winning a jackpot at a fruit machine is typical of a colonial mentality where native population is considered belonging to a lesser sub-species than the invader.
As the desire of the western democracies to bring the fifth Afghan war to its conclusion intensifies, they tend to make military errors that might cost them close allies in the so-called ‘war on terror’. One such blunder came during the first week of October when, while chasing high-value targets, NATO entered the Pakistani territory and killed several Pakistan Army soldiers in what has been called an incident of ‘friendly fire’.
In Britain, the British National Party (BNP), the far right party, whose chairman Nicholas Griffin holds a European parliamentary seat, has launched a nationwide campaign demanding the immediate withdrawal of the British troops from a war he calls “unwinnable”. Stalls have mushroomed all over the country, even in remote towns such as Eastbourne on the south coast of England, where people queue to sign a petition to demand bringing of their ‘boys’ home.
The rise of the Right in Europe, especially the recent loss of the social democrats to the right-wing for a second time in Sweden, is being termed as a worrying sign for a West that is feeling the pain of the failure of the attempts to install neo-con capitalism through prosecuting wars from the banks of Tigris to the valleys of Bamiyan. Europe is faced with serious threats of renewed trade union and civil society resistance due to imminent heavy public spending cuts and so elites will have to pay more attention towards domestic unrest; accordingly, the war in Afghanistan will have to be brought to a ‘logical’ conclusion. The sooner the better. Hence the announcement at NATO’s Lisbon gathering by British Prime Minister David Cameron to end Britain’s combat role in Afghanistan by 2014 come what may!
Pakistan, whose own elites blithely have bartered its sovereignty for a slavish allegiance to NATO, is now faced with a dilemma of its own. If it pulls out as a war partner, the role it embraced as a front-line state, then the Indian lobby in that country will earn even greater influence since they are already involved in development projects on a large scale. On the other hand, if Pakistan, under the pretext of gaining strategic depth against India, decides to continues to play the role of front-line state against threats to the neo-con agenda in the region and in return for its allegiance desires to continue probing into Afghanistan for a pro-Pakistani Afghan government, then its dependence on the jihadist pawns in the war will increase. A lose-lose situation, then.
However, perhaps a more practical approach to this paradox would be to help Afghanistan build an army of able civil servants who could provide the much-needed civil administration personnel to run that country. It is in the interest of Pakistan that political unity in Kabul, comprising all ethnic and religious sections of Afghan society, is achieved at the earliest.
It would be a great, and probably the most valuable, achievement of the Zardari government to bring all concerned parties to the negotiating table to chalk out a peace plan, not only for Afghanistan but for the whole region. Of course, any such plan will have to be unconditionally inclusive. This, for Pakistan, means including ‘moderate’ sections of the warring Taliban, while for India it would mean to include the Kashmiri, for Iran, the Baloch and for Russia and China, the Central Asian nations and Muslim representatives from Xin Jiang. Only by big-thinking collective effort can the wild fires of discontent spreading across the region be extinguished. It is generally harder to wage the peace than to wage the war, but in the end, the rewards — for the people — are a thousand times greater.