Whac-A-Mole war 1

Knock ’em down here, they pop up there! There is no way the ‘coalition forces’ – ie the US and Britain – can win the war in Afghanistan, or make the Afghans peaceful and democratic, or bring relief to their appallingly maltreated women and girls.

The war long since ceased to be for the cause of revenge and punishment. Those aims were accomplished early on. It has become a war of philanthropy. But it is not the business of nations to make other nations happy and good.

Having to accept that others ‘do it all wrong’ and there’s nothing you can do to put them right may be hard, but it’s an essential lesson that the well-meaning have to learn.

Christopher Booker writes in the Telegraph:

As both Britain and America are plunged into an orgy of tortured introspection over what we are doing in Afghanistan, a further very important factor needs to be fed into the discussion, because it helps to explain not only why we have got into such a tragic mess but also why our armed intervention in that unhappy country is doomed.

What we are hardly ever told about Afghanistan is that it has been for 300 years the scene of a bitter civil war, between two tribal groups of Pashtuns (formerly known as Pathans). On one side are the Durranis – most of the settled population, farmers, traders, the professional middle class. On the other are the Ghilzai, traditionally nomadic, fiercely fundamentalist in religion, whose tribal homelands stretch across into Pakistan as far as Kashmir.

Ever since Afghanistan emerged as an independent nation in 1709, when the Ghilzai kicked out the Persians, its history has been written in the ancient hatred between these two groups. During most of that time, the country has been ruled by Durrani, who in 1775 moved its capital from the Ghilzai stronghold of Kandahar up to Kabul in the north. Nothing has more fired Ghilzai enmity than the many occasions when the Durrani have attempted to impose their rule from Kabul with the aid of “foreigners”, either Tajiks from the north or outsiders such as the British, who invaded Afghanistan three times between 1838 and 1919 in a bid to secure the North-west Frontier of their Indian empire against the rebellious Ghilzai.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, after years of Durrani rule, it was to support a revolutionary Ghilzai government. But this new foreign presence inspired general Afghan resistance which was why, by the late 1980s, the Americans were supporting the almost entirely Ghilzai-run Taleban and their ally Osama bin Laden. In 1996 the Taleban-Ghilzai got their revenge, imposing their theocratic rule over almost the whole country. In 2001, we invaded to topple the Taleban, again imposing Durrani rule, now under the Durrani President Karzai.

As so often before, the Ghilzai have seen their country hijacked by a Durrani regime, supported by a largely Tajik army and by hated outsiders from the West. One reason why we find it so hard to win “hearts and minds” in Helmand is that we are up against a sullenly resentful population, fired by a timeless hatred and able to call on unlimited support, in men and materiel, from their Ghilzai brothers across the border in Pakistan.

Only in towns such as Sanguin and Garmsir are there islands of Durrani, willing to support the Durrani government in distant Kabul. No sooner have our forces “secured” a village from the Taleban, than their fighters re-emerge from the surrounding countryside to reclaim it for the Ghilzai cause. Without recognising this, and that what the Ghilzai really want is an independent “Pashtunistan” stretching across the border, we shall never properly understand why, like so many foreigners who have become embroiled in Afghanistan before, we have stumbled into a war we can never hope to win.

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Islam, United Kingdom, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Sunday, November 15, 2009

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  • C. Gee

    So we must hope that Obama's dithering results in a decision to withdraw. Interesting political realignment. Code Pink (representing far left) has just got round to approving military philanthropy. I am amazed the left hasn't cottoned on to the redistributive and bureaucracy expanding potential of such a concept. Meanwhile conservatives – strong defense conservatives, not isolationists – can concentrate on weapons innovation and special forces operations – quick, clean and mean – where needed abroad. And, of course, beefed up naval and espionage capabilities.