Pursuing a mirage 0

Afghanistan has never been a nation-state as the West understands such a thing.

This report shows plainly enough that any plan to meld the Afghan tribes into one democratically governed nation is doomed to failure; but it also shows how hard it is for those who imagined it could succeed to see its naivity.

Even an Afghan member of the so-called parliament, trying to fit into the Western illusion, speaks of Afghanistan being “split” as if it were a nation that might be divided into two sides, whereas in fact the region is inhabited by a plurality of feuding fiefdoms, and “splintered” would be a better word to describe the humanscape (to coin a term). An even better word might be “crazed”, in the sense of a network of cracks.

It describes how President Karzai’s attempt to bring the Taliban into a central government is the very thing that will shatter such West-compliant unity as has been tentatively achieved. And it calls this a “paradox” rather than what it is – the proof of the impossibility of a hopeless, foolish, Western fantasy, the pursuit of a mirage.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it tells us, still think they can prevent Afghanistan being “torn apart” – as if it had even been whole, or as if they really can make their fantasy come true.

The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease in Afghanistan’s minority communities, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule.

The leaders of the country’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, which make up close to half of Afghanistan’s population, are vowing to resist — and if necessary, fight — any deal that involves bringing members of the Taliban insurgency into a power-sharing arrangement with the government.

Alienated by discussions between President Karzai and the Pakistani military and intelligence officials, minority leaders are taking their first steps toward organizing against what they fear is Mr. Karzai’s long-held desire to restore the dominance of ethnic Pashtuns, who ruled the country for generations. …

“Karzai is giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban, and he is opening up the old schisms,” said Rehman Oghly, an Uzbek member of Parliament and once a member of an anti-Taliban militia. “If he wants to bring in the Taliban, and they begin to use force, then we will go back to civil war and Afghanistan will be split.”

The deepening estrangement of Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun communities presents a paradox for the Americans and their NATO partners. American commanders have concluded that only a political settlement can end the war. But in helping Mr. Karzai to make a deal, they risk reigniting Afghanistan’s ethnic strife.

Talks between Mr. Karzai and the Pakistani leaders have been unfolding here and in Islamabad for several weeks, with some discussions involving bestowing legitimacy on Taliban insurgents.

The leaders of these minority communities say that President Karzai appears determined to hand Taliban leaders a share of power — and Pakistan a large degree of influence inside the country. The Americans, desperate to end their involvement here, are helping Mr. Karzai along and shunning the Afghan opposition, they say. …

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was worried about “the Tajik-Pashtun divide that has been so strong.” American and NATO leaders, he said, are trying to stifle any return to ethnic violence.

“It has the potential to really tear this country apart,” Admiral Mullen said in an interview. “That’s not what we are going to permit.” …

There are growing indications of ethnic fissures inside the army. …

Prominent Afghans have begun to organize along mostly ethnic lines. ….

Recently [President Karzai] he has told senior Afghan officials that he no longer believes that the Americans and NATO can prevail in Afghanistan and that they will probably leave soon. That fact may make Mr. Karzai more inclined to make a deal with both Pakistan and the Taliban.

As for the Pakistanis, their motives are even more opaque. For years, Pakistani leaders have denied supporting the Taliban, but evidence suggests that they continue to do so. In recent talks, the Pakistanis have offered Mr. Karzai a sort of strategic partnership — and one that involves giving at least one [of the] the most brutal Taliban groups, the Haqqani network, a measure of legitimacy in Afghanistan.

“Karzai has begun the ethnic war,” said Mohammed Mohaqeq, a Hazara leader and a former ally of the president. “The future is very dark.”