Friday, July 9, 2010

Confusion at the End of Afghanistan Tunnel!

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                                                                                                             9 July , 2010.


Confusion at the End of Afghanistan Tunnel!


"History is ruled by an inexorable determinism in which the free choice of major historical figures plays a minimal role", Leo Tolstoy 


 "The Americans have the watches, but we have the time."  An Afghan Tribesman


"Recent events surrounding Afghanistan shouldn't confuse anyone, --The US-NATO coalition has lost a war its political leaders never meant, or knew how, to win." Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit


To prepare Americans , specially those who refuse to reconcile to the decline of US hegemony ,Prof Paul Kennedy , who wrote a path breaking book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers in 1987, in his recent National Interest .com essay ,tries to prepare the believers of perpetual USA's manifest destiny to the down sizing of Washington's power and influence.


After giving a lucid background of European history of the last few centuries , Prof Kennedy chides the US imperialists , neo-cons and Zeo-cons, specially on the right for the misuse of the word 'appeasement'  , given its notorious connotation; surrender .It was a necessary tactical move at that time by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in Munich , says Prof Kennedy and  not a surrender .


In the book, Prof Kennedy highlighted the interaction between economics , power and strategy over the past five centuries , perhaps a first in historical writing .It forecast of the US overstretch and possible decline, has come true , although such blasphemous thought was then much derided  , specially since , instead ,the Soviet Union was unraveling and Japan had failed to acquire any real power .


The book translated into 23 languages was very well received by fellow historians, like A. J. P. Taylor , Sir Michael Howard and  others .The author then ( 1987-89) establishing the Diplomatic Training Institute for India's External Affairs Ministry had recommended it as compulsory reading for new entrants to the diplomatic service and others .


For the first time the book estimated that the share of Hindustan ( the Sub-continent) and China was 24.5% and 32.8 % respectively of the world economy ( 1750),when the Western trading and invading companies arrived in Asia , but after they had colonised and looted it was reduced in 1900 to 1.7% and 6.2 % while that of Europe (62%) , specially Britain went up from 1.9 % to 18.5% .Asia provided raw materials and protected markets to benefit Europe's industrialization ,and wealth extorted from the colonies used for the expansion and maintenance of the British Empire over which the sun then did not set. So it should not be surprising that the share of China and Hindustan in world economy is again rising.


Before we look at what Prof Kennedy says about Af-Pk in his essay , let us look at some of the bare facts of history , geography and psyche of south Asia and its immediate neighbor hood.


India-Pakistan Geo-political mold


As for the geopolitical template of Hindustan or South Asia ,the people now dominating Pakistan, ie the Punjabi Musalman in Lahore or Islamabad have though out history been envious of  the rulers of Hindustan with their capital on Jamuna in Delhi or Agra with their vast territories for revenue , even without Deccan .They invited the Moghuls to invade Hindustan when Afghans were ruling in Delhi .Later they invited Pathans and Iranians when Moghuls were ruling in Delhi . The religion of the rulers in Delhi was immaterial .For its strategic defense , Hindustan  should control Kabul if not Kandahar as was done by early Moghuls . Once Kabul and Kandahar were lost , Hindustan became a plaything of invaders.  And the Punjabi people joined in the loot and robbed the invader if he failed .


The same strategic paradigm is operating now .It is the outside powers , first Britain ,then USA and China , which are behind Pakistani aggressive confrontations against India , beginning with 1947 , then 1965 and Kargil among these instances .In the process Pakistan has been afflicted with opium ( in whose contraband cultivation and trade Pak elite specially elements in the military and ISI are involved both for financing their activities and for personal wealth) and Kalashnikov culture and remains envious of the economic progress India has made .


India's weakness;


Great speculators in metaphysics and matters of soul, with inward looking world view like frogs in a well ,through out history Indians have rarely shown much strategic acumen and the ruthlessness to implement strategic decisions . Some thing goes wrong in the sycophantic climate of Delhi and Hindustan, whether the leaders are Hindus or Muslims. The few rulers with strategic thought and skills were , Mauryas who with their capital at Pataliputra stationed the crown prince  at Ujjain to counter the ingress from the Hindukush and meet the invader on the route chosen ;  Sindh- Gujarat or Punjab and the Himalayan foot hills. So were the early Moghuls, Akbar having built his luxurious capital at Fatehpur Sikri spent a decade near Lahore guarding against Mongols and others assembling across the Hindukush .In modern times we had Indira Gandhi, who instead of mopping around the world ( as current leadership is doing after 26/11 rape of India's financial and cultural capital ) against refugee influx from East Pakistan, took advantage of the situation and broke up Pakistan into two .There were a few others like Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Tippu Sultan but their canvas was much smaller.


As a wag remarked that except for the legendry King Porus who put up a valiant fight against Alexander the Great  ,the area between Peshawar and Panipat has always remained 'porous' for invaders from North West. Survival against all odds is the quality of the people of the region . They are dynamic, hard working and good managing directors but not perspicacious enough to be the chairmen of the board. They have rarely established large kingdoms , as Rajiv Gandhi pointed during the Pakistan supported insurgency in Indian Punjab, that the only major state in that region was founded by Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Lahore.


Throughout colonial rule and after the partition of India ,the British following the divide and rule imperialist policy, used Hindus against Muslims and vice versa .Their lasting false legacy is the brainwashing of Pakistanis that they are braver than Indians and Hindus .Of course this myth has been ornamented by some Pakistani claims of having originated from central Asia , Afghanistan ,Iran and Arab lands . For siding with the British , when the people of Hindustan rose against the British East India Company in 1957 , they were classified ,for their treachery as  a martial race and be fodder canon for the empire . Journalist and historian S. Khuswant Singh recalled how Punjab was conquered by the British with Indian troops from Bengal , Bihar and Orissa . Most of the Pakistanis and Muslims in India are converts from original Hindustanis and Deccannis .


Let us take another example .In present day Turkish Republic , those who came from central Asia ie Turkmen and other Turkic tribes  and established Seljuk and Ottoman empires number between 12 to 15 % .Ironically most of them are Alevis and follow a Shia form of Islam, based on in their central Asian catholic outlook with respect and inputs from all belief systems in their religion , beginning with the Turkic sky god Tangri and their Shamans , Buddhism , Christianity and finally evolving a humanistic Sufi version of Islam .Alevis are treated no better than Ahmedias , Qadianis and even Mohajirs ( migrants from present day India ) in Pakistan .They face pogroms by Sunni Turks from time to time. Turkish citizens are mostly descendants of original inhabitants of Asia Minor , who spoke  Greek when conquered and migrants from Ottoman ruled provinces in East Europe .The country was Islamised and Turkified after the defeat  of the Byzantine arms by Seljuk Turks near Lake Van in 11 century and the conquest in 1453 of Constantinople, now called Istanbul.


But not many are aware of the influence and contribution of Buddhism in Sufi Islam , although the contribution of Sufi saints from Khorasan and central Asia has been acknowledged .Islam was spread in the subcontinent mostly by Sufi saints.


The population of Turkic people of central Asia is a small fraction of the population of South Asia , Turkey etc , so the myth of belonging to the invaders is palpably false .In any case Mongols and their hordes , Turkic and other tribes who devastated and ruled over the rest of Asia and east Europe , since a century and more  were ruled firmly by the Russians , who cut them loose after USSR collapsed . The era of rule by brute physical strength is long gone , other wise the Blacks in US and Africans among others , who dominate in sports ,would be ruling the world .


ME Oil and Partition of Hindustan

Now let us look at the raison d'etre of creating Pakistan .The importance of petroleum in warfare and economy had become obvious even before the World War II.  By 1940s , the British who dominated the Middle East and still ruled over India, realising the importance of oil and the strategic importance of Middle East as lifeline to India, had created military alliances with most of the countries of the Middle East including Iran to its protect oil wells from the Soviet Union. 


So the British created a weak and dependent Pakistan that functioned as a bulwark against any USSR overture into the Gulf and South Asia. From the very beginning the British mid-wifed state was doomed .In 1972 , when the author was posted in Ankara , the Turks were not surprised at the break-up of Pakistan.

A former Indian diplomat Narendra Singh Sarila, in a well researched book 'The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition', based on British documents, uncovers the truth that, after the 2nd world War, realizing that London had to relinquish India, the British leadership across the political spectrum, Conservatives and Labour, intrigued, told lies and finally partitioned the Indian subcontinent creating the state of Pakistan. Because with Mahatma Gandhi with his opposition to violence and war and Jawaharlal Nehru 's non-strategic idealism and the vision of creating friendship and understanding among colonized and exploited people of the world, New Delhi would not join Western military pacts to protect the oil fields in the Middle East from the Soviet Union .

Britain's ultimate objective was to retain at least some part in the North-West of India, for defensive and offensive action against the USSR in any future dispensation in the sub-continent. And Britain knew that this could be best achieved by having a willing and subservient Pakistan as its client. So the only way -- was to use Jinnah to detach areas of India, which borders Iran, Afghanistan and Xinjiang and create a new state there. Sarila documents in detail how after the end of World War II in 1945, the new Labor government of Clement Attlee and Wavell decided to divide India and used Jinnah and political Islam to protect their strategic interests.

A top-secret telegram of Lord Wavell, then Viceroy, to the Secretary of State in London dated February 6, 1946, suggested the lines on which British India could be divided. On June 3, 1947, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, while addressing the Labor Party's annual conference, spilled the beans that the division of India "would help consolidate Britain in the Middle East".

Sarila also traces the roots of the present Kashmir problem and how the matter was handled in the UN to favor ally Pakistan. That India should have no direct land access to central Asia, even via Afghanistan , motivated Western perfidious policy on the Kashmir Question has also been brought out in the book "War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48' by another Indian diplomat C Das Gupta .

US-Pakistan Military Axis

Unlike India, Pakistan began with weak grassroots political organizations, with the British-era civil servants strengthening bureaucracy's hold over the polity and decision-making and soon called for the military's help. Soon General Ayub Khan, encouraged by the US military, forged closer cooperation with the Pentagon. And in 1958 the military took over, with Ayub Khan, a mere Colonel at the time of the partition promoting himself to Field Marshall soon. He eased out officers who did not fit into the Anglo-Saxon scheme of using Pakistan's strategic position against the evolving Cold War confrontation against the communist block.

General Zia ul-Haq was a cunning schemer, veritably a mullah in uniform. While seducing the ignorant North Indian media  ( whom another General President Parvez Musharraf had for breakfast in Agra in 2001 )with lavish praise and kebabs, he planned Operation Topaz, which in 1989 fueled insurgency in Kashmir. His Islamisation of the country made the situation for women and minorities untenable. The judicial killing of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977 turned General Zia into a pariah, but the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made him a US darling, restoring and vitally strengthening the Pakistan military's links with the Pentagon.

This led to the hold of Pakistani military and ISI becoming pervasive, omnipotent, omniscient and ominous for Pakistan. This defense alliance, the seeds of which were planted by Ayub Khan, and the symbiotic relationship between the ISI and the CIA bolstered under General Zia, has never been really dismantled and is unlikely to be fully ruptured. In any case Washington prefers to deal with military and other dictators ; easier to handle.

Like the 1979 entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan, brought about by US provocations and support to Jihadist elements in Afghanistan , as arrogantly admitted by Carter's National security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski  to French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur  , September 11 revived the ostensible necessity to bring Pakistan to toe US objectives once again (Washington even threatened to bomb Pakistan to stone age if it did not fall in line ). Washington needed Pakistan to protect itself from a so called backlash of its earlier Afghan policies of creating the Mujaheddin , Al Qaeda and the Taliban. USA desperately wanted to stop Pakistan's nuclear material or bombs falling into Jihadi hands. Reports suggest that in such a case , US special forces would intervene , while another report suggests that the key nuke elements are hidden near the border with China , to be easily taken away .In any case it is a dangerous scenario , specially for  Pakistan's neighbours , which regularly blackmails India ,much to Western glee but no condemnation .How the West gangs up against Tehran enriching Uranium for power generation!

Establishment of Terrorist Nurseries in Afghanistan and Pakistan

From 1979 to the exit of Soviet troops in 1989, USA , UK other western countries, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Muslim states and even China (which sold AKM assault rifles and Type 69 RPGs and US even supplying Stinger anti-aircraft missiles systems !) exploited Jihadis as a weapon against the Russian forces in Afghanistan. Washington and Riyadh contributed most of the funds, reportedly totaling up to tens of billion dollars for the war in Afghanistan (US with $600 million in aid per year, with a matching amount coming from the Gulf states.) The CIA and its allies, Pakistan ISI, British MI6 and others recruited, supplied, and trained almost 40,000 hard core radical Mujahedeen from forty Muslim countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan itself. Zia's military government established some 2,500 religious school nurseries, which were funded by Saudi Arabia and backed by the U.S. Some 225,000 children who went to these schools were trained to fight as guerrillas in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Not a penny was spent in defense of the Afghan people or economic development .

Among those who answered the call for Jihad was Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. Although in his violent campaign against US interests, bin Laden had attacked US embassies in East Africa, with his camps being attacked by US missiles in retaliation, it was not until the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001, when the realization came painfully to USA of the possibilities of nuclear terror, with linkages between Al Qaeda, Taliban and others in nuclear armed Pakistan's powerful ISI. ( Of course , most people , many in US believe that 9/11 was a false flag operation to provide a pretext for USA's illegal invasions)

After forcing the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989, which led to USSR's unraveling and breakup ,West largely forgot about the monster it had created. But it was obvious that the festering nurseries of terrorists left south of Russian underbelly and just across in the restive Muslim Xinxiang province of China and India's Jammu and Kashmir would sooner or later adversely affect these countries. The Mujaheddin mercenaries now took on a life of their own. Hundreds of them returned home to Algeria, Chechnya, Kosovo, and Kashmir to carry on terrorist attacks in Allah's name against the purveyors of secular "corruption." In fact Lashkar-e-Toiba , India's implacable enemy ,was born while the West and Muslim countries were waging their war against USSR in Afghanistan. For US it is only a collateral damage against India. What a pity!

The 1980s jihad also spawned a home-grown malignancy in Pakistan - one that now poses a powerful threat to unravel Pakistan itself. Free from the Jihad against Soviet troops after the Russians withdrawal, in 1990s Pakistan's ISI gave the Jihadis a fresh assignment, to create terror in Jammu and Kashmir. Led by Afghan veterans, fighters were secretly trained, armed and funded by the ISI to fight Indian soldiers in Kashmir. Thousands were airlifted by USA to the Balkans to fight the Serbs giving them international exposure .The best were later sent to help the Taliban in Afghanistan against NATO and US troops supporting the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul, foisted on Afghanistan by Washington in 2002.

Role of Islamic warriors in History

The tensions between the ruler, the clerics and religious warriors i.e. Mirs and Pirs have still not been resolved in the Islamic world .It is in reverse gear even in modern Turkey, the only secular Muslim nation, with the ascendancy of the ruling religious AK Party with billions of Saudi investment in Turkey and direct gifts to the party .Support of Saudi finances to Madarsas and mosques remains the major obstacle in the modernization of education and development in Islamic societies. It will not happen until the Saud dynasty protected by Washington is overturned.


Rise and Fall of Janissaries in Ottoman Empire-Comparison with Taliban Power

 As Iran became a barrier to recruitment of non-Muslim Turks from central Asia, a practice which the Arabs had followed, the Ottoman Sultans, who succeeded the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia as Turkey was then known, finally conquered the Byzantine empire and made Constantinople, its capital, their own Istanbul .They then started recruiting Christian young boys mostly from Balkans but even from Anatolia for its famed shock troops  ,the Janissaries and top civil service cadre in a system known as 'Devshirme'.


Beginning with the forced recruitment the system progressively developed into a privileged and influential warrior force that converted young Christian boys to Islam and instructed them in the Turkish martial arts. Unlike feudal levies Janissaries owed loyalty to the Sultan only. Regimented training and strong moral codes transformed them into more than an impressive military force, a political entity of such unchecked power (shades of ISI and its protégé Taliban?) that they unwittingly contributed to the very downfall of the empire itself.  The Janissaries were an important factor in the military expansion of the Ottoman Empire from the 1453 capture of Constantinople to the battles against the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. ( Punjabi dominated Pakistan hopes to extend its sway over Afghanistan! And even beyond .Many Pakistan rulers like Gen Zia dreamt of creating Caliphates!)


While the Ottoman power grew a succession of uprisings by Janissaries resulted in more power flowing into their hands. The first Janissary revolt of 1449 served as a model for many later revolts, each bringing more power and pelf. The Janissaries reached such an enviable state of influence by the late 1600s that the Ottoman bureaucracy was effectively held hostage to their whims and demands. A mutiny led to change in the policy of the politicians. Eventually, the Janissaries started to engage in successful coups to topple even Sultans , not receptive to their specific demands. They put their own self-interests first and placed obstacles in the path of modernizing the army. ( The Pakistani Militants /Jihadis tied to Al Qaeda tried to assassinate President Gen Musharraf and have attacked many important religious shrines including of Sufi Saint in Lahore and even police and military strongholds)


In 1807, the Janissaries revolted against Sultan Selim III, and replaced him with Mahmud II , who finally decided to decimate the Janissaries to preserve the empire. In the summer of 1826, when the Janissaries staged another uprising, the rest of the army and the people were ranged against them. The Janissary force finally faced either death or retreat and exile. The survivors were banished and their wealth taken over by the state.


Like the Konya Sultante the Pakistanis under its religious President Zia-ul- haq sent Jihadist and militants' aka modern day Ghazis into Afghanistan in 1980s, who forced the Soviets exit from Afghanistan. Eventually the Communist edifice under mined by Slav nationalism and Orthodox Christianity collapsed by the beginning of 1990s.


Would Pakistan succeed in destroying the Taliban!


A conglomerate of various militias, free booters, religious fanatics, nationalists and tribal chieftains classified as Al Qaeda ,Taliban ,Pakistani Taliban etc are somewhat like the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire , their most effective fighting force which then terrorized European Christians .But soon instead of terrorizing the enemies of the Ottomans ,they threatened the Sultans .Finally the Janissaries had to be destroyed .Would Pakistan be able to do the same i.e. destroy the Pakistani Taliban. It is big question. Perhaps Gen Musharraf could have done it after 11/9 .Now a heavy unbearable price would have to be paid ,other wise !


The Ultimate Axis -US(Israel-UK) –Saud dynasty/Wahabi –Pakistan military/ISI


After WWII, Washington which delayed its entry so that British would bleed and get weaker , got itself  formally anointed the leader of the Western Christian nations .Even after the end of the WWI  the financial power centre had started shifting towards the Wall Street from the City of London, but the latter still has great leverage for manipulation and mischief.


From 1950s onwards , USSR made inroads into many Arab states led by secular, and nationalist leaders like Abdul Gamal Nasser of Egypt. West used religion and conservative and hereditary rulers to counter the egalitarian waves of socialism sweeping the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The battle lines for influence and control between the West and USSR ( and China) saw many ups and downs .

A major change occurred when Iran was lost in 1979 and  the Shahinshah ,US gendarme in the region , was overthrown by Khomeini led Shia revolution , threatening US allies Saudi Arabia and other Sheikhdoms and Kingdoms in the region. Western world and its frightened allies in the region, taken aback , encouraged and helped financially and militarily Saddam Hussein to douse the leaping flames from the volcano of  Shia revolution with its faith in martyrdom. Iran and Iraq lost over a million young men .The 1980s Iraq –Iran war only protected the vested interests of the West and its allies in the region. Iraq continues to bleed and suffer.


From the Middle East , Western strategic lever to manipulate and control the region and its resources extended into South Asia through an axis between Washington, Saud dynasty- obscurantist Wahabi clerics and Pakistan military-ISI. Israel remains Washington's current gendarme in the Middle East since the ouster of the Shah, making Tel Aviv more demanding and irresponsible in its behaviour since 1979 .Its importance will remain with US losing out to Russia in Ukraine , an uncertain tenure in Kyrgyzstan and its ally Georgia bashed two years ago by Moscow and even Israel's invincible Tanks and famed commandos by the Hezbollah in south Lebanon in the 2006 war .  


The nurseries of terrorism left behind morphed into Al Qaeda and Taleban , the latter was created by Pakistan with support from  the Gulf's Arab rulers and US acquiescence , since Washington wanted a 'stable' Afghanistan for its multinational UNOCAL's pipelines to carry energy from central to south Asia and beyond. That dream remains unfulfilled.


For his cooperation ,Pakistan President Gen Zia- ul- Haq was suitably rewarded with money and military aid which emboldened Islamabad to carry out an invasion in Kargil in India .With abundance of arms ,Pakistan acquired a Kalashnikov culture of violence while increased opium production in Afghanistan , and as an exit route has left millions of it citizens addicted to the drug. Gen Zia Islamised Pak polity and completed nuclear bomb program with help from China and acquiescence and even support form the West.


But Al Qaeda chief Osama Ben Laden , chosen for the Jihad in Afghanistan by the Saudi rulers  nurtured dreams of taking over Muslim states gone astray from true Salafi/Wahabi  path and conquer other peoples too fo Islam. The victims are India and newly independent central Asian states like Tajikistan , Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Arab states which had supported and sent volunteers to fight in Afghanistan.


The stunning events of  9/11 showed up the fundamental contradictions in the US-Saudi –Pak axis , with 14 of the 19 hijackers being of Saudi origin ,led by an Egyptian with Taliban and Al Qaeda's octopus like tentacles deeply embedded in Pak military, ISI and the establishment and vice versa.


Although the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis ,the lone hyper power USA  ,in a triumphal mood after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 , instead mounted an invasion of Afghanistan in its so called 'War on Terror ' but the real  objective was to build` bases and control the region and extend Washington's threat and  dominance into central Asia with eyes on its oil and other resources .


But the strains and stresses in the Crusader-Jihadi axis became intolerable after the US led illegal invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, angering and pitting Muslim masses all over the world against USA , UK and other western nations in the backdrop of continued illegal occupation and encroachments on Palestinian land by Israel since 1967 and daily killings of Palestinians telecast on channels like Al Jazeera and others.


It soon became clear that the reasons for invading Iraq were just lies .US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz confessed soon after the invasion that the real motive was Iraq's oil and the control of the region . In fact Wolfowitz had told the Congress before the invasion that it would pay for itself from Iraq's oil revenues .This was recently confirmed by former US Fed Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan .It soon became clear that even before George Bush was sworn in , after getting himself elected by a regretable US Supreme Court decision, plans had been drawn to take over Iraq for its oil resources .


US-Saudi relations are still based on western exploitation of Arab oil in return for the security of the Saud Dynasty , which gives the latter , being the leading Sunni Muslim state , protecting the holy Islamic shrines in Mecca and Medina and blessed with vast oil resources vast power without accountability . With increasing public support for Al Qaeda ideology inside the Kingdom , Riyadh could be in a jeopardy. Its power and prestige have been eroded as a result of its rival Shia power Iran's strengthened position in Iraq and the region , just the opposite of what Washington had bargained for before the 2003 invasion . President George Bush did not even know the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam and Ahmet Chalebi ,a wily Iraqi ,exiled after the 1958 overthrow of the Hashemite dynasty , had sold to the willing in the Pentagon the charade that US troops would be welcomed with flowers by the Iraqis .No body ever cared to read the history of Iraq or the region.


US invasion and occupation has divided Iraq into at least three parts, Shia, Sunni and Kurdish. It now appears difficult if not impossible to hold them together .

Washington now wants Pakistan to destroy Al Qaeda , Pushtun Taliban and Muslim Jihadis in Pakistan and Afghanistan,  with whom Saudi Arabia , Pak Army , ISI and the establishment have umbilical connections since the Jihad against USSR( Israel now wants PLO to destroy Tehran aligned Hamas-originally created by Mossad to counter Al Fattah.)

US has lost the war on the ground in Iraq and Nato is in disarray in Afghanistan .At the end of  'Operation Iraqi freedom ', really the mother of all battles for oil, raw materials and strategic space in west , south and central Asia , the frontiers in the Middle East and Pakistan are likely to be redrawn , but not by the West but by the movements , militias and peoples of the region .Say by Shias in south Iraq and Pushtuns in Pak-Afghanistan border who might obliterate the Durand Line officially , to begin with. But West has invested too much in the region and its prosperity depends on it. It is unlikely to give in or give up without a bloody fight.


Stakeholders in Afghanistan

The Kingdom of Afghanistan was accepted as a de facto buffer state by the British and Russian empires at the end of 'the Great Game' in Central Asia in 19th century . Various British efforts to conquer Afghanistan ended in disasters . By the end of the 20th century , the British and Russian empires in Asia had unraveled and many new states have emerged out of them. Thus the very raison d'etre of a buffer state no longer exists. Since the US provoked entry of Soviet troops in 1979 ,their withdrawal in 1989 , fighting between residual Nazibullah regime and Pakistan supported warlords and finally take over of most of the Afghanistan territory by Taliban with Pak military and ISI participation and funds from the Gulf states established a rudimentary and medieval regime  under Mullah Omar  .How ever the Tajiks ,Hazaras , Ozbeks and other mainly non Sunni groups have been governed by their ethnic warlords and resistance fighters against Russian occupation troops like the legendry Masood , who was treacherously assassinated just before 11/9 .Masood had headed the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras , Ozbeks and others who resisted the Taliban regime .The Alliance was supported by Iran, Turkey ,India ,Ozbekistan, Tajikistan and others.


The 2001 December bombings and invasion of Afghanistan did not have UN sanction and was based on the premise of US and hence Nato's  right to defend US territory after 11/attacks .In spite of US wish to enter Kabul as liberators , the Northern Alliance troops of  Masood entered as liberators . Since then except by air attacks including by drones , which have killed large number of Afghan civilians , including women and children , ISAF and Nato troops have not fared too well on the ground. The increase in foreign troops deaths , reluctance of most Nato member states to go on, has put intolerable burden on the cohesion of Western occupation forces .The number of western troops killed has been highest in June , but West as per its racial attitude , in Gen Colin Powell's words do not do body count of enemy troops and civilians (both in Afghanistan and Iraq.) The Afghan territory is under control of different armed groups , foreign and local , with Washington installed President Hamid Karzai, with US mercenaries as his bodyguards, barely controlling the city of Kabul. Except for Karzai , a Pushtun ,most of the ruling elite consists of Northern Alliance ethnic leaders , with Karzai family making hay ( money ) while the sun shines .Recently US media reports gave details of how billions of dollars meant for military and development projects have been flown out of Afghanistan ( Similar loot of funds in Iraq has also been reported from time to time. Western governments and media mount propaganda campaigns for donor meets whether for Serbia or Iraq or Afghanistan and amounts are pledged ( but much less is given ) with large share being spent on foreign ( mostly Western ) experts or just plain stolen and brazenly shipped out by air .


The number of stakeholders in Afghanistan is large ,the Afghan people , 40% Pushtuns, the rest Tajiks , Hazaras , Ozbeks and others with their ethnic kins in Iran, Ozbekistan ,Tajikistan ,Turkmenistan ,Kyrgyzstan, who provide support and even manpower ,neighbouring countries like China via Xinjiang and the former ruler of central Asia , Moscow . India also has historic interests and invested billions of dollars in development projects to have influence and friendly relations with Afghans , which it had  when Pakistan was part of united Hindustan .


Pakistan's interests have already been brought out since the Soviet occupation in 1979 and involvement in Afghan affairs .As the major financial contributor of the 1980s Jihad against USSR , and even other wise the Saud dynasty , with its coffers bulging with petrodollars , its purchase of US and British arms would be of dubious value which many feel Saudis are unlikely of using , like the Kuwaitis in 1990 .But Riyadh has its Wahabi ideology and cheque  books for funding not only Madarsas, mosques but also for arms to Pakistan, and Pushtun Afghan groups .After the destruction of Iraq power , USA's Sunni allies  from Egypt to Jordan ,in western Sunni Iraq ,even Yemen are worried about the rising power and clout of Iran in spite of all obstacles and sanctions against Tehran by US led West .It has its advance guards in Lebanon's Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza .Hezbollah , Iranian and Syrian leaders who stand up to US and Israel are extremely popular with Muslim masses not only in the Arab world but elsewhere too .


So what if after Afghanistan if Pakistan unravels too.Little effort has been made by its leaders since 1947 to even develop a territory based nationalism. China would not also escape further problems in Xinjiang and Tibet.


US Gen McChrystal's dismissal !

Western governments are governed by oligopoly of bankers and financiers along with military-industry complex and energy sectors .Bushes , Obamas and Blairs , Browns are but their tools , whom they put into power to implement corporate policies .These leaders are looked after well in retirement .With as much defense expenditure as the rest of the world put together , US is subsidizing its war industry at the cost of its taxpayers by its endless wars around the world .In this decision making and implementing nexus , pliant military generals play important role .They are  looked after well while in service and with post retirement jobs in military industry, think tanks and even as embedded 'experts' on Fox channel and CNN etc . Most follow their masters orders , but a few do sometimes differ , protest ,stand up and suffer .

War on Iraq and Generals' revolt

Before Gen Stanely McChrystal's comic caper in the magazine 'Rolling Stones"to get himself fired rather than live with the ignominy of losing an unwinnable Afghan war, there were earlier revolts by US generals; on the handling of the US war in Iraq . It began, much before March, 2003 , when Anglo-American leaders were beating the war drums. " Leaks from some in the Establishment who favored an "inside-out" plan to "take Baghdad and one or two key command centers and weapons depots first, in hopes of cutting off the country's leadership and causing a quick collapse of the government ," were dismissed by Marine General Anthony Zinni, a former Commander of Central Command and a US Middle East envoy, as a recipe for a "Bay of Goats" disaster, like the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba." ( Similar crazy plans are being leaked out again now to browbeat Iran –watch this space)

Many generals and independent think tanks , not financed by US neo –cons had warned that "a US attack would dangerously destabilize the region, harm the global economy, and infuriate Arab and Muslim masses." It has all come true. Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief aide Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson dubbed a neo-cons Cabal around Vice President Dick Cheney , led by his old time buddy and patron Defense Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld , for the post invasion mess in Iraq .

In the beginning of 2006 , six retired U.S. Marine and Army generals denounced the Pentagon planning for the Iraq war which was also the view of 75 percent of the officers in the field, and probably more.( Rumsfeld had to finally leave) The generals might have spoken in retirement, but they brought imposing credentials to their revolt .Major Gen. Paul Eaton, first to speak out, was in charge of training Iraqi forces until 2004. He said that: "I have seen a climate of groupthink become dominant and a growing reluctance by experienced military men and civilians to challenge the notions of the senior leadership." Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs up to the eve of the war, charged Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith with a "casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results."

Other generals who spoke against the Pentagon policies were Brig. Gen. James Marks, a retired Iraq veteran and military analyst who  said, "Clearly the presence of more combat forces on the ground would have been needed." Gen. Eric K Shinseki , who had told the Congress before the war that many hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to pacify Iraq after the invasion was passed up for promotion .Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Division in Iraq, charged that Rumsfeld did not seek nor did he accept the counsel of field commanders. He was supported by Maj. Gen. John Riggs. Maj. Gen. Charles J. Swannack, former field commander of the 82nd Airborne, believed " we can create a stable government in Iraq", but Rumsfeld mismanaged the war.

Cometh Armed Messiah Petraeus !

Gen David Petraeus's appointment as commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, replacing Gen Stanley McChrystal is in fact a demotion since as Central Command Chief he had supervised Gen McChrystal. It could be Obama's (politician's) way of 'fixing' politically savvy  Petraeus' , who has many political supporters and reportedly nurses political ambitions himself ( for 2012 elections). But to succeed in the Afghanistan quagmire would need a miracle.

The so called  "successful surge" in Iraq under Gen Petraeus is nothing but a US corporate media created public relations myth sold to a gullible American public by the Pentagon . What Petraeus did was to disgorge Samsonites full of cash to willing and selected strands of the Sunni resistance who fiercely fought the US occupation, while at the same time fighting the Shia dominated government in Baghdad and its various militias . The 'Surge' and attacks by US forces and Shia militias have led to ethnic cleansing , with mixed Shia-Sunni communities now herded in their own community's areas . But the Sunni-Shia civil war is still on in Iraq, killing at least 300 civilians every month but much less than before the agreement for the US troops ( now less than 90,000 )to be confined to the bases , when the resistance attacked GIs and in the process many Iraqi civilians also got killed .

Wrote eminent journalist Pepe Escobar ," Petraeus never ended the Sunni-Shi'ite civil war raging in Iraq between 2006 and 2007. He tried to marginalize the Sadrists; he failed miserably. What he did, apart from showering US dollars, was to kill - via McChrystal's death squads - the leaders of many a Sunni resistance cell, while building a million checkpoints and installing a horrendous cement apartheid in Baghdad (a key factor into driving citywide unemployment to 80%).

Do not forget that since March 2003 according to website over 1.3 million Iraqis in a population of 25 million have been killed , millions maimed and over 3 million rendered refugees in Syria, Jordan and inside Iraq. Over 4700 US troops have also been killed and many tens of thousands injured and maimed for life .Some pacification ; of the grave yard . Vice President Biden has talked of a UN peacekeeping force ( any takers) after the US troops leave .The nation of Iraq created by 20th century imperialists the British by joining 3 Ottoman provinces lies asundered in a bloody mess by the successor imperialist power, USA.

Coming back to Afghanistan , the people and the topography are quite different .Pushtuns will  accept Petraeus' bundles of cash (after all Afghanistan is the second most corrupt country in the world after Somalia). What's certain is that the Pushtuns would be quite happy to take the money and not run, but wait - exactly as the Sunni Iraqis are doing .

As for General McChrystal's hardcore, "take, clear and hold" counter-insurgency (COIN) plus building up local "governance", what his 'surge' in Afghanistan did was to repeat running Pentagon death squads as in Iraq ie performing COIN designed by Petraeus himself. While McChrystal made a lot of noise , he failed .One does not captivate Pushtun civilians' hearts and minds by bombing their villages to rubble and incinerating their sons, daughters and wedding parties.

Prof Kennedy on US exit from Afghanistan; "heads, you lose; tails, you don't win."

Hoping that someone in NSC or the State Department is devising some get-us-out-slowly-but-steadily stratagems' , Prof Kennedy admits that "the Afghanistan-Pakistan entanglement is an issue so vexed and complicated that it would have tested the wisdom of the greatest leaders and strategists of the past. It is not totally fanciful to imagine Augustus, William Pitt the Elder, Bismarck or George Marshall pondering over a map which detailed the lands that stretch from the Bekaa Valley to the Khyber Pass. None of them would have liked what they saw." Look at the distances , the awful topography, the willingness of the other side to accept appalling casualty rates, make a limited war—a finely calibrated war—something of a nonsense. Kennedy after talking to those with Afghan field experience feels that US "at least can not "win" in the sense that knee-jerk congressmen and rabid Murdoch newspapers understand that word, a victory grotesquely skewed by their habit of invoking American football language: smash, overrun, crush, annihilate."

"Pulling out should not be construed as appeasement since US "would not be the first to leave those wretched mountains and their defiant tribes to their own devices; indeed, we would simply join that long list of former occupation armies which eventually thought the better of it and made for the exit.-- A three-time British Prime Minister and four-time Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury once observed, nothing is more fatal to a wise strategy than clinging to the carcasses of dead policies." Yet , Kennedy feels ,"few administrations have the resolve to let go; and frankly, in the case of Afghanistan, a mushy compromise—half-concealed withdrawal—might be the least-worst way to go, at least for now. But not forever ."


What do the various stakeholders in Afghanistan want and what they can obtain is difficult to forecast.A declining Hegemon US can not even try what it forced on the Afghans in 2002 .It is 2010 .The Pushtuns would be the main deciders .If they can come together they can wipe out the British imposed but unenforceable Durand Line .The Pushtuns have ethnic homogeneity , Deoband ideology for now , opium and contraband trade links with neigbours and Dubai ,even a flag and perhaps Mullah Omar as one of the leaders .But they are likely to first fight among themselves as after the exit of Soviet forces . But unlike mid 1990s , after what the Pakistani , predominantly Punjabi military has done at Washington's behest and allowed raining of drone deaths , in North West Pakistan and in Afghanistan, Pushtuns are unlikely to be run by ISI .And if a Pushtun state become de jure , what happens to the other provinces in Pakistan , which has failed to even create a territory based national identity.

And what about non Pushtun people of Afghanistan , who form almost 60% of the population and oppose Taleban/Pushtun domination and ideology as they did after the Taliban were enabled to take over most of Afghanistan .Barring Karzai , a Pushtun, most of the establishment comprises of non-Pushtuns , who had resisted the Taliban under Northern Alliance .They will have support of neighbouring states , Iran, Uzbekistan, and  others like a now resurgent Moscow and economically important New Delhi .What about Beijing and its dream of connecting its turbulent Turkic Uighur majority Xinjiang province to Gwadar port in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea for transfer of energy from the Gulf, bypassing the insecure sea lanes via Indian Ocean and Malacca straits ,  a project which Washington would do its utmost to nullify .Neither Moscow nor India would like that to fructify too.

And what about the US design to keep its military bases at least in  non-Pushtun northwest Afghanistan and detach mineral rich Balochistan  ( the old news about the mineral wealth was highlighted simply to justify in the eyes of the US population which has become disenchanted with the unending war in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.) What about Washington encouraging dissensions in Kyrgyzstan , with the multi ethnic Ferghana valley states becoming unstable and chaotic like Afghanistan and engulfing central Asia and Xinjiang .New Delhi must remember , what ever the final outcome in Afghanistan, sooner or later Pushtuns would seek good relations with India .It should re-establish contacts with Taliban and other leaders .

This sums up the problems and possible outcomes of the Afghanistan tunnel with little clear light at the end .There are other tunnels too , the Iraq tunnel , which US entered in 2003 and the keystone problem of Palestine , with Israel becoming no less important for a downsized United States , after Russians are back in Ukraine , its ally Georgia bashed by Moscow two years ago and US position becoming shaky in Kyrgyzstan.

Only if there were an Octopus which like the one in Germany which accurately predicted the Football World cup results , could also see into the future and predict the outcome.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author