Fight them over there, not over here

2016-12-25

in Bombs and rockets, Canada, History, Politics

Karzai suffered criticism for his statement [that security in Afghanistan was better between 2002 and 2006 than in 2012], but he was correct. The NATO surges into the south will almost certainly be remembered as a spectacular mistake. Many of the aims were noble: peace, democracy, rule of law. We thought that a sweeping program of armed nation-building might improve the lives of people in southern Afghanistan and simultaneously remove a haven for terrorism. Both of these guesses proved incorrect. Flooding the south with troops did not have a pacifying effect. The villagers were not, despite the assurances from experts, clamouring for the arrival of international forces. Many of them now hate the outside world more than ever. As the troops withdraw, they leave behind pockets of territory not controlled by the government of Afghanistan, and few guarantees that these will never again serve as incubators for international jihadists.

But how much guarantee did we need, that southern Afghanistan will not rever to a hideout for terrorists? I was never convinced that any military, no matter how large or capable, could roll into a swath of terrain and make sure that conspirators could never again use that location as a base for nefarious plots.

Smith, Graeme. The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan. Knopf Canada, Toronto. 2013. p. 278-9

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. July 10, 2017 at 1:03 am

But both sides in this argument are wrong. The “Salafi” extremists who are called “Islamists” in the West (all of them Sunnis, and most of them Arabs) do hate Western values, but that’s not why they go to the trouble of making terrorist attacks on the West. And it’s not because of Western foreign policies either: there were no major Western attacks on the Arab world in the years before the 9/11 atrocity in 2001.

There had been plenty of attacks in the past: the Western conquest of almost all the Arab countries between 1830 and 1918, Western military support for carving a Zionist state out of the Arab world as the European imperial powers were pulling out after 1945, Western military backing for Arab dictators and absolute monarchs ever since.

But there was violence in many Arab countries as Islamist revolutionaries, using terrorist tactics, tried to overthrow the local kings and dictators. Up to 200,000 Arabs were killed in these bloody struggles between 1979 and 2000, but not one of the repressive regimes was overthrown. By the turn of the century it was clear that terrorism against Arab regimes was not working. To win power, the Islamists needed a new strategy.

The man who supplied it was Osama bin Laden. He had missed out on the long terrorist war in the Arab countries because he went to Afghanistan to fight a Soviet invasion in 1979. But in Afghanistan he fought in a war that Islamists actually won: having lost 14,000 dead, the Russians gave up and went home in 1989. The Afghan Islamists (the Taliban) came to power as a result.

Bin Laden realized that this could be a route to power for the Islamists of the Arab world as well: provoke the West to invade Muslim countries, lead the struggle against the Western occupation forces — and when the Western armies finally give up and go home (as they always do in the end) the Islamists will come to power.

That was why he founded al-Qaida, and 9/11 was intended to sucker the United States into playing the role of infidel invader. Western governments have never recognized this obvious fact because they are too arrogant ever to see themselves as simply the dupes in somebody else’s strategy. Their foreign policy error was to fall for bin Laden’s provocation hook, line and sinker — and they are still falling for it 16 years later.

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