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Opposition forces put US on the defensive in Afghanistan

Zia Sarhadi

Thirty-one months after removing the Taliban from power, the Americans are being forced to consider the unthinkable: strike a deal with the Taliban for power-sharing in return for a face-saving exit for US forces from Afghanistan. This remarkable turn-around has occurred primarily because the Afghans have refused to be cowed by US firepower, and have put up stiff resistance against the occupiers and against the puppet regime in Kabul. The Americans are appealing to anyone who might listen–the French, Germans, Canadians–to rescue them from the horrible fate that awaits them in Afghanistan. Some 1,800 Canadian troops are about to leave for Afghanistan to take over responsibility for security, amid considerable unease in the military about heading to a dangerous place for a "mission impossible."

Signs of trouble were evident all along, but the Americans refused to accept the ground realities, always hiding their discomfort behind bold rhetoric. US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had relished his macho image, now looks distinctly uncomfortable answering reporters’ questions about the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. The zionist cabal that got the Americans into this mess have yet to admit their guilt, but as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, they will be forced to confess too. Failure to discover any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the mounting resistance there are also already raising questions in Washington about the wisdom of invading Iraq.

The American approach to the Taliban was first reported by Asia Times Online on June 14. Quoting a Pakistani jihad leader as its source, the report said that early last month US and Pakistani intelligence officials met Taliban leaders at the Samungali air force base near Quetta (in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province). The Asia Times reported that Americans put four conditions to the Taliban before any reconciliation could occur: removal of Mullah Umar as the Taliban’s supreme leader; evacuation of all Pakistani, Arab and other foreign fighters currently engaged in operations against international troops in Afghanistan; release of any US or allied soldiers held captive; and inclusion in any power-sharing arrangement of Afghans currently living abroad, notably in the US and Britain.

Crescent International’s own sources have confirmed that such a meeting did indeed take place. In fact, the visit of lieutenant general Ehsan ul-Haq, Pakistani ISI chief, to the US in early June was meant, as well as finalizing details of general Pervez Musharraf’s visit to the US (he is in the US at the time of writing), to give the Americans his own assessment of the recent talks with the Taliban. The Americans are desperate; they want the ISI and the Pakistan military to do even more to protect them from attacks by the Taliban and other Afghan and Arab fighters, notably supporters of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and Usama bin Ladin.

A taskforce set up by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Asia Society reported last month that US efforts to pacify Afghanistan appear to be unravelling. The 24-page document, Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace?, written by three retired senior government policy-makers who specialize in South Asian affairs (among others), answers this question very much in the affirmative. It also argues that Washington must do far more, quickly, to save the situation. The CFR authors want the US to exert more pressure on Pakistan to halt Taliban remnants from carrying out attacks from across the border into Afghanistan. This is a Herculean task, one, moreover, fraught with grave dangers for Pakistan. Whatever the truth about the Taliban’s movements across the border, the tribal belt of Pakistan is a virtual no-man’s-land where only fools venture; anti-American sentiment is also very strong there. For more than 50 years these unruly tribes have been left alone; if Pakistan did not dare send troops into this snakepit for its own interests, how can it do so for the US? Yet the danger is that, in their eagerness to appease the Americans, Pakistan’s rulers may make this fateful mistake. A joint Afghan-Pakistan commission, set up under US supervision, held its first meeting in Islamabad on June 17, at which Pakistan was urged "to do more" to prevent the Taliban from crossing into Afghanistan. The US and its Afghan puppets in Kabul in effect want Pakistan to fight their war.

The Afghans’ resistance that has emerged is stronger than it was against the Soviets when they invaded the country in December 1979. There is also no shortage of weapons; thousands of tons of ammunition stored in mountain caves during the resistance to Soviet occupation are available; there is enough to last a decade or more. The Taliban also survived virtually intact after yielding Kabul to the US and Northern Alliance forces on November 13, 2001. For the Americans, their Northern Alliance allies, most of them former communists whose sympathies lie with the Russians, are an unreliable bunch. They have helped in no small way to frustrate the US’s designs in Afghanistan. Many former members of Hikmatyar’s group also occupy important posts in the new government; their sympathies almost certainly lie with the Taliban too. The US and its allies thus face the unenviable task of fighting on numerous fronts where there is little distinction between friend and foe.

As resistance to the American occupation of Afghanistan goes on increasing, pressure on Pakistan will increase to do more to help the Americans. There is danger that, in return for economic inducements, Islamabad may be forced into this. Given general Musharraf’s precarious political standing in the country, he may be tempted to accede to American demands if he can get promises of political support and economic and military assistance in the future. There is as much chance of America fulfilling its promises as there would be of a leopard changing its spots. The question is awaiting its answer is whether Pakistan’s rulers are capable of understanding this; that answer is probably no.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 9

Jumada' al-Ula' 01, 14242003-07-01

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