STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Afghan Pashtuns and U.S. Patriots on Same Side?
By Staff News & Analysis - February 10, 2010

The war in Afghanistan is more important for our national security than the Falklands campaign … After nearly a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan, however, the prospect of our Armed Forces proclaiming victory, let alone being feted by a grateful public, is remote indeed. But that does not diminish the importance of our military effort in Afghanistan, which is far more crucial to the defence of Britain than the Falklands adventure. British troops fought with great bravery to recover the Falklands, but that war was more about national pride than the defence of the realm. Few people had ever heard of the Falklands before the Argentine invasion, and while the British government undoubtedly had a duty to protect the Falkland Islanders, the Argentines never posed a direct threat to the British mainland itself. Afghanistan, however, is a different matter entirely. Its border with Pakistan is the crucible of the Islamist terror plots that have been the curse of the early 21st century, and until the threat has been removed British forces must remain in Afghanistan and see the job through. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: See it through. Wars must be won.

Free-Market Analysis: We disagree with the above frothing analysis, of course. We have placed ourselves firmly on record as believing the Western war in Afghanistan is aimed at the stiff-necked Pashtun tribe of some 40 million strong – and are inclined to support the notion that if the West leaves the Pashtuns alone, the Pashtuns will leave the West alone. We know this is perhaps not a popular perspective, and is even apt to be interpreted as a cynical one, but we are fairly convinced of it nonetheless.

But let us begin at the beginning, with the idea that Western powers, specifically the Anglo-American elite, are indeed trying to create a kind of global economic consolidation. We think that's a fair supposition, especially given the way the EU has behaved of late. (Consolidation of national entities WILL take place. And those countries, like Ireland, that are against it, will just have to take another vote.) In fact, these days, there are probably only a few places standing in the way of this onrushing global structure. Chinese leaders are happy to cooperate for a slice of the pie as are the Russians and of course the Europeans. The South Americans don't really count and neither do those, apparently, who live on the vast continent of Africa.

But the Pashtuns DO matter. Afghanistan – in fact the entire Middle East – has never been brought entirely under Western control in the 20th century. So, if this idea (above) makes sense, then an effort at consolidation must be made in the 21st century. Thus the war is NOT about finding Bin Landin (who is probably dead), hunting Al Qaeda, or even about corralling oil and gas resources. No, the war is all about subduing the Pashtuns and initiating a satisfactory level of control over this rugged land and its equally rugged Muslim (mostly Sunni) people.

The Pashtuns trace their roots back, apparently, to Iran, so in a sense the war in Afghanistan is also partially a war against Persia – and it is certainly a war against Muslims and the Muslim religion. The Pashtuns are kind of like the leading warrior wedge of the Muslim world. If you can't subdue the Pashtuns, you will never be able to pacify the Muslims in Africa, Indonesia, etc. The Pashtuns must be dealt with first.

Now, in fact, the Pashtuns don't have to be wiped out. They simply have to understand that they must cooperate with the great powers of the West. They must do business with the great corporations of the West. They must not militate against the West. Above all, they must have extradition agreements in place with the West.

The latter is very important to the Western power elite. Regulatory democracy is an extremely ugly thing, and very difficult to live under when it is fully applied (given that a person's every move is finally under scrutiny and subject to discipline). As it is increasingly brought to bear in Europe and especially in America, there will be many who will rebel against it, speak out against it and even flee abroad to continue to agitate against it. This is a problem for the old men of the power elite.

In order to truly implement regulatory democracy "in full effect," Western powers must be able to find their enemies abroad as well as at home. This is indeed the reason for the rendition procedures that the Bush administration put into place – as we have pointed out previously. There must be NOWHERE that individual enemies of Western powers are to be safe from extradition and punishment. Too extreme, dear reader? Don't take our word for it. Here's award-winning war reporter David Wood (of Politics Daily) on the Pashtun in a recent article:

Standing between the Obama administration's hopes for its latest war plan and the actual situation 18 months from now are the Pashtun. Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, they make up the core of the Taliban insurgency, which has taken hold in towns across most of southern and eastern regions of the country since its resurgence in 2006. They are, a general told me in eastern Afghanistan this fall, "well funded and incredibly smart fighters.'' When threatened, they tend to stay and fight,'' David Kilcullen, a senior counterinsurgency adviser to the Pentagon, writes of the Pashtuns. "They resist intrusion . . . through violent resistance rather than withdrawal.''

The Pashtuns are notorious for their strict honor codes of revenge and blood feuds, posing a difficult problem for American combat commanders. "When one noncombatant [civilian] is killed, for a whole family and tribe and the whole Pashtun belt there is a moral obligation to vindicate his death,'' Air Force Brig Gen. Steven Kwast told me in Afghanistan, explaining that his fighters are dropping fewer bombs to avoid putting civilians at risk. "For one person killed, there are 20 people who will pick up rifles and fight against you if they feel that death was wrong."

Or as Winston Churchill once bitterly observed about the Pashtun, after a century of clashes with British forces, "Every family cultivates its vendetta, every clan its feud. . . . Nothing is ever forgotten and very few debts are left unpaid.'' Chased from power by U.S. and irregular Afghan forces eight years ago, the Taliban regrouped in 2006 and have significantly escalated their attacks on Afghan and allied forces. Armed clashes rose from 180 in July 2007 to 319 in July 2008 to 810 this past July, according to an open source analysis by John McCreary, former intelligence analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The fighting has intensified as U.S. forces increased raids into Pashtun territory.

"The Pashtuns made their point with the Soviets, and they are making it again with us,'' said Gilles Dorronsoro, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "They do not surrender. They fight very, very courageously.''

"Over the past several years, coalition forces have engaged the insurgency through targeted raids, designed to push insurgents out of a given area,'' said Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, another Washington think tank. "The result has been operations that temporarily clear an area but fail to prevent the return of insurgents.''

Yet the Taliban have been unable to expand their influence much beyond traditional Pashtun regions of the country, said McCreary, resulting in something of a bloody stalemate between the insurgents and U.S., allied and Afghan forces. "The government in Kabul cannot survive without NATO forces,'' said McCreary, because the Afghan security troops are too few and too inexperienced and cannot operate without NATO backup. "They do not look like they can win,'' he said of the Taliban. "They can increase the violence, but that does not equate to enlarged geographic control.''

The war, he added, "remains a Pashtun problem.''

The Pashtuns, with their codes of honor and their resistance to Western-style democracy, are perhaps one of the last stumbling blocks to the implementation of Western regulatory democracy the world over. Ironically, another arena of resistance to regulatory democracy resides in the United States – in that country's so-called red states where some 50 million "Tea Party" types with rifles and handguns tend to gather. These individuals, whether they are entirely aware of it or not, are the cultural inheritors of Thomas Jefferson's agrarian republican sentiments. Whether they drive pickups or not, it seems to us that they maintain a level of stubborn individualism – and a culture of hospitality – that rivals the Pashtuns so far away.

It is therefore perhaps ironic – in our view – that many who live in the great interior states of America may have taken up arms to join the US army in Afghanistan to fight the Pashtuns. The reason to do so, of course, was to remove the Taliban that were shielding Bin Laden who supposedly planned 9/11. But even to this day there is no proof that Bin Laden did plan 9/11 and even the FBI does not accuse him of that particular heinous deed.

Why is America fighting the Pashtuns, then? Maybe it is all just a big misunderstanding – and a miserably bloody one at that. Or maybe the idea (as we believe) is to pacify them. If this tribe can be brought into the Western fold, at least enough so that Western culture can take hold, however modestly, then the deed is done. Globalism can proceed apace – or at least continue to stumble along.

We would like to point out, however, that no one has really pacified the Pashtun in a thousand years. Additionally, red state American republicans don't look especially pacified either. Come to think of it, Iraq doesn't seem especially grateful for its liberation and Iran, Syria and even Yemen don't seem predisposed to favor Western ways. It is a big job to subdue the world.

After Thoughts

We're not convinced the West is up to it. One reason is because there are parts of libertarian America that are in no way fans of the regulatory democracy that the power elite has in mind. Another reason is because the Muslim world finds it most unattractive – from what we can tell. As the Internet exposes more and more power elite aspirations, enthusiasm continually fades. Maybe at some point, red-state Americans will even start to realize that they have more in common with the Pashtun than they think. They may believe the Pashtun are the enemy. And of course, they have fought courageously (and no one should suggest their sacrifices were in vain). But maybe in this case – at least to some degree – they haven't looked closely enough.

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