As international leaders arrive in Kabul for a key conference on Afghanistan's future, Channel 4 News has obtained the document on which the Afghan government's plan to reintegrate the Taliban is based. As International Editor Lindsey Hilsum writes, it says fighters could be retrained in forestry and literacy skills. … I say it's a government document, because the front page says "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan National Security Council", but the 80 pages of management consultant-speak about 'stakeholders', 'change management', 'broad strategic vision' and 'a menu of conflict recovery options' suggest that the men from the Afghan ministry were not the ones to write the draft. The flowery paragraphs about "We Afghans desire… a consolidated and sustainable peace", and statements that it's all 'Afghan owned and led' do not convince. The document says that international donors will spend $772m over five years to retrain former Taliban fighters in forestry, literacy, technical and vocational skills and keep them busy on agricultural conservation and public works.' – UK Channel 4 News
Dominant Social Theme: What is necessary to make the peace?
Free-Market Analysis: In a series of articles, we have been analyzing the evolving strategy of the Anglo American axis as regards the difficult war in Afghanistan. We have made the point regularly that the war is one of demographic and regional control and is not being waged for military-strategic purposes versus Russia or China or to gain access to valuable resources. Our belief is that the power elite waging this war is doing so to expand the possibilities of global governance and to attempt to reconfigure Islam, generally, to make it more amenable to Western economic and monetary methodologies.
Most recently ("Afghanistan – Better or Worse?") we made the point that the West's nation-building demands the cooperation of two of humanity's oldest known tribes – the Punjabi (Pakistan) and the Pashtun (Afghanistan and Pakistan). The combined population of these two tribes is some 150 million people and the combined region is almost as large as India, though the terrain is far more inhospitable.
Within this context, we made two additional points. First, the Punjabi were not likely to stop supporting the Taliban because, having helped create the Taliban, the Punjabi are interested in its continuance. Second, the Pashtuns are engaged in their own slow-motion war against Western interests and this can be seen by the unspoken support that the Taliban (drawn from the Pashtuns) must have in Afghanistan, as its fighters seem to move relatively freely through many parts of the country.
We have long held that the war is being waged specifically and obviously against the Pashtun. But given that the two great tribes of this region both seem unfavorable to continued Western intervention, the West is likely unable to bring the war to a successful conclusion (whatever in fact that means) absent significant additional troops and resources. The alternative is to use the current Afghanistan government to somehow reintegrate the Taliban into the Afghanistan/Pashtun culture via monetary incentives and vocational training. This presents its own problems. Here's some more from the article excerpted above:
Where are all these Afghan trainers going to come from? They haven't got enough schools and teachers, let alone finding extra ones. Britain will contribute £5m, but a shortage of money isn't the problem round here these days – in fact many say too much money washing around is fuelling corruption and violence. …
"It is just a way to trick foreigners into giving their money," said a former mujahadeen fighter from Paktia I met in Kabul today. "It's just to get projects for the mafia." And how on earth are they going to make this work while the war's still going on? They have at least acknowledged that it might be a bit difficult.
Of course, the above difficulties are by this time well-known to Western policymakers. The strategy that is evolving to counter the Pashtan/Punjabi resistance works on multiple tracks. The Punjabi and Pakistan military and civil leaders generally have come under enormous pressure to cease sheltering the Taliban in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Afghan government is coming under significant pressure to provide government services and military and civilian policing to Afghanistan. Pashtun and other Afghanistan communities will be provided arms to defend themselves from the Taliban. And the Taliban itself will be confronted military in massive fashion, even as various incentives are placed in front of Taliban soldiers to defect from the fundamentalist movement.
Finally, Western powers are gearing up to provide extraordinary amounts of funding – tens of billions of freshly printed fiat-money dollars – to both Pakistan and Afghanistan to build infrastructure and other components of modern, Western society. The flaw in this construct, of course, is that it presumes that the Taliban, Pashtuns generally and even the Punjabi are enamored of Western governance and wish for it to be successful. This logic extends itself to the certainty that Afghan populace is only prevented from adopting Western-oriented democratic culture by the threat of incipient violence and reprisals.
But it is not, in fact, clear to us that this is the case. The tribes the West is fighting against have a good deal of cultural cohesiveness (more than almost anywhere else in the world), which is why they have proven so hard to "democratize" in the first place. There was a statistic we read recently that claimed only one percent or so of Pakistanis pay taxes to the central government. We can only assume it is even less in Afghanistan. Western regulatory democracy with its elaborate prescriptions for citizen-government relations – including complex regulatory, monetary and fiscal policies – will take a long time to build in either country.
We cannot imagine that there is much in common between the average resident of this part of the world and Anglo-American elites, or even soldiers. The resolutions discussed in this article that will be adopted by the West (mostly Anglo-American "Commonwealth" countries we would assume) as regards Afghanistan and "reintegration" sound both reasonable and munificent. But without genuine Pashtun cooperation they will remain mostly rhetoric.
The West's power elite is very obviously interested in extending Western regulatory democracy around the world. Insofar as there is a dominant social theme affecting Afghanistan, it would be that those in Afghanistan are "impoverished and backward and need to be brought into the company of nations in the 21st century." But as we pointed out yesterday, it is very difficult to build such a promotion after-the-fact. The West has already been in Afghanistan for ten years without enunciating such a theme and neither Western nor Afghanistan citizens are necessarily likely to believe it now.
Without the availability of a consistent and credible dominant social theme, pursuing a large war overseas becomes an increasingly difficult proposition. The conference taking place in Afghanistan is obviously meant to bolster this latest meme, but as the Channel 4 analysis points out, the arguments at this late date are hard to muster, especially given the state of the Afghan government itself. If Hamid Karzai, the Pashtun leader of Afghanistan, cannot be fully brought on board (and he is not, despite protestations otherwise), then what chance does the alliance have to win the "hearts and minds" of that nation's citizens?
It is unfortunate that the sentiments and sympathies have been manufactured overseas, as the Channel 4 report points out. One continually confronts the reality that the war and the "peace" are being manufactured by interests other than those who live in Afghanistan, yet neither has been "won," nor is winning likely. The West either needs to significantly upgrade its military power and activities in the area or engage more seriously (as it claims to be considering) in talks with Taliban, Pashtun and Punjabi power brokers. If the West does neither, the muddle will probably continue, both rhetorically and militarily.