STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Serious Questions About Afghan War
By Staff News & Analysis - June 23, 2010

U.S. author calls Afghanistan war "pointless" … The United States should pull its troops out of Afghanistan because the war cannot be won and neighboring Pakistan is funding the Taliban to undermine U.S. interests, the author of a new book says. Journalist and veteran Afghanistan expert Jere Van Dyk is intimate with the war-torn country, after spending 45 harrowing days in 2008 jailed there and terrified he would be killed. His new book "Captive, My Time As A Prisoner Of The Taliban," published by Henry Holt's Times Books imprint, recounts his experience. His captivity gave him plenty of time to think about prospects for the military struggle in Afghanistan, where the United States has been bogged down in a messy war since 2001. "They (the Taliban) will never give in," Van Dyk told Reuters in an interview, adding, "There is fundamentally no difference between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban – they are all deep down Pashtuns." The Pashtuns live in a series of tribal regions that lie along the mountainous border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Van Dyk, who lives in New York, has written for many publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and has traveled in Afghanistan and the region since the 1970s, reporting for CBS, CNN and other broadcasters. Van Dyk also lived Afghanistan's mujahideen resistance in the 1980s during their war with the Soviet Union and wrote the book "In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey." Van Dyk said Pakistani military sources told him their goal was to use U.S. money to support the Taliban and help them take back Afghanistan, thus spreading Pakistan's sphere of influence and distracting the Taliban from fighting in Pakistan itself. – Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: Well … Hm-mm.

Free-Market Analysis: It is hard, in fact, to write a dominant social theme that includes this book because we don't think this book is part of a power-elite promotion. We don't think this guy went and put himself into an Afghan jail just to increase his credibility. No, we think it is something of a cri de coeur, a cry from the heart. Of course we would like to think that because the points this author is making are EXACTLY the points that we have made in the Bell for the past several years.

We were in fact, almost flabbergasted by this Reuters profile of the author and his book. It is a point-by-point recitation of what we have come to believe. Despite all the Pakistani and US manipulation of this strange, warlike, Afghan tribe called the Pashtuns, the Afghan war is a fairly simple thing. The Anglo-American axis, using 9/11 as a pretext, has generated a kind of 21st century Crusade against the Middle East Muslim world. The Pashtuns are the thin, Islamic wedge resisting the intrusion of the West. It is indeed a kind of religious war, but it is being waged for purposes of wealth and power.

The strategy, as we have pointed out before, is hammer-and-tongs. The hammer is the blunt force of arms. The tongs, perhaps, are the funny little Arab Emirates that are forging a hybrid of Western and Muslim cultures to form a kind of neo-Muslim capitalism. This approach, which blends force of arms with the persuasions of wealth, is intended enlighten the larger Muslim world. What is supposed to emerge is a denatured Muslim religion, one that has the form of what came before but not the substance. Here are some articles we have written on the subject:

Will Afghan Police Save the West?

Germany Done With American Wars

US on Wrong Side of History

The West, especially the Anglo-American West is simply not being told the truth about the Afghanistan war. The Taliban is rarely explained and the reasons for continued ferocious existence is explained away, so far as we can tell, as the madness of terrorism. But the war is going on for 10 years now, and we cannot imagine a regime carrying on a fight that long without an integral and forceful belief structure.

In fact, the Pashtuns have a culture that is thousands of years old, a critical mass (there being 40 million of them) and the blessings of a vicious topography that is resistant to even the most technologically adept fighting forces. They also have access to a good deal of resources. Recently, it has apparently emerged that Pakistan itself is playing a double game with Washington, secretly funding and helping the Taliban even as it seems to be fighting against the Pakistan Taliban. Here's some more from the article about Van Dyk:

"It is a completely pointless war," he said, adding that Washington should send significant aid to assist rebuilding Afghanistan. Van Dyk is a consultant on Afghanistan, Pakistan and al Qaeda for CBS News. After writing his first book on Afghanistan, he worked in the 1980s as a consultant to the State Department and was director of Friends of Afghanistan, a nonprofit which pushed for U.S. support for the mujahideen fight against the Soviets …

Drawing on his contacts from the 1980s, some who are now Taliban leaders, he thought he would explore the Pashtun region and report on the state of the Taliban and al Qaeda there. But as the book's title makes clear, things went badly and he was taken hostage by the Taliban. "The Taliban commander led me to believe I could be killed at any moment. It was a roller coaster," Van Dyk said.

Despite his fears, over the month and a half his captors never beat him but instead often engaged him in debates about politics and religion. "Sometimes we laughed," he said. Two years later, Van Dyk says he has no idea why he was held or ultimately released — perhaps it was for ransom or a prisoner exchange or because he was mistaken for a U.S. spy or his captors used him in a dispute with another faction. He says he still receives threatening phone calls from Afghanistan and has some fears for his safety.

The book apparently gets at the heart of Pakistan's role in this latest Great Game, pointing out that Pakistan's efforts at supporting the Taliban are in part aimed at making sure that the Pashtuns do not begin to agitate for their own state, one which would actually comprise a large chunk of Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. By aiming Pashtun governmental ambitions at Afghanistan (and thus making Afghanistan the putative state of the Pashtuns) Pakistani leaders are attempting to ensure their own territorial integrity.

This book in our opinion is very timely. Just recently there have been more reports of how American and CIA money is funding both sides of the Afghan war effort. Many of these reports are accepted at face value by the leftist press, especially. The result is a spate of seemingly credible articles that point out that the Afghan war is just like any other Western war, one where Western intel operations play one side against the other and the military industrial complex profits according.

We have never believed this about the Afghan war. We have never believed the West is fighting in Afghanistan for oil, or pipelines or minerals. These are secondary issues. The Afghan war is part of a larger, fundamental clash of cultures. In that sense, we would tend to believe it is one of the more important modern wars ever fought. In fact, that is why it is STILL being fought. To maintain that the Anglo-American alliance does not want to win the Afghan war – only to extend it for profit – beggars common sense.

As an aside, we are also aware that Van Dyk writes for the mainstream press and that despite our agreement with his thesis, there are those that would be skeptical of his message simply because of his background. But in this case, we think the message is fairly straight-foward. The Anglo-American elite that stands behind these serial wars may want to "keep the pot boiling" but that doesn't mean that it wishes to lose.

No, it should be obvious to anyone who watches closely that the West remains hotly engaged in a war against 40 million Pashtuns and to a greater or lesser degree hundreds of millions of Pakistanis. It is actually a regional war that pits Pakistan against India as well as the Taliban against the current Afghan central government. The reality is clearly that the West wishes to extend and cement its control over the Middle East via military power. Even the upcoming war with Iran, if it comes to that, may be seen as an extension of this unstated but obvious policy.

After Thoughts

We have often pointed out that that the West's strategy of winning the hearts and minds of Pashtuns is a difficult one given that the Taliban is a Pashtun entity. But we ask another question as well: How can the Taliban and Pashtuns be defeated when they have the tacit backing of much larger Pakistan? This is a huge chunk of real-estate with a citizenry not especially well-disposed to the US or the larger West. From our point of view, Van Dyke seems to raise the right questions and provide thoughtful answers.

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