The United States has entered into direct talks with leaders of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but contacts are exploratory and not yet a peace negotiation, according to an article Saturday in The New Yorker magazine. The article, citing people briefed on the talks, said the talks are to assess who in the Taliban leadership, if anyone, might engage in formal peace negotiations and under what conditions. "They're exploratory, at least as I understand them," Steve Coll, the article's author, said in an interview on National Public Radio. Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) has held sporadic talks with current and former Taliban members, but with little apparent result. – Reuters
Dominant Social Theme: The war is going so well we need more of it.
Free-Market Analysis: Just a few days ago we reported that Pakistan's embrace of Chinese troops probably ended any chance that NATO and the US might have in winning the war that has been waged against the Pashtuns for the past decade or so. So long as the Taliban Pashtuns can retire to Pakistan to rest and regroup – and re-recruit – the possibility of winning this sort of guerilla war is virtually nil.
Now there is this (see article excerpt above). Western military and civilian leaders are, after all, beginning to reach out to their Taliban adversaries. The idea initially was that such talks would be an outcome of military pressure, and that the Taliban itself would "come to the table." Apparently that timetable has been speeded up and it is NATO rather than the Taliban that is making peremptory advances.
For us, the unraveling Afghan war effort is a huge story, even though it not being covered like one in the mainstream press. There are far more mainstream media articles about the latest single from Lady Gaga than there are about the war effort. But it is a very big deal. The Anglosphere has not lost any wars of consequence since, well … the last war against the Pashtuns over 100 years ago. Neither Vietnam nor Korea in our view were serious wars; they were ways to continually militarize Western society while enriching the military-industrial complex.
But the Afghan war is different. It is a deadly serious one and of such import as cannot be overstated. Without control of Afghanistan and the implementation of a Western-style regulatory democracy there, power elite dreams of world government begin to founder. It is impossible to implement world government when you do not control the navel of the world.
The struggle is between ill-clad Afghan farmers and all the power and military might that the Anglosphere can muster. It is a fiercesome array of firepower and resources from million-dollar tanks to US$50 million drone bombers, to rifles that can shoot around corners. Against such massive weaponry are set some 25,000 Taliban fighters with small arms and a mass of fanatically devout youth willing to blow themselves up to rid their country of foreign interference. You can read our previous article here about the potential Chinese intervention:
In the past few months, the Western media has been full of good cheer when it comes to the Afghan war. The surge is working well and various generals have been consistently optimistic about the continued Westernization of Afghanistan. There is word that the Taliban is continually being pushed out of its strongholds and even that troops have begun giving up in large numbers. The advancing efficiency of the Afghan police force and army has been mentioned as well. The US and NATO will never entirely leave Afghanistan, of course, but gradually the Afghan army and police will prove themselves fit to take over the "job."
There are lingering problems, of course. Of late some US military personnel have been voicing alarm that the US$12 billion or so per year that is needed to train these forces may not be available in an era of fiscal austerity. So far, Congressional leaders apparently have assured their military counterparts this will not be a problem. It IS noteworthy however that NATO and Europe or not stepping forward to make the same assurances. This continues very much to be the Anglosphere's war, much as the aspiration to world government is peculiarly Anglo-American.
It is also true that despite the optimistic statements from legislators and military men something very peculiar has just been announced. A little noticed AP article reported that up to 73,000 more Afghan forces may be needed to secure the peace before the long-awaited draw-down begins. The AP article reported that The Obama administration is debating proposals to expand Afghan security forces by up to this amount.
Afghan army numbers (the amount to be trained and equipped) have in the past have hovered around 305,000, but now Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is reported by AP as saying that the amount is more likely to be 352,000 and 378,000 Afghan-trained troops. This would come with an additional price tag. Apparently, the 2012 US budget proposal is to cover the additional costs.
From our point of view this is fairly sizeable undertaking. The trouble with training so many troops in so short a time is that quality assurance must surely suffer. This is a massive army to build from scratch in a few short years. The American military culture developed over several centuries and was culturally homogeneous within the context of the power-elite manipulations that created it. Afghan society is nothing like the American one and the model of a standing army within the context of a militarized culture is probably entirely foreign to these soldier-recruits.
Also, the recruits as we understand it are overwhelmingly non-Pashtun. As the Pashtuns make up about half of the Afghan population, this means the army is being drawn from tribal elements that the Pashtuns have traditionally considered rivals. This is a terrible thing, therefore, that the US military is doing with the support of complicit legislators. In order to facilitate an orderly drawdown of NATO and US troops, Western leadership is prepared to create what must be considered a state of civil war in Afghanistan. Will 40 million Pashtuns agree to be policed by 350,000 armed, non-Pashtuns? Here is one answer, as reported by the New York Times just yesterday:
Attackers Wearing Army Uniforms Make Deadly Assault on Bank in Afghanistan … KABUL, Afghanistan — As Afghan soldiers and police officers lined up on Saturday to get their monthly salaries at a bank in downtown Jalalabad, they became targets for seven heavily armed attackers in Army uniforms who had joined them, Afghan officials said. "There were seven suicide bombers dressed in A.N.A. uniform," said the governor, Gul Agha Shirzai. "Five of the bombers were killed in the firefight with security forces, and two blew themselves up." … The Taliban claimed responsibility for the latest attack. "We inflicted heavy casualties on the security forces of the puppet government," a Taliban spokesman said.
In this one attack, seven young people were prepared to blow themselves up and two actually did so. In fact, this was only the latest such attack. In the past three weeks there have been four other such attacks. This does not seem to be the work of a defeated organization. In fact, if anything, it would seem that anti-occupation fervor is growing. Further down in the article, the Times reports the following:
On Feb. 8, just a bit beyond the city limits, thousands of people gathered for the funeral of Awal Gul, a detainee at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in Cuba who died there while exercising. People who attended the ceremony said that messages were read from a prominent local Taliban leader and that the crowd chanted anti-American slogans and vowed revenge.
Within this environment, we wonder just how effective US and NATO outreach to the Taliban can be. Of course, the apparent olive branch is still being accompanied by tough talk in any case. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech Friday that Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents "cannot outlast escalating US military pressure and they face an increasingly stark choice to break with Al-Qaeda. They cannot wait us out. They cannot defeat us. And they cannot escape this choice. The Taliban's only option is split from Al-Qaeda, accept the Afghan constitution and join peaceful dialogue on the country's future."
Clinton did not mention what an article in the Bangladeshi Views Times did, however, that there are only a few dozen Al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan. The article cited an old Pashtun proverb: "You have the watches but we have the time." The US and NATO will draw down forces sooner or later, if not for any other reason than the financial. Increasingly, the West's posturing resembles that of Hosni Mubarak who could have left sooner under better circumstances but left later under worse.