Afghanistan,  Gordon MacMillan,  Iraq

Afghans believe US is funding Taliban

I wasn’t sure I’d read this headline correctly, but Daniella Peled writing on Cif today has a post about how some of smartest and best educated people in Afghanistan, intellectuals and professionals, believe that the US is funding the Taliban as part of an effort to stay in the region and maintain its geopolitical influence across Asia.

Peled quotes one Afghan friend saying that the US has an interest in prolonging the conflict to ensure it is there for the long term and the British are just same. The UK she writes want to stay in Afghanistan “even more than the Americans”. Apparently that’s the reason the UK has promoted the idea of talks with the Taliban. Not to end the conflict, but to bring the Taliban into government and thus consolidating UK influence.

“We say in this country, you need two hands to clap. One side can’t do it on its own.  The US uses Israel to threaten the Arab states, and they want to make Afghanistan into the same thing,” her friend says. “Whoever controls Asia in the future, controls the world.”

Fair point. No doubting the importance of Asia, but then the same friend is also convinced that no Jews died in the Twin Towers on 9/11. It is very challenging to read such comments and accept the idea that some people believe the US and the UK have a serious interest in fighting year after year in a series of what are grinding and unpopular wars — even Afghanistan which has always enjoyed more support at home than the war in Iraq, but there it is.  As if some Forever War, to borrow the title of Dexter Filkins’ great book on the war on terror, is a desirable thing.

Peled goes on to quote a Kabuli radio journalist pointing out the fact that in Helmand 15,000 international and Afghan troops have failed to crush “a couple of thousand of badly equipped Taliban”.

Could that be the same badly armed Taliban, who roam across the Pakistan border and who have killed 1784 coalition troops including 1083 American and 286 British troops? Apparently the Taliban have achieved this creeping bloody body count with the US weapons and supplies.

“The proof is manifold, they say (although it does tend to include the phrase guaranteed to dismay every journalist: “everybody knows that …”).

Among the things everybody knows are that Afghan national army troops report taking over Taliban bases to find identical rations and weapons to their own US-supplied equipment. The US funds the madrasas both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, which produce the young Talibs. US army helicopters regularly deliver supplies behind Taliban lines. The aid organisations are nothing more than intelligence-collecting agencies, going into regions the army cannot easily reach to obtain facts on the ground. Even the humblest midwife-training project is a spying outfit.”

The sad thing is that the US and maybe the UK will be in Afghanistan for years to come. Afghanistan is not Iraq, it has already been ravaged by decades of war and rebuilding that and ensuring it remains on a stable footing and prospers is a long term and worthy goal. It is just a shame that it is a costly one and fosters such ideas that Peled writes about today.

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