There are a lot of dimensions to the Af-Pak situation. Here are some of the key ones:
Most immediately are the tensions and “knife fighting” going on in administration over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and what strategy to pursue. It is definitely worth discussing what this debate says about Obama’s administration and at the same time the challenges and concerns facing US Empire.
Second there is the issue of what strategy to pursue. During the spring Obama went with a padded counter-terrorism strategy meaning the general thrust was to go after the Taliban and Al-Queda with some aid and development tacked on. It looks like McChrystal is calling for a full-blown counterinsurgency stategy which is civilian-centric and closer to nation-building.
Here is a youtube clip of what the life of soldiers are like. The soldiers clearly see that they’re losing the battle, that the fighters have the upper hand. This has to give much confidence to the Taliban and other fighters, because they must see that too. The interviews shown in this clip don’t make it seem like these grievances are taking on a political character yet. Related to this is the recent attack on an outpost which resulted in the death of 8 U.S. Soldiers. This is exactly what Obama wants to avoid because mortalities like this will only increase the unpopularity of this war.
The best description of the Pak-Taliban or Neo-Taliban I have seen is from International Socialism by Jonathan Neale. The Neo-Taliban is a product of colonialism, i.e. resistance. For the purposes of this post, I found the sections “The Roots of Resistance” and “The Neo-Taliban” most helpful.
Then there is the situation of Pakistan where a compradore elite/government sits atop the suffering people of Pakistan. Tariq Ali spells out the litany of incompetent policies set by the White House and Islamabad. While this piece is a little older, it also lays out the crisis in Pakistan very well. This has to be especially troubling as the Pakistani Army prepares for a major offensive in South Waziristan this fall.
2 thoughts on “What next for US Empire in Afghanistan and Pakistan”
In order to combat right wing Pashtun chauvinism, it looks like a major progressive voice is getting behind the war effort.
from the right wing paleo-conservative site Antiwar:
someone should tell Medea that the Left embracing imperialism, dictatorship and modernization from above in Afghanistan and Pakistan is why Pashtun chauvinism has the upper hand.
On the first point, the decision to deploy more troops is being delayed once again, in order to wait until it is clear who is in power in Afghanistan. (President Karzai claims to have won the election, this has been disputed by a number of different groups, and the possibility of a run off election still looms.)
Hawks on the right see this as a further sign of Obama’s indecision and strengthens the Taliban’s resolve, liberals seem to think that its wise to deliberate before making the decision. In the meantime, the Pakistani army is moving deeper in South Waziristan, and people are speculating that the Taliban is luring them in in order to entangle them in a battle that they won’t be able to withdraw from quickly.
One the point about the shift to the counterinsurgency strategy that is supposedly more civilian friendly, watching videos of soldiers in Afghanistan interacting with local Afghanis is very telling. They are clearly accustomed to treating any Afghani with hostility and suspicion. A recent episode of Frontline called “Obama’s War” intersperses clips of a high up in the military talking about how great the new strategy is going to be for Afghani people, with clips of soldiers harshly questioning locals about the Taliban, doubting their sincerity and barking orders, and being unable to communicate with their interpreters. The new strategy might have an impact on the amount of life lost or injured in Afghanistan. I still have the question, though, of whether, just like the supposed withdrawal in Iraq, counterinsurgency is just the old orientation dressed up in new clothes.