| Ander Nieuws week 4 / Midden-Oosten 2013 |
Stage set for history to repeat itself in Afghanistan

The Chronicle Herald
January 7, 2013
Scott Taylor
Last Wednesday, the Taliban published a statement entitled a Quick Glance at 2012.
This smug annual review claimed that NATO forces in Afghanistan have "completely lost their will to fight and (have) practically (begun) the process of withdrawal and retreat."
While the current casualty figures would indicate that coalition forces are engaging in more combat now than at any other time during the 11-year, U.S.-led intervention, it is hard to deny the Taliban assertion that all the western allies have their eyes fixed on their eventual exit.
Some counties, such as Canada and France, have already terminated combat operations in Afghanistan. International troop levels dropped by about 30,000 in 2012 and all foreign soldiers are scheduled to be out of the country by the end of 2014.
"When America faced utter destruction in Vietnam, they came up with the formula 'Declare victory and run' and want to utilize the formula of 'Transfer security and run' here in Afghanistan," claimed the Taliban statement. "In reality, they want to flee from Afghanistan just as they turned tail and ran from Vietnam."
In that same gloating tone, the Taliban likened the West's intervention to the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.
"We can unmistakably state that 2012 in Afghanistan for the current occupation was exactly as 1986 was for the former occupation," claimed the Taliban.
For those familiar with that conflict, it is widely recognized that the Soviet losses to Afghan insurgents in 1986 sparked Moscow's initiative to conclude their occupation and withdraw all combat troops by February 1989.
During that planned, two-year, phase-out, the Soviet objective was to train and equip the Afghan Communist Army to a state of self-sufficiency so they could continue to prop up President Mohammad Najibullah.
For his part, Najibullah was to attempt to defuse the insurgency by initiating a policy of national reconciliation among those Afghan warlords who had resisted the Soviet military occupation.
Given that this is the exact same blueprint that NATO has developed for an exit strategy, (train the Afghan Army to self-sufficiency while encouraging President Hamid Karzai to extend reconciliation to the Taliban) it is worth examining how well the Soviet plan worked out.
Even as the last of the Soviet tanks rumbled north over the Hindu-Kush mountains, the Afghan warlords began battling Najibullah's communist forces and each other in a bid to fill the power vacuum.
One of the most powerful of these warlords was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an ethnic Pashtun whose Hezb-e-Islami movement was fighting in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. As long as Hekmatyar was battling the Soviets, he was considered an American ally and Hezb-e-Islami received tremendous financial and military aid from the CIA.
Propping up the Najibullah regime's defence of Kabul was the militia of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum. An ethnic Uzbek, Dostum had allied himself with the Soviets in their battle against the primarily Pashtun insurgents.
However with the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the subsequent economic collapse of the Soviet Union, Dostum discarded his communist facade and switched his allegiance to the Mujahadeen warlords. The defection of Dostum cut off Najibullah's lifeline to the former Soviet Union, and the warlords then quickly captured Kabul in 1992.
However, the continued infighting and violent purges by the various Mujahadeen groups against innocent Afghans drove volunteers into the ranks of the fledging Taliban movement. By September 2001, the Taliban forces had wrested from the warlords all but a small chunk of the territory in northeast Afghanistan.
The balance of power changed following the 9-11 terror attacks in the U.S. and the Taliban's refusal to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Fast forward to the present and Hekmatyar is still one of the most powerful warlords in the country. Now however, he is regarded as a terrorist by the U.S. and represents one of the greatest threats to the Karzai's Afghan security forces.
The chief of staff for the Afghan army is none other than Dostum, who also maintains the nucleus of his old militia in his northern stronghold of Sheberghan.
In other words, the stage has been set for history to repeat itself in Afghanistan, with many of the same cast members still playing their old familiar roles.
Scott Taylor is an author and editor of Esprit de Corps magazine.
2013 The Chronicle Herald
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| Ander Nieuws week 4 / Midden-Oosten 2013 |