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Hey Babe, Your Warlord’s Back!
Posted by Steve Hynd on January 26th, 2010

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The AP (sorry) has the news that mass murdering fuckhead General Dostum is back in Karzai’s government despite protestations from Western leaders.

Karzai this month restored Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum as chief of staff to the commander in chief of the Afghan army – a job he lost in 2008 after failing to cooperate in an investigation into the shooting of a rival.

…”Gen. Dostum joins a Karzai government which suffers deficiency of constitutional legitimacy, lacks vision and unity, and is mired in corruption and inefficiency,” the independent Afghanistan Rights Movement said this week. “With notorious warlords such as Gen. Dostum in power, Mr. Karzai can neither send a genuine message of peace to the armed opposition, nor can he convince Afghans that they live in a just society where their lives and rights are protected by the state.”

Noor Olhag Olomi, a member of parliament from Kandahar, called the Dostum appointment a “violation of human rights” of Afghans who had suffered abuse at the hands of Dostum and his forces.

Meanwhile Gareth Porter, who is in Afghanistan right now, confirms that the West has decided to cut its losses, paper over what cracks it can for a domestic audience and head for the exits – all while praising the Surge as the vehicle of “success”. Porter writes that the key is a deal with the Taliban, which means Dostum will soon have some more company in the blood-thirsty warlord club of Kabul.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s very cautiously-worded support for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban leadership in an interview published Monday is only the first public signal of a policy decision by the Barack Obama administration to support a political settlement between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, an official of McChrystal’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command has revealed in an interview with IPS.

…The official said the objective of the troop surge and the ISAF strategy accompanying it is to support a negotiated political settlement. “The story of the next 18 months is the story of establishing the conditions under which reconciliation will take place,” said the official.

…The counterinsurgency strategy now being mounted in Afghanistan by ISAF “is aimed at providing time and space” for “reconciliation”, according to the official, as well as governance reforms and increasing the capacity of the national army and police force during that 18-month period.

The ISAF official said there has been a debate among U.S. officials about “the terms on which the Taliban will become part of the political fabric”. The debate is not on whether the Taliban movement will be participating in the Afghan political system, however, but on whether or not the administration could accept the participation of a specific individual — Mullah Omar, the leader of the organisation and former chief of state of the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001 — in the political future of Afghanistan.

Gareth also confirms that notions of the Taliban inviting Al Qaeda back or of the Taliban having to be put on the back foot before negotiations appear to have been abandoned.

U.S. participation appears necessary to get the Taliban to agree to end its resistance and reach a political solution. The Taliban has insisted in published statements that it will not participate in peace talks that would not result in the withdrawal of foreign troops.

That demand raises the question of whether the administration would be willing to discuss the complete withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of a settlement.

The last time a demand for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal was negotiated in an international agreement was the Iraqi security pact of 2008. The George W. Bush administration had insisted that the United States would only agree to a “condition-based” withdrawal plan, but in the end, it accepted a deadline for complete withdrawal.

The ISAF official said the decision on that issue would be made by the Obama administration and its NATO allies, but that the ISAF command would have “no problem” with the negotiation of a timetable in conjunction with a political settlement.

The official suggested that the argument used to justify the troop surge in Afghanistan – that the Taliban would allow al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan if it were allowed to consolidate power in large areas – has now been abandoned.

“There are certainly divisions between Taliban and al Qaeda,” said the official. He cited statements by Taliban officials that “the state was hijacked by al Qaeda, and we’re not going to let that happen again.”

The argument that the Taliban leadership would be unwilling to negotiate unless persuaded by increasing U.S. military pressures over the next 18 months that they are “losing” also appears to have been abandoned by the administration and the ISAF command.

The official cited a “growing trend” in intelligence analysis concluding that the Taliban “is positioning itself for a settlement.”

Which is all pretty much what I’ve been writing recently.

And so it appears that, no matter what spin is put on matters for domestic consumption, it’ll be “warlords for the win!” That’s a great pity for the people of Afghanistan but isn’t, truthfully, a whole lot different from the period pre-Taliban government there, and may be a whole lot better if Taliban and ex- Northern Alliance are kept to a somewhat-peace by Western threats of future intervention. For the US and it’s Western allies, it serves their strategic aims. For Afghanistan’s neighbours, it leaves the place open and essentially unaligned again, and they can all go back to their proxy machinations for control.

Realistically, it’s the only exit strategy from the Afghan resource pit that’ll be obtainable in anything short of a couple of decades, and should be taken. As should the wider lesson.

By limiting our foreign policy interventions to only those instances of vital necessity and last resort, we can better assure that the domestic political will would exist to apply the resources necessary to succeed, we wouldn’t have to try to pull off the remarkable on the cheap, and we wouldn’t need to dedicate trillions of COIN dollars in the aftermath in order to fix the original bargain basement boondoggle.  While that sounds like a vague standard – it is – try this rule of thumb: the overwhelming presumption should be against committing U.S. military resources in an offensive capacity, especially if there are any alternatives that are even arguably viable.  Work back from there.

But the dishonesty that will accompany it will still rankle.

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  1. [...] Driving School, Nasreddin Hodja in Berlin, Setzt euch mit dem Nationalsozialismus auseinander!, Hey Babe, Your Warlord’s Back!, Tomgram: Our Wars Are Killing Us, Government Ban Protest Outside Blair Iraq Hearing, Goldstone [...]

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