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    South Asia
     Nov 22, '13

The democratic occupation of Afghanistan
By Khalid Sekander

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Afghanistan, and to some extent parts of Pakistan, has served as the battle space on the "global war on terror" since 2001. The primary reason for the US-led military invasion of Afghanistan, as per the initial UN Security Council Resolution, was self-defense against the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

As George W Bush announced soon thereafter, "better there than here", with the reasonable inference that the US was in

Afghanistan to fight the war so that the terrorists, global jihadists, Islamists were busied in Afghanistan fighting jihad instead of attacking any more Western cities like Madrid, London and New York. President Barack Obama has forwarded this policy by investing more in fighting than in peacemaking.

Afghanistan serves as a convenient battleground of the war on terror for a variety of reasons. Firstly, Afghanistan has been in a state of conflict since 1979. Two, the terrorists are already there and ready to fight, with many more pouring into Afghanistan from terrorist training camps in Pakistan.

Thirdly, the US can rely on Pakistan, a member of the British Commonwealth, as it did during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to facilitate the movement of terrorists into Afghanistan to face the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) guns lurking in wait within Afghan villages.

Fourthly, Afghanistan lacks anything of value, like infrastructure, and so bombing it into the Stone Age will make no major difference to the already bombed out scenery. Poor Afghans are most expendable as collateral damage in the war on terror, when revenge is on the minds of American troops and Afghanistan is from where the attacks on the US emanated.

Finally, from the perception of global jihadists, Afghanistan epitomizes the land of traditional jihad, the place where godless superpowers are buried in the "graveyard of empires".

The deadly drones that have appeared in the skies above the AfPak region add a threatening dimension to the war, while essentially confirming that AfPak will continue to serve as the foreseeable battle-space for the conflict.

That even development projects to "democratize" Afghanistan are being led by the military, rather than civilians, reveals the depth and breadth of US military authority in controlling typically civilian-led agencies and development efforts, including the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (US AID).

Civilian advisers from the State Department and US AID are regularly embedded within military units to help the military identify development opportunities. The military created funding mechanisms to fund development projects, like CERP, the Commander's Emergency Response Program.

Social scientists, including anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, and lawyers are embedded within units to help the military better understanding "lay of the land". Counterinsurgency doctrine was intended to appeal in the same way the Greek's Trojan Horse appealed to the people of Troy.

The US has worked hard to contain and appease Afghan leaders via carrot-and-stick tactics, such as providing them with lucrative defense contracts in exchange for intelligence on "bad guys" and their village hideouts; meanwhile the US military backs and supports the most violent anti-insurgent Afghan leaders.

For example, General Razzak, Police Chief of Kandahar, apparently enjoys extra-judicial killings of suspected Taliban insurgents and NATO regularly praises Razzak in spite of knowing his proclivity. Karzai's infrequent complaints about night raids fall on deaf ears in Washington, and as long as the money keeps coming in, Karzai, and Pakistan for that matter, will remain reticent about American infringements on national sovereignty.

The bulk of these so called Afghan leaders renting out Afghan territory for the "war on terror" are themselves unabashedly American citizens. This begs the question of where their loyalty lies? And are they ready and willing to rent out Afghanistan post-2014 for another decade to foreigners intent on capturing and killing any Afghan they suspect of in exchange for more ghost money? Approving the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is no different than what Shah Shuja did with the British in the early 19th Century - relinquishing Afghanistan to the control of the British in exchange for remaining its king.

The question remains: at what point in time will Afghan leaders realize, both within the current government and the Taliban insurgency, that fighting each other will not help Afghanistan achieve peace, if peace is their goal? Afghan leaders on all sides must demonstrate they sincerely want peace regardless of what foreigners think or want. The BSA will simply continue and prolong violence in Afghanistan. Instead of bringing peace, the agreement will bring war, but as long as Afghan leaders are gorging on American ghost money, no one in power really cares about poor, defenseless Afghans.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Khalid Sekander is a licensed attorney in the US, and served for close to 10 years in Afghanistan trying to help rebuild its justice and judiciary systems.

(Copyright 2013 Khalid Sekander)

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