Friday :: Apr 4, 2008

Pashtunistan Rising


by Turkana

The Washington Post reports that things still aren't going so well, in Afghanistan. For the U.S. and its allies, anyway. For the Taliban and al-Qaeda, things are going quite well, indeed.

The March 12 incident highlights how, more than six years into the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, efforts to stabilize the country increasingly focus on the rugged frontier area straddling the border with Pakistan. Over the past 18 months, Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters have exploited peace deals by Pakistan's government to create an unprecedented haven in the region, U.S. officials said. From there, insurgents have escalated attacks in Pakistan and in eastern Afghanistan, leading the United States last year to double its troop presence along more than 600 miles of frontier.

Recent high-level talks among the three countries have called for more intelligence-sharing and coordinated operations along the border. Last Saturday, the first of six new border coordination centers -- with officers from the three nations -- opened at Torkham at the Khyber Pass, a "giant step" forward, said Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan.

But despite such efforts, front-line commanders such as Hammonds still grapple with key obstacles -- including unreliable Afghan and Pakistani soldiers, ambivalent villagers, and even disputes over where the true border lies. Commanders said they need at least 50 percent more U.S. troops and more reconstruction money. At current levels, they said, it will take at least five years to quell insurgent attacks, which increased nearly 40 percent in eastern Afghanistan last year, including a 22 percent rise in attacks along the border.

Here's the dirty little secret that no one seems to want acknowledge: there is no border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That border was drawn arbitrarily by the British. More than a century ago. It didn't work then and it doesn't work now. Because it splits Pashtunistan right down the middle. The Pashtun, like all indigenous people, are and always will be more allied with each other than with nation-states arbitrarily invented by far away foreign powers.

There was a chance to effect change, in late 2001 and early 2002. It would have involved catching the people responsible for the September 11 attacks. That couldn't be done by carpet bombing them. It could have been done by sending in commandos and conducting a targeted and coordinated police operation. That didn't happen. Then, the entire world could have helped a devastated region recover. That hasn't happened. Nothing that should have happened has happened. Plenty of things that shouldn't have happened have happened. And because of the astonishing ineptitude of the Bush Administration, those responsible for the September 11 attacks have gotten away with it. And they only grow stronger.

Turkana :: 12:54 PM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!