Afghan warlords prepare for another civil war
by Ramtanu Maitra on 06 Dec 2012 1 Comment

On Nov. 1, Mohammad Ismail Khan, a big warlord,a former mujahideen commander in western Afghanistan, and now Afghanistan’senergy and water minister, told his supporters at a gathering in Herat thatthey needed to re-arm to defend the country from “foreign conspirators.” Priorto Khan’s call to arms, there were reports that the anti-Taliban United Front,comprising all of Afghanistan’s ethnic groups, has begun to arm itself againstthe revival of the Taliban once the bulk of the US/NATO troops leave thecountry in 2014.


After waging war for 11 years, a period duringwhich thousands were killed, hundreds of thousands were maimed, and trillionsof taxpayers’ dollars and euros were spent to achieve nothing, the UnitedStates and its NATO allies will leave behind in Afghanistan a country whichresembles the same condition it was in 1989, when the defeated Soviet troopstrudged their way back home. Following that, Afghanistan went through a decadeof hell before the Saudi-financed and indoctrinated and Pakistanimilitary-trained Afghan Wahhabites, who call themselves the Taliban, tookcontrol of Kabul in 1995, and institutionalized that hell-like situation.


In other words, Afghanistan is about to beplunged into a new civil war - with the major difference being that theNorthern warlords, who were previously the allies of NATO and the US, will nowbe the opponents of NATO’s new allies, the Taliban.




In 2001, following 9/11, an event with which theAfghan Taliban had absolutely nothing to do, the United States attackedAfghanistan. Its stated objective, spelled out over a period of time, wasrooting out terrorism by killing or capturing Osama bin Laden; eliminating al-Qaedaand its network; and destroying the Taliban or making them ineffective. Duringthe following 11 years, Washington and Brussels continued to make promises - allof which they later buried in the sands of Afghanistan. What happened in thesubsequent period?


Well, the Taliban were quickly removed fromKabul, but they returned over the next three years of occupation, grew instrength, and prevented the 150,000 foreign troops from securing control overAfghanistan. Now, the Obama Administration is running from pillar to postseeking help from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Pakistan to open talks with theTaliban, so that the US troops and their war-fighting equipment can be removed“peacefully” in 2014, when most of the foreign troops are scheduled to leave.


True, the “super-terrorist” bin Laden waseventually killed, but ten years later in Pakistan where, isolated from theentire world, he was living out his life under the protection of Pakistan’ssecurity apparatus. Pakistan, incidentally, is Washington’s main ally in thelatter’s alleged “war on terror.”


On the dismantling of al-Qaeda, many lies havebeen delivered and are still being propagated. First, it has been saidrepeatedly that the US/NATO duo has succeeded in giving al-Qaeda a fatal bodyblow in Afghanistan. That may be true, but it is a fact that al-Qaeda, ageneric term applied to a gallimaufry of various Salafi and Wahhabite Islamicterrorists seeking an Islamic Caliphate, provided a significant amount ofmuscle-power to the democratic West to dismantle and kill Muammar Qaddafi,thereby creating a rule of terror and anarchy in Libya. The same variety ofSalafi and Wahhabite terrorists is now being funded by the West’s best alliesin the Arabian peninsula to dethrone and dismantle the Syrian regime, and, inessence, usher in full-fledged anarchy and terror in Syria as well.


Beyond these three promises, many others havebeen made. President George W. Bush at one point wanted to carry out a MarshallPlan to bring Afghanistan into the modern era. That was quickly shoved aside.Then came promises to usher in peace, stability, and democracy, and “winningthe hearts and minds” of the Afghans. That litany of the Obama Administrationwas soon abandoned as well to put on the table the next promise, which was to provideAfghan women with equal rights.


All those eventually turned out to be nothingmore than empty words from those who dared not explain why they were inAfghanistan to begin with, or were staying for years and years. Now, 11 yearslater, those who invaded Afghanistan with the ostensible intent to do theAfghans a world of good, have only one policy left in their grab-bag: targetkillings of “terrorists” inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, usingremote-controlled drones.


“The foreigners sidelined those who had foughtfor ages,” Ismail Khan said during his speech in Herat in November. “Theycollected all our weapons, our artillery and tanks, and put them on the rubbishheap. Instead, they brought Dutch girls, French girls, they armed Americangirls… They thought by doing this they would bring security here, but theyfailed.” Khan added he had the full backing of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.


Long before Ismail Khan made clear what toexpect once the foreign troops leave Afghanistan, the arming of warlords hadbegun. Khan’s idea to re-arm local militias is nothing new. Writing in the Atlantic monthly of Nov. 15, 2012, in anarticle titled, “What’s Behind FormerAfghan Warlord Ismail Khan’s Public Call to Arms?”, Frud Bezhan pointed outthat “in fact, the United States has made it its policy in recent years tore-arm many of the same militias it disarmed and demobilized at the beginningof the war. Since the US-led invasion in 2001, Washington has spent millions ona Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program for former mujahedin,members of West-backed jihadist groups who fought the Soviet Union and laterthe Taliban. Former mujahedin commanders like Ismail Khan were givenhigh-ranking positions within the government in a nod to national unity.”


In September 2011, when Taliban fightershijacked two NATO fuel tankers in the northern Kunduz province, along the newlyestablished northern supply route into Afghanistan, and the German troops basedthere ordered an airstrike that killed scores of Afghan civilians and fighters,it was wake-up time for the northern warlords. They realized that theseforeigners will not be able to control the rise of the Taliban and thatnorthern Afghanistan, which had been the bastion of the anti-Taliban UnitedFront, could very well end up under Taliban control.


Going BackFull Circle


Speaking at the International Institute forStrategic Studies (IISS) in London, as quoted in the Guardian April 16, 2012, Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani author andjournalist, said “the West has failed to jump-start a sustainable economy, andthe job losses triggered by the 2014 withdrawal will be a huge blow to manyAfghans’ livelihoods.” The Guardiancontinued, “That will be compounded by the US military policy of armingmilitias and community police forces around the country, which he [Rashid]predicts will constitute a destabilizing pool of guns for hire for warlords anddrug kingpins, when their American paymasters are gone.” Rashid added that the“Northern Alliance forces are arming themselves as a hedge against a resurgentTaliban.”


Bezhan, in the April 12 Atlantic, quoted Ryan Evans, a research fellow at the Center forNational Policy, an independent think tank based in Washington. According toEvans, Ismail Khan’s comments hint at a wider remobilization of former localand regional militias. “Evans says the international presence has kept a lid onongoing tensions between the country’s long-warring factions, but he expectsthat to change as Western soldiers get closer to their expected withdrawaldate.”


“The conflict in Afghanistan is an aggregationof small local and regional conflicts. Counterinsurgency has not solved any ofthese conflicts,” Evans told Bezhan. “So, what we’re seeing from Ismail Khan isa very natural reaction to that. We’re going to see more of it as we get closerto 2014, and after 2014 as local communities begin to arm themselves.”


In the Nov. 14, 2012 edition of the Indian newsdaily The Hindu, Graham Bowley, inhis article “Afghan Warlords Regrouping,” wrote that Khan is not the only voicecalling for a renewed alliance of the mujahideen against the Taliban, and someof the others are just as familiar. For instance, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim,an ethnic Tajik commander, who is President Karzai’s first vice president, saidin a speech in September, “If the Afghan security forces are not able to wagethis war, then call upon the mujahideen,” Bowley noted.


Ahmad Zia Massoud, another prominent mujahideenfighter and brother of legendary now-dead Tajik warlord, Ahmed Shah Massoud,said in an interview in Kabul that people were worried about what was going tohappen after 2014, and he was telling his own followers to make preliminarypreparations. “They don’t want to be disgraced again,” Massoud said. “Everyonetries to have some sort of Plan B. Some people are on the verge of re-arming.”Bowley said he pointed out that it was significant that the going market priceof Kalashnikov assault rifles had risen to about $1,000, driven up by demandfrom a price of $300 a decade ago. “Every household wants to have an AK-47 athome,” he said.


Other prominent potential participants in theupcoming civil war, who have put up resistance against the US/NATO-ledoccupation, are: Hizb-e-Islami, and the Haqqani Network/Group, along with anumber of smaller groups, who have their own local areas of influence. Evenamongst the Taliban, there exist various groupings. While most of them are nowcooperating against the foreign occupiers, they can quickly turn against eachother.


Foreignconspiracy to bring back the Taliban?


When Ismail Khan spoke of “foreignconspirators,” he was referring to the ongoing efforts by Washington andBrussels to open up a dialogue with the Taliban. The purpose of that dialogue,at least in the minds of the anti-Taliban United Front in Afghanistan, is anactive attempt by the Obama Administration to provide the Taliban a slice ofpower in Kabul as a “bribe,” while the US withdraws a large number of troopsand equipment from Afghanistan.


What is for certain is that Khan was notwhistling in the dark. Obviously, the Obama Administration is getting prettydesperate to open up talks with the Taliban, and has reportedly sought helpfrom Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Pakistan to get talks started. This has worriedthe anti-Taliban groups within Afghanistan.


It has been noted in Afghanistan that theTaliban, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, are open to a general ceasefire, and arewilling to accept the US military presence in Afghanistan up to 2024, but willnot negotiate with President Karzai or his administration, claiming he iscorrupt and weak. This was reported in a briefing paper published by theBritain-based think tank, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).


RUSI had long been a handmaiden of Britishintelligence, and, in fact, one of the writers of this briefing paper, MichaelSemple, was kicked out of Afghanistan by President Karzai in December 2007,when Kabul learned that this MI6 agent was negotiating covertly with theTaliban in southern Afghanistan, along with another MI6 agent and the Britishambassador.

The briefing paper also said that the Talibanrepresentatives welcomed the prospect of a US military stabilization forceoperating in Afghanistan up to 2024, out of the five primary military bases - Kandahar,Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Kabul - as long as the US presencecontributed to Afghan security and did not constrain Afghan independence andIslamic jurisprudence.


The RUSI writers pointed out that during theirdiscussion with a Taliban leader, it was “revealed for the first time theemerging consensus of the Taliban leadership, a far more pragmatic picture ofthe Taliban than has previously been made public, with the Taliban willing totake part in peace negotiations in exchange for political leverage after 2014.”


What the briefing paper pointed out, and whatthe Afghan warlords are concerned about, is surely a process in progress.Washington demanded that the Taliban denounce al-Qaeda. Since the Taliban hadnever really any connection with al-Qaeda, that was not difficult for MullahOmar to agree to. The Taliban representatives told the RUSI that denouncingal-Qaeda can be built into a larger comprehensive peace settlement in exchangefor some form of political recognition. The Taliban propose that they wouldthen act, with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghangovernment representatives on a Joint Monitoring Commission, to ensure thatal-Qaeda is no longer able to operate on Afghan soil.


While the Obama Administration has made someprogress in its efforts to resume talks with the Taliban, the Talibanleadership has made it clear that it would not take part in any freshnegotiations, unless and until its five leaders who are detained by the US atGuantanamo Bay prison are set free.


TheTaliban in Focus


The Obama Administration had in fact agreed toaccept that demand, and had conveyed to the Taliban that it would hand over thedetainees to Qatari authorities, in return for the release of Sgt. BoweBergdahl, the only American soldier known to be held by the Taliban insurgents.The US, however, later showed reluctance to hand over the Taliban detainees toQatar, a move that led to the suspension of the peace dialogue with the Talibanin March.


PakistanToday,in its article “Taliban still not ready to talk to US sans prisoners’ release,”filed from Qatar Sept. 3, 2012, reported a Pakistani diplomat saying that itwas true that the US had been seeking the help of Pakistan and other friendlystates for the resumption of talks with the Taliban, but it seemed thatAmerican efforts were not acceptable to the Taliban leaders unless and untilthe prisoners were released. The diplomat said another development that couldhurt US efforts to restart negotiations was the designation of the “Haqqaninetwork” as a terrorist group by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sept.7, 2012.


Meanwhile, to facilitate talks, Pakistan hasreleased 13 Taliban leaders from jail, and is now considering the release ofthe Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. On the otherhand, the Taliban, aware of the Obama Administration’s strong dislike ofKarzai, have made clear that they are not ready to talk to Kabul.


A political settlement between the Afghangovernment and insurgents is widely seen as the best way of deliveringstability to the country before most of the NATO combat troops pull out at theend of 2014. But since the Obama Administration wants to cut a deal with theTaliban, they want to push aside President Karzai, who has wanted involvementof the regional powers to ensure stability in the post-2014 Afghanistan.


The special US envoy to Afghanistan andPakistan, Marc Grossman, is spending more time in Islamabad pursuingnegotiations with the Taliban. According to at least one Pakistani analyst,Washington thinks negotiations with the Taliban could lead to a negotiatedpolitical settlement. But what will be next, in reality, will be more war.


The authoris South Asian Analyst at ExecutiveIntelligence Review

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