by Mordechai Kedar
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
In his State of the Union address, the president of the United States announced that the American army will begin to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan before the end of the year, so that by the end of 2013, 34,000 soldiers, approximately half of the total force, will have left, and the other half by the end of 2014. The American media - the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition for the 9th and 10th of February, for example, dedicated a lot of space to the fact that the United States military is leaving without regard for the situation that these forces leave behind. The thrust of the coverage is that what is important for the United States today is how and when to get out of Afghanistan, without addressing the simple question: "What did we want to achieve and what have we actually achieved in the eleven years of the Sisyphean war in this country?".
The West's invasion of Afghanistan began in late 2001, after the September 11 attacks revealed Afghanistan to be an al-Qaeda state, and Osama bin Laden had formed a pact with Mula Umar, the Taliban leader, the main point of which was that the billionaire bin Laden would fund Afghanistan, and this would allow him to do whatever he wished with it. Bin Laden kept his word and Mula Umar kept his part as well. Within a few years - from the mid-nineties of the previous century - the state of the Taliban became a terror state, and hundreds of facilities such as training bases, enlistment centers and schools that taught the doctrine of terrorism were established on its soil.
Many Ethnicities, but None are "Afghans"
This process was made possible because the Taliban, an organization based on the Pashtun people, gained dominance over the other ethnic groups in the country. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country that comprises more than eleven (!) ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaqs, Balochs, Kyrgys, Turkmen, Nuristans, Pamirs and more. It is interesting to note that none of these groups is called "Afghan". The country was named Afghanistan by the British and Russians who delineated the borders in the mid-nineteenth century because "Afghan" is a variation of the name historically attributed to the main ethnic group in that area, known today as Pashtuns.
Contrary to India, where English is the common language for all of the groups, in Afghanistan the various ethnic groups have no common language. The weakness of the civil system stems from the fact that these ethnic groups differ from each other in every way: language, culture, leaders, dress, leadership and world view. The fact that these groups are forced to live with each other creates friction and continual conflict, which has turned the country into a hell where armed militias fight each other fiercely and continually, despite the fact that everyone is Muslim. The Hazaras, for instance, are Shi'ites and are seen as unclean. It is important to note that each one of these ethnic groups is further broken down into tribes, which don't always coexist peacefully with each other, and many of them tend to resort to violence immediately.
A Litany of Failures in Afghanistan
Since the creation of the state of Afghanistan, there have been several attempts to stabilize it. The British tried, failed and left it to its misery. The Soviets tried to stabilize its political system during the eighties and failed miserably, which accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States invaded - along with its partners - toward the end of 2001, and it seems that it also is about to fail in its efforts to stabilize the state and governmental system. The question that naturally arises is why all of the attempts to stabilize this miserable state have failed. The only possible answer is that it is simply not achievable, because the many ethnic and tribal units will never become one cohesive unit with a shared national consciousness, with loyalty to a common framework and common leadership. When a state tries to unify rival groups that have nothing in common, the task of leading all of them under one national framework is not possible.
The Impact of Ethnic Diversity in European Cases
This need not surprise us: we need only glance for a moment at Europe to see what happened to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, who also - despite their having been functional states for more than seventy years - disintegrated into entities based on ethnicity. And what is happening in Belgium between the Flemish and the Walloons? And in Spain with the Catalonians who seek to secede from Spain? And in Britain with the Scots who, in another two years will vote in a referendum on whether to remain as part of the "United" Kingdom or not? And Cyprus, which is also divided on an ethnic basis? So what do the Aimaq and Hazara citizens of Afghanistan expect? That they will get along with each other better than the Czechs and the Slovaks?
A Workable Solution for a Region with Multiple Ethnicities
Throughout the course of its blood-soaked history, all the countries that have become involved in Afghanistan have failed, because all of them tried to resuscitate the dead political body that is Afghanistan. What the world should have done long ago is erase the borders delineated by British colonialism and its Russian brothers, and mark new borders that would divide the country into homogeneous units based on ethnicity and tribes. The chance for each one of these units to achieve stability is immeasurably greater than the present situation, because it would be based on a homogeneous, cultural unit with a unified public consciousness, traditional and legitimate leadership, a system of generally accepted public conventions and common goals. Stable and orderly units that recognize each other's independence and sovereignty, would be able to enter into joint activities on the basis of agreements and interests, and even establish parent organizations, in order to achieve shared goals in areas such as security (for example the Gulf Emirates and NATO) and the economy (the European Union, for example).
A Failed State that Holds Elections is Still a Failed State
The Americans and others acted correctly when they invaded Afghanistan in order to eliminate the rule of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda terror bases. This was a noble and necessary deed. But afterwards, the Americans and their comrades did not understand the need to dismantle Afghanistan, and therefore did not do the one single thing that could have stabilized the area. Instead, they organized "elections" in which Karzai was "elected", a leader whose legitimacy is highly questionable, and who tries to rule the country by extremely problematic means: buying people with jobs and positions , bribing militia groups and their leaders, and eliminating anyone who doesn't agree to join the unstable coalition of bribery and corruption. Today Karzai distributes dollars and uses American weapons. In the past, the money and the weapons were British and Soviet...
Resurgence of the Taliban
The war in Afghanistan in late 2001 brought down the Taliban regime within a few weeks, but the Taliban fighters have not been subdued and this remains an unresolved problem. They have reorganized, retrained, equipped themselves anew, acquired more ammunition, and aided by the difficulty of the terrain, they began to fight back and cleanse the Islamic land of the wine-drinking and pork-eating infidels. During the eleven years of the United States' presence in Afghanistan, they have progressively lost area under their control, while the area that the Taliban control has continuously increased. Presently, the United States army controls little of the Afghanistan territory, and its soldiers are in a continual state of self-defense against a cruel and stubborn enemy. The Taliban manage to infiltrate their people into the army and police force, and thus, during the year 2012, murdered about fifty American soldiers.
Iran is the Winner In these Failed States
The same mistake that the West has made in Afghanistan - to leave the state whole, but hemorrhaging - was made also in Iraq, another failed state that is composed of many ethnic, tribal, religious and sectarian units that do not get along with each other. After Saddam was eliminated in 2003 the world should have reorganized the artificial state into homogeneous units, but this did not happen. The inevitable result is that Iran penetrated the wounded and disorganized Iraq, and after the United States and her allies sacrificed more than four thousand soldiers on its soil and poured out more than a trillion (a thousand billion) dollars to stabilize it, Iran is in total control of Iraq today.
In recent years, huge deposits of metals and minerals have been discovered in Afghanistan. Iran - its western neighbor - is waiting impatiently for the United States to flee from this failed state in order to take control of it and its resources, exactly as it took over Iraq after the American army fled at the end of 2010. It is very likely that Iran will renew its terrorist presence in Afghanistan, but when it has nuclear weapons, no one in the world will dare to challenge it.
So, because of the folly and ignorance of Western policy, and because the leaders of the Western world are paralyzed with fear, Iran manages to control its neighbors, to control the oil, gas, mineral and metal reserves in these countries, and become a regional superpower with critical influence on the global economy. Where have the Western academics been in recent years? Who among them has cautioned the leaders of the Western world about the terrible mistakes that they have made in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is their writing and research influenced perhaps by the money from the states of the Gulf that funds their research institutes and their research projects?
Bar Ilan's Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam Seeks Backers
Bar Ilan University has recently established a new Center for the Research of the Middle East and Islam, which will operate without money from the Gulf, and will tell the truth about the Middle East, the truth that many try not to see. This center - which the writer of these lines directs - seeks someone who wishes to support this project, which is so vital to the understanding of the problems of the Middle East and so essential in designing the correct policy towards it.
Dr. Kedar is available for lectures
Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.
Additional articles by Dr. Kedar
Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.