Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend of people pointing to terrorist plots hatched in, for example, Europe as evidence that “safe havens” for terrorist groups do not matter. In his monograph Jihad in Saudi Arabia, Thomas Hegghammer comes to a different conclusion:
“The arguably most important lesson from the history [...]
One justification for continuing (and possibly escalating) our military/non-military commitment in Afghanistan centers around the potential for al-Qaeda to establish safe havens in that country from which to coordinate attacks on US targets. This al-Qaeda-based rationale rests on several assumptions that include, but perhaps are not limited to:
1. If we withdraw or significantly reduce our military presence, the Taliban will retake Afghanistan (presumably that means the [...]
The New York Times, to its credit, attempts to dispel some of the stubborn misinformation concerning the interchangeability (or lack thereof) of the Afghan Taliban faction and Pakistani Taliban faction. Contrary to popular and pervasive fictions, these two groups are quite distinct in terms of strategy and objectives.
As it devises a New Afghanistan policy, the [...]
In the debate over the future of US policy in Afghanistan, it is taken as a given by most proponents of prolonging the occupation that our presence is benefiting the Afghan people. According to this view, we are a bulwark against Taliban aggression – a prophylactic for a liberal-minded, yet vulnerable, contingent of Afghan civilians. In fact, through repetition and embellishment, the factions that we are supporting have become stand-ins for the entire Afghan population, at least in the abstract. To leave, it is argued, would be to abandon “Afghanistan” the nation, or the “Afghan people,” writ large.
This formulation ignores the obvious rejoinder that for US forces to stay and battle the “Taliban” (whatever that term is supposed to mean on any given day) means to target large swaths of that same Afghan population. Some of the anti-government groups are remnants of the Pashtun-dominated Mullah Omar-led Taliban that hosted al-Qaeda, some are entirely unrelated tribal entities, some are ordinary Afghans radicalized by the presence of a foreign occupying army, some are narco-warlords defending their turf and revenue stream, some smaller group are foreign fighters, etc.
Regardless of the exact identity and motivations, and aside from the small group of foreign fighters, the people that we are killing also count as the Afghan people. In actuality, we are protecting certain Afghan factions while doing our best to kill others. It is an unstated, reflexive act of dehumanization to associate our favored factions with the “Afghan people” while relegating those groups that oppose the Afghan government to some form of limbo status in terms of their humanity/national identity.
Not to mention the fact that in the crossfire, we are also unintentionally killing Afghans that we readily recognize as Afghans. Here are some stories from some of the people that we are protecting: Read more »
At long last, the Obama administration has provided a draft of its objectives with respect to the ongoing military occupation of Afghanistan, as well as a series of metrics for gauging the success in terms of meeting those aims. Unfortunately, the enunciated objectives are themselves typical of the muddled and contradictory goals, tactics and strategies associated [...]
James Joyner passes along some rather unremarkable news about India’s views on the ongoing US occupation of Afghanistan - unremarkable news given the regional dynamic that pits India (in support of the Karzai government) against Pakistan (who had strongly backed the Taliban as its proxy/ally in Afghanistan):
India’s new ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar, told the [...]
My project to review Juan Cole’s Engaging the Muslim World chapter by chapter is dragging on longer than I thought it would, but I hate leaving things unfinished, and so I soldier on. The fifth chapter, “Pakistan and Afghanistan: Beyond the Taliban,” is the one most outside of my expertise, for while I did [...]