We are spending all that money and expending so many lives in Afghanistan to establish a working central government in Kabul. Why not consider an alternative that would be less costly in money and lives? Divide Afghanistan by ethnicity into smaller, loosely connected provinces or separate countries. Much of the present conflict is caused by one ethnic group or another trying to gain control of the central government. If the West promised aid, if and only if, peace were maintained, the warring parties might be content to allow each other to live in peace. Might work, but then it might lead to the division of Pakistan next door.
Kabul in Winter, Life without Peace in Afghanistan by Ann Jones is what Afghanistan is like now for half its citizens, the female sex. Afghan men treat their women poorly, based on culture, not on religion. If a ruling male wants better treatment for the nation’s women, he can order it up to a point. Then the men revolt and the ruler is replaced by someone of sterner stuff.
Afghan women are subject to the rule and whims of the men in their lives, even male children. If a crime is committed against a woman, any crime, it is her fault and she will be punished by imprisonment if she is lucky, or death if she is not. Western efforts to improve the lot of Afghan women are making small forward steps, which one believes can be reversed at a moment’s notice.
The Durand Line separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. It is an artificial border that took no consideration of the natural geography or of the tribal people living on both sides of it. Thus a portion of Pakistan is a natural part of Afghanistan; the two countries form one problem for the US. In addition, Pakistan not so secretly supports the Taliban while India supports the Karzai government in Kabul.
The Taliban is not al-Qaeda; the Taliban is NOT al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan, there are very few members of al-Qaeda. The massive use of US forces there is like trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer. We are creating substantial collateral damage, ensuring rising opposition to our presence both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is more like a disease bearing mosquito than a fly. The way to defeat the mosquito is to drain the swamps where they breed.
If the US dedicated only a portion of our military budget in fighting the Afghan war to alleviating ignorance and poverty in the area, we could more effectively combat the allure of al-Qaeda to the native populations of poor Muslim countries. The four most populous Muslim nations in order of Muslim inhabitants are: Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
The Afghanistan/Pakistan problem is a knotty one and Barack has more information than I do. Based on what I do know, I think that the solution in Afghanistanis to negotiate a peace settlement with the Taliban. In Pakistan, there are forces for dissolution already in motion. The Northwest Territories are a natural part of Afghanistan. There is a separatist movement in the Pakistan province of Baluchistan which extends into Afghanistan and Iran. The Baluchi people feel victimized by the central government of Pakistan and seek independence. Pakistan won’t let them go because of the mineral and energy wealth in the Baluchi desert. Keeping Pakistan intact may be an impossible task. And then there is the worry about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. I am very glad that Pakistan is not my problem. I hope and trust that Barack will make the right decisions.