As we did in Vietnam, I think that we should declare victory in Afghanistan and withdraw. We have driven al-Qaeda out of the country and into Pakistan, and we have punished the Afghan people enough for harboring bin Laden. After we withdraw, sooner or later, the Afghans themselves will decide their own government. It may include the Taliban or it may be a coalition of warlords. The Afghan people are tired of war and will welcome peace, any peace. The sooner we withdraw, the sooner they can start to sort out their own problems. We cannot impose a solution; only the Afghans can decide Afghanistan’s future.
The Government of Pakistan has played a double game with the US since before the Reagan administration. I am not sure when the duplicity started, but it may have been in the Nixon years. Nixon was strong supporter of Pakistan even when he was a vice president under Eisenhower. Thus Pakistan’s willingness and ability to deceive the US goes back half a century, more or less.
Last night on his TV show, Bill O’Reilly demanded that President Obama take a public stand against Pakistan’s sentencing of Dr. Afridi to 33 years imprisonment for assisting the US in killing bin Laden. An amendment to a bill in Congress has been submitted to reduce aid to Pakistan by $33 million, a ridiculously small sum, about 1% of our annual aid package. If we really wanted to get Pakistan’s attention, we would cut off all military aid, continuing only civilian assistance.
With its large and mostly poor population and its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan is probably the most dangerous threat on the planet to world peace. In my judgment, Pakistan is more a threat than Iran is or ever will be. I am certainly glad that Barack Obama is in charge of dealing with the problem rather than Bill O’Reilly. As long as the US is fighting in Afghanistan, we need Pakistan more than Pakistan needs us. Once we are out of Afghanistan, it may be possible to nudge Pakistan into a more democratic path, to their benefit and to the benefit of a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Pakistan is one the most poorly educated nations on earth. They spend 2% of GNP on education and 30% on defense. That leaves a tremendous vacuum to be filled and the Saudis have rushed to fill it with madrassas that turn out more and more of the Taliban. We can follow the Pakistani example as advocated by the GOP, more cuts in education and more money for defense. Just follow the GOP sponsored budget in the House this summer and fall.
- Pakistan seeks to emulate India’s electronic voting system (dawn.com)
- Who Kept Bin Laden Alive? (thedailybeast.com)
Sewing Circles of Herat by Christina Lamb. There is a tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan because they both claim some of the area that lies between them and because some Afghans resent Pakistani interference in their country. These are two examples:
“How can you have a minister for railways?” asked the Pakistani, “you don’t have any trains in Afghanistan.” “You have a Justice Minister,” replied the Afghan.
Afghan commander to Pakistani ISI man, “How do you who have never won a war, dare try and order us who have never lost one?”
- Relative stability in Herat model for Afghan nation (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
Pakistan supports the Taliban in Afghanistan and tolerates the Taliban in Pakistan. This is true because Pakistan regards India as its principal adversary and wants a friendly or neutral Afghanistan at its back. Pakistan’s government is divided among several factions in the military and the intelligence service, with one faction acting in opposition, usually in secret, to another.
The people of Pakistan are overwhelming united in their opposition to the US operating drones within Pakistani airspace. Pakistan needs more helicopters to fight the Taliban within Pakistan and it needs the will to do so effectively. It would be useful to the Pakistanis if the US would renounce the use of drones within Pakistan. Transferring the operation of drones within Pakistan to the Pakistani government would defuse a source of tension between their government and ours. It would also allow the government of Pakistan to determine how to fight the Taliban in each situation as it arises.
The ultimate solution to the problem of the Taliban within Pakistan is peace between India and Pakistan. They have been at loggerheads since the partition of British India into two countries in 1947. Peace between them will not be easy to achieve, but it is necessary because both have nuclear weapons. Once peace is achieved, there will be a peace dividend. Pakistan will be able to better the life of its citizens and not be so dependent on foreign aid from the US or Saudi Arabia. It is Saudi Arabia that finances the madrassas in Pakistan that produce the Taliban.