Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pepe Escobar, "Kashmir: Ground zero of global jihad," Asia Times, July 17, 2009.

[Further evidence that US/NATO "strategy" in Afghanistan is really "shooting in the dark."

If our leaders know why the war on terror is being fought, where and against whom, they aren't letting on. It's a war of retaliation for 9-11, joined by NATO because of the Three Muskateer clause in the NATO treaty, one of the treaties that the US takes seriously, or expects others to take seriously.

But unending wars of revenge don't play well on the evening news and revenge never was quite the point anyway. So efforts to portray it as a war to liberate Afghan women, or a nation-building war, or a war to extend the writ of the corrupt Afghan puppet government outside the capital continue.

There have been short-lived efforts to portray the war as a school-building, well-drilling form of social work that only coincidentally entails calling in an air strike on a wedding or a village. The violence enters into it because we can't have countries offering themselves up as havens for terrorists--even though the 9-11ers came from Saudi Arabia, met in Germany and trained in the US. Pick a purpose you can support. Any purpose will do.

At least we know it's a war against the Taliban. Some kind of Taliban. Last year it was not the old-time Taliban, but the neo-Taliban, or the bad Taliban--not, of course, the good Taliban. Actually, it's not a war against the Taliban at all. The Taliban was at one time a bunch of nationalist redneck students with no foreign policy to speak of and no capacity whatever for constituting a threat to the US or Canada or NATO or even their own neighbors.

We have helped to change all that with our shooting in the dark. However, the real enemy is--or was--Al Qaeda--though that grouping may not exist any more. Osama bin Laden is dead, or might be dead, or insignificant anyway as long as we keep firing in the dark. The guys on the other side have goals and they change their OODA loops so fast that "Rethinking Afghanistan" has become a permanent posture on this side of the divide.

Two years ago, we knew that this war was in Afghanistan. But now we're worried that the real enemy is the Pakistani Taliban from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (mainly Waziristan), or now it's the Swat Valley and the Northwest Frontier Province. Of course regular foot soldiers can't be expected to keep fighting when they don't know where the fight is or who it's against. So we send drones in to Pakistan so the feudal democrats who replaced Musharraf can pretend they don't know about it. Western leaders have some difficulty remembering that this is someone else's home and that the people the drones are taking out elect representatives to the local government.

Drones may provide the best reason probably anyone could think of why the Taliban should get a foreign policy and soon. Nothing you can do against one drone will inconvenience the guy in Missouri who is flying against you. The Red Baron can't come to the phone right now, but you can leave a message. Your call is important to him.

Seriously, if you want to put an end to drone attacks on your neighbours, you will have to get some box cutters to your people in Missouri. That means having people in Missouri. And it shoves the nationalist redneck Taliban into the loving arms of the internationalist Al Qaeda. We are fighting the shadows of our own self-fulfilling misconceptions.

Pepe Escobar is not easily fooled by the spectacle of shooting in the dark--nor by the rhetoric intended to give the impression that we know very well what we are doing thank you very much. This is Escobar's interview with Arif Jamal who thinks the real war on terror has been in Kashmir all along. The NATO/US public version of events will have difficulty making it seem that they knew this all along.

The catch is that Kashmir/Jammu is another Israel/Palestine, i.e., another combustible regional pivot this time with two nuclear armed enemies, another remnant of the mess the European empires (the British in this case) left behind the last time they were driven out.

There is no guarantee that the inability to learn from experience won't be terminal. Likely Goliath will never be wise, or even smart. But his enemies have learned that with a little attention to detail, they can hurt him and make him spend a ton of money on stuff that only makes him more enemies. It's messy, but it's a strategy, and you don't need very good domestic policy to make it work. -jlt]

Arif Jamal is arguably the leading Pakistani expert on the jihad in Kashmir. He is the author of Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir, a groundbreaking, gripping account of the interminable, key conflict between India and Pakistan, based on interviews with hundreds of militants over the years.

The book is essential reading for understanding, among other issues, how the United States-friendly Pakistani army trained nearly half a million jihadis; how United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) money ended up financing the jihad in Kashmir; and how closely interconnected is the situation in Kashmir with the endless turmoil in Afghanistan and the global jihad.

  ...even former ISI officers tend to deviate from the given script and spin out of control.

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