The Afghanistan Papers Uncover A Dirty War

Only a free and unrestrained Press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free Press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.
US Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, in his concurring opinion in New York Times Co. V. United States, also known as the Pentagon Papers Case, June 30, 1971.

Two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers at the World Trade Centre in New York, a reporter asked a “straightforward” question to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon briefing room in Arlington, Washington DC, while “the building still smelled of smoke and jet fuel from when American Airlines Flight 77 exploded into the west wall, killing 189 people…”

The question: “Would US officials lie to the news media about military operations in order to mislead the enemy?”

In response, Rumsfeld paraphrased a quotation from Winston Churchill: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” He explained how the Allies, prior to D-Day, ran a disinformation campaign called ‘Operation Bodyguard’ to ‘confuse’ the Germans about when and where the invasion of western Europe would take place in 1944. He thereby replied: “The answer to your question is, no, I cannot imagine a situation. I don’t recall that I’ve ever lied to the Press. I don’t intend to, and it seems to me that there will not be reason for it. There are dozens of ways to avoid having to put yourself in a position where you’re lying. And I don’t do it.”

Two years later, Rumsfeld might have forgotten his self-righteous statement. In what are called ‘snowflakes’ by his staff,  among hundreds of classified memos, “comments or instructions” dictated by him between 2001 and 2006 “to his underlings”, one says almost two years after the ‘war’ started: “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are in Afghanistan.” This was a complaint made by Rumsfeld to his intelligence chief.

His successor, Robert Gates, went one step further: “We don’t know the jack shit about Al-Qaeda,” he is reported to have said

If there was a ‘Big Botch-Up’ in Kabul with Joe Biden at the helm recently, the war in Afghanistan is like an endless serial opera of morbid ‘Botch-Ups’ and ‘Goof-Ups’ at the highest levels across the American establishment, and its formidable war apparatus. The war strategy had gone all wrong, the nation-building rhetoric was fake, and drugs and corruption had become entrenched in the Kabul establishment. And all this ‘jack shit’ happened under the watch of successive presidents: George W Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump.

In what is clearly a journalistic bombshell, perhaps as big as the ‘Pentagon Papers’ on Vietnam and the Watergate Scandal with its Deep Throat, Washington Post and its seasoned investigative reporter, has exposed, in a 346 page hardback, chapter after chapter of highly volatile disclosures, which will be highly embarrassing and shocking for the US establishment and its civil society. ‘The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War’ by Craig Whitlock, published by Simon And Schuster, is a big story, a big breaking news investigation, first revealed in parts by The Washington Post in 2019. The book was globally launched on August 31, 2021.

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A seasoned journalist, Whitlock worked for seven years as a beat reporter covering the Pentagon and the US military for The Washington Post. He has covered four secretaries of defense and five war commanders, traveling with the top military brass to Afghanistan and around the neighbourhood many times. Earlier to that, he was on the ground for six years as a Washington Post foreign correspondent, reporting on terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle-East, North Africa and Europe. He has been a three-time ‘finalist’ for the Pulitzer Prize.

Says Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon correspondent, “The Afghanistan Papers is a gripping account of why the war in Afghanistan lasted so long. The missed opportunities, the outright mistakes, and more than anything, the first-hand accounts from senior commanders, who only years later acknowledged they simply did not tell the American people what they knew about how the war going.”

“Craig Whitlock has forged a searing indictment of the deceit, blunders, and hubris of senior military and civilian officials, with the same tragic echoes of the Vietnam conflict. The American dead, wounded, and their families, deserved wiser and more honourable leaders,” said Tom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent of the National Public Radio.

“Like many journalists, I knew Afghanistan was a mess,” writes Whitlock. “I had grown dismissive of the US military’s hollow statements that it was always making progress and on the right track. The Washington Post and other news organizations had exposed systemic problems with the war for years… But I wondered if everyone had missed the big picture. How had the war degenerated into a stalemate with no realistic prospect for an enduring victory? The US and its allies had initially crushed the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in 2001. What went wrong?”

He writes, “Unlike the war in Vietnam, or the one that would erupt in Iraq in 2003, the decision to take military action against Afghanistan was grounded in near-unanimous public support. The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the ‘horrifying terrorist attacks’ and called on all countries to bring the perpetrators to justice. Even hostile powers expressed solidarity with the US. In Iran, thousands attended candlelight vigils and hardliners stopped shouting ‘Death to America’ at weekly prayers for the first time in 22 years. With such strong backing, US officials had no need to lie or spin to justify the war. Yet, leaders at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department soon began to make false assurances and to paper over setbacks on the battlefield… From Washington to Kabul, an unspoken conspiracy to mask the truth took hold…”

ALSO READ: Future Of Afghanistan

Over the years, despite delayed responses and official obstacles, Whitlock obtained thousands of classified, secret and unpublished documents, testimonies, interviews, oral and written evidence. They are a damning indictment of the American top brass, including revealed by those who were themselves big players in this war machine which killed thousands, including civilians, across the tragic spectrum.

In a startling exposure, documents unearthed by The Washington Post reveal that George W Bush did not even know the name of his war commander in Afghanistan! He, apparently, did not want to make time to meet with him.  

The Afghan war cost reportedly $1 trillion or more in the 20 years of total mismanagement and organized corruption. More than 775,000 American troops were deployed. Generals have admitted that they fought the war without a functional strategy: “There was no campaign plan. It just wasn’t there,” complained Army Gen. Dan McNeill. He was the US commander twice during the Bush administration.

Other officials disclosed that the US “flubbed the war from the start”. “We did not know what we were doing,” said Richard Boucher, Bush administration’s top diplomat for South and Central Asia. “We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking,” said Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, White House war czar under Bush and Obama.

“Lute lamented that so many US troops had lost their lives. But, in a shocking departure from convention for a three-star general, he went further and suggested that the government had squandered those sacrifices…” writes Whitlock in the foreword.

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction, 2,400 lives lost,” Lute said, “Who will say this was in vain?”

‘I Don’t Trust Taliban; It Says One Thing, Does Another’

Saif Lawman, a law student in Lucknow, says India must learn from the Afghanistan episode and Afghan citizens need to be given refuge by all countries and a chance at good life

I do not trust the Taliban even though they claim to have changed in all these years. I think they just have double standards; they say one thing and do the opposite. I feel sad about all that is going on in the country, especially how women are being treated. I wonder what will happen after the last US soldier leaves the Kabul airport.

It would have been much better if post 9/11, the US had tightened up its intelligence and security agencies, plugged the loopholes in its own backyard rather than mount an attack on foreign countries. And now when things get too difficult to handle, it has selfishly asked the Afghan citizens to clean up the mess.

And if these 20 years of purported ‘war on terror’ has shown us anything, it is that the Constitution is very, very important for peace. Being a law student I know how the Constitution of a country takes care of everyone’s right to life and liberty. Each individual knowing their rights and duties helps in the smooth functioning of a country. The US set aside the Constitution of Afghanistan to its blinkered target, and you see where it stands today. The visuals are simply shocking.

Lawman fears that Taliban rule may bring fresh terror attacks at India’s doorstep

Each country with large populations of followers of Islam should have outreach programmes towards the community. And if Muslims want to live at peace then they also have to participate in these dialogues, respond to these outreaches.

On the other hand, the interpretation of Sharia law too needs a review. I can’t see myself following Sharia to the tee after having lived in a secular environment like India. Perhaps it is time for everyone to review their own behaviour. It is not just Afghanistan that will suffer, but it will have repercussions on the whole world, especially on its immediate neighbour, including India.

ALSO READ: ‘Talibans Are Savage, I Fear For My Family In Afghanistan’

India might face increased terrorism in the future. I believe we missed the bus about having a dialogue with Taliban in Qatar much before US withdrawal was announced and when most other countries were having back-channel dialogue with them. We could have done better than merely observing the fallout; we would have had more say in the matter. Thankfully, however late, we have now established the link with their leadership.

No country has enough funds or resources to continuously be at war. But that does not mean people should be abandoned. Afghan citizens need to be given refuge and a chance at good life. Neither is Islamophobia the answer, nor is the blind acceptance of US narratives when it comes to global issues. Just because the US media has a strong presence, doesn’t mean we don’t listen to our own wisdom. Also, I guess it’s time to disband the UN, where is it when it is needed the most?

1947 And 2021 – Two Exits In Perspective

While Biden is being attacked all around for failing to organise the exit from Afghanistan more strategically to avoid sudden fall of the government and the dangerous fate that is potentially faced by the Afghans who worked for the Western administration, it is worth looking at the worst exit in recent history if not all of world history. The British withdrawal from India was so shambolic, insensitive and reeking of criminal negligence, that it left one million people dead in its trail.

As the British media and Parliamentarians finger-point at the United States, they conveniently forget the circumstances around 1947. Viceroy Lord Mountbatten was in charge. There was enough intelligence that weapons had been stored by various groups preparing for violence to ethnically cleanse on each side of the newly created India-Pakistan border. Party strategists on both sides wanted to make sure that their country had dominance of the community that it was meant for.

On Pakistan side, the Punjabi Muslims wanted Sikhs and Hindus out to avoid the country becoming a multiethnic-multireligious land. After all the idea of Pakistan was to create an independent country for South Asian Muslims, the Islamic nation. On the other hand, quite a few Hindus wanted to rid India off as many Muslim population as could so that India would be a Hindu dominant country. Most of the violence was in the Punjab. The Sikhs were caught in between but sided with Hindu India and bore the brunt of violence in Pakistan side of Punjab. On the Indian side of Punjab, Muslims suffered immense violence.

It wasn’t the first time communal violence had taken place in India. But the British not only didn’t plan for it, the British Indian Army stayed in its barracks while massacres were going on around them in hundreds of thousands. Timely planning for massacres and strategic intervention and control by the army could have prevented most of the violence, admittedly not all. A highly disciplined army that respected its British officers would largely have ensured that violence was contained rather than become a pandemic.

Mountbatten managed to save almost every British life and the British walked out of India without loss of life.

Interestingly, the blame for the violence has been put on Indians, religion, lack of civilisation, inexperience of leaders such as Nehru and Jinnah etc. No blame has been appropriated on the negligence of the British administration. So successful has been this narrative that even Indian and Pakistani academics continue to concentrate their writings on the senseless violence and have internalised the blame upon their own communities. They blame the British for communalising politics but not for mindless inaction at the time.

ALSO READ: Punjab – From Partition To Protests

The British Press and politicians seem to have developed a convenient amnesia about British handling of the Indian exit as they queue to gloat at Biden and his sudden decision to leave Afghanistan without apparent preparations for a sudden collapse of the Afghan Government.

Compared to what happened in 1947, the USA has handled the Afghan exit with extraordinary dexterity. It immediately sent in about 5,000 troops and has now vacated over 100,000 Afghans and American citizens. It has enabled other countries to vacate their people too.

The Americans have handed control to the Taliban but also remain in talks with them to avoid the situation getting worse. Compare this to 1947. A million people died in the massacres.

It is inevitable anywhere in the world, be it India, Britain or USA, that if the agencies responsible for ensuring order are withdrawn, then chaos and violence ensues. Chinese whispers exaggerate the smallest incident and then develop a life and trajectory of their own. That is what happened in 1947. The organisation that was supposed to ensure order, the British Indian Army, failed in its duty and stayed in its barracks under direct orders to do so.

In Afghanistan 2021, the Taliban quickly stepped in to ensure law and order. It took over when the Afghan National Army absconded and left the streets potentially to mob rule, criminals and waiting Islamic State jihadis among others. The Taliban immediately filled the vacuum as the western backed President, Ashraf Ghani, ran away. The Taliban have also cooperated in letting Americans and other western countries to take their citizens and those who worked for them in flights from the main Airport in Kabul, called Hamid Karzai Airport.

A lot of arm chair generals have a lot of advice on how Biden could have handled the exit better. A great deal of this advice is coming from the British press, British politicians and commentators, not least British Generals. The USA has not yet explained why it left in a hurry. The attack at the airport on 26th is perhaps one of the possible factors in the calculations. Perhaps the United States knew that the Afghan Army would not be able to handle the growing menace of ISIS and decided that it is best dealt by the Taliban.

A gradual exit would have meant the USA would have had to broker a deal between Taliban and the Afghan Government. The Taliban was in no mood to negotiate with them. It was best to leave and let matters unfold. Whether there will be violence in the near future or not is too early to say. The Taliban has its own problems with foreign Jihadis wanting to use the country as a base and get their hands on the vast armoury left behind by the Americans. While the liberal press is rummaging about Biden’s failure to ensure women rights, education and human rights based law, the region is facing a descent into something similar to the crises that led to the establishment of Islamic State in Iraq.

Whatever happens, one fact should be obvious. A bit of humility on part of British press, politicians and pontiffs would be appropriate. The American exit from Afghanistan in 2021 so far is no way as disastrous as the British exit from South Asia of 1947. The reality is that it was derogation of responsibility on part of the British administration that led to a fermenting communalism to reach such heights of insane violence. It is a wonder that no victim of that period ever thought of bringing charges of criminal negligence against the British Government. That may have put the two exits in perspective.

Taliban In Frame, Afghanistan In Flames, India In Firing Range

Buzkashi, the national game of the people of Afghanistan, has horsemen competing to possess the headless body of a goat. In one of the world’s most enduring ironies, the country has itself become the goat, being dragged and tossed around. A horrified world watches as an elected government is losing out to the Taliban, a group of women-hating men poised to take control.

They have rendered impotent and helpless the outsiders, all powerful, that have been either backing them diplomatically and militarily, or opposing them meekly, with wordy resolutions.

It happened to the British and the Russians and now, it is the Americans. The unprecedented turn of events has yet again shown that Afghanistan cannot be controlled from outside. Even before the United States ends its longest war by this month-end, the Taliban are knocking at the gates of Kabul, poised to win this round of what has been gamely called the “Great Game”.

The Game’s original players, erstwhile imperial powers Britain and Russia, now pale shadows of themselves, are riding piggy-back on the United States and China respectively. As the US departs, yet dominates the global discourse, the ascending player is China. Sadly, the global line-up the two lead, guarantees more violence and bloodshed for the Afghan people.

This round unfolds without a political solution that the US naively sought, signing a deeply flawed Doha Agreement of February 2020. It gave the Taliban primacy and legitimacy, without securing an end to the conflict and certainly, to terrorism. Now, since everybody is talking, the world is witnessing a collective shedding of crocodile tears.

The only thing that seems certain is prolonged violence. A UN report says 6,000 fighters of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban and along with thousands of ‘volunteers’ from many countries. The Pentagon has woken up to the presence of “terrorist safe havens” on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Time will tell who has played what role and why.

All this does remind of the past – except that the world’s most powerful nation, having conceded ground, both territorially and tactically, is left conducting aerial operations from outside. Signals from Washington, as it licks its wounds worse than in Vietnam of the 1970s, are that this may not continue after August 30. The Afghans will be left on their own – abandoned to their bloody fate.

ALSO READ: A Resurgent Taliban In India’s Backyard

If this sounds like a diatribe, well, it is, against all those who had begun with lofty ideas at the 2001 Bonn Conference to facilitate a moderate regime in Kabul. Two decades hence, a war-weary Joe Biden confirms what George Bush Jr. said in 2002, that “nation building” was never the aim in Afghanistan. The Afghans, then, have a valid question: why are/were they there?

India was not alone in 2003, when its External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha lobbied with the US against a military campaign in Iraq. But they persisted, with a patently false excuse that Saddam Husain had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which were never found. Super-confident after removing the Taliban from Kabul in response to 9/11, Bush Jr. needed to avenge his father’s humiliation at not being re-elected America’s President.

The Iraq campaign badly distracted Afghanistan’s. Its consequences are now clearly visible. Eighteen years hence, by end-2021, the US military will quit Iraq. Meanwhile, in addition to Al Qaida, another Frankestein has been created in the Islamic State (IS).

Again, India was not alone when its then National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon pleaded against the US announcing a firm date to withdraw from Afghanistan. The Pakistan-hosted Taliban would merely “sit out”, Menon had warned. That, and worse has happened since Donald Trump struck a deal with yesterday’s ‘terrorists’ and ‘insurgents’, bypassing the US-supported and US-dependent government in Kabul. That hit the credibility of all those in the world community who supported the “global war on terror” in Afghanistan.

To put it bluntly, this is America’s hubris. Its failure to see where the Taliban, ousted from Kabul, had moved to was compounded by failure/unwillingness to touch them. It was satisfied getting Osama Bin Laden. It kept deluding itself, and the world, in seeking to separate the ‘good’ Taliban from the ‘bad’. To cover up its own failure at the eleventh hour, it expected everyone else to seek an “Afghan-led, Afghan owned” political solution. Nobody asked why the Taliban would want it.

This is a lesson for Big Powers: you can light a fire in any corner of the world, but cannot douse it. Taliban became ‘good’ since they are not supposed to have ambitions outside of Afghanistan. But what about Al Qaida and the IS? Will the Big powers return to Afghanistan, Iraq or any other place if they perceive a new global threat? Someone has aptly said that those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

Of the others, if China is ambitious in Afghanistan, Russia and Iran are being plain opportunistic. The hapless Central Asians must seek American, Chinese or Russian help to fend off a resurgence in Islamist extremism at home that a Taliban triumph guarantees.

India is again on the wrong side, like it was when the Russians left and now, when the Americans are leaving. It invested three billion dollars and earned goodwill. Will it now be India’s fate to “do more” in Afghanistan at the US’s behest, to compete with China and Pakistan?

That, of course, will depend upon how the Kabul-Delhi equations develop. A furious debate has ensued if India should talk to the Taliban and whether Taliban are interested in talking to the Indians, when they have support of India’s regional adversaries. Otherwise supportive of the present government, Vivek Katju, an old Af-Pak hand and envoy to Kabul, calls it “policy paralysis”.

ALSO READ: Four Lakh Displaced As Taliban Advances

Conventional wisdom is that a ‘friendly’ government in Kabul would mark Pakistan’s victory. But it will prove Pyrrhic, what with flow of refugees, drugs and arms. It successfully hoodwinked the West while benefiting from them militarily and materially, nurtured the Taliban and calibrated their across–the-border operations and backed them in negotiations. Islamabad’s more important move, however, is effectively shifting a part of its allegiance from West to China.

Not a factor before, China is now the region’s strongest power-player, with global reach. Beijing has embraced the Taliban diplomatically and as reports indicate, also militarily. It is poised to extend the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan. China gains greater access to the Indian Ocean and to the Gulf, through Iran. Not just geopolitics, geo-economics is also at work.

Now, the fast-shifting ground situation. The Taliban have played their military card commendably by seeking to eliminate the re-emergence of the Northern Alliance that had helped the US remove them from Kabul in 2001. They have captured huge territory and some of the provincial capitals from Herat in the west to Badakhshan in the north and closed the gates for any external intervention on the ground.

But it’s not going to be easy. Embedded in their campaign are seeds of resistance from ethnic minorities who will fight for sheer survival, and not just against Pashtun domination. It’s life-and-death for the Uzbeks and Tajiks, who are in significant numbers and the Hazaras who, as Shias, are traditional Pashtun targets. Battles are likely to be fought for long for control of the cities and the countryside.

It is almost certain that a government, if born out of Taliban’s military victory, will face economic sanctions. Without hand-holding, Afghanistan is bound to suffer. Besides political instability, economic misery will worsen, not to speak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some questions for the near-future: how long and to what effect will the threatened sanctions work? As had happened with the Myanmar military junta, will biggies of the world engage in behind-the-scene engagements to guard their business interests? Not to forget, a Taliban mission operated in Washington till 9/11 happened, because the US wanted to guard its interest in Afghan and Central Asian oil and gas reserves.

How will the Islamic world respond to the near-certain birth, or re-birth, of the Islamic Emirate? Now that the West has taken a beating, will the definition of terrorism change? What will be the new global security threat perceptions and how will they be responded to?

The new chapter of ‘Great Game’ has more questions than answers. Not the least, the fate of that Buzkashi’s goat.

The writer is co-author, with late Sreedhar, of Afghan Turmoil: Changing Equations (Oxford Books, 1988) and Afghan Buzkashi: Great Game & Gamesmen (Wordsmiths, 2000). He can be reached at

Insecurity In Afghan Region After US Withdrawal

The American forces left Afghanistan secretly to avoid any interference or casualties resulting from intelligence breach that might have forced the US head to revamp the policy of withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Biden administration was determined to pull out their forces from Afghanistan. Many analysts do believe that Talibans could never survive against the allied forces if they had not been funded and supported by the secret hands. It seems obvious when we see that the Talibans never lacked modern weapons, technology, dollars, food, backdoor diplomacy channels and other facilities.

The future of South Asian politics seems troublesome. The UK and other countries have consented to work with Taliban governments but US along with other powers advised Talibans not to capture Kabul and political power by force because it would be difficult for them to cooperate with them. This gesture shows advice to Talibans that if they capture power with consensus they, US and allies, would be ready to render cooperation.  

We see a big change in Talibans in that their vision seems mature. They have been occupying the rival territories without resorting to barbarity and brutality they had were infamous for in the past. That they are capturing bordering districts one by one without any resistance from the locals shows the terror of the Talibans. The Afghan masses cannot forget the ruthlessness of Talibans and fear it will recur for coming decades. Therefore they don’t trust the Ashraf Ghani administration to provide the safety and security. Even people working in Government are submitting to them gradually and it seems that Talibans will soon occupy the major portion of Afghanistan.

The US allies have planned to retain Kabul to counter Taliban if they prove a menace for the international movement or diplomacy. Ashraf Ghani weak government, extremist ideology and past inhumanity of Talibans present a fragile situation of law and order in Afghanistan.

If Talibans come to power, many refugees will flee to Pakistan. Many pro US families had already applied for immigration in the west because they expect barbarian treatment by the Talibans after the US withdrawal.

ALSO READ: Afghanistan – The Great Game Continues

The circumstances heading towards conflict create a new sense of insecurity in Afghanistan and South Asia. Afghan refugees in Afghanistan will cause trouble in Pakistan because Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan and anti-Shia and other Muslim sects can be targeted, befriended and encouraged towards violence by the troublemakers infiltrating in the guise of the refugees. There is empirical evidence that the same happened in the past.

The only difference is that past happened under the Soviet Union while the current scenario presents US and allied forces. The rest of the situation is same.

In India, the BJP government under Narendra Modi has been targeting Indian minorities. The citizen laws, agriculture bills, ghar wapsi, conspiracies against Churches, Mosques, Gurdwaras, Granth Sahib, etc. Throwing the blame on its neighbour and promoting the disinformation that all troubles in India come from Pakistan will ignite a new era of tussle between Indian and Pakistan. The Kashmir issue, Sikh issue and Muslim issue in India are expected to heighten to the extent that the region could see a new wave of agony and terrorism. The Taliban could start to exploit these as well.

The Talibans were approached by the Indians but they were not welcomed under a revengeful atmosphere as India had supported anti-Taliban internal and external forces during the past decades.

The Talibans have enjoyed a soft corner by Pakistan but the post-withdrawal situation is not favourable for Pakistan either. The US should have reached out to all the fighting factions in Afghanistan and secured their agreement on a coalition government which could bring peace in Afghanistan. Unfortunately the US forces abdicated from all influence in the government formation or maneuvering power. This has caused a major crisis in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and India lack diplomatic vision, depth and wisdom to cope with the alarming situation that is developing under these circumstances. For this reason, all share apprehensions because if Talibans get the support from Russia and western secret agencies as happened in the past two decades the South Asian countries will be unable to handle the situation. Resultantly, the region will be destabilised and go on fire.

ALSO READ: How US Turned A Good War Into A Dumb War

The BJP government may benefit from this hate-ridden situation but they will have to make many sacrifices because hatred cannot be alternative to peace. Peace and love are the only solution to eliminate hatred and violence.

Pakistan is the most vulnerable country. Past record shows that Afghan wars hit it to the extent that terrorist activities of the Afghan sponsored factions not only supplied drugs and weapons but also resulted in attacks on Pakistani military bases, schools, markets, Imam Barahs, Churches, Gurdwaras and Mosques. It seemed that Pakistan would never be able to restore peace in the country.

The Pakistan army had to plunge into war within Pakistan against the terrors and with 70,000 lives lost. The Army managed to control the criminals and terrorists and restored law and order situation. However once again the same woeful situation is emerging and the Pakistani policymakers are pondering over the situation.

The issue of the daughter of the Afghan ambassador and their return to Afghanistan as tacit protest has created a new chapter of confusion between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistani government believes that Indian hand is behind all these incidents because Pakistan cannot afford such tensions with its neighbouring Afghanistan. Such incidents are engineered by foreign secret hands.

Under these destabilizing and increasingly fragile circumstances, Pakistan and India should hold more and more sessions of dialogue to clarify things otherwise they will face another wave of havoc in the future.

Weekly Round Up: SC Finds Its Mojo; Power Marches In, Marches Out 2,50,000 Dead

Supreme Court And Its New-Found Mojo

The Supreme Court has so far been accused by almost everyone outside the Bhakt world, to be Modi’s kangaroo court (I ask My Lords’ pardon, I am only stating what people say), including the protesting farmers who refuse to take their case to SC. Such is the loss of confidence in their Lords, the Justices of India. But now the SC has suddenly found a bit of mojo to prove it is independent. It has challenged revered leader Modiji’s dream of becoming India’s ‘Dear Leader’ by rampart use of Indian Penal Code article 124A.

To the surprise of everyone, the Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has suggested that IPC article 124A, sedition, should be scrapped! What! Imagine Modi ji receiving this news. He probably summoned the Attorney General and ordered him to slap IPC 124A on the Justice. ‘Can’t be done Vasudev Maharaj, he is Chief Justice of India’.

Boldly, the CJ stated, “Sedition is a colonial law. It suppresses freedoms. It was used against Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak … is this law necessary after 75 years of independence?

That must have sent tremors in the esteemed IAS officers of Indian bureaucracy who probably thought in silence, ‘Umm, we have been running British Colonialism mark 2 all this time with help of sedition and anti-terrorist laws, police brutality and army interventions. Does this CJ understand India will break up if we give that up?’ The IAS was set up by the British and its purpose is to keep the system functioning as was intended.

But CJI went on, obviously raising some blood pressures in the Modi-Shah Government. “The use of sedition is like giving a saw to the carpenter to cut a piece of wood and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself”.  Is the SC turning seditious!

And then sort of ordering the Attorney General, Venugopa, “Your government is taking out a lot of state laws from the law books, why have they not looked into this”. Boom, Boom. Imagine the scene in Home Minister Amit Shah’s office.

Then the Chief Justice went on to rub the entire Bhakt world, “If one party does not like what the other is saying, Section 124A is used, it is a serious threat to the functioning of individuals and parties”. Will it undermine the fourth pillar of Hindutva advance by use of 124A.

There were 93 cases on ground of sedition in 2019 and perhaps a lot more in 2020. Only two have been successfully convicted. But the scars on the rest must have been deep and long waits for court hearings, mentally draining.

124A has been the cornerstone of Government oppression in many areas. This recent case included veteran journalist Vinod Dua who criticised Govt lockdown policy without adequate preparations when hundreds of thousands workers were forced to walk home for hundreds of miles. Govt couldn’t quite say ‘Fake News’ as BBC had reported it, so it clapped IPC 124A for attempt at disaffection.

Other famous cases in history have included Arundhiti Roy (2010), Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi (2012), climate activist Disha Ravi (2020) and JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar. In 2011 an entire village and some more, were charged with Sedition under 124A. In the protests in 2012-13 against Kudankuam Nuclear Power Plant, 9,000 people were arrested for ‘sedition’.

Not surprising when the law says “whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation or otherwise, brings or attempts into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India shall be punished with life imprisonment!”

With a law like this who needs a dictatorship. North Korea or China should consider becoming democracies to get away with complete suppression of dissent with this sort of law. Western human rights world wouldn’t even notice. After all it has been democratically enacted.

It’s not difficult to see why Modiji doesn’t like any criticism of his policy or character. He is simply upholding a democratic law in spirit and letter. That is what a leader is elected to do.

There is however a corollary. If somebody is convicted under a law still on statue, does the person have a permanent criminal record? If so, as Gandhi ji spent 6 years in prison under this law, and as this law has not been repealed by the wise and the great of Lok Sabha, is Gandhiji an ex criminal? We need a legal position on this.

Let us hope the Supreme Court mojo lasts a few more seconds. People may see that it has exorcised the Kangaroo image to a proper court. Or it could be that even the esteemed Judges have smelt that BJP isn’t invincible in elections.

USA Runs Away From Taliban After 20 Years

Being the most powerful is pointless if you lack stamina and can’t even bully a bunch of hill billies. The United States virtually walked into Afghanistan in 2001 meeting little resistance. They were against a rag tag army of the Taliban, hardly a version of the American ‘Universal Soldier’ with heavy metal, bulletproof everything, night vision equipment, satellite guided laser guns, supported by devastating air firepower, penetrating bombs blowing up deepest of secret tunnels and training that many an army would give anything for if it could afford. Yet twenty years later, with $850 Billion misspent, enough to give every poor American a free medicare for life, the best trained army has been forced to march out in the dark of the night.

The Americans wanted to ‘civilise’ the Afghan people with democracy, women rights and modern education. It would sound pious if it wasn’t that back in USA, millions of Black Americans, potential Democrat voters, have been denied votes by some administrative trickery. And the idea of a female President still shocks half of Americans.

The Taliban simply followed a long tradition of Afghans, particularly the Pashtuns. They get thrown out of their settled towns and villages only to return and chase away the enemy into history. They use the same tactic. They run to the hills, band together and then come back ferociously, persistently and tenaciously. With their home-made weapons, they haemorrhage the invader until the occupier finally decides that it’s not worth it. They did the same now. And they are quite content dying for this repeating sport. About 2,50,000 Afghans have died this time.

The irony of it is that a Taliban run State may yet put in place some form of democracy under a supreme leader after a few years. They will also provide education and jobs for women. The modern State requires some form of representation governance, otherwise missed warlords get angry. Modern economics cannot afford to feed half the population sitting at home, particularly if the State leadership wants the money to acquire big weapons, modern gadgets and have pothole-less roads to drive expensive cars on. It needs all hands to work.

All the same, American think tanks (tinker tanks) will write long articles justifying the crusade explaining how American intervention brought some form of democracy to Afghanistan and rights for women. It was all worth it depriving millions of fellow Americans free medical care. Next door Iran seems to have achieved democracy and women empowerment without American intervention and even by calling USA the devil.

Turkey’s Entry Into Kabul Carries Risks

The proposal made by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to US President Joe Biden last month on the sidelines of a NATO summit that Turkey could undertake the security of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could be a bargaining chip for improving Ankara’s relationship with Washington but given the resurgence of the Taliban it could turn into a nightmare in the long run, unless it is handled very skillfully and with the utmost caution.

Erdogan told Biden that Turkey could run security at the airport if the US provided it with the necessary “diplomatic, logistical and financial support.”Ankara wants to collaborate with Pakistan and Hungary in this task. In their first face to face meeting, Erdogan and Biden did not make much progress on the main disputes that have poisoned Turkish-US relations in recent years, but Erdogan indicated that there is a possible consensus on Afghanistan.

Ankara’s proposal to secure Kabul’s airport, after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan by August 31, raises questions about the risks it is prepared to take, what logistical and other support is going to get from the US for the whole operation, what the Biden administration is prepared to do on the contentious issues between Ankara and Washington and what actual support Turkey may be given on the ground. Moreover, Turkey must take seriously into account the risks involved in the whole operation and the possibility of having to confront other regional players, like Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and China.

It is highly probable that all these regional powers would prefer to deal with a domestic actor — the Taliban — or a new government that might emerge, rather than Turkey.

On July 9 Turkish President Erdogan said that an agreement has been reached over the post-withdrawal Kabul airport security. He added:”Our Defense Minister met with the US Defense Secretary, and we had a meeting with US and NATO to discuss the future of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. We decided on what we accept in this respect and which conditions we don’t agree upon.”

The Afghan government immediately welcomed the move. The Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday said that a new defense system has been activated at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The Taliban on Sunday announced its opposition to the agreement between the US and Turkey. A spokesman for the group stressed that the Taliban are against the presence of any foreign troops after the given deadline for their withdrawal from Afghanistan. “If they remain within the framework of NATO or Turkey or any other country, it will not be acceptable both for the people of Afghanistan and for the Taliban,” former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha said.

Turkey has about 500 troops in Afghanistan as part of a non-combat NATO mission. Its soldiers never had any direct conflict with the Taliban, while maintaining good relations with all ethnic groups in Afghanistan. They were mainly involved in the training of Afghan security forces, while some still serve, together with Hungarian soldiers, at the Kabul airport. The hard question for Turkey is how it could assume responsibility for the security of the airport, embassies and critical facilities in Kabul without conducting military policing and patrolling, which are clearly combat tasks.

As Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country, the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul offers a vital connection to the outside world and is generally considered to be a prerequisite for the operation of diplomatic missions in the country and for the delivery of international humanitarian aid. If the Airport does not remain open and operating, embassies in Kabul will be withdrawn and Afghanistan will become an isolated state. Last May, Australia, citing security fears, closed its embassy in the country.

Taliban’s rejection cannot be lightheartedly ignored by Ankara, as according to several reports the Taliban controls nearly half of the 400 districts in Afghanistan, while a Taliban delegation in Russia claimed that 85 percent of Afghan territory was under the group’s control.

NATO’s former senior civilian representative for Afghanistan and former Turkish Foreign Minister, Hikmet Cetin, told Al Jazeera: “While Taliban’s political wing is in favour of reconciliation, the military wing is chasing a military victory. Otherwise, nothing will have changed there in the last 19 years. Yet far more hinges on Turkey reaching an accord with the Taliban, which is steadily advancing towards the capital and has made clear it will not tolerate any foreign forces on Afghan soil after the US leaves…Afghanistan is now in the midst of a de facto civil war. Turkey needs a ceasefire and a deal with the Taliban, which is now telling it: ‘You came with Nato, and you’ll leave with Nato’. Without the Taliban’s approval, Turkey assuming this role is a mistake. It’s too risky.”

Another serious problem, Turkey may face in Afghanistan, is the lack of cooperation and open hostility prevailing among the various ethnic groups existing in the country and the dreaded possibility that it could be forced to support one or more against the others.

As Al-Monitor columnist Metin Gurcan says: “The Taliban hail predominantly from Pashtun groups that have been extremely hostile to other ethnicities in Afghanistan. Turkey might face a dilemma on whether to align with non-Pashtun and Turkic groups or the dominant Pashtun groups. This may sound like a minor issue, but it was one of the essential causes of the US failure in Afghanistan. So, Ankara needs to think twice and be aware that Afghanistan is not Syria, Libya or Nagorno-Karabakh and is not called a “graveyard of empires” without reason.” (ANI)