Epic Fail: Bush's Central Asia Policy
The Taliban and their allies are enjoying a resurgence throughout Central Asia
How badly has Bush failed in Afghanistan and Central Asia? This badly:
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist of the highest narrative and analytical gifts, is baffled by the West’s almost demented indifference and folly towards Afghanistan and his own country. The stakes are huge. If either state fails, as is highly plausible, global stability will be rocked. The United Nations, Nato, the European Union and, of course, America will see their purposes and credibility set at naught.So how did we go from being the liberators of Afghanistan to being primary target of hatred in the region? And how did we allow the Taliban to go from being the despised former rulers of Afghanistan to being a potent political force in the region? Through good, old-fashioned neglect:
Yet, as Rashid writes: “The international community’s lukewarm commitment to Afghanistan after 9/11 has been matched only by its incompetence, incoherence and conflicting strategies — all led by the United States.” Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Washington’s commitment, since 2001, to support President Pervez Musharraf’s military dictatorship rather than to promote the interests of the Pakistani people, “has created immense hatred for the US army and America, hatred that penetrates all classes of society”.
Rashid inks in much detail about the post-conflict failure in Afghanistan after Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance in December 2001. Rumsfeld’s rejection of nation- building, matched by America’s willingness to deliver much of the country to warlords paid by the CIA, destroyed any chance of achieving post-Taliban stability, or making a Karzai national government work.But neglect alone couldn't produce the disaster that Bush's policies have wrought in Central Asia. There was also active support of the region's worst dictators, which had the paradoxical effect of making the Taliban and al-Qaeda into liberation movements:
America’s refusal to deploy even a few thousand ground troops enabled thousands of Taliban, not to mention Osama Bin Laden, to escape into Pakistan. Rashid flatly states that the opportunity was there to catch Bin Laden at Tora Bora at the end of 2001, if America had displayed greater commitment and skill.
Americans on the ground ladled out cash to the wrong people, ignored mass killings of prisoners and presided over systemic and illegal brutality to captives. “Suspects” as old as 88 and as young as 13 were shipped to Guantanamo Bay. The neocons cared about only one objective, hitting Al-Qaeda, and were indifferent both to collateral damage and to the importance of salvaging the Afghan society that they had overrun.And as if that weren't enough, Bush unwittingly funneled money to anti-Western extremists and terrorists:
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan, run by President Islam Karimov, one of the nastiest dictators in central Asia, became a key American base and CIA rendition centre. Karimov himself was received at Bush’s White House.
Before the invasion of Iraq, Central Asia was the central front in the fight against international terrorists. In fact, it's still the central front. The London underground bombing, the Madrid train bombing, the bombing of the USS Cole, the Millennium bomb plot, and the 9/11 attacks were all conceived and coordinated in Central Asia, not in the Middle East. To better understand how we allowed the Taliban and their allies to turn the tide in that region, you know what to do:
Coupled to failure on the Afghan side of the border was Washington’s decision to give Musharraf carte blanche to rule Pakistan as he chose, in exchange for his declared support in the “war on terror”. The Americans were extraordinarily naïve, says Rashid, in failing to realise how far Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, continued to give active support to thousands of Taliban fighters escaping from Afghanistan. Washington even allowed Pakistani military aircraft to cross the border and evacuate ISI personnel, Arabs and key Taliban just before Kabul fell.
The Americans continued to indulge the regime in Islamabad after the 2003 revelations of Pakistan’s sales of nuclear technology to rogue states.
Read the whole thing here
(cross posted at Liberal Avenger and appletree)