The Wars of Afghanistan



Lisa Kaaki

Published — Wednesday 21 November 2012

Last update 21 November 2012 4:09 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Praises have showered upon the Wars of Afghanistan. Hailed as “magisterial,” “invaluable” and a “masterpiece,” Chuck Hagel, distinguished professor at Georgetown University, acknowledges that Peter Tomsen “brings remarkable clarity to a very complex story.” The fact that it took the author, eight years and 849 pages, to research and then write the book, highlights the difficulty of the task.
Tomsen served as special envoy to the Afghan resistance from 1989 to 1992. His mission was to rally the main protagonists, into a shadow government, ready to take power once the pro-soviet regime collapsed.
For many of us, who are still struggling to understand, what is happening in this complicated part of the world, Tomsen has written the most current and complete book on Afghanistan. Right on the very first page, he admits that:
“A pervasive ignorance about this unique country and its history, culture, and tribal society persists in the West. Our misreading of the Afghan environment and Pakistan’s intentions in Afghanistan are the main reasons why America and the international coalition are today bogged down in the Afghan quagmire…”
Tomsen believes it is possible to achieve an outcome if America and its allies craft policies that respect Afghan history and culture and heed the lessons of past foreign interventions.
Afghanistan’s complex history is marked by a constant flow of invasions, particularly, nomadic. This triggered the creation of tribal communities in isolated mountains and valleys.
European colonialism that took place between the 16th and the 19th centuries, turned the Afghan highland into a battleground. However, its powerful neighbors, the Indians Mughals and Persian Safavids failed equally to revive the ancestral international trade routes and to justify their presence with useful investments.
Afghanistan is proud to have never been colonized. However, despite the establishment of an independent state, in the 18th century, no Afghan government has ever ruled all the regions. The country has remained divided into thousands of tribes and the tribes have traditionally always resisted to submit to the government authority. Afghanistan played a useful role as a buffer, between Great Powers that came to an end in 1979, the year the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. This event has plunged the country, to this day, into an abyss of violence, destruction and instability.
The Afghan quagmire is rooted both in the country’s deeply entrenched tribalism and its numerous nationalities (Pashtun, Nuristani, Tajik, Baluch, Hazara, Turkmen, Uzbek, Aimak, Kyrgyz); furthermore, foreign governments have failed to understand this basic reality. Tribesmen are fiercely independent-minded and reject violently any attempts to curtail their freedom. On the other hand, tribalism is the cause of incessant and never-ending feuds and conflicts between members of the same tribe, or other tribes and the government.
One cannot emphasize enough the eminent role played by the Pashtun tribes. As the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns have dominated the Afghan state since its creation during the 18th century. A Pashtun is a devout Muslim, but in his personal life he follows the ancient Pashtun tribal code, known as “pashtunwali” (the way of the Pashtun).
Even before the Afghan mujahideen fought a communist regime radically opposed to Islam, Abdur Rahman Khan, the first Afghan monarch to overcome tribal opposition and strengthen government control, warned his successor, Habibullah never to trust the Russians.
The Soviets’ plans for Afghanistan were doomed to fail due to their gross ignorance of the country’s history and its people.
“It would take three decades, many billions of rubles, and tens of thousands of Soviet lives for Soviet leaders to come to this realization,” writes Tomsen.
The Soviet Union dreamed of turning Afghanistan into a second Mongolia forgetting that the Afghan communist party played an insignificant role on the Afghan political scene.
Pakistan’s quasi symbiotic relationship with Afghanistan is symbolized by the speech, Mohammad Daoud, gave during his visit to Pakistan, at a grand reception, organized by the Pakistani president, Zia ul-Haq:
“Your strength is our strength, your welfare is our welfare, and your stability is our stability. Let’s walk hand in hand in the warm glow of brotherhood and sincerity to cover the distance lying ahead of us…I hope the friendship between Pakistan and Afghanistan will be permanent and everlasting.”
Pakistan’s strategic policy to conduct its proxy wars in Afghanistan has been counterproductive for both countries. Pakistan‘s continuous support for the Taleban remains the most acute threat to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.
The American-led victory that removed the Taleban regime and its Al-Qaeda supporters has not enabled Afghanistan to rebuild itself. While the United States chose to focus on Iraq, the Pakistani forces rearmed the Taleban inside Pakistan.
The solution to Afghanistan’s instability lies in Pakistan. The author believes that the United States should not pursue its previous strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The new US approach would focus on three overarching goals: Genuine Afghanization and de-Americanization; a fundamental change in Pakistan’s policy; and geostrategic diplomatic reinforcement of global and regional forces to achieve these two outcomes.”
The history of Afghanistan is strewn with examples of misguided interventions including the massacre of British imperial forces at Maiwand in 1880, the Soviet invasion and retreat a hundred years later; then a US-led invasion to wipe out the Al-Qaeda network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and overthrow the Taleban regime that protected Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group.
Peter Tomsen not only excels in highlighting the origins of the West’s misguided interventions in Afghanistan but also offers a deeper historical context. This compelling and substantial narrative brings understanding and knowledge about an incredibly complicated part of the world.

[email protected]

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Ministry of Education has suspended all parallel education programs, except in medical and engineering specialties, as well as bridging programs for health diploma certificates.Education Minister Azzam Al-Dhakil gave directions to the rec...
RIYADH: The Cooperative Health Insurance Council said it had suspended operations of six medical insurance companies for violating health insurance regulations by issuing insurance policies without completing the required documentation and violating...
JEDDAH: A local survey found that almost half of Saudis abide by rules and laws in public places outside the Kingdom more than they do inside the country.More than one-third of the respondent sample said they violate road traffic signs and directions...
DAMMAM: A 50 percent decline in the prices of some types of fish in the Dammam Central Market was noted compared to the previous month.Fish sellers attributed this decline to an increased fish supply and fall in demand from hotels and consumers durin...
RIYADH: In a two-day operation, police arrested 343 beggars including women and children during the holy month of Ramadan.A police officer said the raid was carried out in the Salehiya district and 220 of those arrested were women from Ethiopia. “Mos...
RIYADH: Hotels in the capital have made special arrangements by setting up Ramadan tents, where diners can visit to begin and break their fast with special suhoor and iftar meals during the ongoing fasting month.As the Ramadan tent is a popular pheno...
JEDDAH: Kaddadin, or unlicensed transporters, say there is good money to be made during Ramadan especially in transporting Umrah pilgrims from Jeddah to Makkah and back.During this month the number of visitors doubles or triples which means the price...
RIYADH: The holy month of Ramadan is lively at night following Taraweeh prayers. Nights are turned into days during the month in the industrial area where there is a large concentration of automobile workshops.The industrial areas are well illuminate...
RIYADH: The Saudi man behind the green project that ensured 3,400 trees in Khurais in the Eastern Province for a government firm has been approached by a Kuwaiti oil company for a similar project. “After learning about the project in the Eastern Prov...
RIYADH: A total of 1,300 Gambian pilgrims will come to the Kingdom to perform Haj this year, Ambassador Omar Gibril Sallah said on Thursday.“We hope that the pilgrims will observe the fifth pillar of Islam in peace and harmony and may Allah accept th...
RIYADH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) and the Disabled Children’s Association (DCA) have launched a traffic safety campaign, to reduce the number of accidents that cause disability.Prince Sultan bin Salman, the SCTNH...
JEDDAH: The holy month of Ramadan is a period when non-Muslim expatriates too abstain from eating, drinking or smoking during the daytime out of respect for Muslims who fast from dawn to dusk and also because it is healthy. The expatriates are also...
A policeman was killed in an anti-terror operation on Friday in the western city of Taif, according to the interior ministry. An exchange of fire resulted in the death of the policeman after a raid to arrest a wanted person, state news agency SPA quo...
RIYADH: Customs authorities at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah have foiled an attempt to smuggle 52,850 Xanax capsules into the country.The drug, an anti-depressant, banned in the Kingdom, was found hidden under the clo...
RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has ordered that two men face trial for allegedly insulting the late King Abdullah.Quoting reliable sources, a local online publication said that King Salman has also barred Mohsin Al-Awaji and Ab...

Stay Connected

Facebook