Terrific feature from William Dalrymple about current events in Afghanistan.Must be read in full.http://www.google.co.in/images?hl=en&q= ... 02&bih=454
william dalrymple in afghanistan
Souter Takes The Call
As the Great Game repeats itself, India must wake up to Karzai’s new moves
In 1843, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, an army chaplain named Rev G.H. Gleig wrote a memoir of the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War of which he was one of the very few survivors. It was, he wrote, “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated”.
It would be difficult to imagine any military adventure today going quite as badly as the First Anglo-Afghan War, an abortive experiment in Great Game colonialism that ended with an entire East India Company army utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen, at the cost of Rs 80 billion and over 40,000 lives. But this month, almost 10 years on from NATO’s invasion of Afghanistan, there were increasing signs that the current Afghan war, like so many before them, could still end in another embarrassing withdrawal after a humiliating defeat, with Afghanistan yet again left in tribal chaos, possibly partitioned and ruled by the same government which the war was originally fought to overthrow.
Worse still, there are unsettling and persistent rumours that Karzai is trying to reach some sort of accommodation with elements in Pakistan that aid and assist the Taliban: the ISI head, Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, has secretly been shuttling to and from Islamabad to meet Karzai, and last month, General Kayani, head of the Pakistani army, visited Kabul.
This followed the sacking of Amrullah Saleh, Karzai’s very pro-Indian security chief. Saleh is a tough, burly and intimidating Tajik with a piercing, unblinking stare, who rose to prominence as a mujahideen protege of Ahmed Shah Masood, the legendary, India-backed Lion of the Panjshir. Saleh brought these impeccable credentials to his job after the American conquest, ruthlessly hunting down and interrogating any Taliban he could find, with little regard for notions of human rights.
The Taliban, and their backers in the ISI, regarded him as their fiercest enemy, something he was enormously proud of. When I had dinner with him in Kabul in May, he spoke at length of his frustration with the Karzai government’s ineffectiveness in taking the fight to the Taliban, and the degree to which the ISI was still managing to aid, arm and train their pocket insurgents in Waziristan, Sindh and Balochistan.
Saleh’s sacking in early June merited much less newsprint than last month’s sacking of General Stanley McChrystal. Yet in reality, McChrystal’s departure reflects only a minor personnel change, no important alteration in strategy. The sacking of Saleh, however, gave notice of a major and ominous change of direction by President Karzai.
Bruce Riedel, Obama’s Afpak advisor, said when the news broke: “Karzai’s decision to sack Saleh and (Hanif) Atmar (head of the interior ministry) has worried me more than any other development, because it means Karzai is already planning for a post-American Afghanistan.”
If it is true that Karzai is tilting away from NATO and India, and towards Pakistan, it would represent a strategic victory for the Pakistani military, and a diplomatic defeat for India—though the ISI will have to first deliver the Taliban, who still say they are unwilling to negotiate with Karzai. It also remains to be seen whether Pakistan can be defended from the jehadi Frankenstein’s monster its military has created: the recent bomb blasts in Lahore at the shrine of Datta Sahib would seem further evidence to indicate not. The other question is whether India can succeed in its reported attempts to resuscitate the Northern Alliance as a contingency against the Taliban’s takeover of the south, possibly in conjunction with Russia, Iran and the Central Asian ‘stans’.