Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Forgotten War

Afghanistan. Great and important piece from Asian Times on the shifting political and military situation that is Afghanistan.

A new political coalition is forming to oust President Karzai. From the article:

Looking back, the ground began to shift on New Year's Eve, when the lower chamber of the Afghan Parliament passed a bill that would grant amnesty to all Afghans involved in any war crimes during the past quarter-century. The resolution said, "In order to bring reconciliation among various strata in the society, all those political and belligerent sides that were involved one way or the other during the two and a half decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially."
Why does this matter?:
For the first time, Afghans spoke out that they no longer held the United States in awe. At a single stroke, the December 31 amnesty move deprived the US of the one weapon that it wielded for blackmailing the "warlords" into submission - powerful leaders of the Northern Alliance groups, the mujhideen field commanders, and petty local thugs alike.
The group consists of many of the Northern Alliance folks from the days of the war. But they are reaching across to Pashtun, even Islamist groups.

The author M K Bhadrakumar hypothesizes that the recent killing of Taliban military leader Mullah Dadullah may be behind a plan to co-opt some Taliban elements (or "moderate" Islamists) into this United Front.

It may be that President Musharraf in Pakistan realizes that he will not get his wish of a total re-takeover by the Taliban, so this is his next best option. Iran is also opening lines of communication even to the Sunni hardliners. Iran is also apparently opening up lines to the Sunnis in Iraq. They are making their push to kick the Americans out of both countries.

The Northern Alliance has strong historic ties to Russia. The NATO Coalition is fracturing.

And this (seems to me) perceptive line:
It may turn out that the real "tipping point" is not over the Taliban's much-awaited spring offensive (which may not even happen), but if regional powers begin seriously to exploit the political rifts in Afghanistan for undermining the NATO strategy.
This all to me sounds very similar to Iraq where Sadr is lining up Sunni support to oust the Prime Minister and expel the Americans. While the US continually is focused on the big players--Taliban in Afghanistan; Sunni insurgents and Shia death squads in Iraq. Underneath the ground may be shifting under their feet on political fronts, catching them off guard.

Both of these are still a ways a way from toppling their respective administrations. But the momentum is clearly building and if they play their cards right, things just may fall into their hands. The opening is certainly there.

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