Grim Options for Afghanistan
04/05/20 – Zalmay Nishat makes a case for a way forward through the present Kabul stalemate. It is well worth a read. It outlines well what jezail.org has maintained since Bonn. The Afghan constitution is a failed idea and was doomed from the start. The article was written before many people understood what the Covid pandemic is about to deliver – even if really don’t yet know the full picture. Jezail.org talked with Mr. Nishat last week and neither of us could foresee what we are able to peer at only days later. It is troubling to observe that the Covid pandemic is changing many fundamental global macro political and economic assumptions. The EU is probably toast and the global economic system as we know it is about to crash. The Chinese economic dependency on an export economy may be crippled too. But the Kabul stalemate will likely not change in Covid’s wake unless both the US’ and Pakistan’s foreign policies are somehow transformed. America might steer differently but Pakistan? Jezail.org sees that Mr. Ghani is a foreign creation rooted in the US. His power base is in Washington DC, not Afghanistan and without the US, he blows away like Lowgar desert dust. You can bet that they will be warming the engines of his plane well before he gets to the tarmac. If Ghani is not the type of man who will stay to the end, Mr. Abdullah is. We read Zalmai Nishat’s article in that light. No one has a crystal ball, but what a difference a few days make. The constitution may not even matter any more.
While Mr. Nishat’s constitutional observations are dead on the money in jezail.org’s view, they take a back seat to the fact that Afghanistan cannot even determine its’ own foreign policy and is shackled to American foreign policy at present. Chiefly among them is treating Iran as some kind of threat to Kabul. This cannot end well for Afghanistan regardless of who is at the head of Afghan governance. Jezail.org confidently asserts that American policy makers have never had Afghanistan’s best interests in mind. Continued adherence to the policy of distancing Kabul from Iran will likely create a self fulfilling prophesy and alienate a country that shares a very long border with Afghanistan and has a developing harbor that can help Afghanistan survive. And that is where the rubber hits the road. Survival. “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.” America appears to be selling out Kabul. The pro Pak globalist eunuchs in the US foreign policy establishment are offering Mr. Trump a way to deliver on his promise to Americans as he faces the next election. In turn, Mr. Trump is getting behind Indian investment opportunities for the pro Pak globalist mandarins to migrate over to. We’ll see if they take the bait. Even if all of this turns out to be theatrics, the perception of getting out of the Afghan war can only help Trump get re-elected. In Washington, perception is more important than reality. Even if the pro Pak globalists find a way to hang on to Pakistan, they will have suffered a severe blow to their grasp and reach. Yet without them, there is no one in the American government who will advocate any kind of continued support for Kabul in any case.
The Indian government may very well decide that letting Pakistan divert its’ energies to devouring Afghanistan, a task that three empires have failed to do, could be to Delhi’s advantage. Pakistan could become entangled in another forever war of its’ own. We don’t pretend to know what the Modi government will do but we are confident that this is in the conversations they are having now. Pakistani leadership is certainly sufficiently craven and arrogant to make the reach. They have a long history of “punching above their weight”. There is no secret to the fact that Pakistani military leadership is salivating at the prospect of looting Afghanistan. It could also be to the advantage of Washington to see a nuclear tipped Islamic kleptocracy become entangled in an endless conflict that their nukes can’t solve. Regional ethnic tensions from Balochistan to Turkmenistan can be exploited “six ways to Sunday” on a shoe string budget and give back a dose of what Pakistan has been dishing out to the US for decades. American foreign policy has been far more successful at destabilizing regions than stabilizing them. Destabilization is a far more reliable tool than COIN has proved to be. Jezail.org doesn’t pretend to know what choices are being made but we do know some of the items on the menu.
What we can say about foreign policy changes as a result of Covid in the region is that the US’ ability to underwrite the budget for the Kabul government is likely obliterated. Certainly, Kabul has no standing as a cause worth defending among an American electorate becoming increasingly impatient with Foggy Bottom fantasies. As an election looms, understanding why the US government cannot provide for the well being of Americans while paying for the Afghan government is well beyond most Americans. And the pandemic is only getting started here.
Regards to All,
Shelter in place,
Be safe and be smart,
No government can save you without those two things
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.