03/01/2020 – An “agreement” with “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban” seems to have been signed on Leap Year’s Day, a day that only happens once every four years. As an accomplishment, the US has just signed an agreement with an entity “not recognized by the United States.” How does that happen? Is the force of any law behind this? Given America’s record of compliance with international law, the question maybe moot. As if to make sure of the date, the document also sites both the Hijiri Solar and Lunar Calendars. At least we can all agree what day it was. It may be the only thing we know from this document. Much of it or some of it is secret. We don’t know. It’s a secret. In fact, the meaning and effect of the agreement is more elusive than the leap year day except for one thing, it serves as Donald Trump’s ticket out of Afghanistan before the election. The real time question is how long will it be before this “peace deal” becomes meaningless? Maybe that’s up to the eye of the beholder. Maybe it already is meaningless. Today’s Google searches bring up reams of stories filed about this event with two words, “peace deal”. Maybe a better question is: how long will it be before the algorithms serve up something else? Old Afghan hands will remember that we measure time in minutes, hours, days or months. Time in Afghanistan is measured in blood. Donald Trump has to hope that the next train out of Afghanistan for the US comes soon. Afghans haven’t always allowed invaders to leave gracefully. Who is lying more to whom in this peace deal remains to be seen.
Certainly, the “Afghan Peace Deal” signed by representatives of Pakistani controlled Taliban members and SECSTATE Mike Pompeo will deliver anything but peace. Optimistic statements delivered by parties to the ceremony are only that, just statements. Mr. Trump needs to make good on a campaign promise before the next election. Mr. Trump’s ticket on next train out of Afghanistan has driven the entire Doha charade since Trump took notice of what were glorified prisoner swaps. In the short term, Trump gets what he wants, a way out of Afghanistan. In a slightly longer term, Trump’s enemies in Washington get what they want, a failure that they can blame on Trump. Intercepted Taliban communications indicate that they have no faith in it either. It already is foundering over a key prisoner swap that is supposed to take place before so-called “intra Afghan talks”. But the likelihood of those talks is diminishing. We can thank Zalmay Khalilzad for that. Khalilzad promised to release “up to” 5000 Taliban prisoners he does not have. They are being held by the Afghans. However, like the “deal of the century”, the US has given away what does not belong to them. Think about this: they are giving away something that they don’t have to an entity that they don’t recognize. Already, Ashraf Ghani, has said that the prisoners are vital to having any kind of leverage in any talks the Kabul government holds with the Taliban and that they have no intention of releasing any prisoners before any talks. They would be out of their minds to give away what little leverage they have without securing any concessions from the Taliban. For their part, the Taliban is in no position to give much in the way of concessions as Doha negotiators have limited recognition by Taliban in the field. Their lack of control is demonstrated by the fact that Khalilzad had to shuttle to Pakistani GHQ to get this deal through. It was all the Taliban delegates could do to get “reduced violence” for a matter of days. This was predictable and jezail.org has written about this before. The talks at Doha have always been window dressing for the inevitable. At no time did Pakistan come under any serious pressure to deliver any concessions by Khalilzad. When Khalilzad went to Pakistan, he went there to beg.
For years, jezail.org has been under persistent attacks by various players because we will never stop pointing to this and other fantasy aspects of virtually all elements of US foreign policy thinking in the region. We have also been critical of the Kabul government fantasies about what to expect from Washington. In keeping with this tradition, we wish to highlight that the expendable nature of the Kabul government has also been revealed by this agreement. This should have been clear from the moment the US forbade Kabul from talking to their neighbors in Iran. Really, it should have been obvious from the Bonn agreement. We have exposed American policy indicators repeatedly over many years in the many stories we have published. We have long covered the lack of serious commitment on the part of the US to build an effective army or government in Afghanistan. From the construction of dysfunctional hospitals to aircraft and military support failures and rackets to rigged elections, the American objective in Kabul was never to support the regime while to cosmetically appearing to. Make no mistake: it was never because they weren’t able to; it was always because they didn’t want to. The money and bets placed by US diplomatic officials on the region were always on Pakistan and never on Afghanistan. That’s where their jobs, patronage, grants, board memberships and careers have been anchored for 50 years. The money was in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. A free standing Afghanistan, able to govern itself and defend its own borders was simply not the goal of the US foreign policy establishment. They said the exact opposite. They lied. They predictably failed to deliver at every stage over at least the last twenty years. The real and unspoken assumption of the US foreign policy establishment was that sooner or later, Pakistan was going to swallow up or annex all or some of Afghanistan and dominate it. This had been a subject discussed at American diplomatic cocktail parties since the mid 1960’s. Afghanistan was always meant to fall in Pakistan’s lap like a ripe fruit. That, in itself was meant to be a payoff. To that extent, US State Department officials invented the myth of a Pakistani alliance which they knew was a lie too. Behind the scenes, they always advocated placing portfolio and career bets on Pakistan while paying lipservice to the dream of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, because so much of Afghan life is in a dream world all its own, many Afghans bought the story or were forced to accept it. The entire episode can be characterized as a blood soaked collective hallucination. It was also a collection of war crimes unthinkable to American military professionals before 911.
Pakistan was originally a US “ally” from the Cold War. They served us against the Soviets and we armed them against the Indians. Some years ago, when the Congress began to realize that Pakistan was double dealing the US, the story from our diplomats and the MSM began to change and the relationship came to be described as “complicated”. It wasn’t complicated at all. America was getting screwed by a partnership of military contractors, an oil pipeline consortium and Pakistan. A new word was invented by the MSM’s own Rachel Maddow to descibe the relationship, “frenemy”. Even as America was at war with a Pakistani sponsored enemy, American foreign policy leadership stuck to keeping Pakistan out of US cross hairs for their own corrupt interests. Unfortunately, by then, thousands of US service people had been wounded or killed. Yet STATE continued to back pedal from admitting fundamental betrayals by Pakistan. They did this through 3 presidential administrations. Again, that was because the key diplomats involved had careers depending on continuing the corrupt relationship they had enjoyed with Pakistan since the invention of that country in 1947. Jezail.org identified a key beneficiary, Ambassador Robin Raphel, years ago for lying to the Congress about the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban. Not a single diplomat, military professional or bureaucrat stood on their hind legs and said anything. We now know that they almost all knew she was lying. She was the single most responsible person for getting the Taliban rolling. She remained untouchable in Washington in spite of an FBI investigation recommending that she be prosecuted for espionage. It’s good to be a friend of Bill Clinton. In her case, her Clinton connection was a get-out-of-jail-free-card. Her revolving door career from K street to Foggy Bottom defines a pattern of legalized corruption in Washington. It is this kind of abuse by Washington officials that has brought us to this point. It may be that by accident or design, Donald Trump has pried America out of Afghanistan by opening up lucrative opportunities for foreign policy bureaucrats in India and lure them away from Afghan policy interference. Then he took the first train out of there and it came from Doha. It wasn’t pretty and it’s going to get uglier, but it just might work. Like it or not, it had to be done.
Some of our Afghan friends have been cross with us because we always advocated that the minority populations of Afghanistan and their leadership needed to prepare for this day to come. They pleaded with us to shut up as they desperately tried to unify the country. It was a noble and sincere effort sabotaged at every turn by ISI directed bombings and assassinations. But we never trusted the Bonn agreement nor the centralized Kabul government arrangement. We always saw all of it as designed to fail. We have been in trouble with old dear friends because we have always said: “cache weapons and be prepared to fight again.” The warlord system of power sharing will come back. Massoud was a warlord. The next warlords will be proxies of other outside interests. Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev is reputed to have said: “in order to be a statesman, first you have to be a politician”. In Afghanistan, in order to be a politician, first you have to be a warlord. American diplomacy refused to understand this simple truth. We know that when the last US troops leave Afghanistan, the violence will not be over. It will continue based on the other layers of ethnicity, ambition, appetites and conflict that have been obscured by outside interventions. The scale of the fighting will only be limited to the budgets of the parties to the continuing conflict. We truly hope that we are wrong but we know that the bloodshed will continue.
In any case, the struggle for modernity in Afghanistan is essentially over. It has failed as it failed for the Soviets. It never really got far beyond the machine gun range of the authorities in Kabul. The same can be said of the women’s rights issues which were always a fig leaf for the ambitions of empire. The situation for women in Afghanistan has been made worse by it. The Soviets tried that one as well. Those dreams are gone and will be as forgotten as Soviet propaganda films. If these dreams ever do appear again, it will be for the purposes of raising money in the West and it will be a racket as it always was. The only struggle that may survive is the struggle for Afghan unity and that will be an attempt to unite the smaller ethnicities against the Pashtun which is what Massoud was trying to do before he was assassinated.
The continuing struggle of Afghan minorities to throw Pashtun tribal domination off of their backs is the very center of the fight against the Taliban. Most Western observers have ignored or downplayed this tension. Yet American foreign policy bureaucrats have always connived, schemed and rigged elections to keep the Afghan presidency a position filled by a Pashtun. Tension between the dominant Pashtun tribe and Afghan minorities was actually at the root cause of the anti communist violence before the Soviets invaded. Even if, out of weariness, the minorities initially capitulate, we are confident that the incompetence of Taliban governance will create a reaction and it will be violent. Most Afghans can no longer remember an Afghanistan in a time of peace. Many know how to fight. Many are about to learn. Just because US military advisors couldn’t get them to fight, doesn’t mean they cannot or will not, especially with their backs to a wall. As the Taliban close in for the kill in Kabul, they are likely to experience some of their own difficulties. Like short wedges all aimed at a distant center, as they move toward that center, they come under pressure from either side. It would not be surprising to see Taliban fighting Pakistan and among themselves.
There is already some speculation that the Taliban may now break away from its dependance on Pakistan. The relationship has been deteriorating for years. It has been clear that the Taliban operating in Doha have little authority over the Taliban in the field. Without a foreign enemy, the bonds between them will continue to unravel. There is also some speculation that the long simmering dispute over the Durand line will create tension between Islamabad and Quetta. Jezail.org does not see any of this as serious unless some outside entity chooses to play it – which is possible. For the moment, too many of the regional players are interested in the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to upset any apple carts. However, Pakistani leadership has a history of punching above their weight and over playing their hand. If they try to exert more control over the border areas, for example, Pakistan could expose themselves to being imploded by an outside player willing to support or expand an insurgency. If they try to enforce or even negotiate their interpretation of the Durand line border, a lot could go wrong very quickly. The cost of supporting an insurgency is far below the cost of a counter insurgency and well within the reach of smaller players. We note the success of Iran’s support for Yemen even though Iran is seriously short of funds.
Pakistan may even attempt to moderate Taliban imbecilities. However, jezail.org sees real limits to what Islamabad can do. Assuming that Pakistani leadership has learned anything from the Soviet and American experiences in Afghanistan, they will know that it is best to be modest in one’s aspirations in Afghanistan. However, modesty is a quality jezail.org sees lacking in Pakistani ambitions or appetites in the region. Jezail.org believes that Pakistan will likely be happy with a continued state of violence and uncertainty in Afghanistan. From behind this uncertainty, they will be able to base various Jihadi brands, dominate the opium trade and annex Afghanistan’s eastern provinces while appearing to fight some miscreant party of their own invention. Projecting power through terror is the single most effective foreign policy tool Pakistan has ever possessed. They are not going to give it up. It has been more effective than using the nuclear threat. An unstable Afghanistan will be a great garage to keep that stolen hotrod. As we have all learned, this invites blowback and Pakistan is long over due notwithstanding the fighting they have engaged in in the FATA.
One thing is certain. In the vacuum the US leaves behind in Afghanistan, the initiative for action is wholly owned by Pakistan, not the Kabul regime nor the Taliban. What we think is likely to happen is a reach by Pakistan at some of the border provinces of Afghanistan. They already have been building madrassas there which teach Afghans to speak the Pakistani language, Urdu. They have also been issuing Pakistani ID cards to Afghans in those provinces. We have seen Pakistani intelligence officials who have publicly advocated looting Afghanistan outright as well. One thing is certain. Pakistan will not leave Afghanistan alone.
If Pakistan succumbs to its’ own hubris, it will inject itself into a situation that confounded The British Empire, The Soviet Union and the US, to name a few. It’s been a longtime thorn in the side of at least some of its’ neighbors. If Pakistan does go into Afghanistan, it’s not hard to imagine those neighbors cheering Pakistan on. The “peace deal” has opened a door for America to get out. Who goes in next will be interesting.
Regards to All,
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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.