It is often that I go back to a quote from Martin Jacques, the British academic on Western interventionism and Afghanistan. He said: “Never underestimate the ability of political leaders to misread history on a monumental scale. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have both served to hasten western decline: they have both failed to achieve their objectives and in the process demonstrated an underlying western impotence.”
Indeed … today Afghanistan is not just the place where empires come to die, but where they systems of governance are disappeared. And still Western capitals have failed to grasp at the political reality its compounded arrogance set in motion in this one war-torn nation of Central Asia.
Power and control have always driven US foreign policies – those are realities we cannot remain blind to if we are in fact to carve a new way forward, and bring about a modicum of stability in a region plagued by violence, bloodshed and economic misery.
Afghanistan we ought to remember was made into a security black hole – it does not have to be so.
Afghanistan social fabric, its economy and its very political future were exploded first by the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, and then by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as regional powers attempted to covertly play puppet masters on behalf of their own patrons. I am firmly pointing the fingers at Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Qatar and other pro-Wahhabist nations
Afghanistan’s very geography has turned this nation into a proxy battlefield for world powers. Afghanistan after all, offers many great geopolitical promises, notwithstanding dizzying natural resources to exploit.
And though the world remains transfixed today on Syria, and the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, it is Afghanistan’s political future which will shape world dynamics and determine what role – if any, Terror will play in our next political algorithm.
Arguably the deadliest of all threats, Terror has evolved into a political modus operandi. No longer an idea or even an ideology, Terror has become a way to be, a way to exert power, a way to stand on the throats of nations, and from atop their compounded fears rise an empire.
If Terror proved once to be a powerful weapon of war against Soviet Russia, in that it allowed for a proxy army to strike a long-standing enemy while offering the luxury of political deniability, Terror today has become too venomous to be handled.
If powers imagined they could manipulate and mould Terror into an asymmetrical weapon of war, it needs to be said that Terror has long escaped the hands of its masters to assert itself as a potent political entity. An elusive enemy powered by the wealth, and geopolitical reach of such actors as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan, Terror is serving its own agenda.
If any lesson should be drawn from Afghanistan it is that Terror stands the greatest threat against humanity. Note here that no reference is being made to democracy. The pursuit of democracy has been but a mirage sold to the masses by a malleable media complex. Democracy – for now anyway, cannot be the end game.
However worthy the Western democratic model may be, it should not be used as a template for nations which culture do not share the same markers as their western contemporaries. Democracy we ought to realise comes in many ways, shapes and forms. Afghanistan needs to find its own democratic path, away from foreign patronage.
One could argue that although Afghanistan functions on the basis of a monarchical system of governance prior to Britain interventionism, Afghans were duly represented through their tribal leaders, somewhat mimicking Britain parliamentary monarchy. One also needs to stress that Afghanistan was most stable and thriving under its Kings – all other systems of governance have utterly failed.
Logic would command that Afghanistan be returned to its political roots by reverting to a governing system in tune with its traditions, socio-political make-up and sectarian demographic. More importantly still, a monarchy in Afghanistan would allow for Afghanistan’s old tribal military system to be re-engaged against Terror.
Rather than use external forces – foreign troops, a tribal-powered Afghan army could cleanse its own territories and push back those nefarious elements which have polluted and hijacked Afghanistan’s future. Such a takeover would allow for foreign interferences to be cancelled out in favour of stability and control.
Order needs to be returned!
It is stability and control which we need first to be achieved. Stability and control on the basis of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
If anything has transpired in the past 15 years of US interventionism it is instability: might it be political, social, sectarian or economic. Instability has reigned together king and queen over that one geopolitical black hole of a nation.
Interestingly enough Afghanistan’s redemption could also be that of America. For all its planning and scheming, for all its covert alliances with radicalism to counteract former foes (the Soviet Union in the 1980s) and pre-empt the rise of new ones: Iran, China, Russia, the list is infinite, the United States of America has allowed for many unknowns to muddy the waters. Playing both sides of the river to assert its own imperialism has not worked out well for Washington.
Political realities dictate that allies and friendly nations can, in time, and under the right circumstances, become tomorrow’s enemies. It needs to be said that the United States might have over-estimated its ability to deflect, and detect threats to its national security – Terror is not as such America’s number one enemy, rather those powers animating it.
While Russia, Iran and even China have been defined as long-standing natural enemies, it is really Saudi Arabia and its political concubines which represent an immediate threat.
For centuries America has benefited from a grand geographical advantage, in that its location has protected its territorial integrity. Sandwiched in between Mexico and Canada, the US does not face any real immediate military threats – not any which cannot be contained or identified ahead of time.
But wars have become mobile, untethered by geography or even ideology. Wars today are being fought remotely by mercenary armies – wars have become capitalism’s new frontier. Saudi Arabia here stands a dangerous and very real threat.
No longer a quiet partner with limited hegemonic ambitions, Saudi Arabia’s hunger for control was awaken in Afghanistan when its Jihadist movement was utilized by Washington against Soviet Russia. Fast forward a few decades and Saudi Arabia came to build a remote-controlled army sold to its Wahhabist ideology. Over the course of a few decades – under cover of cancelling out Iran and Russia’s influences in Central Asia and the Greater Middle East, Saudi Arabia reinvented itself a regional superpower. How long before Riyadh’s interests no longer aligned with that of the US? How long before Riyadh decides to activate its mercenaries to target the US from within? Such a threat cannot be brushed under the rug.
Technically speaking Iran does not pose an immediate threat to the US. Unlike Riyadh Tehran does not perceive military interventionism as a worthy political tool. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran does not need bloodshed to assert its existence, and exude power. Tehran remains Washington’s natural ally in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan needs not be America’s graveyard, when it could prompt its rebirth. That of course very much depends on Washington’s ability to change the course of its foreign policy.
Catherine Shakdam is the Director of Programs of the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.