The Escalation Begins: A Quick Exchange with Anand Gopal

As I write, Obama is sending more troops into Afghanistan with a supposed end date that his aides have quickly explained away by saying that just because Obama is announcing a date for beginning a withdrawal, the president was not setting an end date for the war. In Congress, angry Democrats are registering their supposed opposition to the move by suggesting new taxes to fund the war instead of voting to de-fund it. I checked in with reporter Anand Gopal right before Obama’s Tuesday night speech for a perspective from someone who knows Afghanistan well. Gopal is in the region and has been reporting on the wars and politics of that part of the globe for major US newspapers and other media for several years.

Ron Jacobs: Hi Anand. Well, a lot has changed and very little has changed since the last time we communicated. There was an election in Afghanistan (I use the term loosely) that was wracked with corruption and offered very little choice to the Afghan people since both candidates supported the occupation of their country. As we all know, Karzai continues to rule. What is the overall reaction to this on the Afghan street, as far as you can tell? What do your contacts say, if anything?

Anand Gopal: Most Afghans viewed the elections as a major distraction from the more immediate concerns that confront them in their daily lives. There was a widespread sense that the election results were either preordained or at least heavily influenced by foreign countries. When it emerged that the U.N. actively worked to cover up the glaring evidence of fraud, this line of thinking was only furthered. In much of the south and east, where the fighting is, very few voted. But the international community went ahead with the elections anyway and desperately tried to maintain the fiction that the process would be free, fair and representative. Someone once said that the elections were done more for the benefit of the public in the U.S., U.K., Canada, etc., than it was for the Afghans–it was done to show the home audiences that the West is making political progress here. Many Afghans I know saw right through this.

RJ: Has the nature of the Afghan resistance changed? Does their presence seem greater?

AG: Looking over the past few years, what marked the insurgency this year is that it has more or less reached every Pashtun area. The insurgency started in small pockets in the south and east and has
gradually spread over the last few years. By 2008 it started to reach the north and west, and today nearly every Pashtun area in the country has some sort of insurgent presence.

With a few exceptions, the Taliban and allied groups still mostly lack the ability to move beyond the Pashtuns and recruit from the country’s other ethnic groups.

RJ: If we define victory as achieving some kind of stable client government in Afghanistan that can produce what is demanded by Washington, is there any chance that the ISAF can achieve any kind of victory in Afghanistan?

AG: I think it is highly unlikely given the fact that the government today is barely functioning beyond the cities and towns. To achieve a sort of stable government that can govern the whole country, all of these areas outside the cities would have to be reclaimed (or in many cases, claimed for the first time, since the central government never really had much of a presence in such areas). Many Afghans tell me that they have yet to see a coherent strategy for making this happen.

The problems of the government are more than just corruption or ineffectiveness–they go back to its very founding. The Bonn Conference, which laid the foundation upon which the current government is built, was deeply flawed. It included every major warlord, criminal and human rights abuser except for two–the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It should come as little surprise then that these are the two that are fighting against the Americans today. Across the country, many warlords and commanders that committed atrocities during the nineties were put back into power, and in many cases they treated the local population poorly. We are still seeing the repercussions of that today.

Many Afghans say that they would like to see the whole thing go back to the drawing board–negotiate with the Taliban, form a national unity government, rewrite the constitution, etc. Short of that, they say that the current government can never really be representative and inspire loyalty throughout the country.

RJ: Has the resistance proposed a peace plan? If so, are you aware of the elements in it? Why is this not discussed in the mainstream media?

AG: They haven’t proposed a serious peace plan that I am aware of, short of demanding that the foreign troops leave the country. There was a sort of “roadmap to peace” that was being talked about between some senior Taliban leaders and their interlocutors in Kabul (former Taliban officials who have made their peace with Karzai’s government). It included a number of proposals: In the first step, the Taliban would stop impeding development efforts if the U.S. stops house raids and releases prisoners. In the next step, the two sides would negotiate directly over the the nature of future unity government. Finally, the two sides would negotiate a timetable for withdrawal of troops. But this proposal never really got off the ground; it was stymied by the simple fact that the key party who would have to agree to all this–the U.S.–was never involved. Moreover, when Obama announced a troop escalation this past spring, it sent the message to the Taliban leadership and their backers in Pakistan that this was not the time to negotiate but rather to bunker down and fight.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

5 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozh said on December 4th, 2009 at 11:08am #

    Well, the evil empire had been attacked and puppetized precisely in order that afghan, american, and european peoples never get what they want.
    And hod been shoputed from rooftops since at least 10-15k yrs what every human wants.

    Hey folks, it’s just ?30th, or is it 80th?, major aggression against weak lands. All waged by warlords and so that americans don’t get what they want!
    More to come! 30-50 more. Folks, this is not a political ‘promise’, nor reality show ‘promise’; it’s a real life promise. OK, OK, not a ‘promise’; just an expectation! tnx

  2. bozh said on December 4th, 2009 at 11:15am #

    Correction. Once again i forgot to redact and emend my post. It shld be: had been shouted from roof tops. My devil, i’m as bad as bush! How did i put an “o” in “had”, only my devil knows. S/he often plays dirty tricks on me.
    I am just like everybody else: i blame my own devil for all my wrongs! tnx

  3. greybeard616 said on December 4th, 2009 at 11:38am #

    Disappointing, but highly useful information! “Tis a pity the U.S. seems to merely want to create a puppet government to do its bidding. “The pipeline must go on!” Obama goes the way the British, Mongols, and Alexander went before.

  4. Annie Ladysmith said on December 4th, 2009 at 10:40pm #

    RE: TROOP ESCALATION. OBAMA, EVIL INTERNATIONAL WARLORD. DEATH and DESTRUCTION, TORTURE and FAMINE. BARACK is the rider on the WHITE HORSE, this is what you can expect to follow: RED HORSE/WAR (nuclesr), PALE HORSE/FAMINE, then the BLACK HORSE/DEATH (many millions). Don’t believe it?? Just wait.

  5. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 11:21pm #

    A New York Times reporter, David Rohde, known for making investigative trips deep inside dangerous conflict zones escaped from militant captors after more than seven months in captivity in Afghanistan and Pakistan by climbing over a wall, the newspaper said Saturday.
    In an interview with Charlie Rose, Rohde said that Afghan people hate the policy of Washington regarding Afghanistan and the region.
    They hate the ‘leader of the CAPTIVE world’ so much that they spit at the picture of OBAMA whenever they see one. He believes they hate Obama more than Bush because they believe he has been selected for HIS BLACK SKIN to fool e people of the region to slave more people for the interest of zionist murderer. THIS IS A ZIONIST WAR.
    People of the region have developed tremendous amount of hatred towards Zionist policy of White House and are determined to defeat them at any cost. They are the one who staged 9/11 terror to be used as an excuse to invade Muslim countries for the interest of Israel. Since the erection of a Black Zionist puppet as the ‘leader of the CAPTIVE world’, the Zionist policy has reached to Black Somalia as well. Therefore, as long as the western capitals remain INFESTED BY THE ZIONIST AGENDA the situation is not going to be changed.

    Americans and the entire western population must act now and eliminate all the Zionist agents from power.