The Unending Afghan Saga
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
In the never-ending, ever-renewed, sensation hungry American saga of the twenty-first century, now a new book about Obama’s presidency is supposed to rock America all the way from Washington DC to its outermost territory: Kabul. Obama’s Wars, by the veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward, is being released with strategic timing so that it has its impact on the November mid-term elections in which Democrats are already struggling to keep their control of the House of Representatives. Those who control media, and hence the public opinion, surely know what they are doing.
Yet, the book will be just one more tiny little rock thrown in the pond of American obsession with new things and new sensations and it will not be long before it will be forgotten and a new rock will be needed to keep the vibrations on the move. For whatever it is worth, the book does show some grey areas from inside the power corridors of America, which need to be seen by those interested in the future of America’s Afghan adventure, which is going to have its impact on Pakistan as well as on Iran, no matter which way this proverbial camel finally sits.
There are tensions, we are told by Woodward, in the inner circles; American generals are keen to get a free hand in Afghanistan for an unspecified time; the administration, on the other hand, wants a timeline for troop withdrawal. “This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is reported to have said. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.”
He is also quoted as telling the defence secretary, Robert Gates, and the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in late October last year: “I’m not doing 10 years … I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”
There is nothing new in this; most observers already know this, but there may be something revealing in Obama’s remarks about Pakistan. Relying on intelligence reports for making his opinion, Obama is quoted as saying: “We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan.”
The book will change little by way of ground realities and there will still be no clear American plan, but it will certainly give pundits on TV screens something to chew. The ground realities, however, demand a far more serious attitude than the sensationalism now rampart in American media. It must be recognized that American misadventure in Afghanistan has stark consequences for America, as well as for the Afghans and Pakistanis. Every single day in war brings more bloodshed, more violence, more death and destruction. To any outside observer, it is clear that no matter what the Americans do, this is an unwinnable war. This clear and historically proven reality somehow escapes American leadership which sees very new incident in isolation from the previous events and hence is unable to draw any genuine conclusion.
Thus when a helicopter carrying NATO troops crashes in southern Afghanistan, as it did this past Tuesday, killing nine service members and making 2010 the deadliest year of the nine-year war, it is not taken as an indication that this ill-fated adventure will not yield anything but death and destruction. When the U.N. special representative’s quarterly report to the Security Council, released on September 21, 2010, indicates that violence is 69 percent higher for the three months ending Sept. 14, 2010 than it was for the same period last year, nothing is learnt from these facts.
Why, one may ask, American leadership is blind to the historic realities of its Afghan mis-adventure? Why does it not see what is written on the wall? What is behind this blind spot? Why these wise men and women cannot see the suffering they are causing to millions of human beings?
Of course, there is no substance left in the Bushy argument that boys are securing America; there is clear, unambiguous proof that there is no one in the caves of Afghanistan who has the ability to strike America; technically it is beyond them, operationally it is impossible, and logistically it is an absurd thought that Taliban or whatever is left of al-Qaeda have the ability to attack America. What, then, is the rationale for America’s continuous presence in a country where rebuilding is impossible, where, after nine years and billions of dollars, American troops are unable to secure even Kabul?
One cannot think of any reason other than Pakistan and Iran to be the cause of prolonged American presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is being dismembered chip by chip; in fact, it will not be wrong to say that Pakistan is now like a volcano already simmering. It will take very little for the lava to gush out, taking in its volcanic fury the entire country: from the ethnic violence to sectarian feuds and from the economic meltdown to random violence, all scenarios for the last and final fury are looming on the horizon.
Rampant corruption, political stagnation, a dysfunctional parliament and non-consequential senate define contemporary Pakistan. The government is sitting idle; even the flood waters did not wake it up. Karachi, the financial capital of the country witnesses 10-20 target killings per day and the government and all its agencies are unable to control this violence. Balochistan is seething; Sindh can become a hotbed of intrigues any time and the northern areas are full of game—the old colonial game now intensified manifold with American money and weapons and the latest chip technology guiding drones.
So, if the American game is to dismember Pakistan and somehow seize its atomic weapons, then it makes sense to spend billions of dollars and risk the lives of a few hundred Americans for the sake of fulfilling a long-time Israeli wish of getting rid of this so-called Islamic bomb which was never, and will never be an Islamic bomb. But if this is not the game plan, then Mr. Obama needs to take a cold shower and wake up to the reality of an unwinnable war in Afghanistan.
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor ofIslam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), and then left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to study Islam, its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he pursued his research and study on various aspects of Islam in Pakistan, where he also worked as Director, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) between 1991-96 and as Director, Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1998-99).
During 1999-2001, Dr. Iqbal was Program Director (Muslim World) for the Science-Religion Course Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Berkeley, USA.
Dr. Iqbal has published books and papers on the relationship between Islam and science, Islam and the West, the contemporary situation of Muslims, and the history of Islamic science.
His publications include Islam and Science, God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives , Science and Islam, Dawn in Madinah: A Pilgrim’s Passage , The Making of Islamic Science (IBT, 2009) and a few more titles.
He is the General Editor of the forthcoming seven-volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, the first English language reference work on the Qur’an based on fourteen centuries of Muslim reflection and scholarship. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.