By ARSHAD M. KHAN
Mr. President: Everyone appreciates your post-Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan to thank the troops for their sacrifice. However, not many will agree any longer with your statement that the fight against the Taliban is keeping us safe here. Most people would point out the Taliban had no direct role in the 9/11 attack; in fact, were not even aware of its planning. Moreover, considering the consequences, it is hardly likely al-Qaeda will ever have the same influence there, and most rational experts have already concluded that al-Qaeda does not need a formal headquarters anywhere. The 9/11 attackers based themselves, and trained, right here in the U.S.
The farcical nature of our Afghan policy — if it had not been so devastating to both Afghanistan and Pakistan — is illustrated by a new report, “Afghanistan Transition: Missing Variables”, released Nov 19, 2010 by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS). A think tank, far removed from the peace activist camp, whose board Chairman is a former Secretary General of Interpol, its focus is security. In October 2010, they interviewed 1000 men in Helmand and Kandahar provinces and 500 in Panjshir and Parwan. Given the rigor of the study, they are able to claim “a unique insight into the most relevant cohort of the Afghan population, in the most relevant areas of the country”.
The most disturbing finding is that 92% of the respondents in the south, where we are now actively engaged, “are unaware of the events of 9/11 or that they triggered the current international presence in Afghanistan.” The research has shown that Afghans are quite plainly hostile simply to the presence of the international community. They are “unsure of its objectives, and are unaware or untouched by international development efforts.” Many (40%) believe the purpose of the NATO force is “to destroy Islam, or to occupy or destroy Afghanistan.”
So, we are told our troops are out there to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” al-Qaeda; but al-Qaeda has left Afghanistan. We are told our young men are out there to prevent another 9/11; but of 9/11 the enemy knows nothing. It is war in ‘parallel universes’. Forgive me, Sir, but most people appear to be tired of the rhetoric, tired of the destructive farce being played out in Afghanistan, and even more tired of similar ‘parallel universes’ in domestic policy. They have given vent to their frustration with the “shellacking” at the polls a few weeks ago, and, if there is no change of course, another one two years hence will not be unexpected
Arshad M. Khan is a retired professor. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.