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Monday, September 26, 2011

Imran Khan says that Key does not understand Afghanistan' on Q + A

Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer come politician, announced that John Key does not understand Afghanistan on Q + A. While Khan is also a politician, New Zealanders should sit up and take note of his criticisms as they are pertinent to our understanding of New Zealand's role in global politics.

Imran Khan interview transcript: Q and A News

The New Zealand prime minister does not understand Afghanistan. If only he had read the history of Afghanistan, even the British - three wars in Afghanistan. The Russians killed a million Afghans - a million out of a population then of 15 million. A million died, and they were fighting more at the end than the beginning. Everyone was fighting. The women were fighting. They do not understand Afghanistan. This is a quagmire. From day one, I've opposed it, this insane war, and I can give you in writing that for another 10 years, there will be fighting there, and they will make no headway at all. In fact, they radicalise the people much more.

That there is no military solution. There's going to be a political solution. And the longer they keep killing people, and this military, these night raids - remember, most of the people being killed are innocent civilians. They are not fighting an army. They are fighting militants which are being supported by the population. That's why they're going to lose the war - because it's not a question of Taliban; it's a resistance movement now. And the history tells you, in Afghanistan, whenever an invader comes, they get together and they will resist. They have never accepted outsiders.

While the way that this has been covered in New Zealand implies that Khan is pitching to an internal audience due to Claire Robinson's commentary (which he most certainly is), to solely consider his comments in this light undercuts the way that he is reflecting popular sentiment in Pakistan and is a very simplistic reading of our foreign policy stance. Pakistan, like many other postcolonial nations, is wary of the interference and political concessions that conceding to more powerful nations involves. The War in Afghanistan has not been a good move by the US and the UK and has provoked serious debate in both countries. While invading an entire nation to find a group of terrorists at the time seemed like a good idea to the US and the UK, this is not an idea that has proved the test of time. The mobilization of troops has not worked to stabilize the region, in essence it has dragged the country into a brutal civil war. The invasion of Afghanistan, pitched along humanitarian lines to the west with the notion that it was protecting women's rights against the fundamentalist perspectives of the Taliban, might sound credible to western populations, but outside of this it is measured alongside a greater awareness of the actions and involvement of these nations in foreign policy. This means that the involvement in Afghanistan was read within the anti-colonial narratives of struggle of many nations, and that the strong interest in Afghani women was countered by the US' close military and strategic countries like Saudi Arabia, which ruled by a Wahabbist sect also has incredibly strict restrictions on women that sound hypocritical in this context. Last year a Pew Poll found that 59% of Pakistanis saw the US as an enemy, although 64% wanted better relations with the country, reflecting the conflicted position that many states find themselves in when US troops are currently in around 70 countries and still remain a major economic power in a fragile environment.

The problem with our stance as a nation on the War on Terror is that it has been sold to our population as just the contribution to reconstruction. We have been told that our forces are merely helping with the construction of water supplies and schools. The problem with this kind of stance, aside from the legal implications of being involved in the invasion of another country, is that if it is not true this message circulates around other nations and potentially endangers our citizens. There is now a growing body of evidence emerging that signals that the New Zealand public needs to look a lot closer at what is going on - we have heard from reputable journalists such as Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson that there are issues around the way that our troops are cooperating with those who torture. If we are going to be contributing to another country's war then we have every right as citizens to have a transparent debate around the moral implications of this. Hager's book Other People's Wars implies that our government has been unaware of many decisions that have been made autonomously by the military. The US and UK involvement have led to a civil war environment in Afghanistan which many analysts now believe that people

Although these debates keep getting written off as unimportant by Key and his colleagues, regardless of your opinion, they are important. The idea that anyone would get into politics and know everything about every country's policies is clearly a fallacy. Expecting our bureaucrats to be experts in this when we don't really even have any academics that are experts in the region (or many other regions for that matter) is also a bit of a heavy problem. Having a public debate with further information on this is clearly prudent when our policy stance has the ability to affect our citizens.

Nicky Hager is speaking on New Zealand's involvement in the War on Afghanistan in an event hosted by the Department of Political Studies tonight at 5pm, Women's Federation Room above Old Government House, The University of Auckland.


At 26/9/11 2:19 pm, Blogger Gosman said...

"While invading an entire nation to find a group of terrorists at the time seemed like a good idea to the US and the UK, this is not an idea that has proved the test of time."

I think the intervention in Afghanistan has been surprisingly successful.

Historically successful anti-insurgency campaigns take years to be effective. You just need to look at the Malayan emergency to see that.

Casualties amongst coalition troops are also amazingly light compared to other conflicts. Certainly the US is doing much better than when the Soviets were in the country.

Afghanistan is no longer being used as a safe haven for Jihadhis to plan and co-ordinate attacks against Western soft targets. Admittedly this has been moved across the boarder to Pakistan but the US is hobbling the movement in that country quite effectively at the moment.

Sure things can get better but the only real alternative to the current approach would be for the West to leave Afghanistan prematurely. If that did happen what would stop the country going down the same route it took in the early 1990's?

At 26/9/11 8:36 pm, Blogger Frank said...

The thing about Imran Khan is that is isn't some semi-educated, Koran-bashing, one-eyed "hick" from the backblocks of nowhere.

The man is "westernised"; well-educated; and speaks rationally about issues that affect his own country, as well as neighbouring Afghanistan. He speaks with conviction and from a position of insight.

We dismiss his views at our peril.

At 27/9/11 6:18 am, Blogger Gosman said...

Why? Pakistanis dismiss his views quite regularly. His politcal movement isn't that successful.

He may very well have some good popints but he also sounds like one of these left wing people that blame many of the problems of his country on imperialism.

Given much of India was already under control of a semi-foreign imperial authority when the British started taking over this analysis is rubbish.

At 27/9/11 3:27 pm, Blogger Frank said...

"I think the intervention in Afghanistan has been surprisingly successful. "

You're taking the mickey, aren't you?

At 27/9/11 4:19 pm, Blogger Gosman said...

What would you have regarded as a success given what existed in Afghanistan in 2001?

Remember it was a country involved in a Civil war (much bloodier than the insurgency going on now), largely ruled by an extreme theocratic, dictatorial and backward regime who were commiting all sorts of cultural and humanitarian atrocities, and harboured a terroroist group that was able to use the safe haven to plan and organise the worst terrorist attack ever on a Western nation.

What we have now is a country that while not perfect is a damn sight better. The insurgency is largely restricted to carrying out attacks against soft targets and are only able to inflict a few dozen casualties against the multinational forces per month. The main benefit is that the land is not being used to train for and plan terrorist attacks against non-Muslims at the level it was before.

At 27/9/11 7:51 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

Whatever Gosman, they have spent 10 years fighting a small religious faction in the 5th poorest country in the world, and yet last month suffered the most casualties since the beginning of the war and civilian deaths have increased 106% since the US troop surge in June 2009.



“Before 9/11, Pakistan had only one suicide bombing. Since then, it’s had 290, killing at least 4,600 people.”


At 27/9/11 8:03 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

"Remember it was a country involved in a Civil war (much bloodier than the insurgency going on now), largely ruled by an extreme theocratic, dictatorial and backward regime"

Time to look a bit more closely at the History, the Taliban rose specifically in order to put an end to the civil war and were very successful in severely decreasing the death toll in that country. In the first six months of 1994, 25,000 civilians were killed in the vicious squabble for control of the capital, Kabul, this was the inspirastion for the Talibans rise. They were still fighting the Tajiks in 2000, that's likely to continue until the Durand Line is erased and Pashtunistan is created.

As for their humanitarian atrocities, a little look past the Fox News narrative reveals that although there were beheading and some extreme rogue elements within the Taliban (neither of which I condone for a second) there are reported to have been perhaps a dozen beheading, a little look at use of the death penalty in Texas who has put 447 people to death since 1982,this puts these atrocities into perspective.

At 28/9/11 12:54 pm, Blogger Gosman said...

I love how you attempt to justify your being an apologist for a brutal theocratic terror supporting regime by comparing them to Texas. I think you will find there was a few differences between Texas and Afghanistan under the Taliban such as the US has a constitution guarranteeing certain key personal liberties like freedom of speech and religion. But who cares about those things so long as you are anti-imperialistic quasi-leftist eh?

At 28/9/11 2:09 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

Yep, I'm an anti-imperialist!

But I don't support or endorse the Taliban, just have read enough of their history to know we ( the imperial west) will not win a military victory. Nobody ever has! And they've been trying since Alexander the Great.

But I'm happy to sit and watch history prove you wrong Gossy.

P.s. This is what the constitution gives you, freedom of speech my arse. #occupywall


At 28/9/11 3:49 pm, Blogger Gosman said...

If they have a case they can take it all the way to the US Supreme Court. Something that is denied people in places such as Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Your analysis of the history of Afghanistan is incorrect. There has been multiple invasions of the country that have been successful. The Hazaris for example are descendents of the Mongols who successfully invaded in the 15th Century and both prior and post this times there have been imperial rule over these lands such as the Muhgal Empire.

I was also meaning the Taliban when I mentioned the anti-imperialist quasi-leftists. Many left wingers seem to try and make common cause with a lot of unsavourary groups seemingly on the basis of the enemy of my enemy must be my friend. It goes some way to explaining why a number of leftists fall for the silly conspiracy theories around September the 11th.

At 28/9/11 5:41 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

Ironically, the Communist movement in Afghanistan in the 60's came via Columbia University, only later to be funded by the Soviets.

I don't endorse or make common cause with the tactics of the Taliban. Perhaps the US shouldn't have run away when the Soviets withdrew, leaving a bunch of Mujaheddin armed to the teeth to scrap over a power vacuum, resulting in the rise of the Taliban. And what place do we have there? There are no Al Qaeda there, the US acknowledge this, the Taliban never explicitly supported them, they were stuck with them and were happy to receive Saudi money, they never attacked the US. Is holding different, even abhorrent beliefs to the West really justification for a 10yr war? Or is it really about the Military Industrial Complex.

The Pashtun have been notorious fighters for a very long time.

“The type of guerilla-style fighting that Alexander faced during the Afghan campaign was described centuries later by the chronicler Plutarch, who compared Afghan tribesmen to a hydra-headed monster: as soon as Alexander cut off one head, three more would grow back in its place.”

Sound familiar. We will not win a military victory. Another SAS soldier dead today! For what exactly? To keep Americans employed?

Re the supreme court, U agree, I'd much rather live in that system, pity we're allowing the Nat's to undermine our Judiciary here, and it didn't seem to be of much use to Troy Davis there.



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