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.
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.