It was the defeat in Afghanistan which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Is history going to repeat itself and America is going to face the same fate in Afghanistan? At this point it looks very likely that the American fate is not going to be any different than Russia’s fate. Another question can be asked is that why Afghanistan is different than Iraq? Why a defeat in Afghanistan is going to have much more impact than the defeat in Iraq? Iraq was never a mainstream Muslim country. Iraq was led by the Baathist party which was a socialist party rather than a fundamentalist Islamic party. Al Qaida entered the conflict later, after the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Al Qaida is primarily based in the Sunni Muslims who are a minority in Iraq.
In Afghanistan, Taliban have a long history of struggle. They fought and defeated the Soviet Union. They are engaged in fighting the American and the NATO troops for the last eight years. Over the last eight years they’ve been getting gradually stronger. Another thing which is helping Taliban is that they are based in the Pashtuns who are the majority tribe and have always been the dominant force in Afghanistan. Still another factor is that Taliban have a strong influence in the neighboring Pakistan which has a much bigger population than Iraq. Today, the Indian subcontinent has the largest population of the Muslims compared to any other region in the World. The total population of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent is about 500 million which is larger than the entire population of the Arab countries and Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the World.
As opposed to the Arab countries and Indonesia, Afghanistan is more strategically located. This is almost in the center of South Asia, central Asia and the Middle East. China and Russia are also close to Afghanistan. Therefore, an American defeat in Afghanistan can significantly change the global balance of power. The defeat in Afghanistan will have much more impact than the defeats in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq. The American strategy of having an alliance of America, India and Israel against China and the Islamic countries will fail and America no longer will remain the only super power of the world. If America is defeated in Afghanistan then India will reconsider its policy toward America and China and probably will move closer to China.
President Obama advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq and increasing troops in Afghanistan. The American troops have been increased to about 68,000 in Afghanistan but even that is not enough and the military experts are very pessimistic about the state of the war. With the increase in the troops comes increase in the causalities. We also saw in Iraq that the growing number of American casualties turned the American public against the war. As the number of American causalities is rising in Afghanistan, the public sentiment has already started to turn against the war. A recent survey showed that more than 50% of the American people now oppose the war in Afghanistan.
Obama had hoped that he could unify the country which was bitterly divided by the Bush’s policies and fight a decisive war in Afghanistan. Nothing like that really happened. First the issues of Harvard Professor Gates’ arrest and the issue of Sotomayor’s nomination to the supreme court increased racial tensions and the bitter debate on healthcare reform has not only increased divisions between the democrats and the republicans but has also increased divisions between the leftist and the conservative democrats. The debate over the healthcare reform has come to the front and the issue of war in Afghanistan has taken a back seat.
The recent events in Afghanistan, including the presidential election, have clearly shown that the Taliban are rapidly gaining influence. The level of violence is now the highest in the eight years. President Karzai may win the election but already it has become clear that among the Pashtuns he has lost influence considerably. There are charges of fraud in the voting and his opponents are claiming that in the South, the main base of Taliban, the voter turnout was extremely low, about 10%. This signals doom for Karzai but also will hasten American defeat there.
The Kashmir Telegraph is the publication of Pune-based, not for profit, think-tank, Kashmir Bachao Andolan. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org