A decade later: Afghanistan, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the war on terrorism

October 14, 2011

In Oct. 2001, the U.S. attacked Afghanistan to eliminate the terrorist stronghold of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Months later both had been routed, their leaders fleeing across the border into Pakistan’s tribal region. The war was over. Or so everyone thought.

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Audio Script

Oct. 14, 2011

In Oct. 2001, the U.S. attacked Afghanistan to eliminate the terrorist stronghold of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Months later both had been routed, their leaders fleeing across the border into Pakistan’s tribal region. The war was over. Or so everyone thought.

A decade later the war continues and some Afghan experts, like CU-Boulder’s Najeeb Jan, believe the years of fighting and billions of dollars spent in trying to establish a secure, democratic government in Afghanistan has failed.

CUT 1 “The mission in Afghanistan has, to a large extent, been a failure.

With the exceptions of a few strongholds, mainly in Kabul and around a few military bases – there’s really no security. There’s a fundamental lack of unity, a greater distrust among the civilians, and the billions of dollars that have poured in, there is really not much to show for it. (:22) So on many fundamental levels this decade of war and violence in Afghanistan has brought little or nothing.” (:32)

Jan, who is part Pakistani and attended school there for six years, is an assistant geography professor at CU-Boulder and an expert in political Islam, the Taliban and U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  

Jan explains why the mission in Afghanistan has been a failure in his eyes.

CUT 2 “The broad-term policy was short sighted, lacked any historical depth, any understanding of the real geopolitics and dynamics of the region. The way in which, for instance, Pakistan plays a particular role in Afghanistan. (:13) So it’s looking at Afghanistan in this sort of short term lens of A, revenge, of course, for 9/11, but also this hubris that we can remake a country as we see fit - everyone trying to get in on the act that we can make this medieval society a modern democratic society. That has been a catastrophic failure.” (:33)

Jan says the Taliban, though weakened considerably and unable to launch major offensives, are still dangerous and remain an influential player in the region. And, he says, they also know that time is on their side.

CUT 3 “What’s going to happen is NATO is withdrawing, the British are pulling out and the Americans are drawing down. In four years the U.S. will be gone. (:07) This will precipitate one factor. The Taliban will say, ‘Yes. We defeated another super-power. Look, the Americans are gone and we’re still here.’  It will strengthen the hand of that organization. They will also continue to have an influence in Pakistan.” (:22)

A concern for the region, says Jan, is that after the Americans leave there’s a real chance the country will slide back into the same bloody civil war following the 1989 post-Soviet occupation.

CUT 4 “That’s what it seems like. We’ve created conditions where there is no strong central player. We have regional geopolitics powers – probably Iran but certainly India and Pakistan - which will be continuing to influence players in the region. I’m sure the U.S. will continue to support militarily with a small force contingent and continued aid. (:22) So what you have is the continued situation for a real stalemate unless there is some type of settlement. And that seems to be increasingly difficult when everyone who’s put up as a negotiating element is either assassinated by the other side or killed.” (37)

The key for lasting peace in the region, and any chance the Karzai government will survive after the U.S. leaves, is for a negotiated peace settlement that includes all influential players in the region. That includes Karzai’s government, the various Taliban groups, and the Pakistan army, says Jan.

CUT 5 “There has to be a regional conference where all of the major players are brought to the table, otherwise one of the others will try to undermine the process. The key to any success in that region is going to go through Pakistan – the Pakistan military. (:13) The military will have to be there from both a geopolitical and geographic perspective. There is no solution without Pakistan. Pakistan sees what ever happens in that region as tied to their national security, it’s own national destiny.” (:27)

If a peace settlement doesn’t happen before the U.S. leaves, then Jan says the Taliban and other ethnic elements, if they aren’t checked by the Pakistan army, will probably be able to overrun the Karsai government.

CUT 6 “The Karzai regime, which is notoriously corrupt, does not have a strong basis for national unity, will not be able to fend off a long-term, sustained assault on the regime.” (:10)

Jan says, while Kabul and other cities have benefited somewhat from reconstruction and development programs and are relatively secure, change and prosperity have not reached the important rural, agricultural communities where most of the people live, particularly in the Pashtun regions that gave rise to the Taliban.

-CU-

 

 

 

 

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