Friday, August 22, 2003

So, an American finally got blown up in Afghanistan. It was going to happen eventually, with combat still active, and force levels there as high as they've ever been.

But it's not just the quality of our forces at issue, it's the quality of our allies. Which makes me think back to a local radio show from a couple of weeks back. After Sarah Chayes, now running an NGO's operations in Kandahar, described how the warlord we're propping up there had outraged local sensibilities by, among other things, getting publically drunk and pulling girls out of school to dance for visiting dignitaries, Omar Zakhiwal, an advisor to the Karzai government, offered this (roughly 26 and a half minutes into the broadcast, if you'd like to find it in the audio):

Zakhiwal: ... the warlords that we have in provinces, they are American allies for one reason and one reason alone, that is to fight terrorism and al-Qaeda. And these people are rational. They know very well that this is the reason why they are there for. And if this reason goes away, they probably will not be allies. And for that reason, they will make sure that that reason remains in Afghanistan. So not only they will be involved in the same things that your guest from Kandahar described they are involved in, they probably will also be in favor of the presence of terrorism and al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan because that would remain the reason for the alliance with the Americans.

Lyse Doucet, host: Oh dear. Well, let's bring in Sarah Chayes again, who we still have on the line from Kandahar, to respond to that.

Chayes: Sorry, I just want to emphatically agree with that. Emphatically agree. It is absolutely clear in Kandahar that these so-called US allies are in fact allowing the extremist elements back in from Pakistan. It's like a man flying two kites. They're flying the American kite and the extremist kite at the same time. And they are just tweaking the strings enough of each side to keep them both in the air.

And so once again, as in central America, as in the last years of Vietnam, as in sponsored coups for decades all over the world, American hawks pin their hopes on thugs with no discernable virtue other than the willingness to say, over and over, whatever the Americans want to hear...

Chayes's earlier remarks on the quality of the regime start about 22 minutes in, and are very much worth hearing as well. Heck, listen to the whole thing...


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