October 24, 2010

Is Karzai planning to bring the Taliban (and their Pakistani backers) into government in Afghanistan again? The old warlords of the Northern Alliance are preparing to arm to meet this eventuality, yet NATO soldiers are fighting and dying (mainly) in the south in order to push the Taliban back over the border. If Karzai engineers a re-entry for the Taliban into Afghanistan, then the political floor will vanish beneath NATO’s feet and the ISAF mandate could end abruptly.

Entry of the Taliban into the Afghan government will be an disaster only mitigated by an uncertain limit on the degree of Taliban expansion and infiltration. Already moderately secure in their heartlands of the North West Territories, in spite of a half-hearted Pakistani Army attempt to pacify the region and US remote strikes at the networks there, the Taliban will then have enormous manpower resources and be able to rebuild a terrorist, military and political infrastructure.
Pakistan will be competing with the government of Afghanistan to be the first to fall to the psychopaths of Islamism, while any concern over especially women’s rights in the Taliban controlled areas will be utterly futile. A government in which the Taliban participate will result in one of two outcomes: either Afghanistan beings to look like a Sunni version of Iran with the armed forces and police controlled and remoulded as Islamic forces, or the Taliban will retain their militia and hardcore professionals and simply wait to overthrow the government and seize control.

In the event of Taliban entry into government and with no action taken to support the Northern Alliance, the spread of al Qaeda groups into central Russia and the satellite states would accelerate and bring further instability. With the Northern Alliance threatening to rearm its militias in response to this prospect, what course of action could the NATO coalition take in order to either: prevent the Karzai plot from coming to fruition, or if that fails, organise, arm and support the Northern Alliance while working to turn it into a reliable ally. But overall, this prospect remains a very dangerous one which could wreck the last nine years of work.

Russia itself is hampering operations in Afghanistan, the likely drive behind this is a fear of US influence and the Russian government’s own attempts at suppressing democracy within Russia proper and in the border states. This leaves Pakistan as an unreliable base of support in the region, given its temporising and treacherous politicians and generals and its fanatical proxy-war with India. Yet, the insurgency is in the south of Afghanistan, leaving the ISAF logistical base to be critically vulnerable.

If the mission in Afghanistan is to be rescued then a new front is needed and a new ally. Here I believe that India could provide the manpower, political willpower and economic strength to invade and subjugate the North West provinces of Pakistan. This is a radical option but I fear the situation is starting to approach a crisis which will provoke the need to seek radical options. Another would be retreat from Afghanistan but the consequences of this are too horrible to comprehend. As with Iraq in 2006, retreat would only seed the ground for further insurgencies and terrorist cells to spring into being and would, as above earlier, allow the creation of a vast area of hardcore Islamist rule from which terrorist attacks would multiply. Add into this the danger of Pakistani nuclear weapons and we being to comprehend the dangers of failure here.

If Michael Yon is wrong and we are not able to sufficiently defeat the Taliban in the next two years, then to protect the West, radical changes in policy will have to be contemplated.