Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
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fascinating to watch Anglo-American leftists (those champions
of human rights and freedom) welcoming every Taliban attack
and fantasizing of a Western defeat. But the rest of us deal
with reality. And Afghanistan's reality is that things are
going as well as any sane person could expect.
partisans who yearn for Afghanistan (and Iraq) to fail, no
matter the human or strategic cost, impose impossible standards
for success, then insist we're being defeated when their standards
aren't met. It's a self-licking ice-cream cone straight from
the Stalinist dairy.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books,
as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both
under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist
for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]
is that Afghanistan will always be . . . Afghanistan. The relevant
question is straightforward: "Is it a better
Afghanistan today than under the Taliban?" Of course, the
answer is an emphatic "Yes!"
Afghanistan is never
going to resemble the liberal-arts faculty at Columbia. It's
a country of jealous clans patched together
with uneasy compromises and lubricated with lies (OK, maybe it
does resemble a liberal-arts faculty . . .). Kabul long was the
refuge of the "enlightened" classes, while the countryside
belonged to the mud and the mullahs.
That isn't going to change in our lifetimes. All Afghans, but,
especially, the Pathan majority, will continue to cling to their
folkways. Women's liberation isn't scheduled for an early arrival
in the faith-choked valleys of eastern Afghanistan, nor will
Herat, in the west, soon lead the world in scientific research.
Heroin-poppy cultivation is a serious problem in the south.
Warlords - the traditional arbiters of power in the provinces
- dominate the north. And yes, the Taliban is a deadly annoyance
again - it represents a small but tenacious constituency.
But isn't Afghanistan, urban or rural, better off now than under
Taliban rule? In urban areas and even in parts of the countryside,
women can at least catch their breath and invoke legal protections
- and sometimes the law actually protects them, which is an improvement
over the female-hating barbarism of the Taliban.
Afghanistan is still often unjust (to both sexes), but the situation
is far better than it was a decade ago in the heyday of public
stonings and executions-as-spectator-sport. Isn't it better to
have al Qaeda's remnants skulking amid remote mountains on the
Pakistani side of the border than to have them enjoying the free
run of an entire country? Isn't it better if at least some Afghan
children (including girls) can get an education that goes beyond
rote recitations from religious tomes?
Isn't it better to have the Taliban and al Qaeda scheming to
return to the country's most-backward provinces rather than sharing
power in Kabul and designing attacks on Manhattan and Washington?
Afghanistan's problems won't disappear in our lifetimes. But
the positive changes we wrought or enabled represent an enormous
win for decency, dignity and freedom - despite pestering Taliban
attacks on society's edges. The real worry isn't Afghanistan,
but Pakistan, where the Musharraf regime sees no alternative
to a two-faced strategy that aims at placating the West (especially
America) while continuing to hedge its longterm bets by clandestinely
supporting the Taliban.
And this is where it gets interesting: Recently, Pakistani intelligence
tipped off the British about the exploding-shampoo plot to bring
down multiple trans-Atlantic flights. Why did Pakistan's Inter-Service
Intelligence (ISI) boys blow the whistle on the al Qaeda clones?
For multiple reasons. First, as Washington and London move closer
to New Delhi, Islamabad needs to do all it can to prove itself
as an indispensable ally in the War on Terror. Giving up alQaeda
wannabes in the West is a cheap way to do it, since the Pakistani
government has no great affection for al Qaeda, an interloper
with roots on the other side of the Persian Gulf.
If President Pervez Musharraf could hand over Osama today, he'd
do it. Al Qaeda is in the way of Pakistan's long-term policy
- a competitor, not an ally. And it draws too much attention
to the region.
The Taliban is something else entirely. Experts argue over whether
it was created or merely nurtured by ISI operatives, but the
consensus is that, by the time the Talibs reached Kabul, the
group was backed by, equipped by, advised by and allied to Pakistan's
The Pakistanis viewed the Taliban as an ideal tool to achieve
two things: First, to bring order to lawless post-Soviet Afghanistan;
second, to provide desperately needed strategic depth in the
event of a war with India. The Islamist card played well in Peshawar,
Today, Pakistan still supports the Taliban, if quietly and within
careful limits. The issue of strategic depth hasn't gone away,
and the Pakistanis are certain that, sooner or later, America
will lose interest and the NATO presence will wither - but India
will still be right there on Pakistan's border, big and nuclear
(New Delhi has also made overtures to the government of President
Hamid Karzai in Kabul). Having the Taliban ready in a back pocket
just makes sense to Islamabad.
So Pakistan is playing
both a short game and a long one. It cooperates with us against
al Qaeda - and doesn't want to take
the rap for another major terror attack in the West. At the same
time, it makes sure that the Taliban has "survival rations." It
doesn't expect the Talibs to return to Kabul any time soon, but
it does expect to see a Taliban-dominated coalition in Afghanistan
That mustn't happen. And if we don't walk away, it won't. Meanwhile,
we can be satisfied and proud that our actions have made a dirt-poor,
deeply flawed, feudal state on the other side of the world a
better place for the average human being within its borders.
Oh, and we ripped the guts out of al Qaeda, too. CRO
latest book is Never
Quit The Fight.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post