Wednesday 18 August 2021

A Turning Point In World History

The people who claimed in the 1980s that allowing in anyone from Hong Kong would result in an opium den on the high street of every market town, now want to let in at least 300,000 of them. Yet they baulk at 20,000 Afghans. There are more people than that in Consett. A new town could be built for them in a familiarly mountainous area of Scotland or Wales. Why not?

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale explain six key truths about Afghanistan: "First, the Taliban have defeated the United States. Second, the Taliban have won because they have more popular support. Third, this is not because most Afghans love the Taliban. It is because the American occupation has been unbearably cruel and corrupt. Fourth, the War on Terror has also been politically defeated in the United States. The majority of Americans are now in favor of withdrawal from Afghanistan and against any more foreign wars.

"Fifth, this is a turning point in world history. The greatest military power in the world has been defeated by the people of a small, desperately poor country. This will weaken the power of the American empire all over the world. Sixth, the rhetoric of saving Afghan women has been widely used to justify the occupation, and many feminists in Afghanistan have chosen the side of the occupation. The result is a tragedy for feminism."

Of course countries that bordered Afghanistan, or which in the case of Russia might as well border Afghanistan, are going to recognise the rule of the Taliban. They have to get on with life in the region. That includes the prevention of the Taliban's Afghanistan from becoming a base for Islamist attacks on their own territory. Pakistan, in particular, just has to do what it has to do, as has always been the case.

That first A in Pakistan stands for Afghania, as the P stands for Punjab, and as the K stands for Kashmir, while the "stan", or at least the "tan", is Balochistan. Does that A refer to the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province? Well, officially, yes. But historically, "Afghan" meant "Pashtun". There remain two and a half times as many Pashtuns in Pakistan as in Afghanistan, including Imran Khan. He does not see himself as "meddling" in Afghanistan. He sees present day Pakistan as whatever could be won and held in 1947. Leaving enormous unfinished business in Kashmir, in Punjab, in Balochistan, and in Afghania.