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A neighbour in Turmoil

Rashid has tried to find out the main reasons behind the chaos, on the brink of which is Afghanistan today, writes Syed Hassan Kazim.

books Updated: Nov 01, 2008 20:28 IST
Syed Hassan Kazim

Decent into Chaos: The US and the failure of Nation-building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia
Price: Rs 495/-
Penguins publication

The ongoings in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the recent months, especially the July 7 attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul has shattered many assumptions about the US war on terror. After the resurgence of Taliban and the perceived danger of Afghanistan turning into a failed state or a hotbed and breeding ground for international terrorists have led both Barrack Obama and John McCain to call for increased troops and resources to stabilise the country.

Although the developments may be disturbing, but Pakistani journalist Ahmad Rashid makes the case that they should not be surprising.

In his new book Decent into Chaos: The US and the failure of Nation-buildingin Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Rashid, who is also the writer of the best selling book Taliban demonstrates that the failures and contradictions of US policy in the region have been visible from the beginning of the war on terror.

At one point Rashid says that "The international community's lukewarm commitment to Afghanistan after 9/11 has been matched only by it's incompetence, incoherence and conflicting strategies - all led by the US. Rashid is not a foaming leftist but still less an enthusiast for the Islamist militancy. In fact Rashid's account stresses on the Afghanistan's recent history as a battlefield for proxy wars between other powers. To combat the Indian influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan's ISI has since long been supporting the Taliban and other militant groups. We can see the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul as a direct fallout of Pakistan's policy of harbouring anti-India elements on it's soil.

At one point Rashid says that a "group of ignorant, extremely powerful and dangerous men in Washington led by Donald Rumsfeld, the worst of them all sought to exploit America's shock after 9/11 to pursue their own global agenda, on which ousting Saddam, once the best friend of successive US administrations was the top of their agenda.

The neo-conservatives in White House were serious about only one thing viz. in Mr Bush's terminology "smoking out the terrorists from their hideouts and getting Saddam Hussain ousted.

Rashid also criticises Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, whom he describes as one of the nastiest dictators of Central Asia, who is also a major ally of America in it's war against terror. It's a great irony on the part of the American policy that the US accuses the countries with which it has not a good relationship of supporting the terrorists, or being undemocratic or violators of Human Rights.

While at the same time its supports various countries being ruled by dictators, which shows it's double standard vis a vis the developing or the underdeveloped countries and also shows that, in American foreign policy there is no any permanent friend or enemy, but only permanent interests.

The Pakistan's ISI still plays a deadly game by providing enough assistance to America and it's allies in their war against terror while at the same time supporting Taliban to cause unrest in the Southern areas of Afghanistan. Rashid says that the main responsibility on the part of the US in Afghanistan and Iraq is to undo the damage done to these states by the always confrontational policy of Bush administration due to which in Afghanistan the drug agency has become more powerful and the Taliban have become widely resurgent. Rashid, who is also a good friend of Afghan president Hamid Karzai tries to portray Karzai as a noble man caught in the unfavorable circumstances which are getting from bad to worse.

The central factor behind the mess which is Iraq and Afghanistan now-a-days is the malevolent foreign policy of the Republicans vis-à-vis the Islamic world, especially Afghanistan, Iraq and now Iran.

From the beginning, after 9/11, the US was already looking ahead on a mission to capture Iraq and dethrone Saddam Hussain, which resulted in its unwillingness to devote much resources to Afghanistan.

Through this book, Rashid has tried to find out the main reasons behind the chaos, on the brink of which is Afghanistan today, reading which one can also grasp the roots and magnitude of the problems in the region.