Afghanistan: game over?

(To Gino Lanzara)

As a Pashtun adage goes1, there are those who have time and who only have a watch to check it. Net of what has been reported more or less rashly in recent days, it remains to be understood which are, the good last ones in the long geopolitical line on the breach, the unfortunate ones Winners of the ever more ardent lit match, the symbol of a tragic game over.

After 20 years of Western military operations, Afghanistan, a historically ungovernable country, has capitulated, allowing games, sets and matches to Koranic students, not by chance at the time protectors of Osama Bin Laden then eliminated by the intervention of the American raiders at Abbottabad (coincidentally) in Pakistan.

Without getting to the British and the Soviets, also protagonists of discreet and historical routes, it is appropriate to recall the Indo-Pakistani conflict, latent and always too close to the borders of Kabul, and the so-called Arab Spring, that ideally united by a Koranic green line to the opening of the Taliban political office in Doha in February 2020, highlighted two non-negligible elements: the contrast between political Islam and its opponents2, and the embarrassing American statements which, in all their political and cultural ignorance, have revealed the mystery of Pulcinella, still in search of strawberry trees, about the true nature of the fallacious export of democratic yearnings, except (sic!) 'unprecedented Taliban commitment not to shelter new sanctuaries of terror, corroborated by the star-and-stripe release of thousands of prisoners from Afghan prisons, including Taliban commanders and jihadist leaders.

What conclusions could Russia, the penultimate Afghan veteran, draw? The USSR waged its war from 1979 to 1989, and withdrew not only because it was unable to win, but also because it was in the throes of a profound internal crisis; Soviet and American strategies for attracting the Afghan people have basically been similar, only instead of socialism, equality e development, the US used only one word: democracy.

The USA, in the context of the war on terrorism, and despite a clear gap between rhetoric and reality, have given life to the global geopolitical project neocons3 addressed to democratize entire areas but with disastrous results; the problem is that the Islamic world is expanding on immense spaces, on frontier regions, a sort of Islam Rim incompressible where the strategy neocons has turned towards a possible regime change Iranian. An objective not achieved, if it is true that Iran has now become part of the Sino-Russian-led geopolitical system, and that handle the Middle East has become particularly difficult also in light of the US policy of rapprochement with India, which has for some time cultivated interests in Afghanistan, and which has contributed realistically to bring Islamabad, which has always been contiguous to the Taliban, even now with the prime minister Imran Khan, in Beijing. China and Russia are therefore aiming for an Afghanistan that becomes a strategic Eurasian passage, avoiding that it can transform itself back into a destabilizing element, but which instead contributes to creating new balances between Iran and the Persian Gulf.

Those who have compared the American withdrawal from Kabul to that from Saigon have not taken into account the work of Kissinger who, in Southeast Asia, managed to ensure an enviable strategic security completely absent in the Central Asian region. Having forgotten that the Afghan war, like all of them, was a political instrument has erased any sense of it and made it more difficult to explain both the debacle and the sudden internal collapse.

Since the end of the Cold War there has been a constant lack of strategic vision, obviated with the attempt to export inapplicable political and social models; in Kabul, the defeat, rather than military, was political, as it was driven, as in Iraq, by the attempt to create an artificial state in which the image of peace missions it should have been replaced by the mature awareness of the need for the constant use of a force which is nevertheless very unwelcome to the delicate Western palates.

The Afghan war has woven the plot of four presidencies, starting with the Republican George W. Bush, passing through the Democrat - and Nobel laureate - Barack Obama, to the Republican Trump, who passed agreements and baton to the Obamian Biden; a strictly bipartisan excursus, but no less ineffective and costly, however, marked by agreements which, by their very nature, have ended cripple the weak Ghani government which, albeit officially supported, was knowingly excluded from the political initiatives falling on its head just as it was trying, unreasonably, to co-opt the Taliban leadership.

The American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is associated with the agreement signed last July 26 between President Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Kadhimi, which provides for the end of American military operations of type combat by the end of the current year, it was in fact motivated by internal political evaluations rather than evaluations real and realistic, and brought the game back to square one, but with the novelty element of the Taliban taking possession of the arsenals generously scattered by the US. What is certain is that, on the fronts of crisis, both in Japan and Taiwan, that the Americans they can't, they don't want to, they don't have to to lose, sensitivity towards the US modus operandi has increased - who would die for Tokyo / Taipei? - without counting the reaction of the European countries, called to join the US affair, and which have once again shown a total lack of a common security political sense; after all, one cannot fail to consider the hypothesis that the Americans, more sensitive to the Indo Pacific, have no longer recognized any interest in a country dominated by clans and tribes and in which they hope that others will remain trapped.

In the Great Game which saw the Russians and the British striving to assert their hegemony in Central Asia in vain, Washington took over London, but had to become aware of the emergence of other powers such as China, which has an interest in keeping the corridor of the Way stable. of Silk, stifling the fundamentalist expansion in Uyghur Xinijang4; Pakistan, which aims to contain India also by accepting the risk of violent and uncontrollable Taliban regurgitation on its own territory; Iran, which continues to host several Qaedist leaders; Turkey, which targeted the control of Kabul airport and financed Afghan Turkish-speaking militias such as Abdul Rashid Dostum's Uzbek militia5. In this context, the activity of the Islamic State of Khorasan stands out, in apparent friction with the Taliban, guilty of having talked with the Sino-American infidels, and whose wing more moderate it could press for a break in relations with religious extremism to obtain higher paying international recognition. However, it is presumable that the link with Qaedism is publicly denied to reassure China and Russia, but that in fact it remains operational to restore momentum to the jihad against the West.

Three hypotheses should be considered in this regard: the prima contemplates an interpenetration between the fundamentalist network and the Taliban so deep that it does not allow a revival of al Qaeda, given the integration of a part of the militants among the Taliban ranks, with the creation of family ties through marriages between Qaedists and Pashtun women; there second considers the concrete possibility for foreign fighters to exploit the Afghan media showcase in any case; there third, the most reliable, does not foresee any change in al-Qaeda-Taliban ties, even if it is very likely, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency, that the Taliban are asking al-Qaeda to limit its actions, according to the Doha agreement.

General McKenzie of the Central Command said that al-Qaeda militants will certainly reconstitute themselves, and that there is no doubt about the offensive intentions they intend to carry on American national soil. The evaluation of the DIA was therefore substantiated in the opinion that there was not no changes in the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship.

The unilateral American notification of the withdrawal of forces was none other than the Chronicle of a death foretold; From withdrawal to rout the step was very short, it marked the end of Atlantic credibility, and with the entry on the scene of the Isis cell of Khorasan, on the one hand it seems to have inaugurated a new season of terror prodromal to a new civil war, and on the other, the beginning of a possible and unprecedented collaboration between the Taliban and the Americans, which in any case maintain the blockade of Afghan funds, was marked. In this perspective, it would be appropriate for the Taliban emirate to consolidate territorial control outside Kabul and other cities, including the other political groups. The return of the Emirate may not be welcomed by local leaders who have built consensus within their communities on opposition to the Taliban advance, an aspect that cannot rule out a possible resumption of violence against ethnic minorities and religious.

The apparent change in Taliban political behavior marks the change in the paradigm for which it is no longer possible to fire on the institutions it has taken possession of, which is why the fault between Pashtuns and jihadists seems to have deepened. At a time when the Taliban needs everyone to revive the country, the US, annihilated by a self-destructive form of politically correct, in the hope that the new Afghan ruling class will create difficulties and problems for Chinese, Russian and Pakistani competitors, who have maintained their embassies, despite the time that has passed, still have not understood that they have misunderstood a context in which tribes and clans do not think individualistically, and in whose connective tissue the Taliban have inserted themselves in order to guarantee the success of the Blitzkrieg Ferragostana. According to a tested and fungible script at all latitudes, while the Taliban reconquered all the provinces with the (momentary) exception of Panshir, the Afghan intelligentsia, equipped with the necessary financial support, hastily raised the tents to abandon the people to their fate, miserably sank along with hope in a drain in front of the airport.

At the Taliban summit is Haibatullah Akhundzada, who rose to this role after the US eliminated Mullah Mansour Akhtar in 2016; executive power has been entrusted to Abdul Ghani Baradar, freed from a Pakistani prison at the request of the United States and responsible for signing the Doha agreement, as well as a recent official guest of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, China; not to forget Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of commander mujahideen Jalaluddin, exponent of the network that manages family interests on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and who attacked Indian interests: a full-blown restoration that has also brought the industry back to vogue of opium and refined heroin in Pakistan. For the Taliban leadership, however, it is necessary to recompose the disagreements that have determined friction between the Haqqani faction, sensitive to the Qaedist charm, and that of Mullah Yaqoob, son of the historic founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, and current military commander of the group. In short, men in turbans but with sneaker and with a sharia that is only apparently softer, in search of an international legitimacy moved by the improbable tight dialogues but from a few facts; men educated about the exploitation of media and their psychological impact: in short, Taliban in government but, as asserted by Russian sources, anchored to a past that cannot fail to make its weight felt.

It will take time to establish how many casualties the longest war in Yankee history has claimed; Brown University has estimated that 240 people have been killed between direct and indirect victims, while more than 4 million people have fled the country to reach, first and foremost, Iran and Pakistan, on whose border there are still many Qaidists who enlist recruits from Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and India, mindful of the Brigade 055, entirely composed of Qaedists and integrated into the Taliban army between 1995 and 2001; in this context, media returns from the Middle East must be taken into account, so if it is true that the first congratulations came from the Palestinian Hamas, the Somalis of al Shabaab and the rib Qaedist media, it is equally true that Aljazeera reported a significant lack of enthusiasm on the part of the man in the street for the success of the Taliban, seen more as warlords than as interpreters of a popular revolutionary movement.

There is no doubt that the Taliban regime, approaching the consolidated theocratic models of Iran and Saudi Arabia, in itself would not constitute a threat, but certainly a Qaedist presence, forcing the regime to a form of ideological subordination, would contribute to changing scenarios already conditioned by Pakistan, which with the American departure proposes itself as an official diplomatic channel albeit grappling with violent radicalisms, China, which proposes particularly coveted investments, Russia and especially Iran which, led to the politics of double oven, despite the weak stability guaranteed by the USA it was functional to its interests and in any case keeping the Afghan Shiite brigade operational Fatemiyoun protagonist in Syria, has preferred the Taliban disorder, although it is a harbinger of an increase in renewed flows of low-cost drugs towards a market with one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the world: the residual Iranian revolutionary propulsion is not religious, but is concretized in the opposition to the USA, stuck in the ford of JCPOA negotiations, and to Israel.

Still on the subject of drugs, it is worth noting the entry on the scene of theephedra sinica,Oman, abundant in north-central Afghanistan, which allows the extraction of the precursor ephedrine necessary for the production of methamphetamine, the sheesha of the tv series Breaking Bad.. Demand for amphetamines in Iraq peaked during the heyday of Isis, so much so that jihadists were always equipped with phenethylline pills6, produced or imported from Syria.

In the areas under Shiite control, in the name of the Koranic ban on drinking alcohol, liquor stores are forced to close, according to a sort of prohibition that nevertheless affects Sunni Turkey, which holds a monopoly on liquor exports to Iraqi territory.

Even for Russia, the US military presence was however positive; while accusing Washington of tolerating an increase in drug production and trafficking, it was possible for the Kremlin both to acknowledge that the Americans prevented extremists from becoming a threat in Central Asia, and to propagate, especially to Ukraine, the decline. of the US leadership and above all its unreliability.

As always, there are those who say no, or at least try; the resistance to the Taliban improvised by Ahmad Masood seems hardly credible. Currently under siege, son of Ahmad Shah Masood, the lion of Panjshir, previously stated that he does not rule out seeking an agreement with the new government, given that Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah are also negotiating with the Taliban.

In summary, the insurgents will hardly be a cornerstone of Afghan geopolitics, given the fact that no power, global or regional, seems interested in supporting their cause. In any case, the messages from the Afghan front must all be considered with extreme attention: the moderate Middle Eastern countries must expect a reduction in US investments in the region, with the simultaneous assumption of greater and unprecedented burdens; in this context, the agreements of Abraham signed last year between Israel and several Arab countries, in improving relations, can generate a cooperative and intelligence potential to be used right now, especially in consideration of the fact that, in the short term, various international actors will try to exploit the tarnishing of American image and credibility.

1 The Pashtuns are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group that mainly inhabits eastern and southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, in the Pashtunistan region; they speak the Pashto language and follow an indigenous and pre-Islamic religious code of honor and culture, Pashtunwali, integrated into the Islamic religion.

2 the former has Qatar and Turkey behind; the second Saudis, UAE and Egypt

3Neoconservatism is an international political movement of American origin, with a liberal-conservative, interventionist, Westernist and Americanist orientation. Regarding social issues, the neocons (also called neocons, by admirers and critics alike) do not oppose the principles of US "big government" and propose only limited restrictions on social spending. From a strictly American point of view, in foreign policy the movement supports, after the failed Vietnamese experience, the use of military force (if necessary unilaterally) to replace dictatorial governments with democracies. This view is contrary to internationalism, realism and isolationism.

4 In July in Tianjin, Wang Yi, foreign minister, asked the Taliban to stop contact with the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, the terrorist group formed in Xinjiang, trained by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and held responsible for the attacks that took place. in the People's Republic between 2013 and 2014.

5 Abdul Rashid Dostum is an Afghan general, politician and warlord of Uzbek origin, 4th first vice president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from 2014 to 2020.

6 Captagon

Photo: al arabiya