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Steering clear of Afghanistan’s Graveyard of Invaders

Jürgen Todenhöfer

My recent travels and talks with Afghan and Pakistani leaders, including several ex-Taliban leaders and with hundreds of ordinary Afghan and Pakistani citizens, lead me to this conclusion: the West has bombed itself from the role of the liberator into the role of the occupier. Afghanistan no longer matters when it comes to global, anti-Western terrorism.

The gruesome Taliban — and all the resistance forces the West conveniently labels “Taliban” — are part of a popular uprising caused by, and directed against, the brutality of the occupiers.


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While the word "terrorism" is the most abused expression in recent history, we must ask ourselves —who is our real and most dangerous enemy? 

Is it Osama bin Laden’s and Al-Zawahiri’s globally operating Al Qaeda terror organization — the real Al Qaeda — which, even according to ex-CIA chief Michael Hayden, has been largely dismantled and has no direct operational influence anymore with regard to concrete acts of terror in the West?
Is it the regionally operating terrorism; a copy of bin Laden’s old anti-Russian and anti-American terror gang that roams the Muslim world in search of another “holy war”?
Is it the daily growing number of western diaspora-terrorists, who, using an Islamic masquerade, live amongst us and try to attack the West in it’s own cities, branding themselves Al Qaeda, even though they are only crude copies because they don’t know any real Al Qaeda leaders.
Or is it the national terrorism of a muslim insurgency directed against pro-western-governments and the forces of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So what is the purpose of Western troop reinforcements in Afghanistan? The vast majority of the Afghan population is against them. They argue: More NATO troops means more war, more civilian casualties and ultimately more Taliban. Pres. Hamid Karzai stated in his congratulatory address to Pres. Barack Obama quite passionately, "The fight against terrorism cannot be fought in Afghanistan. Stop bombing our villages! We need a new strategy.”
Troop reinforcements are not even in the interest of the West. Even if the United States would drop its entire arsenal of bombs on the Hindu Kush and kill all Taliban and all migrant guerrillas of “Al Qaeda”, still the diaspora-terrorism threatening our cities, this copy of Al Qaeda in the West, would not be defeated. Quite to the contrary: Its popularity would grow.
Our wars in Afghanistan and also in Iraq – where I spent five long days with the Iraqi resistance that fights against the US-occupation and against the so-called “Al Qaeda” — have turned into terrorist breeding programs long ago. The western diaspora-terrorism grows with each Muslim civilian killed by a Western weapon.
Isn´t it ludicrous that our Secretaries of the Interior must fight terrorists in our countries, which their colleagues the Secretaries of the Defense produce in Afghanistan and in Iraq? Why doesn´t someone in the Western governments rise and say: "Enough!  Not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan?” Why is nobody admitting that the main problem facing us is that our politicians just don’t know how to get out of this quagmire?
Of course, in Afghanistan an immediate withdrawal is not a strategic alternative to the phantom war we are fighting there. Instead, I offer for the following five strategic alternatives:
• Strengthening of the Afghan security forces
A soldier of Afghanistan´s National Army earns $100 a month, a Talib up to $400, and the average Western soldier $4000 as extra-pay only. A member of Afghanistan´s security forces has to earn considerably more than a Taliban-fighter.
• Building of Schools instead of dropping bombs
Our Afghanistan policy has to focus once again on reconstruction. Only ten percent of the spending for Afghanistan is developmental in nature.
• Negotiations with the Taliban
All my intensive conversations with ex-Taliban leaders have convinced me that one can talk rationally with these people. Perhaps negotiations are the last resort in order to prevent their victory. The Afghans say: “You have watches, we have time.” Afghanistan remains an invaders graveyard. But, there can be no negotiations with the migrant guerrillas who call themselves Al Qaeda. We do have to drive a wedge between these copies of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
• Encouraging Afghanistan to negotiate with its neighbours Pakistan, India and even Iran under the leadership of the UN Security Council. None of these countries is in a position to solve its problems alone, whether in the tribal areas or in Kashmir.
• Withdrawal of our troops within three years because the Taliban will immediately lose their only "raison d'être" with the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. Most Afghans do not want to see a return of the Taliban. They support them out of sheer desperation over the Rambo-style politics of the occupier.
It is a foolish act: the West looks for the terrorists, who threaten its cities, in the wrong places. The terrorists who threaten New York, London, Madrid or Berlin live neither in Afghanistan nor in Iraq. They live in the West. And our politicians don’t have the guts to admit it.

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Jürgen Todenhöfer, is a former German member of parliament and author of several bestsellers on the Middle East and Afghanistan. His latest book is titled “Why Do You Kill?” (Disinformation Company, April 2009).

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