Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tales from the Kabul Café


There they all were, the not so great and the far from good of the international community, sitting in the Kabul Café discussing the future of Afghan ‘democracy.’ It’s a month now since the gathering, an achievement in itself, I suppose, that the diplomats and the politicians were able to come to this place at all, a sign of just how much ‘progress’ has been made in the struggle against the Taliban.

But what were they there for; what did they want? More to the point, what exactly has been achieved in nine years? Little is the simple answer, little that is not immediately undone. Let me be brutally frank: I simply do not care about ‘progress’ and ‘human rights’ in Afghanistan, terms that are absurdly out of place in a country like this, a tribal society like this. It’s almost as if we had packed our soldiers into a time machine and sent them back to the Bronze Age, there to implement democracy and guarantee human rights. Meanwhile the Iceni and the Brigantes continue to watch from the forest.

There seems to have been a sense of complete unreality in the Kabul Café in those July days. Hamid Karzai apparently gave an upbeat speech, making reference to the country’s mineral wealth (what mineral wealth?), hoping that it would become the “Asian Roundabout”, an important stopping point on the “new Silk Road.” All I can say that he is more than usually self-deluded. It was a speech, as one former diplomat put it, “written for a country without a war.”

Never mind; it will all be better by 2014. Our soldiers will be home and there will be no more war. Afghanistan will be back on the Silk Road. No it won’t; it will be back on the Poppy Trail; it’s never really left the Poppy Trail. “I can’t think of a single reason to die for Afghanistan”, one diplomat in the Café rather indiscreetly remarked. No matter; I absolutely agree. Time to start up the Tardis.

14 comments:

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  3. Yes, I did, a somewhat drastic solution. :-)

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  5. The worse thing about the whole "Silk Road" rhetoric is that it's completely economically false. Even IF Afghanistan had an ideal market economy, technological sophistication, perfect security, et cetera, the fact of the matter is that naval and maritime technology and shipping has so far advanced now that there is, frankly, no reason to travel a distance that sizable on land. The new Silk Road is the shipping lines along the Indian Ocean, and soon (with changing climactic conditions) the far North of Russia, bypassing Afghanistan completely with large navigable rivers like the Tunguska making nearly all of Russia navigable.

    The mineral wealth that Karzai was referring to, however, is actually the large and relatively untapped Uranium Reserves that seem fairly interspersed throughout the entire hellhole. Karzai is actually right about that, and with a world leaning towards Nuclear Energy, Afghanistan could potentially become a significant railhead for the Uranium and Nuclear industries, possibly (assuming a lot of progress) allowing those same railroads to be used for the development of heavy industry related or not to nuclear power.

    As for the rest of it, Ana, spot on. You've nailed it completely. Now if only we could remove our troops from Afghanistan to fight in Iraq, a country that actually has the requisite sophistication to succeed as a kind of West Berlin in the Middle East. Not only has stuff slowly improved in Iraq millitarily, but I remember reading a long time ago that business is booming at the Port of Basra and that some of the cities in the far Kurdish, sensible north are becoming fairly substantial industrial centers. I could definitely see Iraq as an Arabic-speaking version of Pennsylvania.

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  6. Hello Ana

    Thought I would come and see you here :)

    You are right in what you say in your blog. Why then, we ever went into that country? Why ever?

    Was it for some oil pipe line or the other coming from one of the old Soviet states, through Afghanistan to an 'accessible' place like Pakistan, perhaps? Madness, really.

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  7. Jeremy, thanks for that, as always a lucid, informative and highly educated contribution ( I did not know about Afghan uranium!)

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  8. Shermeen, it's a delight to see you. I might dip into Blair's new book looking for answers here, but I know without opening a single page that it will be packed with dissimulation and outright lies.

    I'm sorry if I upset you with my recent blog on My T. I was just expressing my horror at the barbarism of a particular regime. It was not an attack on Islam as such.

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  9. Dear Ana,
    You did not upset me. Please do not say sorry, there is no need :)I share your horror of the regime, believe me.

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  10. It will soon be September 9th. That's why Afghanistan was invaded. Or has everyone forgotten that Bin Laden's taliban terrorists killed a couple of thousand people on that day.

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  11. Hi, Bravo. Yes, that’s a fair point, though Bin Laden was never the government of Afghanistan. I used to support this war; not any longer. I don’t think the past nine years have solved anything or made terrorism any less of a threat, just the contrary. We’ve been running flat out, if you like, just to stay in the same place.

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  12. @bravo: Running around the Pashtun mountains madly looking for one, largely irrelevant Arab male is not an effective way to fight ANY war, and certainly not the one we're currently fighting. To actually win the war on Terror, we most likely need a West Berlin. Iraq can serve that role, Afghanistan, both the result of its geography (right at the edge of the Islamic world) and demography and economy is an unlikely propigator of Pax Americana in the Middle East.

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