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Kabul conference is surreal theatre featuring the defeated Western allies in competitive denial

Gerald Warner

July 21, 2010

We are watching history in the making in Afghanistan; but it is history of a certain stamp – the slow-motion unravelling of a disaster. The international conference meeting in a palatial hall in Kabul has all the unreality of similar doomed assemblies in the past. Think of the States General of France in 1789, the Duma in Russia in 1905 – you get the picture. Here we have high-ranking international diplomats and foreign ministers, the supposed "movers and shakers" of the world, but they have encountered the immovable and the unshakeable: the victorious Taliban and the treacherous warlords of Afghanistan.

The spin is that, since Nato is so convincingly winning the war, it is time to hand over increasing responsibility to the Afghan government, army and police. It is a measure of how convincingly Nato is winning that the plane carrying the UN Secretary General had to be diverted to avoid being shot down by the Taliban. The conference itself is sealed off and defended by maximum security. Contrast that with conditions in 2001 when John Simpson of the BBC was able to stroll into Kabul and "liberate" the capital. That is how much we are winning the war.

Hamid Karzai, whose puppet regime makes the average Sicilian municipality look squeaky clean, is proclaiming his resolve to reform corruption, the civil service, the economy, agriculture and education. Considering he has been in office, if not in power, for eight years, that has all the novelty of Labour’s recent general election manifesto. To achieve all this, he wants the proportion of foreign aid controlled by the Afghan government to rise from 20 per cent to 50 per cent. Good call, Hamid. That would enable officials to increase the amount of cash they embezzle, from the £2bn they have already trousered to £5bn.

Behind Karzai’s confident demeanour lies the uncomfortable reality that his recent back-door overtures to the Taliban have been contemptuously rejected. The same will happen to Nato: why should the Taliban negotiate the endgame to a war it has already won? But Karzai is hopelessly outclassed in the BS stakes by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The move that confirmed the Taliban in its confidence of victory was last year’s announcement by Barack Obama that American troop withdrawals would begin in July 2011. Now, Clinton claims that date "captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve".

Sense of urgency is right; the bit about "resolve" is reminiscent of the famous announcement by the Japanese government of its surrender in 1945: "Events in the course of the war have today taken a turn not necessarily to the advantage of the Empire of Japan." The difference is that this time it is the Americans who have been beaten; even the much-hyped "surge" on Kandahar quickly subsided into stagnancy.

Clinton is good value for all those who value surrealism as an art form: "But this date [July 2011] is the start of a new phase, not the end of our involvement. We have no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving a stable, secure, peaceful Afghanistan." She supports a plan to persuade 36,000 fighters to lay down their arms "if they renounce violence and al-Qaeda" (which they will undoubtedly do if the price is right, for at least a month). In case anybody was still in any doubt about the Secretary of State’s apparent total divorce from reality, she added that any peace settlement must not sacrifice the rights of women who faced repression under the Taliban regime.

Run that past us one more time, Hill. Are you seeking guarantees of female emancipation from Karzai, who could be in power for as long as 18 months after the departure of Western troops, or from the Taliban? That is the kind of rhetoric that will play well in New Jersey; in Sangin it will raise a belly laugh. One of the causes of increased opposition to Western occupation after 2001 was the rhetoric about remodelling an Islamic society along Western lines. British taxpayers even paid for a coven of feminist harpies to go to Kabul to "raise the consciousness" of Afghan women, acting as potent recruiting sergeants impelling husbands, fathers and brothers to join the Taliban.

If that is what the war is all about, Hill, sweetie, why not go the whole hog and replace Hamid Karzai with Gloria Steinem? Germaine Greer could be her foreign minister. Incomprehension of and disdain for foreign cultures has always been a characteristic of the Americans and the British; this time it is academic, since we are on our way out, having overstayed a welcome that never existed. The year 2014 has somehow become the generally acknowledged date when Afghanistan will become an infidel-free zone. The tragedy is that, to give a cosmetic plausibility to the frothings of Clinton, Hague et al., hundreds more of our soldiers will be condemned to die pointlessly.

:: Article nr. 68139 sent on 21-jul-2010 23:13 ECT


Link: blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/geraldwarner/100047957/kabul-conference-is-surreal-th

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