The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPeter Lee Archive
America Accelerates Its Asian Decline in Afghanistan
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

A lot of government/media misdirection going on concerning Afghanistan.

I read the tea leaves over at Asia Times in a piece on Ashraf Ghani’s public lovefest with Nadendra Modi at the “Heart of Asia” conference. Pakistan and China were there, but got precious little “heart”.

The piece is titled “The hole at the Heart of Asia”.

To go beyond the Afghanistan/India link-up covered at AT, here’s my big picture take.

The US is drawing down in Afghanistan.

When the Soviets drew down in Afghanistan, this is what happened to their Kabul client:


Embarrassing. To be avoided.

So the Obama administration is doing all it can to ensure the continued survival and viability of the Ghani administration in Kabul.

Even though the Taliban is feeling its oats and doing pretty well.

What I see happening:


Determined media management to poor-mouth the Taliban’s prospects to keep Western donors/allies on board with the Ghani government. Worth noting: Afghanistan is not just an American show; it’s a NATO/Atlanticist project. Connoisseurs of the magnificent Atlanticist propaganda campaign in Syria will recognize the usual suspects at work.

The Guardian, as noted in my Asia Times piece, ran a story that excessive civilian casualties inflicted by the Taliban were causing traditional donors to shy away. Message/hopeful prophecy: Taliban running out of money! On the ropes!

The Guardian spin was disavowed by the alleged source. Oops.

But Human Rights Watch picked up the “excessive civilian casualties” theme to try to deny the Taliban public relations traction for its own gambit: posing as noble protectors of Afghanistan’s national infrastructure and vital investment (including the big Chinese copper mine).


Encourage Taliban division and disarray through targeted assassination, most notably by the drone strike that killed Taliban head Mullah Mansoor inside Pakistan in May. This was supposed to build on the discombobulating factor of the tardy acknowledgment of the death of Mullah Omar and diminished authority of any successor, and encourage factional infighting and chaos within the Taliban. Haven’t seen a lot of that, though. Apparently, the new guy who runs the Taliban is a careful and capable guy.


Try to lure selected militant factions and warlords into the Kabul government to isolate and weaken the Taliban hardliners.

The big win here was getting buy-in from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most notorious pirate and warlord in Afghanistan’s recent history. He was granted amnesty in a peace deal. I expect in addition to the usual patriotic/political enticements, considerable treasure was provided by the United States to bring Hekmatyar around.

Since US and Iran apparently tag teamed to deprive Hekmatyar of his previous nest egg—rumored to be $72 million—after the 2002 invasion put America in the Afghan saddle—interested to speculate what Hekmatyar considers a safe store of value nowadays. Cash? Gold? Bitcoin?

Hekmatyar has apparently not emerged from hiding yet to enjoy his new status. Cagy guy.


One of the more sinister elements is the emergence of ISIS just when the US needs it the most as a threat to the Taliban. I see a similar dynamic in the Philippines, where Duterte is now dealing with a nasty Moro splinter group that has declared its allegiance to ISIS . A recent discussion of Taliban strategy included this paragraph:

The recently signed peace accord of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hizb e Islami, with Afghan government has many connotations for the war theatre in Afghanistan. The former has already announced to support IS against Taliban in 2015. The accord will make anti-Taliban coalition strong to put extra pressure on Taliban insurgent fighters for a settlement with pro-Afghan forces.

[Update: Many thanks to bernard of Moon Of Alabama for pointing me to this fascinating in-depth piece from Afghanistan Analysts Network on how Afghanistan sheltered anti-Taliban/anti-Pakistan government & anti-ISI TTP militants even after they allied with the IS Caliphate in May 2015. So Afghanistan was also a practitioner of the time-honored practice of using disgruntled militants to attack other militants but, perhaps under US pressure, turned on them in July 2015 two months after they pledged allegiance to IS. I would expect the Afghan (and US) governments will still be in the hunt for useful assets to pressure the Taliban–like Hekmatyar!–but they better not hang out the ISIS shingle. CH 12-8-2016]


A full-court press on Pakistan to dial back support for the Taliban, weaken it, and exacerbate the divisions and infighting the US hopes to provoke. This involves an ostentatious anti-Pakistan tilt and the and the old standby: threatening Islamabad.

Recall that Richard Armitage famously promised to bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age if it didn’t get with the anti-Taliban program after 9/11.

However, since this year the US is on its way out of Afghanistan instead of on the way in, a new heavy is needed to deliver the message.

I suspect in 2016 it’s “Stop supporting the Taliban or we greenlight India to unleash hell in every corner of Pakistan”. As I point out in my AT article, there are ample opportunities for mischief, given the shaky state of Pakistan central government rule in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, the retaliatory escalation across the Kashmir Line of Control, unrest in the Tribal Areas and Patunkwa. You name it, Pakistan’s got it.

Ghani’s tongue-bath for India was very much part of this initiative.

These five elements are the fun, easy parts.

The hard part is handling the People’s Republic of China. Especially since the United States has rather cavalierly decided that India is the solution to all its South Asian woes: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Chinese penetration.

Despite Ghani’s overt leap into Modi’s arms, China is still a big part of the Afghanistan equation, both through its backing of Pakistan and its direct involvement in Afghan security and economic development issues.

So Ghani would like to calibrate the policy so he’s not facing a hostile China across the border. And the United States and India are trying to get the PRC to join them in pressuring Pakistan.

Trouble is, I think the toothpaste’s out of the tube. By now the PRC regards Modi as fundamentally hostile to the Chinese project in Pakistan, indeed any significant Chinese presence in South Asia. The PRC probably gives less weight to official Indian government handjobs and pays more attention to India’s current interest in playing the Tibetan and Uyghur separatist cards.

It also probably regards Modi as fundamentally hostile to the continued viability of Pakistan. The Western commentariat blithely ignores Modi’s irredentist attitude toward Pakistan, but the core belief of the RSS and the BJP is that Partition was a crime against Mother India (Bharat Mata) and a treasonous capitulation to the Muslim minority, and Pakistan, more than a failed state, lacks the legitimacy or right to survival of a genuine nation.

So the PRC will resist an expanded role for India in Afghanistan (which would take away the famous Pakistani “strategic depth” and expose it to the Indian threat from both east and west) and is unlikely to decisively support the call for Pakistan to cut off the Taliban—its key strategic asset and, now, bulwark against Indian influence, in Afghanistan.

At the same time, I doubt Modi lacks the suicidal impulses displayed by the Soviet Union and the United States, and will not decisively and overtly intervene in Afghanistan to buttress its preferred regime in Kabul. Another thing that the Western commentariat rather amusingly chooses to ignore is the rather absurd picture of a non-neighboring Hindu state—one presided, moreover, by the notorious alleged enabler of an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002—presenting itself as the natural ally of Islamic and Turkic Afghanistan.

So, I doubt that the Taliban will be weakened enough to come into the Afghan government on Ghani’s terms, or that the Taliban will strengthen sufficiently to force itself into Kabul on its terms.

In other words, my prediction is for more bloody muddling in Afghanistan as the Taliban and Ghani and Pakistan and India and the PRC jostle for advantage.

In my opinion, Afghanistan remains the most likely venue for the first major piece of Chinese military power projection since the 1979 Vietnam invasion. If the security situation genuinely degrades—or if the PRC decides India is gaining too much of an upper hand and an Afghan security crisis needs to be fomented to justify an injection of PRC power—I wouldn’t be too surprised if some kind of PLA military presence materialized in northern Afghanistan.

Nobody in their right mind wants to put troops into Afghanistan. But the PRC will, in my opinion, if it feels it has to in order to bring decisive force to bear where needed to keep a lid on things in Xinjiang.

To me, however, the current wild card is India.

If Modi decides that the US anti-Pakistan tilt is a rapidly wasting asset—Trump’s notorious phone call with Pakistan’s Sharif probably range some major alarm bells in New Delhi—he may be tempted to escalate his anti-Pakistan campaign and do as much damage as he can before the US tries to restrain India.

I would like to conclude this piece with the following observation.

In response to its declining strategic advantage, the United States has decided to abandon its position as balancer and restrainer of regional powers. India and Japan are being encouraged to act as regional hegemons with US backing in order to restrain China in return for participating in Asian security initiatives dear to America’s heart (the “pivot”; the stabilization of Afghanistan).

In bad news for the United States, both India and Japan are not obedient clients in the US “principled international order”. They are now revisionist powers, i.e. they reject the US World War II victor/lawgiver narrative for Asia in favor of one centered on Japan as an Asian leader and decolonizer and independent India as a victory over Atlanticist imperialism. They will exploit US backing to the hilt, but deference to US policy will be increasingly “honored in the breach” as they say in Shakespeare-land.

In other words:


In my opinion, this US gambit will be remembered as the ruinous miscalculation that 86’d the US position in Asia.

So it’s worth the screaming-font treatment.

“Asia run by Asians” is probably a good thing. But probably not a good thing for US dreams of its “Pacific Century”.

(Republished from China Matters by permission of author or representative)
Hide 24 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Afghanistan is a fake country. It would do much better to break into 4 or 5 regions along dominant ethnic lines.

    US should have done this for Afghanistan — like in Yugoslavia — , but it tried to keep the whole nation together, and it just won’t work.

    A diverse nation can only remain together under iron fist…. like Titoist regime over Yugoslavia.

    “In my opinion, Afghanistan remains the most likely venue for the first major piece of Chinese military power projection since the 1979 Vietnam invasion.”

    If Chinese want to get mired in that hellhole, let them. It’s their turn to be stupid after Russia and the US.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  2. DB Cooper says:

    “Afghanistan is a fake country. ”

    So is Iraq, India, Libya…

    • Replies: @Anon
  3. Jason Liu says:

    The way Modi views China is a pity. India and China are the only large, neighboring powers who have never had a (major) war in our millennia of history. The Himalayas separates our cultural and political spheres nicely. Why stir up a fight?

    If India and Japan really do reject the west as lawgiver, then they have something in common with China and Russia.

    Since the dismantling of Pakistan and Tibet/Xinjiang independence are unlikely scenarios, both countries should instead align on nationalist grounds against the western world order, at least until the west learns to embrace nationalism itself.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Numinous
    , @Numinous
  4. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @DB Cooper

    Right, which is why Iraq and Libya fell apart once the US removed the Iron Fist.

    Democracy cannot work with too much diversity. Western Imperialism created and imposed diverse patchwork nations in Africa and Middle East. And those nations can only be held together by the Iron Fist.

    They say India is a democracy, but what a mess!!! Still, most people speak Hindi and are Hindus, and that holds the nation together.

    Arabs were never good at teamwork.
    Kurds have the same problem, though maybe their ethnic sense is stronger since Kurdish ethnicity is more specific than ‘Arab’ that could mean anyone from Iraq to parts of Sudan.
    Pan-Kurdism is more doable than Pan-Arabism since Kurds are spread out over smaller territory and have stronger ethnic unity. Still, there is something about Islam, with its custom-centrism, that favors tribalism and clannism over principles and idealism. Christianity is about the Ideas of Jesus. Islam is about Muhammad’s rules on what to eat, what to wear, and etc. It focuses more on habits and specifics of culture.

    And Afghans have been a tribal folks forever. They are like the wild Scotsmen of Middle East.

    British, Russian, American, Iranian, Pakistani, and Saudi intervention made things much worse.

    The paradox of Afghanistan is it is so weak and divided that any bunch of nations could invade and intervene, BUT it is also so mountainous, diverse, & tribal that no power, however great, could triumph in the long run.

    It is like a quicksand. Passive and ineffectual to keep away intruders but slowly sucking in anything that steps over it.

  5. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Jason Liu

    China stole some Indian lands in the early 60s.

    Also, China’s good relations with Pakistan is a thorn on India’s side.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
    , @frayedthread
  6. DB Cooper says:

    “China stole some Indian lands in the early 60s. ”

    That’s what the Indians has been spoon fed by the Indian government for years. The reverse is true. The fact is today India is still occupying a vast tract of Chinese territories the size of several Taiwan. India invaded South Tibet four years after its creation and occupy it to this day.

    • Replies: @Anon
  7. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @DB Cooper

    “India invaded South Tibet four years after its creation and occupy it to this day.”

    China invaded all of Tibet and occupy it to this day.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  8. @Anon

    Durn right. The Chinese now see the Paks as a counterweight to the Indians. The Indians used to chummy up to the Russians as a counterweight to the Chinese and because Nehru was gooey-eyed about socialism. The US used to chummy up to the Paks as a conduit to Afghanistan and, before that, to counterweight the Indians who were cozy w/Russia, and because Pak politicians who are killers are so much handsomer than Indian pols post Rajiv who don’t kill anyone but look like they ate the baby. Its quantum mechanical rock-paper-scissors with Schrodinger’s paradox thrown in so you don’t know who’s covering, crushing or cutting whom. Ahhh, fun, if you aren’t one of pieces getting gutted on the great gameboard. And all five players have nukes.

  9. DB Cooper says:

    “China invaded all of Tibet and occupy it to this day.”

    I know Indians really want this to be true. Because if this is so it will distract the world from India’s annexation and continue occupation of South Tibet. China did send in the army to Tibet in 1951. But this is not an invasion of a sovereign country. It is to prevent it from being carved up and go independent, like Mongolia. Not a single country at any time, the US and Great Britain included, recognizes Tibet as an independent country.

    India’s invasion and continue illegal occupation of South Tibet is a different animal. For your information on the record the United Nation recognizes India’s illegal occupation of South Tibet as a disputed territory, like Kashmir.

    • Replies: @Anon
  10. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @DB Cooper

    “China did send in the army to Tibet in 1951. But this is not an invasion of a sovereign country. It is to prevent it from being carved up and go independent, like Mongolia. Not a single country at any time, the US and Great Britain included, recognizes Tibet as an independent country.”

    Boy oh boy oh soy oh soy.

    So, Chinese invaded Tibet for the same reason Japanese invaded China.

    Japanese were only trying to defend Asia from Western Imperialism, and Chinese were only trying to defend their Asian brothers from OTHER imperialists.

    Gimme a break.

    The fact of the matter is most Tibetans would be happy if Chinese just went home and stopped doing them a favor.

    Look, I’m gonna be a realist about this. I don’t expect China to give up Tibet. I also know Chinese are not the only people ruling over conquered peoples. Russians do to. So do Persians in Iran. And India is sort of a Brahminite empire over various tribes. And Indonesia was created by imperialist and still is imperialist. And the US was the product of imperialism and took a lot of land from Mexico.
    So, China is no worse in this regard.

    BUT, let’s at least be honest. Tibet became part of China under imperialism.
    Maybe the Chinese did some good. Indeed, imperialists did some good all over the world. But imperialism is imperialism.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  11. DB Cooper says:

    Like I said before Indians really want the narrative of ‘China invaded Tibet’ to stick because it will obscure the fact of India invasion and annexation of South Tibet. Your reply and the dishonesty of what you said show I am right.

    If Indians are so concern about the welfare of the Tibetans one thing they can do easily. Revoke the draconian AFSPA (Armed Force Special Act) on South Tibet. For people who don’t know what is AFSPA, it is a law that gives the Indian state to detain or kill anyone with impunity. South Tibetans under Indian occupation hate this law with a vengence. But they are pretty much a voiceless people. A few years ago it was revealed that an Indian school principal in occupied South Tibet raped scores of Tibetan girls. I am not surprise to hear that. India is often called the rape capital of the world. South Tibet will sooner or later become the next Kashmir.

  12. “Worth noting: Afghanistan is not just an American show; it’s a NATO/Atlanticist project.”

    Yes, as one noted when the intervention in Afghanistan began under Bush, NATO had finally revealed its hitherto concealed terra-forming mightiness, moving the North Atlantic Ocean, via the Mediterranean, to the Northern Indian Ocean and the non-existent shores of Afghanistan.

    The United States and whatever NATO members are left will leave Afghanistan when the Chinese tell them to, not before.

    Right now many US and allied units’ main business is protecting various lucrative construction projects the Chinese have with the government of Afghanistan.

    When the Chinese decide it is time for the US and its allied clowns to leave, the US will be out in less than six months, leaving considerable materiel behind.

    If the the US tries to pivot and cries “We don’t want to go!”, providing one simple weapons system to the Taliban will turn all of Afghanistan into a Dienbienphu for the interlopers.

    After that the Chinese will have no problem doing business with whoever is there.


  13. KA says:

    Like sniper shows up ,ISIS also shows up in unexpected places . It feels and smells like opium a . It makes cameo appearance on the running non stop horror movie as the main villain .It is like apparition for the faithful who tries to understand why despite the best intention America fails in these godforsaken cult based heathen countries inhabited by the unwashed .

    Afghanistan has been the grave yard of the physical empire But in case of America ,caves of Kabul have interred the ideas of the empire . America has embraced terrorism 14 years after declaring its reason for arrival that was to erase the terror from the face of the earth.

    Internal inconsistencies are unraveling the Pax Americana . Neither India,nor Japan or S Korea or Afghanistan will play the game by the western rules . India may find itself in the cross hairs because it has so many fault lines and it has no reason to think that uncle Sam will not treat it the way it treated Pakistan or Iraq /Libya after the American aims were realized .

  14. KA says:

    Hows does IS appear in Afghanistan ? Are they from local population? Why are they then getting into the war at this stage? Are they from offshoot Taliban? then Taliban would know who they are who the leaders are . They will know their pedigree/family/connections and Taliban would not hesitate to expose them . Are they kind of new ? In that case what they were doing until now? Are the farmers, engineers,unemployed or religious students? Who put them together ?

    The question then arises are they created by Saudi US Qatar axis ? are they carted with American blessings by Afghanistan government? Both of the last 2 are most likely . It is also possible that the same “mujhaeddin ” who were busload to Azerabiazn and Serbia and Libya from Afghanistan are basically coming back with their new converts.

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    What’s your point though? America is also a country created on conquered land.

    Why should America make Tibet such an issue when one could easily say the same thing about all of America, especially California which was stolen from Mexico and Hawaii which was stolen from natives?

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  16. @Anonymous

    he basically countered his own point. pretty retarded comments by the same guy.

  17. Numinous says:
    @Jason Liu

    Why stir up a fight?

    I’m not sure where you get your news from,, but it’s China that does most of the provoking. From periodically encroaching on the disputed Himalayan border (where no one lives and no one can live) to sponsoring the terror apparatus of the Pakistani regime, an apparatus that is primarily targeted at India, it’s China that seems determined to bring the conflict to a head. And the PRC government gets unnecessarily upset over issues that are none of its business, like the Dalai Lama being invited to an official function.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  18. Numinous says:
    @Jason Liu

    The Himalayas separates our cultural and political spheres nicely.

    To add to my previous comment:

    I agree with the above statement completely, but when has China stuck to its side of the Himalayas? I’ve already mentioned how they help build up the Pakistani jihadi machine against India, and last I checked, most of Pakistan (like most of India) was this side of the Himalayas. What business does China have building ports in Balochistan. In Sri Lanka? Bases in Burma? All of these places are south of the Himalayas, and have traditionally been part of the Indian cultural and political sphere.

    The People’s Republic of China is today an aggressive expansionist nationalist (and arrogant) power in the mold of 19th century Prussia, Nazi Germany, and Czarist Russia, and will get a comeuppance sometimes in this century. I don’t say this with any pleasure, as the result won’t be pretty, either for the Chinese or us Indians. On the other hand, if any Indian or Chinese leader manages to reverse the current trend and signs a binding treaty between the countries, a more obvious choice for a Nobel Peace Prize there will not be.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  19. DB Cooper says:

    “From periodically encroaching on the disputed Himalayan border (where no one lives and no one can live)…”

    The encroachment is on the Indian side. Granted India didn’t start all this, the British Raj did. That doesn’t excuse the Indian of continuing what the Raj has been doing. The Raj is a certified expansionist. There is no dispute on that. And the Indians are so impressed with their former colonial master that they did their own land grabs. Today India has disputed borders with almost all its neighbors. Is this all India’s neighbor’s fault?

    • Replies: @Numinous
  20. DB Cooper says:

    “The People’s Republic of China is today an aggressive expansionist nationalist (and arrogant) power in the mold of 19th century Prussia, Nazi Germany, and Czarist Russia, and will get a comeuppance sometimes in this century. ”

    Any fact to back that up?

    On the other hand India IS an expansionist and has been land grabbing its neighbor’s territories since day one.

    • Replies: @Numinous
  21. Numinous says:
    @DB Cooper

    Today India has disputed borders with almost all its neighbors. Is this all India’s neighbor’s fault?

    Only with Pakistan and China at this point. Disputes with Bangladesh were sorted out by the Modi government a year or two ago. And yes, these disputes are Pakistan’s and China’s faults respectively.

    China has border disputes with almost all of its neighbors too. In addition, it has disputes with its own “citizens” living in border regions.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  22. Numinous says:
    @DB Cooper

    Any fact to back that up?

    Read the news.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  23. DB Cooper says:

    “China has border disputes with almost all of its neighbors too. ”

    No. China only has unresolved border disputes with India and Bhutan. The other twelve are all settled amicably.

    India on the other hand has only resolve its border with Bangladesh. The rest are all disputed. See the difference?

  24. DB Cooper says:

    “Read the news.”

    News are not fact. If you think so I have only pity on you.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Peter Lee Comments via RSS