The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: A Headache and a Heart Ache

18 December 2010

By Al-Ikhwah Al-Mujahidun

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

The sudden and unexpected death of veteran diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, has come as a shock to many around the world. A career diplomat, Richard Holbrooke gained wide acclaim after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. Infamous for his brash style, he was nicknamed "the Bulldozer" and widely admired by western political observers. In January 2009 US President Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke as special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The essential question is that, why was he appointed to that position and what was expected of him? Richard Holbrooke was primarily a negotiator, famous for achieving diplomatic breakthroughs in conflict zones. The appointment of Holbrooke was a clear signal that the US regime realized that the war in Afghanistan had become unsustainable and a political solution had to be sought. The public and private rhetoric of the time (as revealed by the wikileak cables) would suggest that the special envoy was expected to negotiate with the Mujahideen forces, sow dissention into their ranks, convince the Mujahideen to accept the current Afghan constitution, and effectively give up their resistance to the foreign occupation of their country. In other words, he was chosen to achieve with negotiations, what the occupying countries had failed to achieve with force.

Such an objective, especially in Afghanistan, is a colossal asking from any person. Richard Holbrooke's intensive visits into the region, especially over the last 12 months, convinced him beyond all doubt that the US and its allies could not succeed in Afghanistan. Despite his reputation, Holbrooke failed to bring the Mujahideen to the negotiating table, and his abrasive approach distanced even his closest allies. Clutching on to straws, Richard Holbrooke was unwittingly duped by a meager shop keeper from Quetta that he was the Taliban's "special representative" to negotiate with the foreign powers. The task set for him proved too cumbersome for the man and on 13 December 2010, he died from a tear in his aorta the largest artery which carries oxygenated blood from the heart. To use the Afghan term, "his heart exploded".

The fate of Holbrooke symbolizes the fate of the US strategy in Afghanistan, and the fate of the entire war in Afghanistan. A conflict in Afghanistan is not just a headache for its enemies; it is also a heart ache that not even the bravest and strongest can bear for long. Earlier this year, US General David Petreaus also fell unconscious during a congressional hearing into the war in Afghanistan. The men in charge of conducting the war in Afghanistan seem to be suffering from the same symptoms as the men responsible for directing Soviet strategy in Afghanistan two decades earlier. During that war, three Soviet premiers suffered death during their tenure while a fourth committed political suicide (and caused the break-up of USSR). The only reason the previous and current US Presidents seem to be immune from this fate is that they are blissfully ignorant of their course in Afghanistan.

To the seasoned diplomats and generals directing the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, it has become visible that the US's continued occupation of Afghanistan achieve no long-term strategic objectives for the United States and that it would be best advised to exit this quagmire with any face-saving opportunity that it can find. Opportunities, however, are fleeting moments in time, which if not seized then and there, might never be seen again. And when you are fighting a losing a war, these so-called "opportunities" are even rarer than they would otherwise be.

Richard Holbrooke realized this fact and in his deathbed. When he had almost seen the other side, summoned all his energies and spoke the wisest words of his life: "You have got to stop this war in Afghanistan". America and its allies would be wise to heed these words.



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