In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

US wants Afghans to have more religion

Posted by seumasach on November 6, 2012


6th November, 2012

The question is not really whether the Afghan people want more religion. It is rather that they shall simply have more religion, no matter their own wish or preference. The United States thinks so, and apparently the Afghan ruling elite that it created in Kabul ten years ago thinks so. That just about settles it.

The US-government  funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty justifies a deeper and proactive Saudi involvement in Afghan affairs. This is not new thinking. For the past 3 decades, the US tightly held the Saudi hand while maneuvering its way in the tangled mountains of Afghanistan — through the period of the cold-war era Afghan jihad in the 1980s, the Taliban saga that followed and ever since then surreptiously right until today.
The RFERL gives justifications for this US approach — and also makes a pertinent observation. First, the Saudi presence makes the best antidote to Iranian influence in Afghanistan. Second, Saudis are always a moderating influence on Pakistan. Indeed, RFERL’s key observation is that the ascendancy of Wahhabism in the Hindu Kush would unnerve Central Asian states and China.
Presumably, all these considerations work to the advantage of the US’ interests and promote its regional strategies. President Barack Obama himself feels, apparently, that the Saudi presence in Afghanistan is a good thing to have.
Money is a dirty word but Obama has a job to do and would presumably welcome the Saudi money flowing into Afghanistan, which eases the financial burden on Washington in the post-2014 period.
Disturbing questions arise. One, the queering of the pitch of sectarian passions in the region is a dangerous move as regards regional security and stability. It may help that the Muslim nation of Afghanistan gets lost in disunity so that it can be manipulated easier than today, but just think of the spillover of sectarian conflict to the surrounding region.
This becomes a replay of the matrix the US-Saudi axis worked out in the Middle East — diverting the attention of the Muslim world so that the issue of Shi’ite empowerment in the oil-rich GCC states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc. — is put on the back burner and Iran’s regional influence is ‘contained’.
Two, Washington is naive to imagine that Saudi Arabia can persuade Pakistan to recalibrate its vital national interests. Pakistan always insisted on defining its vital national interests — and indeed it has every right to do that.
Of course, Pakistani elites feel beholden for Saudi support and largesse. But then, Saudi Arabia also cannot do without Pakistan — for a variety of factors. Put differently, it is a brotherhood forged in heaven and Uncle Sam remains an ‘outsider’.
Besides, Saudi Arabia has its own uses for the Taliban. It is nonsense to estimate that the ‘green money flowing into the Taliban’s coffers is without the knowledge of Saudi establishment. Again, if the Saudis kept up with the Taliban all through, it is for reasons of their own as well.
By the way, for the uninitiated, it is also useful to know that Afghan mountains keep dark secrets. Recently, a top delegation of Iran’s Pasdaran paid an unpublicized visit to confabulate with the Taliban’s Quetta Shura. Would the Taliban have acted on their own? Why did Pakistan acquiesce with it? Suffice to say, Pakistan has its own existential dilemmas via-a-vis the US, which the Saudis can’t do much about.
What engrosses me, however, is the RFERL’s cryptic observation about the impact of the ascendancy of Wahhabism in the Hindu Kush on the Central Asian region and China respectively. History never ends, isn’t it? Shades of Zbigniew Brzezinski….
But here in India, we need to have clarity of mind. We take comfort that big-time Wahhabism is a problem for Uzbekistan and Pakistan or Russia, Iran and China. But the bell could as well toll for us in Kashmir and in our vast hinterland right down to the Malabar coast.
Equally, the point is about the radicalization of the Muslim nations of the region. What are the US’ intentions toward our region built around the establishment of its long-term military bases in Afghanistan? Alas, our pundits gets easily emotional about India’s congruence of interests with the US in Afghanistan. The RFERL commentary is here.

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