Saturday, November 14, 2009

afghanistan in its greater context

SAQ | The situation in Afghanistan reveals two matters that must be recognized for what they are:

Firstly, the idea of democracy, that is a central government with parliamentary representation, cannot be established in the Greater Central Asia. Not one of the countries in the region has any track record to show the contrary. Even Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Tulip’ Revolution has resulted in a clan-based regime.

Secondly, this is due to the ethnic nature of the nation states into which the region has been divided. The ‘Stans’ were founded by Soviet Russia that built on Imperial Russia’s wanton use of cultivating Cossacks and clan-based political structures in order to consolidate its hold on the region. The Durand Line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan was formalized as a strategic boundary from which nineteenth century Imperial Britain could ensure an advantageous defensive position against a not-so-probable Russian offensive.

Therefore, the cause for what is termed ‘terrorism’ is nationalism and the root cause of nationalism in the region is the manner in which the region is divided. Nigel J. R. Allen, in his brilliant 2001 article on the region ‘Defining Place and People in Afghanistan’ stated that; ‘The absurdity of a Eurocentric world also extends to the concept of a nation-state’. It is little wonder then that the US-ISAF forces are in the process of dismantling that truly absurd suggestion of the Durand Line that remains the Pakistan-Afghan border.

To Make All Things New:
The current political dialectic can only lead to further destabilization without offering any prospects of a logical and peaceful balance of powers. If US-ISAF forces begin to place pressure on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, the ramifications would be disastrous. According to Nicklas Norling of CACI, Russia is moving towards the militarisation of the ‘Stans’ through the use of Islamic militants whose activities would provide the provocation and justification for it. One Russian analyst has stated that ‘preservation of Russia’s wholeness begins in the Ferghana Valley’. A similar caveat was used by the FSB in order to provide the justification for the second Chechen War in 1999.

With the geopolitical tensions growing between Russia and the US and the geo-strategic interests of China and Europe at stake, the use of the terrorist dialectic is wholly problematic as it fails to make a clear distinction between players and reflect the greater reality on the ground. P. J. Taj, a Pakistani political analyst interviewed on al Jazeera on the 8th of August stressed the fact that we are reduced to sophomoric speculation when determining who funds the Taliban; the lines are blurred. But there is one reality that must be taken into consideration by think tanks and leaders alike; the entire region is a Sea of Islam; it is Muslim.

The situation in Greater Central Asia will necessitate the reworking of the current political dialectic. Muslims of the region have two options; they either allow themselves to be herded into the next phase of bloodshed or they consolidate politically, using their intellects, and shape the future of what Sir Halford Mackinder called the ‘Heartland’ of the greater globe.