World View: The Afghanistan Elections and the Afghan-Pakistan Taliban Alliance

World View: The Afghanistan Elections and the Afghan-Pakistan Taliban Alliance

This morning’s key headlines from

  • New poison gas attack reported in Syria
  • The Afghanistan elections and the Afghan-Pakistan Taliban alliance
  • The presidential runoff in Afghanistan

New poison gas attack reported in Syria

Reports from both the Syrian government and rebel forces claim that apoison gas attack occurred late Friday in a central rebel-held villageof Syria, killing two people and injuring more than 100. The poisongas, which is thought to be chlorine, was apparently launched duringair raids that left heavy smoke over the area. The rebel groups areblaming the Syrian government, while the Syrian government is blamingthe al-Qaeda al-Nusra front.

In August of last year, there was a major sarin gas attack near thecapital, Damascus, killing hundreds of people. The United NationsSecurity Council authorized a U.N. inspection team to visit the site,but was forbidden to draw any conclusions about who was responsible.This was at the insistence of the Russians, who wanted to protect thegenocidal monster president Bashar al-Assad of proof of guilt.However, the the United Nations forensic team found a very clever way to defeat the Russians. In theirscientific analysis of the evidence, they included calculations of thetrajectories of the rockets that delivered the sarin gas. They drewno conclusions about where the rockets were launched, but theyprovided enough scientific information within the report so thatexperts studying the report could show that the rockets must have beenlaunched from a Syrian Republican Guard unit. So they were verycleverly able to prove al-Assad’s guilt without having to say so!

The al-Assad regime agreed to remove and destroy its chemical weaponsstock, but Syria’s government missed a Dec. 31 deadline to remove themost dangerous chemicals in its stockpile and a Feb. 5 deadline togive up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons. It’s widelybelieved, though unproven, that al-Assad is hiding other stores ofchemical weapons. AP and AFP

The Afghanistan elections and the Afghan-Pakistan Taliban alliance

There has always been a big difference in behavior between thePakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban, largely because ofgenerational differences.

The Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns, which spread from southernAfghanistan, across the border through Pakistan’s tribal area, intonorthwestern Pakistan. I first wrote about the Afghan Taliban’sbehavior when I discussed the world’s worst suicide bombers. According to figures published by theJamestown foundation, in 2007 Afghan Taliban suicide bombers almostalways managed to kill only themselves, or at most one other person.This is an enormous contrast to the Pakistani Taliban, who have killedliterally thousands of people in suicide bombings in recent years.

The difference between the two is a result of history. Pakistan’slast generational crisis war was the war between Hindus and Muslims in1947 that followed Partition, the partitioning of the Indiansubcontinent and the creation of the states of India and Pakistan.That was one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century, but most ofits generations of survivors have now disappeared, and the youngergenerations know only of the heroics, but none of the horrors.

By contrast, Afghanistan’s last generational crisis war was therelatively recent bloody Afghan civil war of 1991-96. In 2007, 11years after that war ended, the bloody horrors were still fresh in allthe survivors’ minds, and there was no motivation to inflict morehorrors on themselves or others by blowing up innocent civilians in amosque or marketplace. The result is that the bloodiest Talibanattacks in Afghanistan have come not from Afghan Taliban but fromPakistani Taliban crossing the border.

It’s now seven years later, and the first generation of childrengrowing up after Afghanistan’s civil war are coming of age. Even so,there still are apparently not enough Afghan Taliban willing to blowpeople up, as shown by the failure of the Taliban to disrupt lastweekend’s presidential election with any major terrorist attacks,despite promises to do so.

Leaders of Taliban militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan have beenmeeting to try to work together. This attempted alliance is in itsearly stages, and the generational differences will continue toprovide obstacles, but they are spurred on by the withdrawal this yearof American and Nato forces. In one way or another, they should beexpected to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal.

We’ve reported several times on the ongoing “peace talks” between thePakistani Taliban and Pakistan’s government. One of the Taliban’smotivations for these talks is to keep Pakistan’s military fromcarrying out its threat to destroy militant bases in the tribal areathat the militants use for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.Reuters

The presidential runoff in Afghanistan

A major issue in Afghanistan’s presidential elections, both forAfghanistan and for the United States, is the pending “bilateralsecurity agreement” (BSA), which will provide the legal backing toallow a contingent of American forces to remain in Afghanistan beyondthe end of 2014. Current president Hamid Karzai has refused to signthe BSA, after previously promising to do so, and has left thedecision to his successor. However, all three of the major runoffcandidates have said they will sign the BSA if they win the election.

The three runoff candidates are described by one analyst as follows:

  • Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat who is respected internationally for his intellect.
  • Abdullah Abdullah, a former close friend of legendary Afghan freedom fighter and U.S. ally Ahmad Shah Massoud and a medical doctor with a reputation for toughness and integrity.
  • Zalmai Rassoul, who despite being seen as an ally of Hamid Karzai, is also a widely respected official with vast international experience.

Ghani and Rassoul are Pashtuns, while Abdullah is a Hazara. TheHazaras and the Pashtuns were bitter enemies during the 1990s civilwar, so a victory by Abdullah could mean trouble in the form ofincreased terrorist activity by the Pashtun Taliban. Defense One

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, United Nations,Afghanistan, Taliban, Pakistan, Pashtun, Hazara, India,Nato, bilateral security agreement, BSA,Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Zalmai Rassoul
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