Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, served in international organisations in positions where he had to report to those much higher up. A characteristic of those with experience in international organisations (especially the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) is that they regard citizens of the US as belonging to the highest caste, followed by those from the UK and France, both of whom are Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) as a consequence of Britain winning the 1939-45 war and ensuring that France was given the same privileges despite having been occupied by the Germans for the duration of that war without having had the chance to contribute significantly even in its own liberation in 1944.
Ghani shares the same trait as other South Asian leaders who in the past have been associated with international organisations, of accepting as Confucian wisdom the scattered suggestions and ill-informed conclusions (or perhaps a better word would be “confusions”) of the many think-tanks in the US and the UK that incessantly clamour for donations to be able to teach Third World countries to obey their betters the way it was in the past, especially during the 19th century. Several of such think tanks had supported the Taliban during the 1990s and have declined to adjust their conclusions, worried that by doing so, they would shatter the perception that they are infallible. Even after 9/11, even after ISIS, these think tanks have in effect acted as Public Relations agents for the Taliban in Afghanistan, by creating the fiction of a division within that entity into “Good” and “Bad” Taliban.
In practice, any offshoot of the militia that condescended to parley with the authorities in Kabul were accepted as “Good” Taloban, while the others remained “Bad”. Needless to say, “Good” and “Bad” switched roles with a frequency that should have alarmed the think tanks that were vouching for them in Washington and London, but never apparently did. As a consequence, despite an uninterrupted record of failure to persuade the militia to desist from its violent campaigns in Afghanistan, to this day the search is ongoing to locate elements of the “Good” Taliban to include in the Ghani government. This would, it is expected by the serially failed Afghanistan “experts” in Washington and London, result in other elements of the militia joining in the spoils of office and ensuring the end of a struggle that the combined strength of NATO has the far been powerless to eliminate.
Owing to his intellectual dependence on such London and Washington think tanks, President Ashraf Ghani is still calling for the Taliban to join his government. What he seems to ignore is the fact that even if a faction of the Taliban joins the Kabul government, its purpose would be to paralyse and wreck it from within, as the final aim of the Taliban is to dominate the whole of Afghanistan in a manner even more thorough than during 1996-2001. Allowing any part of the Taliban to enter his government should be a disaster for Ghani, yet he persists in calling for such an outcome because of the advice coming from two capitals that are regarded as very important in the World Bank and the IMF, London and Washington.
In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) followed a policy of asking for a ceasefire when they saw that the Sri Lankan Army was gaining an advantage. Largely because of international pressure, the Sri Lankan government would agree. During the halt in hostilities, the LTTE would strengthen its capabilities and replenish its stores of weapons. However, when Ranil Wickremasinghe (the present Prime Minister) was earlier in office, in 2004, he carefully encouraged Colonel Karuna (the most powerful LTTE leader after supremo Prabhakaran) to separate from the organisation. Karuna had been aware from 2003 that Prabhakaran was viewing him with suspicion as having become too powerful, and that it was only a matter of time before the supremo would have him killed the way he finished off so many others whom he regarded as inconvenient in the LTTE. Once Prime Minister Wickremasinghe got information about tensions between Karuna and Prabhakaran, he reached out to the former and gave him an honourable exit from the deadly organisation despite several Sri Lankan army officers opposing this.
The split weakened the LTTE substantially, and further damage was done by the December 26,2004 tsunami.Damage to LTTE controlled regions was severe, and nearly 70% of the budget that had been allocated to weapons had to be diverted for civilian relief. Newly elected President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaka saw an opportunity and with the help of his brother Gotabhaya (Defense Secretary) began a campaign that finally resulted in the elimination of the LTTE in 2009. President Rajapaksa defied pressure from the US and the EU to halt military action against Prabhakarn, but was given assistance from China, Pakistan and India.
President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan needs to learn from the Sri Lankan war and conduct a military campaign that does not stop until it results in the comprehensive defeat of the Taliban. The “Hot Cold” tactics urged on his by Washington and London will only result in chaos and crisis, the way it has happened in so many countries where the leadership made the mistake of outsourcing security policy to US and UK think tanks. Ghani should ensure that the Afghan National Army fight its war with the same determination as an enemy that has humbled NATO but which can yet be defeated by the valiant people of Afghanistan.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.