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I continue to argue that despite Afghanistan being thousands of miles away and far removed from the Guyana reality, the negative exemplars on display are universal. The value of discourses on the proceedings over there is inestimable. There can no complaint about any amount of ink being utilized on the matter. Concerning this sentiment, my attention was drawn to public comments made by Fox News host, Tucker Carlson on Friday, August 20th where he described, with smugness, American exceptionalism and Pax Americana arrogance, the Taliban as turban-wearing illiterates. Following this comment, it became apparent to me why the Americans became the latest bones in the ‘graveyard of empires’. Erroneous assumptions about your enemies are a cardinal mistake.
Let’s be clear: rag-tag illiterates cannot plot a path back to power after being under the bombardment of the most powerful military for 20 years. It is extremely rare for those without strategic thinking to simply waltz back into power after being in the cold for two decades. One would be hard-pressed to find similar historical examples. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that any group which achieves this objective has to be of some consequence. Despite this assessment, this submission does not seek to glorify the extremism of the Taliban. Nor does it even attempt to lend free propaganda to a group that has consistently demonstrated to the world that they are capable of unparalleled barbarism, as evidenced by their rule between 1996 to 2001. Paying homage to the principles of realism and realpolitik, this intervention attempts to accept that this assemblage of religious zealots is not a case of misguided religious fundamentalism which must be dismissed as mere featherbrains.
Once you proceed from a position of erroneous assumptions about your enemy, you enhance the possibility of your defeat. Also, when you proceed from a flawed hypothesis and attempt to build a nation, the project is doomed to fail. Foreign intervention in Guyana over the decades has proven this to be true, ad nauseum. The American political and military establishment, despite an abundance of literature which points to the contrary, proceeded from the supposition that it would be an in and out fight with a bunch of rag-tag extremists. This was not been the case. To this point, the most insightful and dispassionate western view on the matter which I have seen is contained in the writing of Sarah Chayes, a Harvard-educated award-winning author and a former senior associate in the democracy and rule of law program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She covered the fall of the Taliban in 2001 for the news agency NPR. In her piece on Afghanistan, ‘The Ides of August’, she reasoned: ‘You may have heard that the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s, in Kandahar. That is incorrect. I conducted dozens of conversations and interviews over the course of years, both with actors in the drama and ordinary people who watched events unfold in Kandahar and in Quetta, Pakistan. All of them said the Taliban first emerged in Pakistan. The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging’. Added to this, the studious author was keen to point out, rhetorically: ‘Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from?’.
This speaks authoritatively to the notion that the Taliban are not only sophisticated in their ideas, strategies and leadership but it inadvertently points to the complexity of their origins and creation. Such stuff is fraught with much consideration. Hence, it is never to be dismissed as facetious.