Afghanistan in the Throes of Nation Building and Military Build-up

in Politics

For a while at least, it seemed as if USS Afghanistan was sinking fast in the militarized quicksand of Central Asia, sending distress signal m'aider, Mayday.  On May Day, Captain Obama rushed to the rescue under the veil of darkness, but the "secrecy" of the visit had already been leaked to the Afghan media some five hours before the President's arrival—a security breach that is symptomatic of the Afghan crisis.

The trip may have been shrouded in secrecy, but its timing speaks volumes through subconscious revelations about the eerie contradictions of the Afghan quagmire.  Security concerns about the secretly planned visit were validated by a hastily planned attack within hours of the presidential visit in the controlled chaos of the Afghan capital where Obama's visit may have been seen by some as a night raid on the legitimacy of a nation held hostage by the woes of circumstance. 

The highlight of Obama's visit was the signing of the strategic partnership agreement that extends the stay of American troops in Afghanistan until 2024.  No amount of diplomatic jargon could muffle the heavy-handed posture of the agreement that thrashes Afghanistan's century-old neutrality by incorporating the Central Asian country into the Western fold as a "Major Non-NATO Ally."

The agreement contemptuously ignores the calls of Afghan civilians demanding an end to the controversial ‘signature' drone strikes and the dreaded night raids.  Such public protestations have already been rebuffed by the intensification of these operations. More importantly, the agreement flies in the face of a strong public resentment for the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil—one that evokes hate and horror of foreign invaders. The defiant posture of the strategic agreement frustrates legitimate human rights concerns in Afghanistan and will haunt us through the inevitable escalation of military violence including suicide bombings, and ‘green-on-blue' attacks on American forces.

If there is any truth to the many Pentagon progress reports on Afghanistan, there should be no need for an extended stay of American troops beyond 2014.  It is only when war profiteering is factored in that the reported ‘progress' turns into crisis requiring prolonged wars to sustain a permanent war economy.  That is when the stewards of the ‘good war' stray from the initial objective of ‘nation-building' and are sucked into the black hole of a military build-up.'

A quarter of a century of foreign military support to impose and maintain a minority-dominated government on a disenfranchised majority in Afghanistan looks like a failing effort at sandcastle building rather than ‘nation building.' This is because we have built the façade of a democracy on a false foundation in order to justify our occupation.  We have armed and trained collaborative minorities disproportionately to a point where 75% of the officer corps comes of the enclave of Panjshir valley in Afghanistan.

It is not surprising that our efforts in Afghanistan are counter-productive. We have spent billions for a decade only to produce the world's third poorest country.  We have spent a decade on nation building through democratic institutions, yet the country is the second most corrupt in the world. At the heart of these problems lie the minority warlords-turned politicians who know that they live on borrowed time. They are busy lining their pockets with millions before power shifts to the majority in an independent Afghanistan.  This is why they oppose national reconciliation and the establishment of a true democracy, and this is why they want a prolonged troop stay to maintain the tilted status quo. The condescending tone of the agreement gives in to this ‘unholy alliance' by presenting the extended troop stay as a solution instead of a problem.

If the implementation of our ‘nation' building is any indication, replicating its blueprint for the military build-up efforts will be disastrous as it will only make a disproportionately armed ethnically diverse society ‘civil war ready.'

The prolonged U.S. military stay will not only impose unnecessary hardship on the Afghan people. As the world's third poorest country of 30 million, Afghanistan's economy cannot sustain a standing military-police force of half a million without foreign assistance. It is also likely to woefully entangle Afghanistan in a web of regional conflicts even beyond 2024. The contagious nature of military build-up can lead to the militarization of Central Asia. While the war profiteers will salivate at the prospects of windfall profits, the extensive allocation of human and financial resources for military build-ups will impoverish the entire region creating tensions with unforeseeable consequences.

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Zaman Stanizai has articles online

Zaman Stanizai is professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. Visit

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Afghanistan in the Throes of Nation Building and Military Build-up

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This article was published on 2012/05/22
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