Bandit country

A violent combat has just been quelled in Eastern Afghanistan, where a group of 500 warriors led by Jangir Khan, members of the warlord Padsha Khan’s forces, attacked the city of Gardez in Paktia province. These forces were beaten back by the strongman in the city, Saif Ullah.

The attacking force complained that Padsha Khan did not send the relief column he had promised and the attack was called off.

It transpires that there are thousands of armed men wandering around Afghanistan in marauding groups, attacking and withdrawing at will. Last week it was reported that 5,000 Taleban had gathered around the US base at Kandahar, with 450 tanks, only to melt away into the hills again.

Far from defeated, the Taleban simply disappeared, many no doubt now members of the myriad of armed factions scouring the countryside. as usual, the cities are pools of civilisation and apparent normality in a sea of chaos, more like isolated city-states, each one ruled by the local strongman.

This situation would indicate that the government in Kabul will have its authority confined to...Kabul. The question arises as to whether Afghanistan is really a country at all in the sense of a unified geo-political unit. If not, and if it has survived as such as a loosely held-together collection of forces which regulate themselves by loyalty to the Loya Jirga (gathering of the tribes), it would be senseless to impose western-style models of government.

It would appear that the less interference there is in Afghanistan, the better. The advice of Russia before the recent conflict started was exactly that: arm the Afghans and let them do the fighting. The United States listened and the result was a rapid, if not conclusive, victory.

The battle is won. Now all that remains is to win the peace.


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