The Capital of the Caliphate ?
It is Pakistan, Stupid me
I was holding off writing here about Afghanistan, hoping the smoke would clear. That is not going to happen—ever. The lacunae in our accounting of recent Afghan history and US, NATO, regional and Russian involvement are more telling than the coverage.
Let me point out a few gaps.
Pakistan. Where has Afghanistan’s neighboring Sunni stronghold been these past two or three decades? Undermining nuclear non-proliferation, wrestling with India, playing footsie with China have not been as all-consuming of Pakistan’s ability to foment destabilization as one might imagine. Remember that Osama bin Laden was comfortably ensconced in Abbottabad while the U.S. and NATO sought to extirpate his presumed protectors next door.
Support for the Taliban—from safe-refuge to openly “smuggled” weaponry—flowed from Pakistan through the supposedly “lawless” mountainous border. Recent analysis by the New York Times, Reuters, Brookings, etc. are now visiting this symbiotic relationship. Pakistan army and intelligence involvement goes way beyond Islamabad’s pretense of constructive involvement. With the Taliban victory, Pakistan has enlarged its footprint in this pivotal area where East Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia intersect.
Forget ISIS, it is Pakistan that like Iran has dreams of becoming the caliphate that can unite Muslim geography and power to dominate the future. Weakening the West through grinding conflicts, Pakistan and its “competitor” best partner Iran, the country that plays the same game in the Persian Gulf, Arabia and the Levant, have learned from Russia that a modicum of military strength paralyzes the West, our selves and our allies who have no real or realizable strategic aims except holding fast to a crumbling edifice.
Biden is right to see this underbelly of vulnerability. Tis withdrawal from the game of dwindling benefits in Afghanistan needs to be followed by reinvestment in the future that really matters—a future that can survive the cascading disaster of climate change (perhaps even flattening that curve by cutting our addiction to the carbon that fuels wars), a future in which America treasures and sustains our people while welcoming the influx of new talents and ambition through our borders. We have the ability to move the battlefield from the one where the caliphate and its avatars have the advantage. That means overcoming our enemies’ best allies—the Republican troglodytes, whose ability to ruin everything they touch means that our best future can never be.