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Afghanistan: the Green-on-Blue War

The increasing spate of so-called green (Afghan government forces) on blue (foreign ISAF forces) violence in Afghanistan is something that speaks to the futility of maintaining an indefinite Western military presence in that strange, alien place. Why strange, why alien?

Unlike countries of the Western enlightenment tradition, Afghanistan has never enjoyed strong political and social institutions nestled in the fabric of a stable, centralised state. Yes, there have been times in Afghan history when various warlords rose to power and created nascent kingdoms and empires. But they were ephemeral occurrences, generally lasting for a few short generations before disintegrating into internecine tribal/ethnic warfare or becoming the plaything of external imperial powers. The Afghan people are trapped by their geography and their history. The disconnected societies that evolved from amongst the many isolated valleys and mountains of Afghanistan, means that ‘Afghan’ might be a broad definition signifying a local identity, a differentiator from foreign people and influences, but this definition never grew into a national consciousness as the West would understand it. Indeed, the fact that ISAF personnel are still trying to develop a ‘nation building program’ in a country that is largely devoid of nationalism, seems like a fool’s errand. Local Afghans still identify themselves in terms of their religion, their village, their family and their ethnicity; rarely do they identify themselves with their ‘country’. Only those who live in their own foreign-sponsored bourgeois cocoon in Kabul, (the Afghan capital), believe that with a foreign military presence and enough foreign aid, the fiction of a modern Afghanistan can be maintained indefinitely. But the denizens of Kabul are not representative of Afghanistan proper. In Kabul, the political elite is well educated and has daily contact with foreigners either dispensing aid, or developing ‘capacity building’ programmes for the national government. Some have travelled outside of Afghanistan, but they are the minority. The vast bulk of Afghanistan’s population has little contact with the outside world and what little contact they have, they find unacceptable to their religious duty, their way of life and their ethnic loyalties. So what are we, the West, doing there? We initially went in to dislodge the Taliban who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US. This was a rational strategy and the tactics used against the Taliban and Al Qaeda ingenious. For relatively little expenditure of finance, arms and men, the US and its allies (Afghan and foreign) changed the political equation of Afghanistan by ousting the Taliban from power. That’s arguably where the Western mission should have ended. People understand revenge and the US needed its vengeance against Mullah Omar and bin Laden. The subsequent mission creep, with no end in sight, was a bad political choice based on a wilful ignorance of Afghan realities. Continuing to push a Western agenda is, again, a bad political choice with tragic outcomes as we have seen over the past few days.

As long as we in the West believe it to be our God given right to interfere in the politico-social affairs of others, we should not be surprised when bad things happen to our military personnel sent to far-flung places to do the bidding of the chattering classes.

By Dr. John Bruni, Director SAGE International

8 THOUGHTS ON "Afghanistan: the Green-on-Blue War"

  1. Ed Corcoran on September 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm said:

    I strongly agree that we are pushing far to much of a Western agenda rather than trying to help Afghans develop their own agenda from the ground up.

    Edward Corcoran, Ph.D.
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  2. Bob Campbell on September 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm said:

    Dr Bruni was very elegant in his description of the Afghan society as it exists, and is correct on the matter of the different society that exists outside the Westernised element which is centered in Kabul. Whenever you have the general population influenced by what can be construed sometimes as radical religious zealots, in areas seperated by vast distances, the people understand little of what is happening except for what their localised religious leaders tell them or let them know.

    But, using the title “The Green on Blue War” was incorrect for his item as that is the term used to describe the “enemy within” and that title has probably been used to attract interest to this article.

    Coming only days after the murder of three Australian soldiers in a Green on Blue incident, I find it in bad taste to use such a title to discuss politics so soon after this sad incident had occurred.

    Dr Bruni, you may well be a consultant with a wealth of knowledge about this matter, but don’t use the recent incident to push political views.

    • John Bruni on September 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm said:

      Thank you for your reply and you are right – it was in response to the media’s ‘battle-cry’ of Green vs. Blue. If I can just use the words of General William Westmoreland:

      “The military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars”

      There should never be any doubt regarding the courage and commitment of our serving men and women in uniform regardless of ‘the cause’ for which untold numbers have and will continue to pay the ultimate price. As civilians all we can do is question the political rationale, whilst at the same time honour and support our military

  3. gw2 gold online on September 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm said:

    Good

  4. Gianni Wise on September 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm said:

    I would generally concur with this article especially given the historical relationship that Afghanistan has had to suffer with the west. The UK’s divide and rule strategies under during the 1870’s set a pattern of total disruption of Afghani lives there seems to have continued right up till the present. I do question the writer’s notion of “strange, alien place”. The implications that could be drawn from this could be seen as another example of what the famous sociologist Frank Furedi referred to as a culture of otherness and fear. I would be careful in the language we use in our ignorance.

    • John Bruni on September 9, 2012 at 10:29 am said:

      I would like to say that no great power has ever truly understood Afghan society since it stands in stark contrast to the generally inclusive social and political institutions we have in the West. Furthermore, even the Soviet Union, not known for its inclusiveness and tolerance of the ‘other’ had a very hard time trying to come to grips with the highly decentralised Afghan tribal, sectarian, clan and family loyalty structures. As the West’s attempt to force a political solution onto Afghan society is not a philosophical exercise and is couched within a military/security context, and, that Afghans, however they identify themselves, are not part of a universalist tradition – a culture of otherness is exactly how the international community (ISAF) views its involvement in that beleaguered country. Then again, globalisation – that great equaliser – may eventually make ‘them’ (Afghans) more like ‘us’ (the West), and ‘us’ more like ‘them’, and only then we can talk of a culture of universal togetherness.

  5. Peter Luskin on September 8, 2012 at 12:15 am said:

    Dr. Bruni,
    Your analysis is correct for Afghans over the age of 35. Communitarianism does provide a basic identity for the Afghans I’ve come across (Kandahar and Paktika). At the same time, this country has changed dramatically in the past ten years- urbanization and infrastructure have redefined the outlook and identities of young Afghans.
    Today, I witnessed tribes, ethnicities, and generations come together in pursuit of good governance. In eastern Paktika the people are attempting to form an association to fight corruption and demand direct representation. This morning they challenged a District Governor, tomorrow they’ll attempt to challenge the PGOV. They need patronage, advice and assistance; unfortunately, my writ and authority extend about as far as my reach. Do any of Dr. Bruni’s readers know of NGOs who assist in constructing AFG civil society?

    peter.luskin@gmail.com

  6. How to on September 9, 2012 at 3:35 am said:

    I genuinely enjoy examining on this website, it contains excellent posts.

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