William Darylmph

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Top of Form GO Bottom of Form Login | Register ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã ã HOME POLITICS BUSINESS CULTURE MEDIA LIFE & SOCIETY WORLD AFFAIRS COLUMNS BLOGS COMMENTPLUS SUBSCRIBE NEWS COMMENT BLOGS YOUR DEMOCRACY UK POLITICS INTERNATIONAL POLITICS BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT POLLS EVENTS Return to: Home | Politics | International Politics Why the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan William Dalrymple Published 22 June 2010 ã ã ã ã ã 97 comments Print version Email a friend Listen RSS
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  Top of Form   GO Bottom of Form Login|Register  ã HOME ã POLITICS ã BUSINESS ã CULTURE ã MEDIA ã LIFE & SOCIETY ã WORLD AFFAIRS ã COLUMNS ã BLOGS ã COMMENTPLUS ã SUBSCRIBE ã NEWS ã COMMENT ã BLOGS ã YOUR DEMOCRACY ã UK POLITICS ã INTERNATIONAL POLITICS ã BUSINESS ã ENVIRONMENT ã POLLS ã EVENTS Return to:Home | Politics | International Politics  Why the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan  William Dalrymple Published 22 June 2010 ã 97 comments ã Print version ã Email a friend ã Listen ã RSS   As Washington and London struggle to prop up a puppet government over whichHamid Karzai has no control, they risk repeating the blood-soaked 19th-century history of Britain’s imperial defeat. In 1843, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, an army chaplain, Reverend G R Gleig, wrote a memoir about theFirst Anglo-Afghan War, of which he was one of the very few survivors. It was, he wrote, a war begun for no wisepurpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster,without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Notone benefit, political or military, has Britain acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembledthe retreat of an army defeated. It is difficult to imagine the current military adventure in Afghanistan ending quite as badly as the First Afghan War, anabortive experiment in Great Game colonialism that slowly descended into what is arguably the greatest militaryhumiliation ever suffered by the west in the Middle East: an entire army of what was then the most powerful militarynation in the world utterly routed and destroyed by poorly equipped tribesmen, at the cost of 1,062.18 (£15)m (well ₨  over 70.81 (£1)bn in modern currency) and more than 40,000 lives. But nearly ten years on from Nato's invasion of  ₨  Afghanistan, there are increasing signs that Britain's fourth war in the country could end with as few political gains asthe first three and, like them, terminate in an embarrassing withdrawal after a humiliating defeat, with Afghanistan yetagain left in tribal chaos and quite possibly ruled by the same government that the war was launched to overthrow.Certainly it is becoming clearer than ever that the once-hated Taliban, far from being swept away by General StanleyMcChrystal's surge, are instead regrouping, ready for the final act in the history of Hamid Karzai's western-installedpuppet government. The Taliban have now advanced out of their borderland safe havens to the very gates of Kabuland are surrounding the capital, much as the US-backed mujahedin once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late1980s. Like a rerun of an old movie, all journeys by non-Afghans out of the capital are once again confined largely totanks, military convoys and helicopters. The Taliban already control more than 70 per cent of the country, where theycollect taxes, enforce the sharia and dispense their usual rough justice. Every month, their sphere of influenceincreases. According to a recent Pentagon report, Karzai's government has control of only 29 out of 121 key strategicdistricts.Just recently, on 17 May, there was a suicide attack on a US convoy in the Dar-ul Aman quarter of Kabul, killing 12civilians and six American soldiers; the following day, there was a daring five-hour-long grenade and machine-gunassault on the US military headquarters at Bagram Airbase, killing an American contractor and wounding ninesoldiers, so bringing the death toll for US armed forces in the country to more than 1,000. Then, over the weekend of 22-23 May, there was a series of rocket, mortar and ground assaults on Kandahar Airbase just as the Britishministerial delegation was about to visit it, forcing William Hague and Liam Fox to alter their schedule. Since then, a  dozen top Afghan officials have been assassinated in Kandahar, including the city of Kandahar's deputy mayor. On 7June, the deadliest day for Nato forces in months, ten soldiers were killed. Finally, it appears that the Taliban haveregained control of the opium-growing centre of Marjah in Helmand Province, only three months after being driven outby McChrystal's forces amid much gung-ho cheerleading in the US media. Afghanistan is going down.Already, despite the presence of huge numbers of foreign troops, it is now impossible - or at least extremely foolhardy- for any westerner to walk around the capital, Kabul, without armed guards; it is even more inadvisable to head out of town in any direction except north: the strongly anti-Taliban Panjshir Valley, along with the towns of Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat, are the only safe havens left for westerners in the entire country. In all other directions, travel is possibleonly in an armed convoy.This is especially true of the Khord-Kabul and Tezeen passes, immediately to the south of Kabul, where as many as18,000 British troops were lost in 1842, and which are today again a centre of resistance against perceived foreignoccupiers. Aid workers familiar with Afghanistan over several decades say the security situation has never beenworse. Ideas much touted only a few years ago that Afghanistan might become a popular tourist destination - aSwitzerland of central Asia - now seem to be dreams from a distant age. Lonely Planet's guidebook to Afghanistan,optimistically published in 2005, has not been updated and is now once again out of print.The present war is following a trajectory that is beginning to feel unsettlingly familiar to students of the Great Game.In 1839, the British invaded Afghanistan on the basis of sexed-up intelligence about a non-existent threat: informationabout a single Russian envoy to Kabul was manipulated by a group of ambitious and ideologically driven hawks tocreate a scare - in this case, about a phantom Russian invasion - thus bringing about an unnecessary, expensive andentirely avoidable war.Initially, the hawks were triumphant - the British conquest proved remarkably easy and bloodless; Kabul was capturedwithin a few weeks as the army of the previous regime melted into the hills, and a pliable monarch, Shah Shuja, wassuccessfully placed on the throne. For a few months the British played cricket, went skating and put on amateur theatricals as if on summer leave in Simla; there were discussions about making Kabul the summer capital of the Raj.Then an insurgency began and that first heady success slowly unravelled, first among the Pashtuns of Kandahar andHelmand Provinces. It slowly gained momentum, moving northwards until it reached Kabul, so making the Britishoccupation impossible to sustain.What happened next is a warning of how bad things could yet become: a full-scale rebellion against the British brokeout in Kabul, and the two most senior British envoys, Sir Alexander Burnes and Sir William Macnaghten, wereassassinated, one hacked to death by a mob in the streets, the other stabbed and shot by the resistance leader Wazir Akbar Khan during negotiations. It was on the retreat that followed, on 6 January 1842, that the 18,000 EastIndia Company troops, and maybe half that many again Indian camp followers, were slaughtered by Afghanmarksmen waiting in ambush amid the high passes, shot down as they trudged through the icy depths of the Afghan  winter. After eight days on the death march, the last 50 survivors made their final stand at the village of Gandamak.As late as the 1970s, fragments of Victorian weaponry and military equipment could be found lying in the screesabove the village. Even today, the hill is said to be covered with the bleached bones of the British dead.One Englishman lived to tell the tale of that last stand (if you discount the fictional survival of Flashman) - an ordinaryfoot soldier, Thomas Souter, wrapped his regimental colours around him to prevent them being captured, and wastaken hostage by the Afghans who assumed that such a colourfully clothed individual must command a high ransom.It is a measure of the increasingly pertinent parallels between the 19th-century war and today's that one of the mainNato bases in Afghanistan was recently named Camp Souter after that survivor.In the years that followed, the British defeat in Afghanistan became pregnant with symbolism. For the VictorianBritish, it was the country's greatest imperial disaster of the 19th century. It was exactly a century before another army would be lost, in Singapore in 1942. Yet the retreat from Kabul also became a symbol of gallantry against theodds: William Barnes Wollen's celebrated oil painting The Last Stand of the 44th Regiment at Gundamuck - showinga group of ragged but doggedly determined British soldiers standing encircled behind a porcupine of bayonets, as thePashtun tribesmen close in - became one of the best-known images of the era, along with Remnants of an Army  ,Elizabeth Butler's image of the wounded and bleeding army surgeon William Brydon, who had made it through to thesafety of Jalalabad, arriving before the city walls on his collapsing nag.For the Afghans, the British defeat of 1842 became a symbol of freedom from foreign invasion. It is again no accidentthat the diplomatic quarter of Kabul is named after the general who oversaw the rout of the British in that year: Wazir Akbar Khan.For south Asians, who provided most of the cannon fodder - the foot soldiers and followers killed on the retreat - thewar ironically became a symbol of possibility: although thousands of Indians died on the march, it showed that theBritish army was not invincible and a well-planned insurgency could force them out. Thus, in 1857, the Indianslaunched their own anti-colonial uprising, the Great Mutiny (as it is known in Britain) or the first war of independence(as it is known in India), partly inspired by what the Afghans had achieved in 1842.This destabilising effect on south Asia of the failed war in Afghanistan has a direct parallel in the blowback that istoday destabilising Pakistan and the tribal territories of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Here thePakistani Taliban are once more on the march, rebuilding their presence in Swat, and are now surroundingPeshawar, which is almost daily being rocked by bombs, while outlying groups of Taliban are again spreading their influence into the valleys leading towards Islamabad. Across much of the North-West Frontier Province - roughly afifth of Pakistan's territory - women have now been forced into the burqa, music has been silenced, barbershops areforbidden to shave beards and more than 125 girls' schools have been blown up or burned down.A significant proportion of the Peshawar elite, along with the city's musicians, have decamped to the relatively safeand tolerant confines of Lahore and Karachi, while tens of thousands of ordinary people from the surrounding hills of 
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