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A few days ago, a news report by the BBC caught my eye. It said the Red Cross reported some 800,000 people as disabled by the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It struck me as odd, since I didn’t think Afghanistan was such a large country. So I saved the link to check up and found time today.

The previous post is the result of that. In brief, it states Afghanistan’s population – 34,385,068 as of latest figures. That would mean that about 1 in every 43 people is disabled by the war or 2.3% of the entire Afghan population. Seeing as how the disabilities wouldn’t be uniform, it means that areas with greater conflict have even more disabled people than this.

It seemed unbelievable, so I asked for help from other journalists to confirm the Red Cross number. Got about ten replies. All of them confirmed it. The Red Cross doesn’t fake such information. It is correct.

It is amazing that no one has thought of the implications of this. Either from a humanitarian perspective, or even strategic. How does NATO expect Afghanistan to defend itself after their exit with such large numbers of disabled people – a majority of whom, I assume would be men? And this is without the illnesses, deaths and what nots completing the picture.

A few days back, I read a report in USAToday, which spoke of IED attacks in Afghanistan setting a record. There were 9,304 “IED Events” in 2009, 15,225 in 2010 and 16,554 in 2011. “IED Events” is the number of Improvised Explosive Devices cleared or detonated, not a social event. Kind of like the “Nuclear Park” at Jaitapur. We have ways of making things sound acceptable.

Astonishingly, that very same report quoted:

“If insurgencies are about winning the support — or at least the acquiescence — of the local population, this is a concerning trend for the Taliban,” said Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the RAND Corp., a think tank.

Yeah, right. Like Nadeem F. Paracha had once famously described Imran Khan stopping missiles with his bare chest.

In other words, no matter what happens, people supposedly professionals in thinking are able to see only advantages in it. No wonder the US is winning this war and is all set to exit Afghanistan after the transfer of power as a few other reports from around the same time claim.

In still other news, the Taliban is forcibly collecting Zakat, or tax from residents of northern Jawzjan province. Yeah, they are really desperate.

In other words, this war is in the exact same limbo and circular propaganda in media that it has been for a decade. Unnoticed, the toll on the population is growing. The people already disabled aren’t going to get better. The more this war continues, the more their numbers will rise.

Frankly, this war was lost the day US partnered with Pakistan [READ] and got to micro-managing Afghanistan. They lack understanding of the culture, or any sense of engagement beyond aggression. Three countries at least are paying a massive price. US, Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. Other NATO countries are suffering losses too.

France recently wanted and Nicolas Sarkozy declared out after French soldiers were attacked and killed by Afghan soldiers over some disrespect of the dead bodies of the Taliban by American soldiers Urinating on the dead bodies, to be specific. No, America simply doesn’t understand alien cultures – or try to – or find it necessary to other than psyops. Hillary Clinton not only didn’t see this as any indication that France would pull out, she knew better that they didn’t mean it, and so it was. China, Iran and India are going to have a big mess on their hands once this farce ends, because the stubborn refusal to look at reality has meant this story has devolved to chaos and the Pakistan borders in particular leak terrorism like a sieve and there is going to be an unemployment problem like after the Soviet jihad, and these are the countries that will win that harvest – India in particular.

And the more reality is ignored, the worse the chaos will be. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity. Insanity is harmless if it is limited to the insane, but this macabre dance has too many players, too many lives devastated.

Pakistan in particular is at the verge of devastation and if Pakistan collapses, even winning in Afghanistan will not matter, because the Frankenstein’s monster will consume the entire region, if not the world. While Pakistan’s problems are largely of its own creation, and many of Afghanistan’s problems too, simply calling every problem a nail because you have a hammer is not working.

Like I have pointed out earlier too – when Pakistan’s trolls stop hounding you on the internet with bizarre versions of history, that is a disillusionment that is shaking their very foundations of identity among civilians. And, as the US likes to remind us, Pakistan is a nuclear power, so this collapse is an epic disaster waiting to happen.

A friend who knows such things had once likened terrorists to bed bugs. It is very difficult to get rid of an infestation unless you know exactly what you are doing, you have a plan and you stick with it or you just end up making it worse. I can’t think of a better metaphor for this parody of a war where there have been so many strategies and contradictions – including US eroding its own values and laws – that no one at all knows what exactly is happening and everyone except the Taliban have immobilized themselves through paradoxes of their own creation.

A journalist from Afghanistan had once tweeted – why are we spending so much to fight the guy with the sandals and AK-47? Good question, if anyone paused to think of it. And I think he’s been asking that for a long time.

In the meanwhile, in this maze of strategies, paradoxes, claims, realities, propaganda… there are people who are getting devastated, who rarely make news. News from Afghanistan is no longer about Afghans – hasn’t been for a long time.

There is a desperate need to find creative solutions. To listen to the Afghans instead of telling them. To give them what they need to fight rather than training them to alien standards from scratch. To give them the ownership of their war to do what they will, and support them solidly rather than employ and train them to become inferior shadows of the West and at prices the tax payer back home increasingly can’t afford.

If Obama is listening, he should get someone following what Afghan commentators are saying, what they are suggesting and mine ideas. This Emperor hasn’t had worn clothes for a long time.

Recently, the BBC published a video report by Karen Zarindast about the number of people disabled by war in Afghanistan. They quote the Red Cross as the source of their figures:

Decades of war have left some 800,000 people disabled in Afghanistan.

The Red Cross, has seven centres across the country helping them out.

A centre in Kabul, which recruits from the disabled community – receives some 300 disabled people a day.

This caught my eye. The population of Afghanistan is 34,385,068. If this report is true, that means one in every forty three people or 2.3% of the entire Afghan population has been maimed in the ongoing war. That is a horrendous number and needs far more attention than it is getting.

If this number is not true, then that needs cleared too, because it reflects very badly on all sides of the war and the cost in human suffering.

A request: If you are a journalist or know a journalist who can verify this, could you do it and update me too? Ideally, should be investigated and reported widely, but this at least?

As news of Rabbani being killed in Afghanistan spreads like wild fire, there is a looming unease that things in Afghanistan are not as well as we pretend they are. We look on it as a regional matter rather than something relevant to us.

And yet, it ought to matter to us more than it does.

I would like to begin with saying that we have a rather lax approach to security overall. After 9/11 it didn't take us too long to cotton on to the fact that the new villain worldwide - terrorism is a way what we used to call militancy could be described. Since then, we have been talking about how we have been victims of terrorism orienting from Pakistan for far longer than the US. As the regional situation deteriorates steadily, and all goodwill is destroyed in power games, people perhaps now comprehend that what we had been shouting to the world for a long time was not reciprocal propaganda between sibling nations, and that they may have made a big mistake by investing so deeply in Pakistan.

But there has been little we have done to take advantage of the regional dynamics to resolve or assert necessary issues. We have sat and wrung our hands about the terrorism we face from Pakistan, but we have done nothing to fix that either. In the meanwhile, United States of Abhimanyu and the Afghani Chakravyuha goes on merrily. The Taliban have nothing to lose, and the foreign troops are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Pakistan is increasingly showing bolder stakes in forcing the US out, while both countries maintain a superficial pretense of civility, which is cracking.

While it is all well and good to talk about planned withdrawals of forces, increasingly vicious attacks bring up the question of whether it will be a withdrawal or escape - if at all it is possible. I imagine, it will not be easy to exit either - not with the ground situation so volatile. It wouldn't be the first time the Taliban uses brutality to take over the country, particularly if Pakistan starts believing that Afghanistan might distract the Taliban from Pakistan.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. Increasing volatility in the region makes India's security more difficult too, as Pakistan gets increasingly uncontrollable, and we have not consolidated any real stake in Afghanistan in spite of our massive aid. It may be argued that the Afghan government hasn't been able to do it either, but that is besides the point.

If the Taliban continue to strike back at the NATO forces with increasing viciousness, there is going to be a point where the NATO presence gets rendered irrelevant for Indian purposes - present or not.

Forcing NATO back in the AfPak theatre will also translate into increased confidence against India. In other words, that is one place we don't want to be in - because we are nuclear powers. And it isn't too far away. As militants in Kashmir are at an all time low, the point where the plan must be abandoned completely or drastically invested in comes close.

Another factors are China and Iran. China wants to drive through PoK to get at their port. They most certainly don't want us messing that game. Also, strategically, we are pretty much the only thing Pakistan wants from China. Iran once used to be a stronger ally than it currently is. We are letting that lapse.

So where am I going with all this?

I am saying that India should have been acting to secure its interests conclusively for a long time, and the need is getting urgent. Beyond a certain point, it will cease to matter to the result.

An article in Pragati (will search for link and insert later) argues that India should send troops to Afghanistan to aid the NATO effort. I think it is a bad idea. India doesn't have the physical distance from the theater of war like the rest of the countries, and India is not a default target of the bad guys either. Sending troops to Afghanistan is a guarantee to make them special targets as well as trigger terror attacks in the country. Worse, our anti-terror apparatus isn't so strong that we can take the risk of not preventing them. All in all, it will enrage the terrorists, and our civilians will be right there to take the brunt of the rage too.

However, the thought behind the idea of sending troops to Afghanistan is vital. The action may not be the best solution, but there is no doubt that we need to explore ways to make our stake in th region more secure - both for our sakes as well as lending security to the overall situation.

If we are able to open a second, less attacked aspect in this situation (using our soft power), it may create an opening for us to achieve our objectives easier as well as provide troops in Afghanistan a welcome breather, which is also in favor of our objectives.

I think it is definitely important that we integrate our soft power into strategic planning and use it far more proactively than we currently do. The less our actions look like military intervention the better, but it is definitely important to be a player in the game - not just as we are, by contributing, but by leveraging ability to influence happenings.

 

PS: These are more random thoughts on the dynamics from emerging news than hard factual data.