Oct 28, 2009

The fall of Nuristan

A birthday present for someone over the weekend was the announcement of the fall of Nuristan. “Where is Nuristan?” you ask immediately. Do not concern yourself unduly, dear reader. It is the easternmost province of Afghanistan, which is one of a number of Moslem countries currently being occupied by US and “allied” forces. (The only item that may affect you has already been dealt with by President Sarkozy – the guy married to Eric Clapton’s ex-girlfriend – when he closed down the Sangatte encampment where hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans, fleeing from the wars in their countries, were waiting to try and get into Britain – “Scum” the president called them – how dare they run away from the disasters inflicted by pilotless drones controlled by our brave men and women in uniform from under a mountain in Nevada!)

I do not have a horse in this race, but my previously expressed opinion that of all the places on earth to fight in the mountains of the Hindu Kush are the last place I should choose, and the Afghans the last people I should wish to oppose has not changed. As the high mountain passes close with the fall of winter snow supplying one’s troops has become impossible and so the Americans have wisely chosen discretion as the better part of valor and moved their troops out, leaving the entire province of Nuristan to the control of one Qari Ziaur Rahman, a Taliban commander. The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan, on the border with Pakistan, but retain some forces in Nuristan's capital, Parun, to provide security for the governor and government facilities. The US has pulled out from some areas in the past, but never from all four main bases.

Who are these people? Well, the 40 million Pathans (Pashtuns) are the world’s largest tribal group, divided by a 1,400 mile long border drawn by a 19th century British official that has never been of any interest to any one except mapmakers, certainly not to half the Pathans living in Pakistan or the other half living in Afghanistan on either side of the border. Historical and literary scholars may remember the bitter proverb quoted by Rudyard Kipling’s Kim: “Trust a Brahmin before a snake, a snake before a harlot, a harlot before a Pathan,” the modern version of which might run: “It is the classic Afghan way to smile and pocket bribe money, and tell foreigners what they want to hear, only to attack them in the night.” The testimony of one Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent in Afghanistan in 1897 (yes, it has been going on an awfully long time, much longer than even the Washington hawks admit!) “described as the toughest opponents a group called the Taliban, hard line Islamic students opposed to any foreign presence in the country, who lived on bread and onions supplied by the local population.” Mr. Qari Ziaur Rahman is clearly one of a series of local victors in the last century or so.

Why don’t the Americans give up and go home? Ah, the answer to this question became clear in a flash of illumination provided at


U.S. lawmakers have a financial interest in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; members of Congress invested nearly 196 million dollars of their own money in companies that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a day from Pentagon contracts to provide goods and services to U.S. armed forces. Senator Kerry of Massachusetts, currently “advising” Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, tops the list of investors. His holdings in firms with Pentagon contracts of at least five million dollars stood at between 28.9 million dollars and 38.2 million dollars as of Dec.31, 2006. Kerry sits on the Senate foreign relations panel, and his investments in companies providing goods and services to American troops will continue to do very well indeed providing that Senator Kerry can ensure that American troops are fighting somewhere in the world, which his post on the foreign relations panel ideally equips him to do.

On the wider world scene, the new government in Japan seems inclined to ask why sixty years after the end of World War Two, in which they were on the losing side, American troops and air bases must continue to occupy them, and the same question may ultimately occur in Germany, and even in “allied” states like Britain. Mr. Kerry clearly has work to do to safeguard his investments.

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