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May 26, 2005

Color on Koran Riots
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Great piece today by Sarah Chayes, who lives in Kandahar, about the role that Pakistani and Iranian operatives may have played in ginning up the riots in Afghanistan over the alleged Koran flushing incident.

Her analysis underscores a point we've been making here about anti-Americanism.   She blames the Pakistanis and Iranians, but also says they found fertile ground for rabble-rousing among an Afghan population that's fed up with U.S. soldiers who do business with corrupt local politicians, who turnover so fast that they've gained little insight into local mores, and who abuse detainees.

Yes, there are those who are against us for policy reasons, such as our growing and lasting military presence near their borders and/or their view that Westernization is a threat to their religious beliefs.  And noone is suggesting that their views should dictate how we set policy in service of U.S. national interests.  But those opponents' (many of whom are truly dangerous) will find their work made much easier when ordinary people have reason to distrust and dislike us.   So the abuses at Bagram and the reports on Koran flushing play right into their hands.


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"So the abuses at Bagram and the reports on Koran flushing play right into their hands."

But most of her article makes this point:"Afghans are at a loss as to why the Karzai administration and its American backers repeatedly put their confidence in unqualified and often criminal officials."

It's not only the utterly inexcusable atrocities openly justified by the Bush administration on prisoners, but their more mundane inexplicable ignorance of Afghanistan society.

In Ghost Wars, Steve Coll documents this incompetence from the beginning of modern US involvement with Afghanistan, under Reagan. And of course, it was the military's overreliance on local officials whose interests they had no interest in discerning that led to the debacle of Tora Bora as well as Omar's escape from Kandahar.

Totally predictable behavior, given that most US government Islamic "experts" aren't even competent in Arabic, let alone the countries they are anxious to invade.

A friend of mine indicated that all of the riots were in locations controlled by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. My friend added, "[S]ince [Hekmatyar] is a proxy for Pakistan ISI, Sarah's column was indeed right.... One of the stories is that his supporters are drifting off and taking advantage of the amnesties being offered by the government... [S]upposedly he was trying to whip up some sentiment to staunch the flow."

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