AFGHANISTAN: A Saigon Moment Could Be in the Making -For Eating Onions as Apples

Afghanistan was described as the ‘graveyard of empires’. Except for Persia’s Nadir Shah, no foreign ruler managed to take control of the Pashtun heartland for any significant length of time. Nadir Shah managed to keep control by inducting Pashtun warriors into the Persian army. Very impressed with the warlike valor of Kandahari Ahmadzai, he appointed Ahmad Abdali the commander of his bodyguards. In 1747, Abdali revolted, killed Nadir Shah, led his Ahmadzai cavalry back to Kandahar and established the Afghan- Pashtun kingdom we call Afghanistan. The locals honored him with the title, “Dur-e-Durran”, pearl of pearls, a rare commodity in Helmand’s barrent mountains. Ahmad Shah Durrani pacified Tajiks, Uzbeks, Heratis and others, raided Punjab, plundered temples, took Hindus prisoners, forced them to march across the mountains which became known as the Hindukush, and forever created Hindu anger over Muslim overlords. The British tried three times, failed, and left it alone after 1919. The Soviets tried in 1979-88, and failed. And now, the Americans.

“So, what’s new? (as Tom Jones sang in the 1960s),” commented an Asia-Pacific-based defense and security analyst, who has authored several books and specializes in US-China relations, South Asia affairs.

Nevertheless, tension in the region is high (again). A Saigon de ja vu?

A senior observer in Islamabad says, “It’s not the time for that last iconic picture yet”.

The happenings across Pakistan’s western border are becoming like a spaghetti-filled plateful for dinner.

It’s hard to guess though, ‘who’s coming to dinner’ (Sidney Poiter movie in the 60s) in Kabul -in weeks and months ahead.

“I think Americans will also like to disown any memories of Afghanistan like a bad dream,” a Pakistani defense analyst says. According to him:

Afghanistan is not a priority for the U.S. any more. It’s China, and China will be contested primarily in the Pacific, and the secondary theater would be the Indian Ocean.

The U.S. will talk about Afghanistan for few months, just to give the semblance of concern, and thereafter will disengage completely.

The U.S. economic primacy has shifted to high tech and the battle ground is Intellectual property rights, access to cutting edge technology and to be specific the “ MICRO CHIP”. Micro Chip is the dominant atom of the 21st century and may be beyond.

The Second Cold War will be waged in cyber and IT domain. Physical battlefields will be secondary.

A Pakistani defense analyst

Bottom line is the Afghanistan war, for a whopping three trillion American taxpayers’ dollars, is a huge Atlantic of onions they instead of thought leaders who started it all, have to eat –Joe Biden cut the losses and the teardrops. God Bless him and Putin and Xi and of course Khan for his “we can ally for peace not war” dice on the roulette table(2018), and an “absolutely not” recently on possible air base(s) in Pakistan.

Grandma was right. Whether war or peace, at home or in a pricy Manhattan restaurant or at one’s mother-in-law’s place, “don’t assume an onion is an apple”:

Irshad Salim, Islamabad