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I am not professing to know all the little nuances about the situation in Afghanistan, but this is what I’ve been able to conclude overall:
Barack Obama had mentioned during the campaign that attention would be turned towards Afghanistan, which in his eyes, represents the greater threat compared to Iraq. While I am tempted to agree with him, I can only hope he doesn’t mean an all-out war. It looks that way, though, since there is a plan in place to double the number of troops in the area.
War is probably the worst idea for the area now.
Here’s how I see it:
Afghanistan is starting to see a resurgence in the strength and size of the Taliban. The Taliban has started to encroach on Pakistani regions that lie close to the Afghani border, and have experienced little to no resistance from the government. Pakistan, itself, is a powder keg waiting to explode. Not only is Afghanistan slowly being eaten inside-out by newly-resurrected Taliban forces on its western border, India has increased the deployment of troops to Pakistan’s eastern border in light of the horrific attacks on Mumbai. Couple that with the fact that the government reeks of impotence and corruption, it is a disaster waiting to happen. War will just hasten the pace at which the fuse burns, if not blow up the powder keg outright.
So what should the plan be?
Pakistan, I think, has neglected the Afghani border in favor of keeping troops stationed near the LOC, as well as further south along its border with India. Given India’s accusations of Pakistan’s involvement with the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, war on that front is still highly likely. Ultimately (as far as I see it) this mostly stems from continued struggle for control over the region of Kashmir. Barack Obama’s original suggestion to somehow, solve that problem in order to reduce the need for troops being deployed to that front is smart in theory, but cumbersome to implement. India will not part with Kashmir, and Pakistan will not go away empty-handed. Nonetheless, there need to be steps taken diplomatically, to bring some sort of peace to the area. This battle has gone on for too long.
There is no easy way to explain the rise of the Taliban. It seems to be a combination of the Afghani government’s inability to protect itself effectively in conjunction with steadily-brewing anti-American sentiment, owing to its continued campaigns in the region. More troops will probably not help solve the latter. We must be seen as peace brokers, not war mongers.
Ultimately if we are to exert any further influence in the area, it should be more in a consulting and humanitarian capacity. Yet it shouldn’t be about designing a pure democracy, but about designing a government that best serves the needs of the people. This includes not stacking up the upper echelons of government with known drug lords and saying the opium production problem will be addressed. That should have been enough of a sign that there are major issues that needed to be addressed with regard to the current government.
Opium production continues to remain astonishingly high, with its largest crop (8,200 tons) being produced in 2007 (according to the Washington Times). The Taliban presence and resilience has been closely linked to the drug lords associated with the rich opium trade out of Afghanistan. Finding an effective way to end the opium trade will cut a major artery that serves the Taliban’s growth.
The Afghani people are still hurting, and there are still many thousands of refugees who need shelter, food, and healthcare. We need to be able to show the Afghanis, and the world as a whole, that we use our status to help others in need, not to encroach on other nations’ territories and meddle in other nations’ issues. Maybe once we do that, there won’t be as pressing a need to raise generations of people to hate us. We need to shed the cowboy mentality that has dictated the last eight years of foreign policy.
So imagine starting another war in an area that is still recovering from the last one, and borders a nation that is itself, in a virtual spiral downward.
We can’t afford a war in that part of the world. It would be a disaster. Let’s throw aside our weapons and try diplomacy for once.
Here is the link to a site compiling posts from bloggers from around the world who oppose the doubling of troops in Afghanistan.
These were the words spoken by one of the captured terrorists implicated in the carnage that rocked Mumbai the last few days. His name is Azam Amir Kasab, a 21-year old from Pakistan. More importantly, he’s a 21-year old. What was I doing at 21? Studying, hanging out with friends, enjoying Ithaca, and planning my future, among other things. Kasab, at 21, had planned to die as he killed hundreds of people. Kasab narrated the whole story, with almost chilling nonchalance, according to an article by the Daily Mail.
“I was told to kill to my last breath,” he says, upon being asked about the details leading up to the massacre. Someone instructed him to take lives, as many lives as possible (the original goal was 5,000 in total), and take those lives until you have no life to live yourself. Someone, who presumably Kasab got to know pretty well if he and his fellow terrorists were “highly trained in marine assault,” something that requires presumably, a lot of time to do. That someone told him and the others to kill. That in itself is despicable. Yet to be told to kill to your last breath takes it to a whole new level. That someone knew these people were totally vested in the cause, and knew they would lay down their lives if need be. These people also happen to be young men, barely into their twenties, men who had barely started to live their own lives before being told to lay them down. That someone could see these men gleefully and passionately take lives as their own life left their lungs. That someone, or someones, are the real monsters here, not the ones who were cast out to kill and die. They are killers, but they are also victims.
It is so sad, how young people are being so readily recruited to kill in the name of some vague, greater good. It’s so sad how the angst and uncertainty of young adulthood is being exploited to turn them into killing machines. Blame, again, can’t be placed on Pakistan or on Muslims as a whole. For those of you who are placing the blame on their shoulders, you don’t really understand the issue. Yes, it seems that Pakistani Muslims were behind the attacks, but this is more the actions of a few, disillusioned fundamentalists, not the whole population. Unfortunately, fundamentalists get more air-time than the more moderate majority, and the media carries unbelievable influence. This is true not just for Muslims, but Hindus, and other groups.
Maybe it’s easier for me to say “lets just all be friends,” when many of my closest friends are Muslim and/or Pakistani. I have been to Eid services, and I have bowed my head as Arabic prayers were recited. They have attended pujas and bowed their heads when Sanskrit prayers were recited. We confide in each other, laugh together, cry together, dance together, sing together, and pretty much do everything together. Maybe it is easier because we are one generation removed from the conflicts of the motherland. Yet, even in spite of these attacks, have come together and become closer, united against senseless violence. We are people first, our allegiances should never make us forget that.
Rather than war against those who have hurt us, perhaps it is time to improve relations between India and Pakistan. Maybe then, kids on either side would be less likely to take up arms against their supposed enemies, especially if their supposed enemies were now their friends.
Granted I just woke up and I just checked the news briefly, thankfully I haven’t seen anything of the sort. I just worry, given the trend with the other terrorist attacks that have occurred in India. The train bombings in Gujarat, the bombing in Delhi, all the attacks that have happened in Mumbai in years prior. All were followed swiftly either by Hindu fundamentalist attacks, or attack by some other group (depending on which group was the offending group). Last I checked, all religions were founded on some premise of peace, and forgiveness. While it takes some conviction to raise the sword against your tormentor, it takes even greater conviction to forgive him for what he has done.
I’m of the opinion that the eye-for-an-eye approach never works, so why do people have to react to tragedy by bringing more tragedy? It’s an unfortunate quirk in our collective thinking. I hope it ends here.
Somehow, killing just doesn’t seem to equate into any sort of act of retribution. I don’t see how taking a life, or taking several lives, justifies any valid philosophy. Since when does storming a crowded place, taking out your rifle, machine gun, or pistol and firing bullet after bullet into people achieve any sort of good? What good does it do to target people and take hostages, and watch as they bleed and sweat fear for their lives and shame for being somehow, culpable for some vague and uncertain deed in the eyes of their captors.
Who are we to judge who is worthy of life and worthy of death?
This is the credo of terrorist organizations today, or so it seems, that in taking life and striking fear, something good is achieved. Most recently, several gunmen opened fire in coordinated attacks across several of Mumbai, India’s hotels, restaurants, and hospitals. It was clear that these gunmen were targeting foreign nationals. In most of the terrorist attacks in recent years, the sites tended to be those frequented by foreigners. Why?
I am not even going to try to interpret their actions, it’s not my place. I am not going to talk about God, and I’m not going to talk about religion. They have been unfairly dragged through the mud and I am not going to continue with it.
So where does one start to dissect a mind, a mind of a person so caught up in their own mission that the mind is indistinguishable from the mission? Have you ever tried to convince someone they are wrong about something they strongly believe in? It’s about as effective as talking to a wall, except the wall is sticking their fingers in their ears and trying to talk over you.
No one ever goes out wanting to do something “evil.” Everyone is convinced that they are the good guys. Can doing good be so relative? How can one begin to standardized “good deeds” and “evil deeds?” Won’t terrorists see that they have inflicted unbelievable pain on their fellow man, won’t that (in theory) make them realize that their view of supposed “goodness” is fundamentally flawed, when death and suffering are imperative to achieve any “good?”
Then again, maybe they won’t. Goodness and evil at this point in time are still (unbelievably) relative. One can only hope that this changes.
I pray for the people who were lost today in Mumbai, as well as for the people who have been lost and will continue to be lost if good and evil remain concepts that are open to interpretation. May their souls rest in peace.
EDIT: For up to date pictures/information about what’s going on in/around the Taj Hotel, please refer to my friend Arun’s blog: