The Citizen team is happy to welcome Saeed Naqvi after an interruption due to the Covid virus. He’s had a rough time, but being the Indomitable Journalist has made his way through. This is his first chronicle after his convalescence.
Having kept a constant eye on Kabul at least since Noor Mohammad Taraki’s press conference in April 1978 when Khalq and Parcham, the two communist parties of Afghanistan, came to power, I blame myself for having missed the last open transition scripted. I commuted between hospitals and home to get out of a long period of Covid.
The United States has conflicting equations with China, Russia, Iran, and others in the region that fall under Chinese or Russian jurisdiction. All of these countries have borders with Afghanistan. Did the United States spend two trillion dollars in 20 years with the benevolent intention of ensuring the peace of these countries on their Afghan borders only to confront these powers elsewhere?
Turkey, or, to be more precise, President Tayyip Erdogan has been mandated to oversee the Kabul airport. The Taliban claim to be launching a ginger crisis if Turkey sends troops to protect the airport. As the Taliban must be satisfied at all costs, Turkey decided to deploy contractors, engineers, etc. But who will provide them with armed protection? The Americans, of course.
The Americans will obviously have plans to keep an eye on Bagram Air Base as well. I have vivid memories of the US bombing of Serbia for 72 days, creating a state of Kosovo and leaving behind what was then the largest US base in the world, Bondsteel, adjoining Macedonia.
What great desire did the United States have to carve out a Muslim state for itself in what was the most sacred real estate for the Slavs of southern Serbia, ethnic cousins of the Russians? Well, the first objective was to hit the Russians where it hurts. The second was to build foundations that radiate power.
Likewise, Turkey is gaining a foothold in Afghanistan, which has the potential to open up prospects across Central Asia, a vast oil-rich bloc of Turkish-speaking people. As in the Balkans, here too Russia’s historic and well-established interests will be in competition.
When a vision of the reborn Ottoman Empire hung before Erdogan, he was quick to show up to pray in the main square of Tripoli in November 2011. The “Ottoman” dream that vanished in West Asian theaters may well be revived in Central Asia where there is greater ethnic continuity.
Erdogan is unlikely to jump on that elusive carrot, but he might start to focus on that theater a bit more. It will be welcome in Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia. The last two will dream of the extreme Islam of the Taliban mingling with the Akhwan ul Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) of which Erdogan is now a shameless leader. It should be a bulwark against Iran. Binoculars will also be attached to Chinese Uyghurs and the Russian Caucasus.
As long as imperialism has a central role for Israel in West Asia, Iran will remain the target. No wonder American forces are relocated. The other day, the United States announced the closure of its bases in Sayliyah, Qatar. The base, activated in the greatest secrecy, is in Jordan, beyond the reach of Iranian missiles.
There is another very good reason why Erdogan is rationing part of his time away from West Asia where the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood worries Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt whose suppression of the Brotherhood cannot last forever. .
Riyadh, shaken to the south by the advances of the Houthis from Yemen, has not forgotten the occupation of the Mecca mosque in November 1979 almost at the same time as the Iranian revolution toppled the Shah in Tehran. For two weeks, the mosque was occupied by extremist anti-monarchy Islamists. Eventually, French troops had to help Saudi soldiers.
Since then, the Saudi Royals have had nightmares about a secret anti-monarchy cult, no different from the Brethren. There is a tendency to exaggerate an external danger of Shia Islam. The truth is that the ‘Akhwan’ or the Brethren, with roots inside the kingdom, are much more dangerous.
The brethren in Egypt will have a huge morale boost if Erdogan, without other distractions, goes full throttle into his Muslim Brotherhood avatar. The awakening of the Brothers in Egypt will be of considerable help to Hamas which is another name for the Brothers. It will be a thorn in Israel’s side. Notice how many capitals are interested in the Turkish role in Kabul.
It is not fanciful that a chapter in the Afghan saga is drawing to a close. But what has always intrigued me is the singular lack of interest in the origin of a disaster when the iconic Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud’s exceptional intelligence gathering on Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan alluded to the possibility of September 11.
In August 2001, he alerted the European Union during a speech in Brussels that the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance had learned that Al-Qaeda was planning action on the American continent. On September 9, two days before the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, Massoud was assassinated in his hideout on the Tajik border.
The two Tunisians, disguised as journalists, detonated their vests as soon as they began their “interview” with Massoud. The passports of the two assassins had been forged in Brussels around the time when Massoud alerted the European Union to the attack on the “American continent”.
Since the Syrian theater began to calm down in 2018, there have been reports of militants being airlifted to northern Afghanistan, exactly where the unemployed mujahedin had deployed in Kashmir, in Egypt, Algeria and Syria.
So is Afghanistan heading for chaos or, as one Marxist analyst predicts: “A Quad is taking shape – Iran, China, Russia and Pakistan. If this is correct, has India gone for the wrong Quad?