President Trump has chosen to stay in Afghanistan, in the hope that the advice from his generals, from military men who have the advantage of hindsight to guide them in this truly ungovernable country, will provide a strategy which will work. He has chosen to increase his soldiers’ footfall by a alleged total of 4,000 combat troops. He stated that America was no longer in the business of ‘Nation Building’, which in itself is a great relief; as we can see for ourselves the tragedies of Iraq and Afghanistan itself as the results of that truly disastrous policy. The question which should have been asked, upon the stunning victories in 2003, when the Taliban was dispossessed, is, when do we leave? The moderates, senior clerics and officials, were available to rule: but the Bush doctrine stated, ‘Afghanistan needs leading out of the Stone Age, and we are the guys to do it!’
The second question, leading from the first, should have been ‘How do we make a Nation out of ten thousand villages, all owing loyalty to one faction or another; where corruption is endemic, and the only Religion all follow is that they do not want outsiders meddling in Afghanistan in the first place? The Russians tried to pacify that unhappy land, and all they got for their pains were the truck convoys laden with body bags interspersed with those tank convoys, as they retreated across that famous bridge. We look into the mists of history, and remember not the invasion, by the British; but instead the massacre of an entire column, led by the famously inept Major-General Elphinstone. That defeat resulted in a punishing invasion by the British, but after sacking Kabul, they left for India, washing their hands of the entire Country.
I hope that President Trump has demanded of his Generals a plan which will not only defeat the Taliban, but also get a Government seated in Kabul which is incorrupt; and that, folks: is one big ask!
Some seven years ago, I wrote a piece which envisaged Afghanistan in 2050. It was written for a semi-competition piece in Chicago Boyz. I print it again, as my contribution to the maze of possibilities which is Afghanistan; asking OoL readers to remember that it is a complete fabrication, an exploration, and nothing written is based upon fact: especially the reference to Pakistan!
Dateline April 17th 2050
Jiang Lu Wan, Administrator of the Elphinstone Administrative Area of the Chinese People’s Republic sat back, smiled expansively, and welcomed me to the first in-depth interview granted by him to any Western reporter visiting the now pacified Administrative Area, as the former Afghanistan is now named. In the fifteen years since the overthrow of the old warring regimes, when the Muslim warlords who had systematically corrupted, stripped and defiled the former Afghanistan were defeated. Also after the earlier departure of the sorry remnants of the Allied war machine which had so foolishly taken their eyes off the geo-political ball after their stunning success when the Taliban were stripped of power. The Chinese were at last ready to talk about the Nation which had been the area of the ‘Jihadi Wars’ of the decade between 2015-2025; and of the progress of the Chinese governance of the Area.
During the negotiations which led to my interview with Administrator Jiang, I had been advised to take note of certain lines of query or questions which would jeopardise the progress of the interview. Items such as any reference or query to rumoured genocidal events in Administrative Area No 17, otherwise known as Tibet, would be firmly off limits, as would any query or mention of the Fifty-Fourth State of the United States of America, also known as Taiwan.
The Bush ‘war on terror’ doctrine was of course keenly studied in the War Colleges of Beijing, the Administrator told me, and the successes as well as the failures were routinely documented and war-gamed, he told me, so as to fully understand the philosophies behind the strategies, and thus to develop both strategies to counter the failings of the ‘War’, as well as to bolster those aspects which had been successful. “We accepted,” the Administrator stated, “that eventually order had to be restored in what has always been a historical Chinese area of influence, going back for more than sixteen centuries. We watched with keen interest the reaction of the Capitalist-Imperialist forces as the subterfuge and deceptions worked so magnificently; when the Twin Towers were demolished by the very-well financed and equipped mercenary teams of the Capitalist Multi-nationals. We definitely were impressed as we saw for the first time the remote control guidance equipment set up on the three target aircraft working so well.”
He paused as he gauged my reaction to a Western secret exposed for the first time. “Just as we could sympathise with the errors which allowed the passengers to overcome the mercenary team on the fourth aircraft which crashed in Pennysylvania. We also admired the manner in which the blame for the atrocity was so quickly placed upon a band of savages who couldn’t even carry out a car-bombing successfully! We accepted that the Elphinstone Administrative Area had passed into the Western sphere of influence, and our nature being one of passive acceptance of RealPolitik, decided that the West had won this round, and magnificently so. We knew, from our informants within the United States at the time of 9/11, as your Western press named it, that the target all along was Afghanistan, because of the vast mineral wealth uncovered by the secret surveys undertaken by CIA-led geological teams as far back as 1985, and we also watched as successive American Administrations, to use another western term, ‘screwed things up completely’!
The ruler of the former Afghanistan paused as tea was served, then continued: “We in China have always played ‘the long game’ as it is termed in western diplomatic circles. Once we realised that American oil and right-wing interests had twisted the usually-astute President George W. Bush into an ill-planned and under-resourced invasion of Iraq by the American military, alongside the pitiful remnants of a once-mighty British military machine sent with the connivance of our very good friend Tony Blair, we watched as history was replayed before our eyes. We saw the re-deployment of brigade after brigade from the fields, plains and mountains of the-then Afghanistan to the fighting and destruction in Iraq. The further withdrawal of most of the Allied invasion forces gave heart to the revived Taliban, who were then further revived by massive injections of assistance from the Pakistani I.S.I.”
I raised my hand to interject a question, but the Administrator waved my query aside. “We watched as the flower of America’s military might was wasted in Iraq, and then again in Afghanistan. We thought that you had learned the lessons of history in Vietnam, but we were truly perplexed when America, instead of obliterating the corrupt and totally-amoral President who literally and openly stole the presidential election, gave him instead recognition, money and power. You in the West also gave semi-legitimacy to the huge industry which was heroin, a close cousin to the opium which the British used to spread decay and humiliation in the China of Victorian times!” For the first time since our interview began, the bland smile of the Administrator was wiped off his lips, and a tightening of those same lips gave an indication of the distaste felt by the Chinese for those times long ago when Imperial China was routinely humiliated by Colonial Ambassadors, backed up by their overwhelming military and naval superiority!
“Administrator Jiang,” I asked, “What now for the Elphinstone Area?”
The Chinese politician’s face had resumed its bland smile, as he replied, “Once the Central Committee had determined that we should act against the warlords, and in doing so reclaim our ancient responsibility and suzerainty over the Area we named Elphinstone, our military planners brought out Operation Longbow, which was, as you may remember, the invasion by Peoples Liberation Army paratroop divisions into Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-el-Sharif, followed by massive reinforcements by our fleet of Airbus 385’s which were so conveniently sold to us by E.A.D.S. in Europe at a discount for volume! We then pushed six shock armies, comprising tank and mobile artillery divisions along the Tadjikistan border, fanning out from the narrow corridor into the whole country and brought a certain harmony to the entire country in thirty days.”
“We do not accept the stories retailed by certain of the former rulers that we initiated reprisals against the civilian population, nor do we acknowledge that there was any resistance to our advance. The population accepted the return of firm but fair rule, and in most cases our armies were welcomed as a valued replacement for the corruption, venality and ferocity of the old religion-based rulers. Our one regret was that the Pakistan Government did not take note of our firm stance against their continued help for the remnants of the Muslim warlord armies, but they saw sense after a one megaton neutron warhead wiped most of the reinforcement build-up off the map!”
He paused while sipping from the delicate cup, “Over the next ten years, we oversaw a huge investment in roads and rail transportation, together with a corresponding investment in colleges and universities. We gave the inhabitants of the Area the first chance in one hundred years to avail themselves of the advantages of tertiary education, and once we had informed the remaining religious leaders that their strictures against education for young women would be and were dealt with firmly; they accepted that whilst they might run their religious practices as they saw fit, they would not be allowed to interfere with the educational aspirations of half of the population.
The alleged mass-migration of Han Chinese has not happened, and while there are many migrants from mainland China into the Area, they receive no advantageous arrangements because they are Han. We routinely allow many of the Elphinstone Area students to attend Western universities, and when they return to be re-united with their families, are able to contrast the free lives they are able to lead either in mainland China or in the Administrative Area with the repressive regimes practising in many of the so-called Western Democracies.”
I asked him, “Administrator Jiang, how far along is the development of the Area’s natural resources? And to what extent does the Area benefit from those resources?”
The Chinese politician’s smile grew wider, as he thoughtfully passed a few documents in front of him; “The premise of your query is faulty; mainly because you seem to believe that whatever is found under the Area belongs to the Area. The Elphinstone area is, and always will be, an integral part of mainland China, and as such what mineral wealth is discovered should be regarded as China’s. We have developed many areas, and have sunk trial wells and boreholes searching for all types of geological wealth. Obviously, a portion of the proceeds must of necessity remain within the Area, to provide for such investment as is necessary, but the Chinese people, all the people, come before any particular location!”
“Administrator Jiang, it is rumoured that your Committee will be allowing private companies and corporations to open up within the Area over the next year, much as you have already done to everyone’s great benefit within mainland China. Is this true, and to what extent will the indigenous population be allowed to take part in this experiment?”
“The Central Committee has approved such plans, with the caveat that all companies have, to begin with, a majority of Han on each board of directors. This is simply because the indigenous population have no history of large-scale commercial operations, and they need to be guided by their Han brethren for some time before a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude can be adopted.”
“Administrator Jiang, I see that my interview time is running down; one final question if I may? British readers, as well as British politicians, do not seem to understand why you, the People’s Republic of China, named the Area after an obscure English soldier?”
“We in China place great weight upon the lessons of history, and as in 2003 you in the West triumphed by a masterful plan, you should also remember that your Major-General Elphinstone commanded in Kabul in 1841; he was himself looked upon as ‘the most incompetent soldier who ever became general’ in the words of his contemporaries.’ We constantly remind ourselves of the mistakes others made, and therefore resolve not to make the same mistakes ourselves!”
“Administrator Jiang, thank you for your consideration in giving this interview.”