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The March of Folly in Afghanistan

NEW DELHI – When the Wikileaks exposé of raw United States intelligence data and reports from Afghanistan hit computers worldwide, commentators in Pakistan reacted with vitriolic broadsides. One spoke of “Neocon vampires…blood-thirsty Islamaphobes…think tank irredentists…(Indian) revanchists…planning another dismemberment, so that they (can) continue their blood-fest in…Afghanistan.” Strong words, particularly when compared to US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was only “mortified” and “appalled” by the leaks.

The leaks provoked such fiery debate because the US-led fight against “jihadism” had suddenly run into an unexpected adversary: truth. Indeed, it now seems clear to anyone with eyes that the invasion of Afghanistan was built upon a great miscalculation: that Afghanistan can be successfully invaded.

Throughout history, such undertakings have always floundered. The country may, perhaps, be occupied for a time, but only temporarily; it cannot be conquered. The realization of this historical truth, which the Wikileaks affair has brought home, is now troubling today’s invaders.

The great miscalculation that led to the Afghan invasion was based on a faulty response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Of those who attacked the US, an overwhelming number were citizens of Saudi Arabia, aided by Pakistanis. How curious that in revenge, following the Afghan invasion, the US attacked Iraq, and then, even before that mission had been concluded, ratcheted up the Afghan war with the so-called “surge” of military force.