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Who is the Enemy in the Afghanistan "War"?

by Heidemarie Blankenstein Thursday, Apr. 22, 2010 at 4:18 AM

In 1994 the US brought to power the Taliban, Koran students raised in Pakistan's refugee camps. Attacking Afghanistan on account of Al Qaida would be like bombing Germany on account of skinheads. Do German soldiers only defend the US' superpower claim, not our security?


By Heidemarie Blankenstein

[This article published in: Freitag 4/4/2010 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

God be with you – should be our battle-cry,

God be with you – even to the enemy!

Who is the enemy? (on August 20, 1914 by Rudolf Herzog)


The enthusiasm with which intellectuals welcomed the outbreak of the First World War is one of the most oppressive things offered by the literature of past centuries. Academics and authors prayed to God that the enemy would die in a German hail of bullets. Who is the enemy?

The enemy in the East was Russia arming non-stop and in the West France with its desires for revenge. 15 declarations of war were made up to August 29, 1914. Reinhard Ortmann lyrically transfigured war:

“The whispering sound of love falls silent.

We know a song with a better sound

that we blare out without a let up -

the fiery song of holy hatred!”

“Before it comes to blows, learn to know the enemy. Overpowering is most important.” That was the lesson in the history of the 1914/1918 World War. The generals had their Clausewitz in their heads and much anger in their hearts.

“…Anger against the lying French, anger against the dirty tricks of the English people, anger against restless Russia. Anger makes us strong and fills our brave soldiers. Anger is masculine and could lead us to victory.”

As to anger, scapegoats and hatred, the two cruel world wars appear to us as orderly. A firm rule separated war from peace and civilians from soldiers. What about today?

Were our politicians sufficiently informed about the “enemy” when they sent 3,600 German soldiers to Hindukusch in October 2001? The first US bombs fell at the same time. The NATO alliance case was invoked.

Against whom was the NATO mobilization directed? Was the mobilization legitimated by the UN Security Council? Against farmers weary of war that have lived in a state of war since 1979 shattered by civil war unrest since the 1973 overthrow of their king Muhammed Zahir Shah?

The Afghan population was repeatedly exposed to hostile armies. In 1847, 1879 and 1919, they had to defend themselves against Great Britain three times. The 1880 victory at Maiwand near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar was promoted to a holiday. That present-day British NATO troops, 150 years later, are stationed again in Kandahar is an irony of history.

With all these battles over decades, it is not surprising that this maltreated land is one of the poorest states of the earth. Afghans must be angry.

To expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, CIA director William J. Casey supported the Pakistani ISI secret service in 1987 and created extremists who as Mujahidin fought the occupiers. In 1994, the US brought to power the Taliban, Koran students raised in Pakistani refugee camps. From this fundamentalist Stone Age troop, the US hoped for stable political conditions to lay pipelines across Afghanistan for natural gas and crude oil production from Turkmenistan to the Indian Ocean. This Taliban created its own brutal social order and offered refuge and training to the Saudi Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida organization.

“The Taliban and Al Qaida were occupying powers forced on Afghans from ou9tside,” Hamid Karsai said,

The historical fact that only strategic considerations were emphasized when its borders were set up by British India and Russia at the end of the 19th century is aggravating for Afghanistan’s prosperity. The traditional living and economic spacers of ethnic groups were not considered. The problems peculiar to such artificial political structures appeared worldwide at least since the beginning of de-colonialization.

25 million Afghans are divided in 33 different ethnic groups. The largest (with 44%) is the Paschtun people. Their tribal area was divided by the 1893 Durand border. Half of this area belongs to Pakistan. This is not recognized today by the Kabul Pashtu government. Pashtu’s represent the large part of the government and the army. They dominate the profitable economic areas and control poppy-cultivation and indirectly the world opium market.

Their conduct and action are based on a code of honor, the Pachtunwalli which follows three unshakable core values:

1) The duty to grant asylum, protection and assistance to everyone – even an archenemy

2) The duty to hospitality. Even foreigners must be given food and shelter

3) The holy obligation to bloody vendettas. This ranks in first place for every Pashtu and does not come under the statute of limitations but continues for generations and first ends when the debt is settled.

These three basic values which include the defense of women’s honor and the right to water and grazing land stand for courage, honor, survival security and combat readiness of the formerly purely nomadic people. Thus the actions of the Taliban are subject to essential tribal traditions of the Pashtu’s.

Since all the other ethnic groups, for example the Tadschiken, Uzbecs, Hazara, Turkmen, Baluchen, Nuristani or the Paschai are different linguistically, culturally and religiously, the rule of law can never gain a foothold because there were and are naturally always conflicts over resources. These conflicts are reflected in the warlord-conduct of the leaders. The mentality of the tribes was never adequately recognized and considered by the world community but was exploited for their own interests by playing off the tribes against each other.

The country was first noticed through its extreme crises. When the Soviet army marched into the land in 1979, the volatile situation between the Afghan peoples was brought to explode in which the pernicious attacks on New York on 9/11/2001 were charged to the Al Qaida terrorist organization and the NATO military strike begun on 10/7/2001.

Bombing Afghanistan with the goal of defeating Al Qaida and finding Osama Bin Laden – today’s whole Afghanistan’s problem – has external causes.

Therefore it is paradoxical to punish the Afghan people with military attacks for an act that they did not commit themselves.

“Attacking Afghanistan on account of Al Qaida would be like bombing Germany on account of the skinheads. No one can seriously believe terrorists can be defeated with aircraft carriers, missiles, fighter bombers and tanks.” “Only fools would combat a plague of lice with a sledgehammer. Terrorism should be fought with the scalpel, not with the butcher’s ax. Military strategies strengthen terrorism,” the centrist CDU politician Jurgen Todenhofer writes.


“The whole Balkan is not worth one b one of a German grenadier,” the Chancellor of the Reich Otto von Bismarck declared in 1876 when European neighbors wanted to send German troops in crisis regions. The alliance case with Austria-Hungry, the megalomania of Emperor Wilhelm II and the idealistic transfiguration of the good war mobilized and misused soldiers in the First World War. Is that true for Afghanistan?

Civilians were killed by foreign soldiers in every city and every province, in Dschalalabad, Heart, Kabul, Paktika, Urusgan and Kundus. These places provoked the rage of many Afghans toward foreign soldiers. No one wants these foreigners in his valley. “The number of civilian dead and arbitrary house-searches has reached an unacceptable level,” President Karsai said in the fall of 2007. House searches of Americans are controversial because foreign men entering women’s areas is felt to be a disgrace. When furious Afghans rise up in arms, are they then Taliban? When a typically dressed person has a machine gun or bazooka, is he then a Taliban? How should foreign soldiers distinguish civilians from the Taliban?

“The troops entangled in fighting cause most civilian casualties,” says Nikolaus Grubeck, advisor for the Afghan Human Rights commission. “Afghans cannot distinguish between wicked OEF-troops and the good ISAF. People think every foreign soldier is an American.”

Are old sympathies for Germany lost at Hindukusch with every new attack? Do our German soldiers only defend the US’ superpower claim at Hindukusch, not our security?

In the meantime Germans are also suspected of fighting terrorists with “vengeful US methods.” The German government seeks to convince critical Germans of the opposite before every annual mandate extension. The government says Germany is drawn into an asymmetrical threatening situation and speaks of stabilization actions that have a helping and protecting function for the security of the Afghan government. A secure environment should enable civilian forces for reconstruction and humanitarian tasks, in a word, a clean engagement without bloodshed.

The government fears the word war for a reason. If German armed forces are in a war, the case of defense included in the German basic law must be scrutinized. Emergency rules would come into effect and the German minister of defense would no longer have commanding authority. That would pass over to the head of government. When can an armed conflict be regarded as a war? According to a definition of the Swedish University of Uppsala, “war exists when more than a thousand persons are killed annually through fighting.” In Afghanistan five thousand were killed in 2008 alone.

Against what enemy do German soldiers fight at Hindukusch when the Al-Qaida search has ended and the Taliban is hard to recognize? Many who pass as Taliban are insignificant fighters, perhaps only street robbers or Kabul students. Who knows this exactly? Taliban is a term that all kinds of people give themselves to intimidate enemies and neighbors or gloss over their criminal methods with Islamic righteousness… According to a police chief, the murderers of three policemen at the beginning of December 2009 were bandits, not Taliban.

“Know your enemy,” the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote. The Canadian journalist Graeme Smith tried to identify the Western enemy in Afghanistan. In his “Portrait of the Enemy,” he wrote: “The Taliban are wild and frightening but also proud and sometimes poetic. Using the language of radical Islam, their messages are often hostile to foreigners and driven by the will to protect their own lifestyle. Smith shows us strange men with fears, whims, in sometimes embarrassing situations, with cravings to be the big shot and an injured sense of honor, some sympathetic and others less, men with little in common with western Taliban phantasies.”

Who are the enemies against whom German taxpayers waste billions?

German troops could be withdrawn in 2009 when Afghanistan voted, the Foreign Office said years ago. The German public now hears that all goals are reset again:

Rudiger Konig, director of the Afghan service of the Foreign Affairs office, described the noble goals of the German Afghanistan engagement: “Strengthening regional structures, preventing drug cultivation, fighting corruption, creating an inner-Afghan reconciliation process, bringing more US soldiers and achieving good government.” In a word, this is a costly German engagement ending when the kingdom comes.


“War never serves peace” by Eugen Drewermann

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