To defeat the Islamists in Afghanistan, we should learn how to divide and rule. We must pursue a number of policies that may seem contradictory. First, we should strengthen the royalists, the republicans, and the nationalists not just at the center in Kabul but in the areas where they enjoy the most support: among the ethnic groups, tribes, and clans. Setting the tribes against one another and against various Islamic radicals, reformers, and nationalists formed the basis of Britain’s colonial policy in Afghanistan. Self-paralysis of the Afghans meant safety for the Empire’s policy there. Missing from my list is the liberal democratic orientation as it is naturally absent at this stage of Afghanistan’s development. First things first. We should get rid of the Islamists and, ideally, restore a modernizing monarchy. Then other good things will follow. Inshallah.
“America’s longest war” cries out for a suggestion of a way out. Here’s one. Let us use non-jihadi Muslims to eliminate the Islamist jihadis. This would entail enabling forces at local, regional, and national levels inimical to the ideology and practice of Islamism. We can deploy this strategy successfully if we realize that the Islamists are interested primarily in the control of the state, in particular at the moment the Taliban, mostly Pashtun, radicalized in Saudi funded Wahhabi madrasas of the Pakistani refugee camps, and their Al Queda and related allies and enablers. Their detractors either compete with them for the command of the state or are suspicious and even inimical to it. This reality is quite obscured by the current convergence of most Afghani forces in the jihadist camp, which reflects not so much the Islamist predilections of most of the contenders but the persistence of Afghanistan’s ongoing holy war, the jihad.