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23 July 2015


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Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

China will not actively intervene in Afghanistan to any degree worth a damn.

She has nothing to gain and the security threat from Afghanistan could be handled more efficiently outside of Afghanistan, in Central Asia, working with Russia.

Chinese do not understand religion - any religion - an their knowledge of Afghanistan and indeed Islam is only that which can be gleaned from books. They are at a distinct disadvantage, even compared to Euro-Americans.


Excellent post, sir. I would say that Pepe Escobar adds the economic dimension to the military and political aspects of the regional Buzkashi game.


Mark Logan


Thank you. Your ability to pierce the chaff of the region and draw a clear and coherent picture is a wonder to behold. I am most grateful.

Thanks again.


FB Ali and All --
Fascinating analysis.
FWIW, due to the miracle of YouTube, it is possible to locate archival films of Buzkashi.
Here is one to get interested readers started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkyuE_5zook

This link is an archival version from AP, with no commentary or interpretation.
The BBC has some great archival films of Buzkashi, back before the Soviet invasions.

The horsemanship is astonishing to watch; and how those tribesmen bred such sure-footed horses is a wonder. If they negotiate as well as they ride, they're formidable.


Afghan archaeologists with help from a few French are desperately
trying to excavate the ruins of Mes Aynak (near Pakistan border) before a
Chinese copper mining company blows the entire site to kingdom come.
Mes Aynak contains many Buddist shrines dating back 2,000 years or more
& since the site is on or near the Old Silk Road perhaps even more ancient
artifacts. It's sad. The Chinese did give a 1 year extension to the archaeolists however that extension is near its expiration. I think UNESCO
promised funds & expertise but didn't pull through. Info hard to come by.


FB Ali, how would you overlay the Indians onto the Afghan situation at this point?

Hussan Zia

Brigadier Ali has reviewed the situation vis-a-vis Afghanistan is his usual comprehensive and incisive fashion. As aptly pointed out by him, Taliban leadership has only a limited influence over the Pashtoon population as whole.

Because NATO and the Americans have shed so much Pashtoon blood it will not be easy for Taliban leadership to accept continued western presence in Afghanistan even if they wanted to. It applies equally to the Russians which makes their involvement just as improbable. The Pashtoon never forgets and seldom forgives.

The main issue is one of reconciling the non-Pashtoon so-called Northern Alliance with the Pashtoons. Left to themselves, Afghanis are quite capable of reaching a settlement. What are preventing this from happening are vested external interests.

In this context, Pakistan and Afghanistan are inseparable and former's involvement may be unavoidable for a variety of reasons. Unless interference by the rest is somehow excluded, it is difficult to see a lasting solution emerging anytime soon. The Chinese have an outside chance because they have no past baggage and also because they have the monetary clout.

For what it is worth, IS or any other similar externally based outfit has no future in Afghanistan

FB Ali

I deal with that towards the end of my piece.


Iran is part of Indian thrust. They have some making up to do after they abandoned them under US pressure, but the détente and machinations are already under way.


"Iran offers India a bigger role in Chabahar port: Report

The port of Chabahar in southeast Iran is central to India's efforts to circumvent arch-rival Pakistan and open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan where it has developed close security ties and economic interests.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/iran-offers-india-bigger-role-in-chabahar-port-reports/#sthash.6eH5VHSe.dpuf"


Thanks for this. I am still left unsure of the Indian response, besides making overtures to Karzai. If Modi really is the nationalist that is portrayed in some reporting, it is hard to believe he will not take more assertive measures for access to Iranian oil.

Babak Makkinejad

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Afghanistan state cannot be reconstituted into what it was under the Monarchy or even under the Communists.

Fundamentally, the Seljuk fault line runs through Afghanistan and the Pashtuns are in one side of that line and the non-Pashtuns on the other.

The Pashtuns in Pakistan are being assimilated linguistically into the Panjabi language and I imagine this would spread to areas North of the Duran Line.

Furthermore, the Seljuk part of Afghanistan was unified with the non-Seljuk part in the person of the King; once the Monarchy was gone the legal basis for a unitary Afghanistan was removed and thus any upstart - like Mullah Omar - could lay a claim to state power.

To wit, just like what happened in Somalia - it is best to accept the de facto partition of Afghanistan and help usher in two new countries; one within the Seljuk line and one without.

FB Ali

The "close security ties and economic interests" were with Karzai's Afghanistan. They are much weaker now.

India's "thrust" towards Iran is because of its intrinsic benefits, and is not just a means to gain access to Afghanistan.

FB Ali

India doesn't need to go through Afghanistan to access Iranian oil.

Babak Makkinejad

There is no "Iran Thrust" emanating from India.

That game has been over since 2006.

All and any interactions between Iran and India remain purely transactional.


So, the US role is free military coverage for Chinese regional hegemony over resource & trade deals? Our Founding Fathers (& Eisenhower) would be so proud of what has become of our national security. Momentum, even empty of wisdom, is a powerful force.


FB Ali -

Very interesting, thanks for posting this.

Do you think this cooperation absent the US and EU is related to the recent financial moves by the BRICS nations to propose alternatives to the IMF, World Bank and general US/EU control of world financial arrangements? Here are some links -




William R. Cumming

Does China benefit from the Afghanistan opium trade? Who does?

ex-PFC Chuck

Thanks for the link. That was indeed an important post all the more because, as Escobar writes, because the Ufa summit was barely touched by western MSM.

Simple Simon

To Brigadier Ali:
We often see discussions of the US role in Pakistan; we sometimes see references, as here, to the role of China in Pakistan. It would be very useful to see an integrated discussion of how Pakistan balances its relationships to the US and China, and reciprocally, how the US and China each view the role of the other in Pakistan. Obviously, given Pakistan's, the US's and China's interests in Afghanistan the matter is relevant to this post--but the issue is far broader. I wonder if you could either here or elsewhere address this issue.


"where he proposed to President Putin that Russia, China and India should replace the US and NATO in dealing with "terrorism" in Afghanistan".

Get the space cadet, crook, up in front of Congress and give him our highest civilian award. And some money. And pills, to boot. Greatest service he ever performed for the US.

FB Ali

Escobar's is a useful article. One caution, though. I think he overestimates India's role in these developments and in the future.

India is a BRIC and SCO partner, and is entering into various economic and developmental arrangements in this region. But it is also hobnobbing with the US and entering into defence pacts with US allies (eg, Japan). Because of this, it is not fully trusted by Russia and China; with the latter it has an old rivalry.

As an example of Escobar's over-estimation: TAPI is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Mainly because it is US backed, and also because Pakistan would prefer the gas link to Iran.

FB Ali

The financial moves to ultimately have an alternative to the US dollar are one part of this general trend to consolidate the Russia-China-Asian region as a counter to US hegemony over the world.

FB Ali

China has nothing to do with this 'trade'. The opium goes out through the 'stans' to the North, and through Pakistan. Somewhere along the route it is processed and ends up in the West, where the consumers are.


FB Ali -

I agree. Do you think it will be successful, do you have any idea how receptive nations in the area will be to such proposals? If they manage to get the oil trade off the dollar to a significant degree this could really screw up the dollar as the global reserve currency.

FB Ali

I don't have any inside, or even direct, knowledge of the actual policies being pursued by Pakistan. As an outside observer, the best I can do is paint a broad picture based on what I see.

Pakistan has friendly relations with the US, but probably counts itself an ally of China. China has stood by the country through thick and thin. China is a major military hardware supplier. The two countries have jointly designed a fighter plane, which is now in production for both air forces. Pakistan has now contracted to buy 8 submarines from China. As I have narrated in my piece above, Pakistan is playing a prominent role in China's future plans for the region.

If Pakistan ever had to choose between the US and China, I have little doubt which one it would choose.

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