"Defending our freedom at the Hindu Kush."
A German soldier does his bit in Afghanistan. (Source: Bundeswehr)
IF YOU HAVE BEEN suspecting that the Western governments’ prognoses for the ongoing armed occupation of Afghanistan are somewhat too rosy for belief, new confirmation has just arrived from Germany’s foreign intelligence service. What makes this report appear so genuine is the way it utterly contradicts the pro-war happy talk emanating from Berlin over the past eleven years.
The confidential report, entitled “Afghanistan Until 2014: A Forecast,” assembled by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service or BND), has fallen into the hands of Der Spiegel, Germany’s hard-nosed investigative weekly news magazine. According to an article in today’s online edition, the regular fragging of NATO troops by Afghans in uniform – fifty-two cases already this year including one American this very morning, the two thousandth American soldier killed in the war – will increase over the next two years, rendering joint operations impossible.
There will be no improvement in the country’s general security situation, and the NATO program to reintegrate repentant Taliban fighters into society and into the domestic security forces will have “no effects” on any conceivable peace process. The report goes on to say that following the official withdrawal of NATO combat forces at the end of 2014, Afghanistan will still need up to 35,000 Western troops as army trainers, security troops, and particularly special forces, who will be needed to hunt down terrorists and keep the country from spiralling into utter chaos.
Endemic corruption and nepotism
It gets worse. The BND report describes not only complete mission failure, but also utter dry rot from within the core of the Afghan government. “The susceptibility to corruption, personal advantage-taking by individuals and nepotism will continue.” As far as President Hamid Karzai is concerned, he has no intention of introducing reforms but is solely interested in “holding on to power” and “maintaining the status quo.” All his promises to the West are mere “statements of intent” with no follow through. According to the BND, upon his retirement in 2014, Karzai is determined to pass power to his elder brother Abdul Qayum “to preserve family interests and [his own] power.”
This is disastrous news for Germany’s own Afghan operation, which currently involves some 4,500 Bundeswehr troops who are largely engaged in “reconstruction” operations and the training of Afghan forces. The mission is wildly unpopular in Germany, although it is just distant enough that few people pay much attention to it, except when yet another German soldier comes home in a box, the victim of an IED or a Taliban sniper.
Explaining the purpose of the war back in 2004, defense minister Peter Struck proclaimed “We are defending our security at the Hindu Kush,” a romantic-sounding formulation that conjures up the aura of adventure familiar to many Germans from Karl May’s imperial era action novels, which were full of derring-do about tough German expats like Kara ben Nemsi, out teaching the natives who’s boss in “wild Kurdistan” and the Arabian Desert.
Author Karl May (1842-1912) in the guise of his creation,
Old Shatterhand. While May may have sold himself to
his readers as an expert on the Hindu Kush and other exotic
locales, he scarcely left his native Saxony.
(Source: Wiki Commons)
Ah yes, the Hindu Kush! The very name of this forbidding mountain range on the borders to Pakistan, Tajikistan, and China conjures up visions of clear blue skies, icy mountain streams, juicy pomegranates, and bashful, dark-eyed maidens clad in rich robes. The reality has proven much more frustrating, and since Struck left office the slogan is usually remembered as “We are defending our freedom at the Hindu Kush,” a notion so absurd that the war itself has become something of a bad joke. In any case, Karl May's books don't pack the imperialist punch they once did.
Since the German war effort was a particular pet project of disgraced defense minister Baron Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg and his wife, Countess Stephanie von Bismarck, whatever popular enthusiasm ever existed for the project collapsed along with the once-charismatic Black Baron’s reputation. But it is generally understood here that Germany’s utter failure “at the Hindu Kush” has little to do with any errors committed by German forces, but are owing to the obvious futility of “state-building without a state.” Today’s Spiegel underlines that futility yet again.
You’d think the confidential report might move Germans to wonder just what the hell their troops are defending at the Hindu Kush and ask them to stop. It’s more likely, though, that Germany’s latest military adventure will end, not with a bang, or even a whimper, but merely a labored yawn - the kind today's kids give to Karl May's tales of the Hindu Kush.